Today, I’m sticking up for histamine, you know that chemical we deem as the devil for hay-fever - he's the most underestimated chemical known to humans in the body! While it’s easy to blame histamine for our allergies, he's not the bad guy here. We know that anti-histamines help relieve hay fever, so we assume it's bad.
Let’s be honest, it’s really frustrating walking around with a stuffy head, stuffy nose, watery eyes and sneezing all day. We walk out the door crossing our fingers like this above GIF girl that we won't come home with a stuffy nose and watery eyes.
Approximately 1 in 7 Australians suffer from Hay fever. Most of them are probably from Elwood, Melbourne, where I live - the Plane trees, as pretty as they are, are everywhere, triggering everyone's hay fever -including me for the very first time in my life.
To manage hay fever, we first must understand histamine.
What even is Histamine?
It’s a neurotransmitter or brain chemical - similar to serotonin and dopamine - and it's super important! It‘s involved in stomach acid production to help us break down our food, its involved in memory and concentration, it stimulates serotonin and dopamine - both involved in controlling our mood, controls our drinking and eating behaviours and mediates arousal and attention – it gets us up in the morning!
Side effects of anti-histamines
Taking an over-the-counter anti-histamine – can suppress these important roles that we need histamine for. This is why they can cause drowsiness, fatigue, reduced memory and concentration and affects our eating behaviours. Long term use/dependance of these drugs not only depress your immune system, but have recently been linked to early dementia and brain tumors! ... WTH, no thanks!
Truth is, we need histamine. In the appropriate amount.
Let's take the analogy of cortisol. We need cortisol in the appropriate amount. The release of cortisol from our adrenal glands is a normal immune response when we injure ourselves - it calls the army from the immune system to heal the injury, however when released in excess from stress, it causes inflammatory havoc in the body!
What is Hay Fever?
Hay fever is a hyper-immune response to harmless substances, like pollen and certain foods like peanuts and shellfish, where these allergens trigger the immune system, the immune system says ‘woah woah, slow down, who are you guys?’ Your immune system then releases histamine, causing inflammation and swelling of the nasal passages along with excessive mucus production and other symptoms such as sneezing, itching nose and throat, watery eyes and a clear, runny nose.
We need to dig deeper and find out why our immune system is responding this way.
How our gut is related to hay fever
Our gut and immune system are interrelated. Our intestinal wall is lined with a protective layer that acts as an immune barrier and up to 80% of your immune cells reside in our gut. This lining of our gut is also home to your ‘good’ bacteria which help to regulate your immune system and protect your body from ingested harmful substances.
I bet you are wondering, ‘how can my water eyes, running nose and sneezing be connected to my gut?’
Well, some of our microbes are capable of producing histamine – where it is then absorbed and taken around the body, exacerbating allergic symptoms.
There are 2 main conditions to consider when addressing allergy symptoms: dysbiosis and leaky gut.
Dysbiosis occurs when there is an imbalance of bacteria where the ‘bad’ bacteria outweighs the ‘good’ bacteria and other organisms found in the gut like Candida – which can be an underlying cause of hay fever. This imbalance irritates and damages your gut wall. This leads to inflammation and a loss of integrity of the cells of the gut lining.
2. Leaky Gut / leaky gut syndrome / medical term intestinal permeability.
Your gut lining consists of a single layer of cells which acts as an immune barrier, and it selectively allows small nutrients digested from your food to pass directly into the blood stream to nourish our cells.
However, once this layer is inflamed – due to poor diet, stress, antibiotics, cracks appear and your gut lining becomes porous/permeable resulting in partially digested food, which ‘leak’ through into the blood stream and trigger a massive inflammatory response = hello allergy symptoms!
The key to managing and treating hay fever is to find your individual triggers and underlying causes.
Where do we start with managing our hay fever naturally?
Try eating low-histamine diet. There are foods that naturally contain high amounts of histamine, so we want to first be eliminating these until our symptoms calm down. These include canned and ready meals, fermented foods, aged and matured foods like cheese, fish, shellfish, smoked meat products like salami, ham, sausages, avocados (damn, I know), spinach, cocoa (good-bye chocolate), tomatoes, alcohol and leftover meat.
Avoid mucus forming foods. The biggest culprits are gluten containing grains and dairy – I find patients find the biggest relief by simply eliminating these – its the 21st century for God’s sake, try nut milk and cashew cheese - they're delicious! Cutting these foods out, will reduce inflammation in the gut and begin to heal that leaky gut.
Up your Vitamin C – it acts as a natural anti-histamine and can help reduce the severity of symptoms. I find that people are nervous to take high doses of vitamin C – but we can take up to 10g per day, of course not at the same time and the most we can absorb at a time is 200-250mg, so either take a sustained release tablet or if you want to take it that next level, fast-acting liposomal form, where its placed under the tongue and bypasses digestion. Book in a 15 minute Acute Consultation for guidance on the best Vitamin C and other crucial nutrients and herbs for hay fever.
Invest in an air-purifier. This is the first thing to get - they purify the air in your home from several allergens. Keep it in your room and leave on while you sleep –pictured above is an affordable and effective one from 'Bec's Gut Pantry'.
Hypoallergenic bedding materials. Allergy proof pillows, bed sheets, mattresses etc, wash bedding in hot water/eucalyptus oil. Avoid feather bedding.
Diffuser. Adding eucalyptus oil, thyme oil and peppermint oil helps open up the nasal passages and clear congestion.
To recap, we need histamine for digestion, memory, concentration and energy
To treat hay fever symptoms, we need to support our gut health.
Bec is obsessed with your gut...in more of an enthusiastic-than-creepy way! Book online for a consultation with Bec or contact us to learn more about how Natural Medicine and Colon Hydrotherapy can help you say good-bye to your gut issues!
*This blog is for educational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult your doctor or other qualified health practitioners before acting on information on this article, particularly if you have a medical condition, taking medication or if you are pregnant.