Brain Talk: Balancing Histamine for a Healthy Brain

By Natalie Collier, MScN

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What is histamine?

Histamine is the molecule responsible for those uncomfortable symptoms when you or a loved one is exposed to allergens including: food allergies, seasonal allergies, dust mite allergies and/or our furry friend allergies. Reactions involving histamine are inflammatory often producing redness, rashes, coughs, mucus, itching and/or swelling. Although, Histamine is most commonly known for the inflammatory immune responses it plays a role with other physiological and pathophysiological functions in the body including relaxation of smooth muscles and blood vessels, secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and its action as a neurotransmitter (chemical messenger) in the nervous system.

Histamine also plays the role as a key excitatory neurotransmitter responsible for the sleep-wake cycle.

Imbalances in histamine can lead to all sorts of symptoms including insomnia, emotional outbursts and behavior changes.

Why is histamine important for a healthy brain?

Histamine is important for a healthy brain and it may be a contributing factor in sleep disorders that are often overlooked. Histamine is always present in our bodies at low levels and can become imbalanced when we are consuming our individual food allergies and/or food sensitivities, eating a high histamine diet and/or high histamine-releasing diet (see below) but also when the body has insufficient DAO levels (DAO is the enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine).  

What happens when histamine builds up in the body?

In its role as a neurotransmitter elevated histamine can contribute to symptoms such as low mood, focus and concentration issues, fatigue, poor sleep or insomnia, headaches and immune issues. Histamine, in its role as a neurotransmitter, works to control the sleep-wake cycle. High histamine may decrease GABA levels which can lead to sleep cycle disturbances and increased anxiety. It can also cause imbalances in norepinephrine and epinephrine levels. These are two neurotransmitters released from the adrenals (our stress response organs) just like cortisol.  

How does Wellnicity measure histamine?

Wellnicity evaluates histamine excretions circulating in the central nervous system on the My Brain Balance test. The My Brain Balance Test also evaluates six other key neurotransmitters impacting brain health including serotonin, dopamine, GABA, glutamate, norepinephrine and epinephrine.

What are a few foods that contribute to elevated histamine?

High-histamine foods

  • Alcohol
  • Aged cheeses
  • Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, yogurt
  • Vinegar-containing foods: pickles, olives
  • Soured foods
  • Strawberries
  • Nuts: walnuts, cashews and peanuts

Histamine-releasing foods

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Tomatoes

DAO-Blocking Foods

  • Alcohol 

How can I correct High histamine?

First, determine your level of histamine. If elevated, your Wellnicity Clinician may recommend products such as Adrenal +C or HistControl to help address elevated histamine. You might also consider exploring the role that food is playing in increasing your histamine excretions with food sensitivity testing. Include supplementation that naturally boosts DAO levels such as Omega-3 fatty acids, Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B12. Eat a diet rich in low histamine and DAO boosting foods such as: wild salmon, grass-fed butter, coconut, pasture-raised chicken and eggs, leafy greens, grass-fed meat, fresh or dried herbs and spices.