You’ve most likely heard of antihistamines. Some of the more popular over the counter forms include Benadryl, Allegra, and Claritin. Maybe you’ve even taken them for relief from nasal congestion, sneezing, or allergies. But what are histamines and how do you reduce histamine in the body?
Histamines are chemicals made by your immune system to protect your body. Essentially, they are a part of your body’s defense system. They protect your body from things that are agitating you or triggering an allergy.
The histamines begin the process of removing allergens from your body or off of your skin. Histamines do this in a number of ways including sneezing, itching, or watery eyes.
Whenever we have allergies, for example, from being near pollen or dust, our immune system responds to defend us. This is good, as our bodies are trying to keep us safe! But, our bodies can overreact at times.
Whenever our bodies overreact we start to experience common allergy symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, rash, or even itchy and watery eyes. Cue the antihistamines please!
Taking an antihistamine will reduce or block the histamines in your body. This relieves you of allergy symptoms. But, there are more natural ways we can actually prevent allergy symptoms.
How Do Histamines Work?
Whenever you come into contact with your allergy trigger, your body’s defense system gets to work. Contact with an allergen begins the following chain reaction:
- First, your defense system sends a signal to your cells to release histamines.
- Whenever the histamines enter the bloodstream, they race to the site of your body that is most affected by the allergen.
- The build-up of histamines causes inflammation, and causes other parts of your immune system to get to work.
- From your viewpoint, the presence of histamines cause your body to have a runny nose, sneeze, or cough. The presence of histamines can even cause itchy, watery eyes, a rash, or a number of other allergy symptoms.
Can Food Impact Histamine Levels?
Histamines aren’t just affected by pollen or dust. Certain foods can also cause for a histamine reaction in certain individuals.
If you have a specific food allergy, this will certainly affect you. Whenever you eat or drink something that is an allergen to your body, your histamines will work in your gut to begin an allergic reaction.
While food allergies clearly can cause an allergic reaction in certian individuals, some people can also have a reaction even if they aren’t necessarily allergic to a particular food.
This is because some foods are naturally high in histamines and certain people can be sensitive to this. These types of foods include fermented foods and alcohol.
Common high-histamine foods can include:
- Fermented alcoholic beverages, especially wine, champagne and beer
- Fermented foods (soy sauce, sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kombucha)
- Vinegar-containing foods (pickles, mayonnaise, olives)
- Cured meats (bacon, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs)
- Soured foods (sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread)
- Dried fruit (apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins)
- Most citrus fruits
- Aged cheese, including goat cheese
- Nuts (walnuts, cashews)
- Some vegetables (avocados, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes)
- Smoked fish and certain species of fish (mackerel, mahi-mahi, tuna, anchovies, sardines)
Tip: If food allergens are causing strong reactions to your body, trying a low-histamine diet for a short time period can help you to avoid some allergens and lessen allergy symptoms. Avoiding all allergens would be impossible, as allergens are very small and can be found throughout our homes.
If you do decide to try a low-histamine diet, make sure that you are still consuming all the necessary nutrients. These following foods are low in histamine:
Some foods low in histamine include:
- fresh meat and freshly caught fish
- non-citrus fruits
- gluten-free grains, such as quinoa and rice
- dairy substitutes, such as coconut milk and almond milk
- fresh vegetables except for tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and eggplant
Tips For Avoiding Allergens and Allergies
Keep Your Home Clean
We tend to spend the majority of our time indoors and at home. Keeping a clean home can help you to stay on top of your allergies. Also, consider your home’s air filtration system. Regular cleaning of the air in your home will help further prevent any allergies from dust, pollen, and other foreign particles.
Clear Your Sinuses
Keeping your nasal passages free of irritants is one clear way of helping with allergies. Steam inhalation is a simple way of accomplishing this. You can use a store-bought steam inhaler or sinus steamer. If you don’t have one of these on hand, try this easy DIY method to relieve sinus pressure.
- Boil water and pour it into a large bowl.
- Add a few drops of essential oils to your hot water. (Note: Peppermint, eucalyptus, thyme, and oregano are all good choices for this method of decongestion. Frankincense (boswellia) is also a fantastic and fragrant medicinal plant that has been used for ages as a decongestant, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic.)
- Place the bowl at a table where you can sit comfortably, draping a big towel over your head, shoulders, and the bowl.
- Lean over, so your face is directly above the water. With the towel covering your head, breathe through your nose.
- Close your eyes and breathe deeply for several minutes while the aromatic steam rises.
Supplements can have a positive impact on health! For help with balancing histamine levels, Vitamin C (opt for a sugar-free supplement) and Bioflavonoids are great supplement choices. These bioflavonoids can include turmeric and quercetin.
According to Healthline, the following four supplements are the best natural antihistamines.
- Stinging Nettle
Histamines are helpful to our bodies and play a very important role in our immune and defense systems. However, sometimes our histamines can overreact. Whenever this happens, our bodies begin to experience allergies. These common allergies include runny nose, sneezing, watery eyes, itchy throat, etc.
Generally, your body will only have a histamine reaction whenever you are in contact with an allergen such as dust or pollen, but that is not always the case. Some types of foods can also cause a histamine reaction for some people. If you are affected by this, a low-histamine diet can help.
Alternate options for limiting allergies include keeping your house and air quality clean, taking vitamin C supplements, and steam inhalation.