Histamine is a hormone/chemical transmitter and important protein that is involved in local immune responses, regulates stomach acid production and acts as a mediator in allergic reactions. This is the bad part we most often read about.
Histamine has many good functions too.
* It plays an important role as it is released as a neurotransmitter, necessary for our brain cells to “communicate” properly. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are used to relay, amplify and modulate electrical signals between a neuron and other cell.
* Histamine is necessary to modulate sleep.
* During an orgasm, histamine is released, and has been connected to the sex flush among women. However, men with high histamine levels may suffer from premature ejaculations.
* Classified schizophrenia patients often have low blood levels of histamine. This can be a side effect of their antipsychotic medication. When this seemed to be the case, as histamine levels were increased, their health improved.
What causes allergies?
Allergies are caused by an immune response to a normally harmless substance, i.e. pollen or dust. When these come into contact with specific antigens in our blood (part of the white blood cells, so-called mast cells) this triggers a response and histamine is released.
The release of histamine causes several allergic symptoms, for it contributes to an inflammatory response and causes constrictions of smooth muscle.
* The allergic reaction causes blood fluids to enter the area, causing swelling. (Vasoactive).
* The constrictions of the smooth muscle are seen during an asthma attack. The muscles surrounding the airway constrict, causing shortness of breath.
An allergic reaction is a response that should not be happening because the substance that triggers is should not be dangerous to us. Sometimes we have the “luxury” to allow our immune system to run its course, but then we have to sniffle our way through the pollen seasons.
Sometimes a harmless looking allergic reaction may develop into a potentially life threatening situation. Take for example, a bee sting.
Anti-histamines are widely available nowadays, and help the body to overcome its immunological “mistakes”.
People can be allergic to almost everything from dust to bee-stings, to certain types of food.
Histamine and amines (histamine-like substances) can be found in foods, but also develop after cooking and storage. This happens especially with fermented foods, but sometimes during normal cooking procedures.
Amines are formed from specific amino acids that are present (to a certain agree) in all foods.
The most common food amines are:
Allergic reactions to these amines can be:
* Vaso-active affects the width of blood vessels
* Vaso-dilating widens the blood vessels
* Vaso-constricting narrows the blood vessels
Even foods that don’t contain histamine can trigger an allergic reactions, but often additives are the culprits.
Food products that are known to cause allergies are:
Raw egg white, shellfish, strawberries, citrus fruit and pineapple, chocolate, tomatoes, alcohol, fish and pork.
An allergic food reaction (in connection to histamine) can have the following symptoms:
* Flushing of the face
* Sweating profusely
* Increased heart rate, palpitations
* Fainting (drop in blood pressure)
* Asthma attack
* Rash, hives, urticaria
* Nausea, vomiting
* Abdominal cramps
* Headaches, migraine attack
People usually react pretty soon, during or after the meal, and untreated, the reaction may last 24-48 hours.
When people react e.g. because of tyramine causes, the symptoms are different.
Alcohol consumption can provide histamine, trigger its release, and prevent a histamine breakdown.
Histamine and alcohol share the alcohol dehydrogenase enzyme during the metabolism stage.
We’ve seen the important part histamine plays in the functioning of our body – we can’t live without it.
But the moment an allergic reaction sets in, it seems to create havoc.
We do well to pay attention, and ask the advice of a specialist if we become allergic, either to food, dust or “unknown” things.
Every new allergic reaction may be stronger than the previous one, and potentially more dangerous.
Don’t think it “will pass” or go away by itself.
If you are allergic, you’ll need that anti-histamine “backup” at home, in order to stop the “attack” in its tracks. Don’t self-medicate. Ask your doctor’s advice. He may want to do some specific tests, in order to prescribe specific medication.
Knowing what to do when you experience an allergic reaction, treat it accordingly (with the right medication) will save you a (frightening) trip to the first aid department.