Estrogen the Hidden Link to Histamine Intolerance & Allergies
Do you have headaches, anxiety, insomnia, brain fog or seasonal allergies? These are some of the common symptoms of histamine intolerance. As I discussed in my previous article on histamine intolerance, two of the major reasons someone experiences histamine intolerance is due to gut infection and/or food allergies.
There is a 3rd reason that is becoming more and more common as to why so many people are beginning to develop histamine intolerance, its ESTROGEN!
Estrogen obviously has its important roles in the body. In women estrogen is needed for everything that makes you more female than male. The nurturing, supportive, bubbly and happiness that women experience is due to estrogen’s role. But what about when estrogen is too high?
When estrogen is too high it is known to cause all the “bad” symptoms associated with the female cycle. From breast tenderness and mood alterations to cramping and bloating estrogen can wreck havoc and create many symptoms. This is the same for men who can also have breast tenderness and significant mood alterations but also suffer from low motivation and low testosterone when estrogen spikes.
Estrogen and Histamine
One of the major reasons estrogen is such a problem in the body is due to its interaction with the immune system and the histamine levels in your body. There are two major factors when considering estrogen and histamine.
- Estrogen sensitizes mast cells that release inflammatory chemicals
- Estrogen decreases the breakdown of histamine by lowering a substance called DAO
Estrogen and Mast Cells
Mast cells are immune system cells that are traditionally known to respond to allergies. They contain large amounts of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals are good when they are helping us heal from and injury or when we get an infection. Unfortunately they are not so good when they are in our circulation at high levels for extended periods of time.
Estrogen is able to attach to mast cells and makes them over-sensitive. Most people can relate to this concept as the more stress we have on any given day, it makes us over-sensitive and ready to explode at anything that rubs us the wrong way. The same happens with mast cells and estrogen.
Eventually as estrogen elevates the mast cells sensitize and explode more often and even seem to “overreact” to mild or innocuous issues.
Estrogen Decreases DAO
DAO (diamine oxidase) is simply the enzyme that helps breakdown histamine once it is released into circulation. Estrogen decreases the DAO enzyme which then slows the breakdown of histamine and allows it to remain in circulation longer. Many people have resorted to DAO enzymes in order to help with their histamine intolerance symptoms, but if estrogen is the root cause, they will either need to take DAO forever or you may find that DAO doesn’t even work.
What Should We Do About It?
First of all we need to avoid excess estrogen if we want to avoid excessive histamine in our bodies. Birth control pills in ovulating females and hormone replacement therapy in non-ovulating women often provoke histamine intolerance and send women into a downward spiral. A few extra pounds around the midsection can also promote excessive estrogen, so a healthy diet in general goes a long way towards keeping estrogen in check. (For my other articles on estrogen dominance, click here.)
Based on my personal experience, I would say the next thing to look at is the liver and the gallbladder. Many people have had their gallbladder removed and this can make them more prone to having excessive estrogen in their system. The liver’s job is to detox almost everything that we come across, so it is often overburdened with other health concerns like pesticides and bacterial toxins from the gut.
Based upon that last statement it is also important to restore proper gut health not only because of the beneficial role it has on the entire body, but also because it removes a significant amount of stress from the liver.
Estrogen and Insulin
The elephant in the room is insulin. It is the biggest reason why as a society we have become estrogen dominant. Too much carbs and not enough fats and protein lead us to have excessive insulin levels throughout the day. While many people have differing views on what your protein intake should be, I believe it should AT LEAST be 1 gram per pound of bodyweight, divided by 2. Meaning if you weigh 150 lbs, then you should eat at least 75 grams of protein per day. If you are training hard (high intensity classes, endurance training, competitive sports) or recovering from illness, I like to see protein levels increased to nearly double that. When it comes to recovering from illness and training hard, healthy grass-fed red meat also plays an essential role. Healthy fats can also support health insulin levels and should be used often for health and calories rather than carbohydrates.
While I use a large variety of supplements for estrogen detox, the top 2 supplements that I use to reduce estrogen in practice are B6 (P5P) from Thorne Research and Artichoke Extract from AMG Naturals. They each detox estrogen via different pathways, but they consistently help my patients to feel better.
So as a critical measure to help eliminate histamine intolerance, don’t forget to remove the estrogen!
Sources For This Article Include:
- Bonds RS, Midoro-Horiuti T. Estrogen effects in allergy and asthma. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2013;13(1):92-9. PMID 23090385
- Matsui S, Yasui T, Tani A, et al. Associations of estrogen and testosterone with insulin resistance in pre- and postmenopausal women with and without hormone therapy. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2013;11(2):65-70. PMID23825975