Hormones & Histamines: Are Histamines Effecting Your Hormones?
Hey there, Steph here!
If you missed the last blog post, I introduced my lack of experience with blogging...so I'd like to reiterate that I am no expert, but I will provide you with all the info I can reasonably write about in a small snippet here and then try to expand and share more personal experience and chat with y'all in The Wellnest Mamas Community.
I will be highlighting just how histamines (a hormone) might be having an effect on other hormones (and vice versa); causing general mayhem for finding healthy balance AND what to do about it.
When it comes to both of these items, starting with basic definitions is essential so...
Histamine: Is a natural hormone produced by mast cells, basophils, and other immune cells in several tissues in our bodies.
Hormones: Regulatory substances produced in an organism and transported in tissue fluids such as blood stimulate specific cells or tissues into action.
Both histamine and other hormones play important roles in basic functions within our bodies. Neither should be considered bad or good, especially on their own, however when one or the other or both are functioning poorly (too much or too little) we start to see a negative impact on our health/become symptomatic. Hint: nobody wants to feel the effects of being out of whack with these powerhouses.
So what's the relationship, specific to women and that might provide a little clue as to what you are experiencing? Good question, and it is a complex one but I will do my best to break it down.
Estrogen has been pegged as *the* female hormone. Functional, balanced estrogen levels are imperative to healthy women. When estrogen levels are out of whack things start to feel bad. With estrogen levels that are too high (estrogen dominance) we frequently see: bloating, breast tenderness, fibrocystic lumps in breast, decreased sex drive, increased menstrual periods, increased symptoms of PMS and/or PMDD, headaches, mood swings including anxiety and panic attacks, weight gain, hair loss/thinning, cold hand/feet, sleeping disturbances, and memory problems. This list is not conclusive, but these are the major players when looking at the full picture of symptoms.
Now here is the difficult part, many of the symptoms of high estrogen overlap with the symptoms of low estrogen! Nothing like a little extra complexity to throw us off. Low estrogen can look like: dry skin, breast tenderness, weak/brittle bones, issues with focus, mood swings/irritability, hot flashes/night sweats, vaginal dryness, menstrual disturbances (lack of cycle/length of cycle), headaches, decreased sex drive, weight gain/belly fat, fatigue/sleep disturbances. So we can see that looking at the bigger picture to figure out the root cause of imbalance is so very important and sometimes tricky.
On the other hand, we are exploring histamines. Histamines are a hormone that is naturally produced by elements of our immune system. Often histamines are associated with only allergies and allergic response, however, they actually serve many functions within our bodies. Histamines play important roles in reproduction (females), digestive processes, and mental functions. Histamines are not the enemy and are necessary to our systems...
...but when histamines are not being metabolized by HNMT and DAO, the enzymes that rid the body of excess histamines, and levels rise we start to see and feel the effects; headaches, brain fog, hives, rashes, anxiety, insomnia, post nasal drip, nasal congestion, etc. This high level of histamines that the body cannot get rid of are referred to as histamine intolerance.
So what's the catch for women? The relationship between histamines and our unique hormones? Well, as suggested, women are predisposed to have histamine intolerance. If you're experiencing histamine intolerance symptoms around ovulation, then your hormones might be to blame. Mast cells, major producers and storers of histamine, also house both estrogen and progesterone receptors. When estrogen binds to the receptor, extra histamine is produced and released. So the more estrogen that is in your system at any given time, higher levels of histamines will be present as well. Estrogen also degrades DAO activity so it is not metabolizing the histamines to remove from the system. Perhaps it does not need to be said, but this feedback loop creates a pretty complicated imbalance that promotes even more histamine intolerance. To summarize, more estrogen = more histamine = higher instance of histamine intolerance.
The question that took me forever to figure out is: What do I do about high histamine response/higher estrogen?
The simple answer: Progesterone.
Progesterone balances estrogen, which in turn lessens the amount of histamine in our systems. Progesterone also binds to the mast-cell receptors which inhibits the release of extra histamine! When progesterone is at it's highest within our menstrual cycles, DAO is also at it's highest level, when these are in balance you can expect to not see many (or any) symptoms. The biggest problem as far as histamine-hormone relationship is when progesterone is low compared to estrogen levels (this is called estrogen dominance and will be discussed in later blog posts). When we are in an estrogen-dominant state we will almost undoubtedly see histamine intolerance/sensitivity/yucky symptoms.
Do you ever have headaches around ovulation (estrogen is highest)? Does it seem like you have stronger menstrual cramps than other women (histamines increase smooth-muscle contractions)?
Now the million dollar question, exactly HOW can you balance our hormones to lessen histamine activity and sensitivity?
Reduce the estrogen load and you should see a less reactive histamine response. For me, the easiest way to reduce estrogen load was to address environmental factors (this issue is one of the driving factors that led to the creation of The Wellnest brand).
Major environmental players to address are: food additives, BPA, phthalates, parabens, pesticides, plastics, industrial products; watch skin care products for fragrance as well.
Another easy way (as long as they agree with your unique system) to reduce estrogen in the body is to consume cruciferous vegetables frequently. Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, etc help breakdown and remove excess estrogen.
Most everyone knows that stress-reduction is beneficial to health on a holistic level. Our bodies are designed to attempt to maintain homeostasis (balance) at all times, and intention of reducing stress is at the top of the list to support our systems. Stretching, prayer/meditation, light exercise, breath work (intentional breathing) have all been shown to positively impact stress levels.
The final piece to the puzzle, for me, was addressing my gut health and microbiome. Some bacteria and microbes intervene with detoxification of estrogen, which leads increased estrogen load recirculating in the body. To combat recirculation, heal your gut and focus on beneficial fiber in your nutrition plan (again, if it agrees with your unique system) which feeds beneficial bacteria while cleaning out the bad stuff.
I hope this will help you, reader, to dive in and feel better. The goal of The Wellnest is to support authentic, bio-individual health and healing for self, family, and home.
Lots of love,
*Special note: If you have tried the above and have not felt positive impact (reduced cyclical symptoms of estrogen dominance), I highly recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner to help guide you through an individualized plan. Many people will jump right into supplementation without consultation, I do not recommend this! Even natural supplements (progesterone cream, botanicals, medicinals, etc) can have a negative impact on overall health and leave the user feeling worse than the point they started. A professional practitioner can pinpoint your individual path to heal.