If you have hayfever you probably know all about the symptoms:- runny nose, itchy eyes and sneezing. You probably also know that it is caused by an allergic reaction to pollen. Up to 1 in 5 of us will suffer from hayfever at some time. Other microscopic particles like house dust or dander from animals can cause a similar allergic reaction to hayfever.
The histamine connection
When you get a whiff of pollen up your nose or into the eyes your body reacts if you have an allergy to that particle and produces anti-bodies which in turn produce histamine which cause the typical inflammation, redness, swelling and irritation. It is the histamine that causes the sypmtoms of hayfever. If you can reduce histamine you can reduce hayfever.
Treatment for hayfever
Although the medical treatment for hayfever is anti-histamines there are things you can do without taking drugs which may have side effects like drowsiness. For instance HayMax is an effective organic, natural and simple to use pollen barrier balm that is applied to the base of the nose to reduce pollen entering the body.
Omega 3 oils found in oily fish and supplements such as Pure Bio’s EPA/DHA reduce inflammation and may help. Vitamin E (800 iu a day) has been shown to help reduce hayfever symptoms.
You can lower the overall levels of histamine in your body by reducing the histamine containing foods in your diet.
What is Histamine?
Histamine is made by the human body and by bacterial degradation from the amino acid histadine. Therefore many ripened foods like cheese, wine, beer, sauerkraut and smoked meats may have very high amounts of histamine and the amount of histamine can be an indicator of the quality of the production process.
Very large amounts of histamine may be a sign of decay. For example, fresh or immediately frozen fish hardly contains any histamine. On the other hand, older or stale fish, which has been bacterially contaminated or just stored too long may contain extremely high amounts of histamine. Fresh cheese or cottage cheese, which has only ripened for a few days also has remarkably less histamine than older types of cheese.
Also, slightly contaminated yeast cultures (like those being used in the production of beer and wine) favour the production of histamine. All this explains the huge variances in the histamine content of various foods.
In our body, any excess of histamine – from the body’s own production or by an increased content of histamine in foods – is normally rapidly metabolized by the enzyme diaminoxidase (DAO). When this enzyme is deficient, a great variety of intolerance reactions may occur, depending upon the amount of histamine present.
If you are very sensitive you may experience symptoms from extremely small amounts of histamine. In addition, alcohol and certain drugs may block DAO and thereby worsen the symptoms. Histamine is resistant to cold and heat and therefore cannot be destroyed by cooking (including microwave), baking, grilling or deep freezing. If you think you are sensitive to histamine you should consider reducing high histamine foods eg:-
- Sausages and ham: all smoked animal products are high in histamine and should be avoided.
- Fish: Deep frozen fish is usually well tolerated; tinned fish or fish which has only been cooled (not frozen) may be a problem. Seafood may contain extremely high amounts of histamine depending upon how fresh they are.
- Cheese: Fresh cheeses like cottage cheese, quark etc should be well tolerated. Also small amounts of soft cheese should not cause problems.
- Alcohol: May cause problems for most histamine sensitive people as most types not only contain large amounts of histamine but because alcohol also blocks the DAO.
- Chocolate: Contains substances similar to histamine which may also trigger headaches and migraines and should therefore be avoided or greatly reduced.
- Sparkling wine has the highest contents of histamine, beer the lowest and is therefore usually tolerated in small amounts by most histamine sensitive patients.
Industrially produced wines like those from Australia, USA and South Africa are often showing lower histamine levels than traditionally produced or home-made types of wine. The histamine content of various wines and sparkling wines differs so greatly however, that we recommend to avoid these types of alcohol as much as possible or stick to those types which have been well tolerated before. The histamine content is also dependent upon vintage and vineyard.