Probiotics and Histamine Intolerance
You might be most familiar with histamine as it relates to the immune system. If you’ve suffered from seasonal allergies or food allergies, you may have noticed that antihistamine medications like Zytrec, Allegra or Benadryl provide quick relief of your symptoms. This is because histamine’s role in the body is to cause an immediate inflammatory response. It serves as a red flag in your immune system, notifying your body of any potential attackers.
Histamine causes your blood vessels to swell, or dilate, so that your white blood cells can quickly find and attack the infection or problem. This is part of the body’s natural immune response, and typically enzymes will break down the histamine so that it doesn’t build up. If for some reason you don’t break down histamine properly, it begins to build up and you develop what we call histamine intolerance.
Because it travels throughout your bloodstream, histamine can affect your gut, lungs, skin, brain, and entire cardiovascular system, contributing to a wide range of symptoms, and often making histamine intolerance difficult to pinpoint and diagnose.
Histamine intolerance manifests itself in a variety of signs and symptoms such as:
- Pruritus (Itching Especially of the Skin, Eyes, Ears, and Nose)
- Urticaria (Hives) (Sometimes Diagnosed as “idiopathic Urticaria”)
- Tissue Swelling (Angioedema) Especially of Facial and Oral Tissues and Sometimes the Throat, the Latter Causing the Feeling of “throat Tightening” (Sometimes Diagnosed as “idiopathic Angioedema”)
- Hypotension (Drop in Blood Pressure)
- Tachycardia (Increased Pulse Rate, “heart Racing”)
- Symptoms Resembling an Anxiety or Panic Attack
- Chest Pain
- Nasal Congestion and Runny Nose
- Conjunctivitis (Irritated, Watery, Reddened Eyes)
- Some Types of Headaches That Differ From Those of Migraine
- Fatigue, Confusion, Irritability
Digestive Tract Upset, Especially Heartburn, "Indigestion", and Reflux
One important way to control histamine and prevent histamine intolerance is by paying attention to probiotics. Some bacteria in the gut can work to manufacture a lot of histamine while other probiotic species restrain histamine synthesis. If you consume probiotics and histamine, matters to you then take care that you use a product formulae that suits your needs. Otherwise, you may mean well but are actually making things worse by consuming the wrong probiotics.
Indiscriminate use of probiotics risks their being an insult that will aggravate histamine metabolism and produce the symptoms of histamine intolerance. Here is a summary list of those things probiotic that either promote histamine or retard it. Most of these bacteria or yeast are commonly found scattered about in many or most commercial probiotic products. Note that some manufacturers now are offering specialized formulae that contain only anti-histamine species.
- Lactobacillus Bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus Casei
- Lactobacillus Reuteri
- Bifidobacterium Infantis
- Bifidobacterium Longum
- Lactobacillus Gasseri
- Lactobacillus Rhamnosus
- Lactobacillus Plantarum
- Lactobacillus Salivarius
There are many foods that are well known to aggravate histamine. However, the important thing is that the biggest source of histamine in food isn’t the food itself. It’s bacteria on the food, which naturally produce histamine as part of their metabolic process. There is a seamless continuum between food sourced bacteria that provoke histamine and resident or transient gut bacteria or probiotic supplements that may also provoke histamine. Anything aged or fermented will be big trouble for the histamine intolerant. Even leftovers can sometimes be “aged” enough to cause problems. Foods that provoke the highest histaminic reaction include aged or fermented foods: kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt or kefir, kombucha, aged cheese, alcohol of any kind, vinegars and cured meats.
Fortunately, there are probiotic bacteria that are very helpful in reducing histamine while otherwise providing their range of benefits in the gut. If you are intolerant of histamine, consider bifidobacteria with favour.