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Histamines: Friend or Foe?

by Dr. Karen Clickner, ND


When we talk about histamine, we are not just talking about allergies, although we immediately think of antihistamines like Benadryl. We are actually talking about a normal body response that can create weeks, months and years of disabling symptoms and be the reason for high blood pressure, ever-increasing weight gain, insomnia, asthma, physical injury and even dysmenorrhea. That's right ... the reason you may be having the worst periods known is because of histamine.

Histamines are essential because they stimulate inflammation, protective immunity and healing. But they also can flood the tissues so frequently that you develop an intolerance to their presence. In fact, any time you reach for an antihistamine and you feel better afterwards, you are proving that I am right about this. Let's use your period as an example. Histamines are released during your period to help to clear the uterus through smooth muscle contraction. But if you have chronic histamine-driven conditions such as allergies, asthma or even SIBO, then during your period the normal release of histamines in the uterus becomes a flood. The "flood" occurs because histamine rises and falls with estrogen. This might even explain why some illnesses are more common or more severe in women than men.

I'm not saying histamines are bad because they aren't. They act like gatekeepers to get rid of things that bother you (like, bacteria, dust, a nosy neighbor or poll-takers). But if you are experiencing chronic pain, chronic allergies, sinus issues, uncontrolled asthma or many other debilitating symptoms, you may be experiencing an intolerance to the presence of histamine. You may notice this any time you have abnormal reactions to normal exercise or become winded and fatigued with seasonal change. Histamines can create congestion because of vasoconstriction, cause excessive platelet aggregation and reduce fluid movement in the body. This allows toxins, pathogens and allergens to become trapped in an area creating cellulitis, edema, high blood pressure and skin eruptions. Histamines may also explain weight accumulation in specific body areas.

Histamine intolerance can often begin after surgery or an injury that requires a lengthy time to heal. It can happen with estrogen dominance, with exposure to inhaled toxins and amazingly as the result of chronic antihistamine use. So how do we turn this around?

* Decongest body tissues and increase blood and lymph circulation.

* Reduce foods that promote mast cell stimulation such as alcohol and cow dairy.

* Reduce histamine-containing foods such as tomato, bone broth, fermented food (bye bye kombucha), nuts, citrus fruits, cheese and red wine.

* Support progesterone levels and avoid pro-estrogenic foods such as soy.

My favorite remedy is Black Cumin Seed (Nigella sativa). I even have patients with chronic breathing disorders keep a bag of nigella seeds and smell them daily. It does wonders for clearing the breathing passages. Taking medicinal Black Cumin Seed reduces inflammation, reduces pain, reduces fever, is antimicrobial and is the best antihistamine approach you can reach for. It has a long history and is a favorite in the Middle East since the Prophet Mohammed is said to have often recommended using the seeds against disease. Try incorporating some of these suggestions into your routine and see what improves for you.

Dr. Karen Clickner, ND is a Nationally Registered Naturopathic Physician with 30 years of experience. She specializes in Lyme, Infertility and Autoimmune Disorders. She practices at Conscious Body Natural Medicine with offices in Holden and Brookline, MA. Call 617-505-3585


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