How histamine can lead to allergies

You’ve probably heard of antihistamines. We use them when we are experiencing an allergic reaction.  The role of antihistamines is to block a chemical released by the immune system called histamines, but exactly what are histamines? 

Apart from its role in allergies, gastric acid secretion to assist with digestion and the inflammatory response histamine serves an important function as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.  As a neurotransmitter, it communicates important messages from your body to your brain where it controls pituitary hormone secretion, arousal, wakefulness and cognitive functions.

Because it travels throughout your bloodstream, histamine can affect many body systems such as your gut, lungs, skin, brain, heart, circulation, reproductive organs, and hormone production therefore contributing to a wide range of problems often making it difficult to pinpoint and diagnose.

Foods and Histamines

If you have a food allergy, histamines are in on that response process, too. When you accidentally eat or drink something you shouldn’t, they’ll work in your gut to trigger your allergies. Thus, the importance of both food allergy and sensitivity testing.

Some foods are also naturally high in histamines. These include aged and fermented foods and alcohol (especially red wine). Some people may be sensitive to that.

Are you histamine intolerant?

Do you experience unexplained headaches, migraines or anxiety? What about irregular menstrual cycles? Does your face flush when you drink red wine? Do you get an itchy tongue or runny nose when you eat bananas, avocados, or eggplants? then you could have a histamine intolerance.

What Causes High Histamine Levels?

  • Allergies (IgE reactions)
  • Small Intestine Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability) 
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Fermented alcohol eg. wine, champagne, beer
  • Diamine Oxidase (DAO) enzyme deficiency
  • Histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) deficiency
  • Histamine-rich foods
  • Too much oestrogen
  • Progesterone deficiency

Diet

In addition to the histamine produced inside your body, there are also a variety of foods that naturally contain histamine, cause the release of histamine, or block the enzyme that breaks down histamine, diamine oxidase.

Histamine-Rich Foods:

  • Fermented alcoholic beverages, especially wine, champagne and beer
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc
  • Vinegar-containing foods: pickles, mayonnaise, olives
  • Cured meats: bacon, salami, pepperoni, luncheon meats and hot dogs
  • Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread, etc
  • Dried fruit: apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins
  • Most citrus fruits
  • Aged cheese including goat cheese
  • Nuts: walnuts, cashews, and peanuts
  • Vegetables: avocados, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes
  • Smoked fish and certain species of fish: mackerel, tuna, anchovies, sardines

Histamine-Releasing Foods:

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Cow’s Milk
  • Nuts
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Shellfish
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Wheat Germ
  • Many artificial preservatives and dyes

DAO-Blocking Foods:

  • Alcohol
  • Energy drinks
  • Black tea
  • Mate tea
  • Green tea

How do I break down histamine?

DAO (diamine oxidase) is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine. So if you’re deficient in DAO, you likely have symptoms of histamine intolerance.

Causes of Low DAO

  • Gluten intolerance
  • Leaky Gut
  • SIBO
  • DAO-blocking foods: alcohol, energy drinks, and tea
  • Genetic mutations (common in people of Asian-descent)
  • Inflammation from Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Medications:
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
  • Antidepressants (Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft)
  • Immune modulators (Humira, Enbrel, Plaquenil)
  • Anti-arrhythmics (propanolol, metaprolol, Cardizem, Norvasc)
  • Antihistamines (Zyrtec)
  • Histamine (H2) blockers (Zantac)
  • Hormonal Imbalances

Although histamine blockers, a class of acid-reducing drugs, seem like they would help prevent histamine intolerance, these medications can actually deplete DAO levels in your body.

Elimination/Reintroduction

Remove the above high histamine foods for 30 days and reintroduce them one at a time to identify your triggers.  You may not have to avoid the foods forever but it can be a solution until your histamine or DAO levels return to their optimal levels.  

Testing for Histamine

Consider having whole blood histamine and DAO tested along with other cofactors that can increase or affect the breakdown of histamine in your body.

Food Sensitivity testing will pin point the exact foods that are causing the allergic response thereby reducing allergy symptoms and inflammation in your body.

Acupuncture shown to be effective at treating Allergies

A systematic review of 13 randomized controlled trials concluded that acupuncture could be a safe and valid treatment option for allergic rhinitis. Whilst the Clinical practice guidelines for allergic rhinitis published by the Otolaryngology Head Neck Surgery Foundation in 2015, recommended that clinicians may refer to a clinician who can offer acupuncture, for patients with allergies who are interested in non-pharmacological therapy as a safe and effective treatment. 

Foods to eat

Sample diet

Breakfast: Millet porridge with poached pear and seeds

Lunch: Salad of red cabbage, celery, green beans, brown lentils, chopped parsley and olive oil

Snack: Celery sticks with tahini

Dinner: Steamed fish with garlic, rice and steamed vegetables

 

 

References
1 .McDondald and Janz 2017, The Acupuncture Evidence Project: A Comparative Literature Review
2. Nuutinen, S and  Panula, P 2010, Histamine in neurotransmission and brain diseases. Adv Exp Med Biol. Vol. 709:95-107.

Acupuncture working on reducing allergy symptoms

Preliminary research indicates that acupuncture may help allergy and eczema symptoms.

In 2012, an article was published, which summarised a multi-centre, randomised clinical trial conducted in Korea and China, which involved 238 patients (3). Acupuncture reduced the nasal symptoms of hay fever significantly better than the ‘false’ acupuncture.  In case of symptoms, which were not related to the nose, both acupuncture and ‘false’ acupuncture resulted in a significant reduction of those symptoms, compared to patients who did not receive the acupuncture treatment. This study concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective therapy. 

The effect of acupuncture on the molecular mechanisms of inflammation in the nose may be due to its impact on the hormonal activity of the HPA axis, increasing the secretion of ACTH and corticosteroids which may lead to reduced swelling of the nasal mucosa (4). 

Another study was conducted by Brinkhaus team and covered 5237 patients (1). It has shown that acupuncture in addition to routine treatment of patients, also brings both statistically and clinically significant benefits. The results of this team were published in 2013 in the “Annals of Internal Medicine” (2). The study involved 46 specialised doctors from 38 centres.  422 patients were recruited and divided into three groups for two months: one group received acupuncture treatment, the second received fake acupuncture, with needles placed in random, meaningless spots on their bodies, and the third group only took antihistamines. At the end of the study, the group that received acupuncture reported greater relief from symptoms than the other two groups.

However, the group receiving the fake acupuncture treatment also reported relief of their symptoms, though not as much as the group receiving acupuncture. Furthermore, four months later, as a follow-up, the difference between the effectiveness of the real and fake acupuncture treatment groups was less pronounced. This suggests a placebo effect may have taken place with the people receiving acupuncture, in anticipation of its beneficial effects.  In addition, the German ACUSAR research shows that acupuncture is an effective method of improving the quality of life of patients suffering from allergic rhinitis (5).

In a review of published trials, researchers concluded that there is some evidence to support the claim that acupuncture is beneficial and cost-effective as an additional treatment for seasonal allergic rhinitis. However, at this time, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that acupuncture is effective as a stand-alone treatment (6).

Other studies have looked at the effectiveness of acupuncture as a treatment for atopic dermatitis (7). They found that acupuncture significantly reduced itchiness in some patients. They noted that preventative acupuncture did not work as well as concurrent acupuncture.

In summary, acupuncture may be a safe, cost-effective option for those who are interested in non-pharmalogical therapy and for those looking for extra support to current treatment.

 

References

1 Brinkhaus B, Witt, CM,  Jena, S, Liecker, B, Wegscheider, K and Willich, SN,  “Acupuncture in patients with allergic rhinitis: a pragmatic randomized trial,” Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, vol. 101, no. 5, pp. 535–543, 2008.
2 Brinkhaus B, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Roll S, Linde K, Pfab F, Niggemann B, Hummelsberger J, Treszl A, Ring J, Zuberbier T, Wegscheider K, Willich SN. “Acupuncture in patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis: a randomized trial.” Ann Intern Med. 2013 Feb 19;158(4):225-34.
3 Choi SM, Park JE, Li SS, Jung H, Zi M, Kim TH, Jung S, Kim A, Shin M, Sul JU, Hong Z, Jiping Z, Lee S, Liyun H, Kang K, Baoyan L. “A multicenter, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of acupuncture on allergic rhinitis.” Allergy 2013; 68: 365–374.
4 McDonald,  JL, Cripps, AW, Smith, PK, Smith, CA, Xue, CC and Golianu, B “The Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Acupuncture and Their Relevance to Allergic Rhinitis: A Narrative Review and Proposed Model,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, Article ID 591796, 12 pages, 2013. doi:10.1155/2013/591796
5 Reinhold T, Roll S, Willich SN, Ortiz M, Witt CM, Brinkhaus B. “Cost-effectiveness for acupuncture in seasonal allergic rhinitis: economic results of the ACUSAR trial.” Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013 Jul;111(1):56-63
6 Witt, CM and Brinkhaus, B “Efficacy, effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for allergic rhinitis – An overview about previous and ongoing studies.” Auton Neurosci. 2010 Oct 28;157(1-2):42-5.
7 Pfab, F et al., “Acupuncture compared with oral antihistamine for type I hypersensitivity itch and skin response in adults with atopic dermatitis: a patient- and examiner-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.” Allergy. 2012 Apr;67(4):566-73.

Food sensitivity testing to reduce allergy symptoms

Image source: longevitymedical.com

When people complain of symptoms such as headaches, bloating or mouth ulcers after eating, it can often be a sign of food sensitivity. A food sensitivity or intolerance does not cause a severe allergic reaction to food – known as anaphylaxis.  Sometimes substances within foods can increase the frequency and severity of allergy symptoms and inflammation in the form of migraine headaches, rashes (such as hives) or the stomach upset of irritable bowel. 

The best approach is to first consult your healthcare professional to:

1. Determine whether dietary (or other) factors play an aggravating role

2. Identify individual triggers to be avoided.

Food sensitivity testing

IgG or food sensitivity testing is meant to work as a simple means to identify food sensitivities or food intolerances. The test checks a person’s blood for immunoglobulin G (IgG), an antibody created by the body to fight a certain allergenic food. Drawn blood is exposed to a panel of foods and food components. The degree of total IgG antibody binding to each food is measured to determine if any of the foods create an immune response. The degree of sensitivity is then graded by a classification scale.

This provides a guide on which foods you may be more sensitive to and therefore to be avoided as part of the elimination or rotational diet to reduce your symptoms.  This can help to eliminate the uncertainty and narrow down what might be the cause of you symptoms for faster results.  

It is important to note that this does not test for food allergy and anaphylaxis reactions.

A Quick Guide to Healthy Eating

What is healthy?  Healthy eating is about consuming food for a more than adequate nutritional profile. Here are a few tips to ensure you eat foods high in nutrients rather than empty calories.

Focus on real food

Real food is fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, wholegrains and beans.  Concentrating on these foods means reducing your consumption foods that a processed and come in a packet, box, jar or can.

Consume healthy fats

Healthy fats are found in avocados, nuts, seeds, fatty fish and oils like olive oil.  These will keep you feeling fuller for longer and is essential to help lower cholesterol and keep your skin and hair looking good.

Eat quality protein

Quality protein is lean meat, tofu, fish, pulses and nuts/seeds.  Protein is very important macronutrient required for our body to grow and function.  Protein breaks down into amino acids which form building blocks for DNA, cells, muscle, organs and more!  When it comes to processed meats such as salami and mettwurst remember…focus on real food.

Eat the rainbow

I suggest trying to incorporate at least 3 differently colours of fruit/vegetables in each meal.  This ensures you get a variety of nutrients your body needs.

Portion control

This is often the hardest for people.  A couple of strategies is to portion your meals before eating and pack away leftovers so you are not tempted to go back for seconds.  Another strategy is to pack you plate with vegetables. I like to cook extra vegetables with my meals and try to have at least half of my plate in vegetables.

Cut back on sugar

Sugar found in fruit is fine but it’s the added sugar that is the problem.  Sugars are hidden in processed food which is another reason why I recommend to eat real food.  Sugar raises insulin levels which leads to weight gain, hormonal issues and more.

Should you snack?

Technically, unless you are burning a lot of calories because you are a professional athlete you don’t really need to snack.  It is ok to feel a little bit hungry every now and then.  In fact, a substantial break between meals allows your gut to rest and detoxify.  You may also find after a couple of weeks of no snacking that your blood sugar levels will be more stable, you will no longer have the urge to snack and you might also say goodbye to the 3pm slump.  If you can’t wait for next meal I suggest choosing real food options like veggie sticks, fruit or nuts.

Plan your meals

We are all time poor which is why meal planning is so important.  Once you have done it you will see how much time it saves you and how much cheaper it is. The key is to choose easy recipes that you know don’t require too much fuss especially after a long day at work.

  • Take 15-20min on the weekend to pick out 4 meals (you can choose more or less depending if you want to have a night out)
  • Write them on a calendar or meal planner for dinner
  • double or triple the recipes according to your family size so you at least have leftovers for lunch the next day
  • Write your shopping list.  This also helps to prevent impulse buying especially when that block of Lindt chocolate is on special.
  • Cook your first scheduled dinner and portion out your dinner plates and lunches

 

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Infertility

The prevalence of PCOS is thought to be 5-10% and is a contributing factor towards infertility.

PCOS is diagnosed when 2 of 3 criteria are met:

  • oligo-ovulation (less than 8 periods/year) and/or anovulation (no ovulation occurs)
  • Excess androgen activity (determined via blood test)
  • Polycystic ovaries (diagnosed with gynaecological ultrasound)

Obesity can contribute to the development of PCOS and can also be a cause of infertility.  Both PCOS and obesity increases your risk of diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia and cardiovascular disease.

Hyperinsulinaemia (elevated insulin) leads to increased fat – particularly around your mid-section.  Elevated insulin levels contribute to abnormalities of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis that lead to hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS.

One of the common hormonal imbalances in women with PCOS is increased testosterone production and free androgen index. These hormones lead to acne and hirsutism (excessive face and body hair growth).  The adrenal glands also produce hormones and therefore stress can over-stimulate the adrenals, thereby adding further to the hormonal imbalance.

 

Source: Healthstatus.com

Why Weight?

Although not all women with PCOS are overweight, in those who are, weight loss is an essential part of PCOS treatment.  Not only can weight loss result in dramatic improvement in the condition, weight loss has also been shown to be more effective than current medication for insulin resistance.

As little as 2-5% reduction in weight can be enough to improve metabolic and reproductive indices in women with PCOS.  A healthy lifestyle to lose weight has been shown to lower testosterone production, improve insulin resistance and decrease hirsutism in PCOS.  Even in those without PCOS, weight loss for obese people will also slow obesity related co-morbidities.  Furthermore, for overweight/obese women, a 5kg weight loss can increase the chance of pregnancy by 50%.

I advocate long-term modest weight loss which is far more effective than drastic weight change which incorporates dietary counselling, acupuncture and exercise.

PCOS can be a difficult condition to manage, therefore treatment for PCOS is ongoing. In some cases, it can be months before a client’s initial menstrual bleed.  Reduction of hirsutism can also take up to 3 months before changes are observed.  Counselling and practitioner support can be helpful for continued monitoring of improvement of signs and symptoms .  This not only allows you to track your progress but can help you to stay motivated to achieve a regular menstrual cycle and allow ovulation to occur to improve your chances of becoming pregnant.

 

References

Barry, J, Kuczmierczyk, A & Hardiman, PJ 2011, ‘Anxiety and depression in polycystic ovary syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Human Reproduction, Vol. 26, No. 9, pp. 2442-2451, viewed 12 October 2015, <www.ebscohost.com>

Bhattacharya, SM & Jha, A 2010, ‘Prevalence and risk of depressive disorders in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).’, Fertility and sterility, vol. 94, no. 1, pp. 357–9, viewed 12 October 2015, <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0015028209037042>

Johnson, N 2014, ‘Metformin use in women with polycystic ovary syndrome’, Annals of Translational Medicine, Vol. 2, No. 6, pp. 1-7, viewed 23 October 2015, <www.atmjournal.org>

King, LK, March, L & Anandacoomarasamy, A 2013, ‘Obesity & osteoarthritis’, Indian Journal of Medical Research, vol.138, pp. 185-93, viewed 25 May 2014, <www.ebscohost.com>

Sarris J & Wardle J 2014, Clinical Naturopathy: An evidence-based guide to practice, 2nd edn, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Australia

Sirmans S & Pate K 2013, ‘Epidemiology, diagnosis, and management of polycystic ovary syndrome’, Clinical Epidemiology, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp.1-13, viewed 23 October 2015, <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/>

Tips to reduce your toxin exposure for pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, looking to conceive or are concerned about your overall health, here are a few tips to reduce your toxin exposure.

Opt for natural

Less is more. Reduce the number of personal care products and make up and opt for natural and if possible organic.  This includes your nail polish, hair dyes, sunscreen, toothpaste and more!  Just be mindful that just because the label says “natural” it might not always be the case.  Always read the ingredients.  If you don’t know what they are, then it’s often likely they aren’t natural.

A great website to source natural skincare, cosmetics and household care items is Nourished Life (www.nourishedlife.com.au)

Clean Green

Household cleaners, insect repellants and air fresheners often contain harmful chemicals that can penetrate your skin, irritate your lungs and enter your blood stream. Furthermore, these can often irritate babies lungs and children with asthma.

Cheaper and safer alternatives for cleaning include basic household items such as vinegar, baking soda and a good micro fibre cloth.

Go fragrance free

Phtalates (endocrine disruptors), linked to reproductive, motor and behavioural development are commonly found in fragrance ingredients.  Furthermore, no one knows what’s in synthetic fragrances as manufacturers only have to indicate the combination of chemicals used with only the word “fragrance”.  There are now many fragrance-free products available and if you do want some scent, opt for products scented with essential oils instead.

 

Choose organic whenever possible (or grow your own)

Eating organic means reducing your pesticide exposure. Research has shown that switching to an organic diet reduces pesticide remnants found in urine after just five days.  In addition organic foods cannot be genetically modified.

If switching to an organic diet is not affordable for you, I recommend choosing organic (or at least grass fed) meat and dairy, eat fruits and vegetables that are in season and buy organic fruits and vegetables that are known to retain the highest levels of pesticide residue.  These can be found on EWGs dirty dozen list.

Cook your own

Preparing your own meals using fresh, whole ingredients gives you maximum control over what ends up on your plate.  And is great practice for when baby comes along.

It is important to note that safer cooking option include example coated cast iron and stainless steel cookware.  Until recently non-stick cookware was made of a chemical, PFOA, which has been linked to cancer, heart disease, infertility and pregnancy complications.  New chemicals are now being used to produce non-stick cookware however their safety is still unknown.

Swap your plastic for glass

Plastics have been shown to contain many toxic compounds that can end up in your food, especially when the plastic is heated.  Avoid canned foods as they are lined with BPA. Switch your Tupperware and drink bottles for glass.   If that is too costly, start by just replacing the old, scratched containers.  Many plastic containers have a number on the bottom indicating the type of plastic it is.  Re-use only #2, #4 and #5.  Avoid #1, #7.

Not only will this be better for your health, it will also be better for the environment.

Eat small fish

Fish are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids which are important for a healthy pregnancy and foetal development.  Eat seafood no more than 2-3 times per week and opt for smaller fish such as sardines which have less mercury contamination than deep sea fish such as swordfish and tuna.

 

By making a few changes to minimize your toxin exposure you can protect yourself and your family from possible risks.

 

 

12 Factors affecting your Nutritional Status!

Nutritional Status
Nutrition and Health

Food and Nutrients

12 Factors affecting Nutrition and Health

Your diet is good, your nutrition knowledge is sound, you are eating a variety of vegetables, fruit and protein, you drink enough water and you exercise. You are doing the right things so why don’t you feel 100%?

You are not alone, whilst we know more about food than any other time in history and we are exposed to so much information about food, diet and nutrition why is that chronic health diseases are on the rise?

As a naturopath, nutritionist, nurse and Chinese medicine practitioner I am assessing my clients’ health and diet on a constant basis. This may take form in several ways and no matter how healthy someone is or how much they are doing the right thing there is often something underlying that is affecting one’s nutrition and health status.

Thus I am sharing some of the common underlying factors that I come across daily in my clinical practice that could be affecting your nutritional status despite having a pretty good diet:

  1. Excess alcohol or caffeinated beverages that deplete water soluble nutrients by increasing urinary excretion.
  2. If you are following or have previously followed a strict diet for weight loss, body building, sport, food allergies or religious practices which may mean that food intake is unbalanced or restricted
  3. Different life stages that affect food intake and specific nutritional requirements such as pregnancy, birth, breast feeding, menopause and menstruation
  4. Poor digestion or digestive disorders that may limit the ability to obtain nutrients from food
  5. Inborn genetic factors which may increase the need for specific nutrients. For example pyrroles, MTHFR
  6. Illness which can increase the demand for specific nutrients
  7. Prescription medication or illicit drugs which may affect digestion or metabolism of nutrients. For example the Pill, cholesterol medication, antacids and the list goes on.
  8. Poor quality soil which depletes the mineral content of plant based food especially selenium and iodine (necessary for thyroid, breast and prostate health)
  9. Boiling or over cooking food that depletes essential nutrients
  10. A fast paced hectic lifestyle
  11. Smoking or exposure to pollutants, heavy metals or toxins
  12. Strenuous exercise or heavy physical work

If you feel any of these factors or something else could be impacting your nutritional status then it is worth while making some changes or looking to have your health assessed!

As Eating is an opportunity to nourish your body”