Along with gut problems, histamine intolerance is another common source of inflammation. In fact, histamine intolerance is often linked to gut problems.
Histamine regulates the immune system, where its role is to act as an emergency signal. While it’s commonly known to cause symptoms of allergy and itching, it can also cause inflammation.
Studies have linked excess histamine levels to various inflammatory skin problems and shown that reducing histamine can also benefit the skin.
Is histamine intolerance a factor in your acne?
We can approach this question from two sides looking at symptoms and trying simple things known to reduce histamine levels to see if they also help your skin.
Do you have symptoms linked to histamine intolerance?
Excess histamine exposure can lead to a variety of symptoms, including:
- Neurological: Headaches, dizziness, nausea, sleep problems, symptoms resembling panic attack, fatigue, confusion.
- Gut: Abdominal cramps, diarrhea, heartburn.
- Skin: Itching, hives, swelling, flushing, rash, eczema, acne.
- Respiratory: Nasal obstruction, sneezing, runny nose, seasonal allergies, asthma.
- Eyes: Irritation, redness, watery eyes.
- Circulatory: Drop in blood pressure.
- Tissue swelling, especially on the face, mouth, and throat.
- Irregular periods.
However, lack of these symptoms doesn’t mean you don’t have histamine intolerance. I had almost none of those symptoms. The only histamine-related symptom I had was very mild itch on the areas where I also got acne. And yet, low histamine diet has been effective in calming my skin and gut.
For women, there are two additional clues:
- If you have been pregnant, did your skin or the symptoms listed above get better? The placenta secretes massive amounts of DAO, which means histamine-related problems often improve during pregnancy.
- Do you get menstrual pain, headaches, hives or other skin problems? Estrogen stimulates the release of histamine and inhibits DAO, which aggravates histamine intolerance symptoms during stages of the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels increase (usually mid-cycle and during ovulation). Histamine levels have been shown to peak around mid-cycle in women.
Treatments that reduce histamine levels
Fortunately, histamine responds quickly and readily to simple treatments, including:
- Low histamine diet (the best option)
- OTC antihistamines (Claritin, or any other brand that contains loratadine as active ingredient)
- Vitamin C (1000 mg/day)
Low histamine diet
Low histamine diet is the most reliable way to reduce histamine levels. The good news is that cutting histamine out of your diet rapidly and drastically reduces your blood histamine levels. Most people should notice changes after just one week on a low histamine diet.
This list contains what I believe to be the main problem foods for people with histamine issues:
- Alcoholic beverages: Champagne, red wine, beer.
- Fish: Mackerel, herring, sardine, anchovies, tuna, and just about any fish that is not very fresh.
- Cheese: Hard and matured cheeses. Fresh cheese (Mozzarella, Ricotta, cottage cheese, etc.) that spoils quickly is usually low in histamine.
- Dairy: Yogurt, sour milk, kefir, and other fermented dairy products.
- Meat: Fermented sausage, salami, ham, cured and aged meats, liver and organ meats.
- Bakery products: Bread and other bakery products raised with yeast. Yeast-free bakery goods (like biscuits) should be ok.
- Vegetables: Sauerkraut and all fermented vegetables, tomato, spinach, eggplant.
- Fruits: All dried fruits, citrus fruits (orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime), banana, kiwi, most berries, papaya, pineapple.
- Most nuts.
- Condiments: Vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce.
- Fermented soy products: Natto, miso.
If you don’t want to try low histamine diet, over the counter antihistamine drugs are another option. I recommend trying Claritin (or another brand that contains loratadine as an active ingredient). It may take two weeks to notice a difference on your skin.
This test isn’t as reliable as low histamine diet. There are differences in how people respond to antihistamines. So a negative test result could also be because you just didn’t respond to that particular antihistamine.
Vitamin C levels are inversely linked to histamine levels. As vitamin C levels drop, histamine levels increase. Conversely, increasing vitamin C levels with supplementation has been shown to reduce histamine levels. This is true even for people who aren’t vitamin C deficient, as the cutoff point above which vitamin C no longer reduces histamine levels is relatively high.
Studies have shown that vitamin C supplements can reduce histamine levels anywhere from 20 to 50%.
The recommended dose is 1000 mg/day of ascorbic acid, and just about any vitamin C supplement will do.
Again, I don’t think this test is as accurate as low histamine diet, but it’s a very easy and simple option.
Give at least two weeks to notice changes in your skin or other histamine-related symptoms.
Treat gut problems before treating histamine intolerance
If you suspect you have histamine intolerance, please go through the entire histamine intolerance section for a detailed description and treatment plan.
But keep in mind that gut problems are known to cause histamine intolerance. And, if any, you should treat gut problems before going through the histamine intolerance plan.