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  • Writer's pictureNourish by Nudrat

Understand Your Histamine Burden and Overcome your Hay Fever Symptoms

Updated: Apr 4

With the start of Spring, some people can start to develop hay fever symptoms. Are you one of them? Do you dread the change in seasons?

Lady in a field of flowers having an allergic reaction, hay fever symptoms, and sneezing

I know a few people who are dreading the start of Spring, as they usually have debilitating symptoms, which appear to be getting worse for them every year. Research also appears to indicate the number of cases are rising, and an interesting statistic I read - over a 5 week period across May and June 2023, the NHS saw a 252% increase in hits to their hay fever page.

As a nutritional therapist and a hay fever sufferer, I understand the frustration that comes with hay fever symptoms. With the arrival of the allergy season, many individuals experience sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion, which can dampen the joy of spring but this can go on until September for some people. Research by Allergy UK, indicates that nearly half the UK population reported hay fever symptoms. There is also a high correlation between hay fever and asthma, and also other factors including air quality.

What is hay fever and role of histamine?

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction triggered by certain substances in the environment. The primary culprits are typically pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds and the attached image from details the typical seasons.

Table listing the pollen season of different plants, trees and grass affecting hay fever and allergies

When individuals with hay fever come into contact with these allergens, their immune system mistakenly identifies them as harmful and releases chemicals, such as histamine, to defend against them. This heightened immune response leads to the characteristic hay fever symptoms.

Histamine Intolerance: why do some people react more than others?

Histamine intolerance occurs when the body struggles to properly break down and clear histamine. This can lead to an overabundance of histamine in the body, resulting in symptoms such as inflammation, swelling, runny nose, watery eyes, migraines and even asthma in severe cases. And something I've realised over the years, it could also give rise to symptoms of vertigo.

Histamine is essential for immune function and regulation. But it also has other roles, for example it also supports gastric acid secretion, which is important for digestion, it plays a part in the formation of blood cells, and also acts as a neurotransmitter. However, certain factors like genetics, diet, lifestyle, and environment can influence an individual's tolerance or histamine burden. For example, some foods contain histamine, such as fermented foods, alcohol, aged cheeses and cured meats, while others can trigger histamine release in the body. Understanding these factors can help individuals better manage their histamine intolerance and alleviate hay fever symptoms effectively.

Histamine Clearance

There are a number of pathways involved in the clearance of histamine and there are many factors that can influence these.

  • Genetics variations can influence the function of key enzymes, Diamine Oxidase (DAO), Monoamine Oxidase-B (MAOB), Histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) or N-acetyltransferase 2 (NAT2) are responsible, as well as the enzyme Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase for clearing histamine.

  • Diamine Oxidase (DAO), one of the key enzymes responsible for clearing histamine, is produced mainly in the gut lining, as well as the kidneys and the thymus. So a healthy gut is key.

  • Xenobiotics, foreign chemical substances, also utilise the same NAT2 clearance pathway as histamine. Examples of which are external environmental pollutants, pesticides, drugs (including paracetamol), cosmetics, and also certain flavourings and additives in foods. Furthermore, alcohol also competes for the same pathway.

  • Endogenous toxins, like dopamine, also competes for the main MAOB clearance pathway. And even though dopamine is considered a 'feel good' neurotransmitter, too much can also give rise to symptoms of anxiety, insomnia or excess energy.

  • Oestrogen, we can't forget the role it plays in regulating histamine. For us women, our hormones really do play a major role in so many functions, and in this case oestrogen can downregulate DAO and the clearance of histamine. So if there is a tendency for high oestrogen, or it's that time of the month, women might be more sensitive to histamine.

Conventional Treatments

While conventional treatments like anti-histamines or corticosteroids are commonly used to manage hay fever symptoms and reduce inflammation, it's important to recognise their limitations.

Anti-histamines work by blocking the release of histamine, thereby reducing symptoms like sneezing, itching, and congestion. However, these medications often only provide temporary relief and may not address the underlying cause. Additionally, some individuals may experience side effects such as drowsiness, dry mouth, or dizziness when taking anti-histamines.

Furthermore, anti-histamines primarily target histamine-related symptoms and may not effectively address other contributing factors, such as inflammation or immune system dysfunction. For individuals with severe or persistent symptoms, relying solely on anti-histamines may not provide sufficient relief and so corticosteroids are often prescribed.

Moreover, these medications do not address potential triggers of histamine release, such as dietary factors or environmental allergens. This means that while they can alleviate symptoms, they may not prevent hay fever episodes from occurring or recurring, and they could also be resulting in negative effects.

In summary, while conventional treatments can offer symptomatic relief for hay fever, they may not be suitable for everyone and may not address the root cause of the condition or histamine imbalance.

Holistic Strategies

Now that we've explored the conventional treatments and some of the limitations, let's explore other ways you could help manage symptoms holistically. My approach generally is food first, so by incorporating these approaches into your daily routine, you could not only alleviate hay fever symptoms but also support your overall health and well-being.

  1. Nourish with Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Include plenty of fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, such as berries, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and cruciferous vegetables. These foods help combat inflammation and strengthen your immune system and contain nutrients, like Vitamin C as well as B vitamins, that can support the clearance of histamine.

  2. Support Gut Health: Enhance your gut health to improve overall immunity and reduce allergic reactions. While fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir are beneficial for gut health due to their probiotic content, they may also contain histamine, which can worsen symptoms for those with histamine intolerance. If you suspect histamine intolerance, consider introducing fermented foods gradually and monitoring your body's response. Alternatively, opt for fermented foods that are lower in histamine or consider probiotic supplements, which can provide similar benefits without the histamine content.

  3. Reduce Inflammatory Foods: Minimise or eliminate inflammatory foods like refined sugars, processed foods, and artificial additives. These can contribute to increased inflammation and can also affect gut health.

  4. Anti-Histamine Nutrients: Include foods high in natural anti-histamines, such as quercetin-rich foods (apples, onions, berries), vitamin C-rich foods (citrus fruits, bell peppers, kiwi), and omega-3 fatty acids (wild-caught fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds). These nutrients are known to help alleviate allergic responses.

  5. Herbal Support: Explore the use of herbal remedies like nettle leaf, butterbur, and elderflower. These herbs possess anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties that may provide relief from hay fever symptoms. Consult with a qualified herbalist or naturopath for appropriate dosage and guidance.

  6. Environmental Considerations: Minimise exposure to potential allergens or pollutants by keeping windows closed during high pollen counts, using air purifiers, and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from pollen. Regularly wash bedding and clothing to remove pollen particles that may have been collected outdoors. Also consider how 'clean' your cosmetics are as well as the cleaning products you use around the house.

  7. Stress Management: Stress can exacerbate hay fever symptoms. Engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises or yoga. Prioritising self-care and relaxation techniques can support a more balanced immune response.

My Experience

On a personal note, over the last few years my symptoms have improved considerably. There are a couple of factors that I can attribute to this -

  • Working on supporting my gut has been key, removing dairy and healing my gut, but this is a constant WIP.

  • Boosting my detox capabilities by supporting my liver and also using chelation to help detox the heavy metals from my body, to lessen the burden.

  • Increasing the anti-inflammatory foods and reducing my sugar.

  • Being connected with myself has really been powerful in helping me to understand my body and what works and what doesn't.

  • Seeing my genetics as well, it's amazing how you can begin to piece together the jigsaw puzzle.

Understand your Histamine Burden: Work with Me

Exploring holistic approaches that target inflammation, immune function, and overall health may provide more comprehensive and long-lasting relief if you are suffering with hay fever or histamine intolerance. Working with a Nutritional Therapist like me, who is also trained in Nutrigenomics, could help you identify a personalised strategy to address your specific needs and underlying factors contributing to not only the hay fever or histamine intolerance symptoms but your overall well-being. We could start off by carrying out some genetic testing, using LifeCodeGX, to see where your susceptibilities might lie, and then looking at your symptoms, goals, lifestyle and environment we could put together your truly personalised plan.


Medical Disclaimer

Note, this information is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects involved. This is not meant to, nor should it be used, to diagnose or treat any medical condition. For diagnosis or treatment of any medical concerns, consult your own doctor or health care practitioner. If there are any specific health conditions, please ensure dietary or medication changes are factored in also with the knowledge of your doctor.

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