Can Histamine Intolerance and MCAS Cause Anxiety?
A common problem asked my many patients who suffer with anxiety is, “Can histamine intolerance, MCAS cause my anxiety and depression” If you have been following my blog posts or YouTube videos, then you know that an histamine intolerance can trigger various symptoms depending on where those histamine receptors are clustering. There are many histamine receptors though-out the nerve system. Anxiety can be caused by excess brain histamine but symptoms like depression, panic attacks, and anxiety can also be caused by problems in the gut that go onto cause problems in the brain. Histamine intolerance and MCAS can not be separated from the gut. In today’s article, I will review the connection between histamine intolerance and anxiety and the many ways problems in the gut are a root cause.
High Histamine Foods Can Cause Anxiety through an inflammatory mechanism.
Histamine is a biogenic amine that occurs to various degrees in many foods. In healthy people (with normal DAO activity), dietary histamine is broken down and detoxified. However in people with low amine oxidase activity, their bodies ability to degrade histamine has been compromised. These individuals are at risk of histamine toxicity. Some of the foods we eat can be high in histamine, while other foods function as DAO blockers. The ingestion of histamine-rich food, wine, kombucha, and medications may exacerbate anxiety. Many foods we eat can either drive inflammation or put the breaks on inflammation. Foods we eat can influence many different kinds of Inflammatory mediators, including cytokines, histamine, bradykinin, prostaglandins, and leukotrienes. These can all impact our immune system as well as our brain. While there are many ways food can cause inflammation in our body, if you have anxiety and suffer with other symptoms associated with Histamine intolerance, following a low histamine diet may be a necessary starting point.
Low Levels of DAO
DAO is the enzyme that is responsible for breaking down histamines from the foods we eat. Diamine oxidase (DAO) is produced in your kidneys, thymus gland, and the intestinal lining of your digestive tract. If our bodies don’t produce enough DAO, we can’t break down the histamine from the foods we eat. Patients often find that supplementing with DAO enzymes very helpful.
Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) is an imbalance of the microorganisms in your gut. Somtimes we have too many of the good ones and sometimes we have too many of the bad ones. Too much of either will lead to bacterial overgrowth. Keep in min that the small intestines is not a place we want bacteria. When too many bacteria, or the wrong kind, begin populating and colonizing the small intestine, it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms such as weight loss, acid reflux, gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea. Prolonged intestinal inflammation can not only damage your brush border enzymes needed to break down disaccharide sugars, Inflammation can also damage the cells that make DAO. Remember DAO is the enzyme that breaks down histamine. Too much histamine can lead to anxiety, depression, Migraines, OCD, and a number of other neurological problems.
SIBO is linked to MCAS and Histamine Intolerance in a number of ways
- Prolonged gastro intestinal inflammation like that often seen in SIBO damages the gut lining
- Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)Causes Gastro-intestinal inflammation
- Inflammation in the gut can cause an overactive immune response and increased release of histamine
- Diamine Oxidase (DAO) is one of the enzyme that breaks down histamine in the foods you eat.
- Quercetin, Nettle leaf, Guduchi are supplements that have Mast Cell and histamine stabilizing effects.
- Mast cell activation disorder occurs when the Mast Cells release excess histamine and other inflammatory chemicals
With leaky gut, food particles, bacterial toxins, and environmental toxins seep into the bloodstream and cause havoc elsewhere in the body. When testing patients for leaky gut, it is not uncommon to detect LPS antibodies. When we identify these LPS antibodies, it can be an indicator that the cell wall of gram (-) bacteria are being broken down. Why is that important you might be wondering and how is that tied into anxiety. There is evidence that the damage to the gut caused by LPS toxins from gram-negative enterobacteria, plays a role in a variety of diseases, including depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, liver disease, heart disease,obesity, and even Thyroid disease, The presence of LPS indicates a breakdown in the tight junction or a leaky gut.
Leaky Gut and Leaky Brain.
A functional blood–brain barrier is essential to maintaining central nervous system homeostasis. At this point in time you may be thinking that Leaky gut can be a pretty big deal when it comes to histamine and anxiety, and you would be right! When this LPS induced inflammation occurs in the gut, it can damage the gut lining. As the gut lining becomes more and more permeable, these bacterial toxins enter into circulation and can now begin to also affect the tight junction in the brain.
Just like the tight junctions in the gut, the brain has tight junction that can also become leaky. It’s not uncommon to see the symptoms of a Leaky brain, alongside the symptoms of a Leaky gut.
As the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) breaks down, we can experience Brain Fog, Fatigue, Migraines or headaches, OCD, panic attacks, depression, and anxiety. Inflammation in the brain is not a good thing and can lead to many of symptoms we just mentioned.
Individuals suffering from leaky gut syndrome tend to have an excessive amount of histamine in their brain. Those with leaky gut often struggle with a wide variety of food allergies, food and chemical sensitivities as well environmental sensitivity. People with leaky brain often experience bi-polar like symptoms. Their excessive histamine production can also trigger irritability, aggression, anxiety and cause them to feel depressed and hopeless.
While Anxiety and depression are often considered to be caused by chemical imbalances in GABA, Serotonin, Dopamine many researchers are now starting to also pay attention to the health of the microbiome and histamine intolerance. Histamine also affects and plays an important role in other mood-altering neurotransmitters such as GABA, dopamine, and serotonin. An excessive amount of these neurotransmitters can increase the amount of anxiety and depressive feelings as well. Recent evidence suggests that too much histamine in the brain may also be a key factor in anxiety, Panic attacks, addictive behaviors and degenerative disease such as Parkinson’s diseases and multiple sclerosis.
Here Are A Few ways to Better Manage Anxiety Induced by Excess Histamine
Sometimes by modifying your diet and reducing the histamine load you can reduce your feelings of anxiety, depression and panic and regain control. Other times you need to dig deeper. If you’ve already tried this and hit a roadblock, please feel free to set up a consultation with me. Don’t think for a moment that you need to continue feeling trapped in a body that is failing you. My team and I would love to help you regain control of your health. In the meantime, here are a few things you can do for yourself.
- Implement a low histamine diet. If you don’t know what this is you can review my article on foods to avoid on a low histamine diet and foods to eat on a low histamine diet. While you can’t eliminate histamine entirely, you want to avoid those foods that increase histamine load.
- Improve DAO function. There are many strategies for improving DAO enzyme activity.
- Make sure you diet Includes plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, magnesium, iron, and vitamin B12. These have been shown to naturally improve DAO levels.
- Avoid DAO-blocking foods.
- Be aware of Medications that interfere with DAO enzyme function– Histamine intolerance can be made worse with certain prescribed and over the counter medications.
- Supplements that Stabilize Mast Cells. Mast cells release histamine, the goal of stabilizing Mast cells is to prevent them from releasing histamine. Studies show that certain flavonoids have anti-inflammatory Mast Cell Stabilizing activities.
- Increase foods known to be Mast Cell stabilizers. Foods that are high in polyphenols and flavonoids are known to be Mast cells stabilizers. Pomegranates, Grapes, cherries, red peppers, kiwis, apple, pears, mangos and watermelons are all great sources of polyphenols.
- Avoid Known food or environmental allergens. As part of the body’s natural immune response, when an allergen is detected, it binds to immunoglobulin-E (IgE) antibodies, which signal the body’s mast cells to release histamine.
- Vagus Nerve Exercises-
- Histamine Lowering Probiotics– Some strains of probiotics have been shown to improve intestinal tight junctions, which also may reduce LPS-associated endotoxemia as well as assist in degrading histamine. The histamine lowering probiotics include Bifidobacterium Breve, Bifidobacterium Infantis, Bifidobacterium Longum, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus breve, Lactobacillus salivarius.
- Lactoferrin- Lactoferrin (a glycoprotein that has been found to kill bacteria by destroying their cell wall) has been shown to reduce intestinal endotoxin levels.
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