Several years ago I wrote an article on “Histamine Intolerance” (HIT). This is a condition that causes many non-specific symptoms and is often associated with digestive issues. I wanted to update you on new research and HIT. It may be important information for anyone continuing to struggle with digestive or other health problems.
Common symptoms of HIT:
• Flushing/Rash/Urticaria (hives)/eczema
• Arrhythmia ( irregular heartbeat)
• Low blood pressure due to vasodilation caused by the histamine
• Stomach/intestinal Pain
• Runny Nose/Watery eyes/wheezing
• Angioedema-swelling of face/hands/lips
• Heartburn-due to increased acid production
• Itching- typically of the skin
• PMS- Headaches around the menstrual cycle or painful cramps due to histamine-induced contractions in relation to hormone levels
Histamine and IBS
Histamine intolerance often occurs in people with IBS. Accepting HIT as a “real” issue, has been controversial in the medical community. Recall, however, that 10 years ago gluten/wheat were also seen as an imaginary players in health problems. Science has since proven them to be culprits in many disorders. New research may be a sign that the tides are also changing regarding HIT. These new studies are suggesting there may be a correlation with HIT and IBS.
The low-FODMAP diet is the primary dietary treatment for IBS. Following a low FODMAP diet has also been shown to lower histamine levels eightfold. This connection may be explain further why some people with IBS feel better on the Low-FODMAP diet. If science continues to mount, in the future, the Low -FODMAP diet may be routinely recommended for people with HIT.
Histamine Intolerance & Gluten
Looking at the list of symptoms for HIT you may notice a similarity with the symptoms of non-celiac gluten/wheat sensitivity (NCGWS). Going forward, we may find some symptoms of NCGWS to be mediated by histamine receptors. New research suggests this may be so. If this is true, eating gluten might cause histamine-type symptoms in some people. Most gluten is eaten in the form of baked goods, and processed foods. These foods are often high in histamine or seasoned with histamine containing ingredients.
HIT and Visceral Hypersensitivity ( Gut Pain)
Visceral hypersensitivity is a long word used to describe the gut pain seen in people with IBS. Research has found there may be receptors in the gut that make people with IBS more sensitive to histamine. Does this mean if you have IBS and eat high histamine foods, symptoms ( including pain) occur? This is not seen in everyone with IBS, but is something to consider. Anti-histamines are sometimes used to treat IBS and visceral hypersensitivity but not routinely at this time. If dietary changes improve symptoms, some people may choose dietary changes over medications.
Thoughts to Ponder
When histamine levels go up with seasonal allergies are gastrointestinal symptoms triggered in people with IBS? If so, people with seasonal allergies and IBS would experience more GI symptoms during certain times of the year. Some of my patients have noted this. We may be getting closer to a reason why this occurs. This may also mean temporary low histamine dietary changes could be helpful if anti-histamines aren’t completely relieving seasonal allergies. It will also be interesting to see more studies on how a low histamine diet can help relieve the symptoms of IBS, and how a low HIT diet will compare to a low FODMAP diet in with regard to symptom relief in IBS.
Will we see more targeted drugs for lowering histamine levels in the gut? Will these become a more mainstream treatment of IBS? All food for thought-literally.
If you want to learn more about HIT, the diet and treatment, read my prior article in full.