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Histamine Intolerance and its Role in Female Health
date added:31/07/2014

In an earlier blog we gave an overview of histamine intolerance (HIT) and how it might play a role in an individuals symptoms. In this issue we are looking more specifically at the negative affect HIT can have on female health.

The varied actions of histamine result from the fact that there are four histamine receptors which can be activated by this biogenic amine. It is the H1 receptor which, amongst others, plays a role in female hormones. When activated it greatly increases the production of oestradiol, a form of oestrogen, but only mildly stimulates progesterone, creating an imbalance between the two hormones. This imbalance encourages secretion of prostaglandins in the endometrium, specifically prostaglandin F2a, which trigger painful contractions. Other symptoms like headaches and breast tenderness can also result from this histamine-driven oestrogen dominance.

Since one of the most common symptoms in endometriosis is dysmenorrhea or painful periods, HIT is something that should be considered in this condition. If it plays a role, some of the pain might be histamine-driven but could easily be attributed wrongly to the condition and as a result overlooked. This could deny some women the chance of experiencing a degree of relief from this often debilitating symptom.

Removing histamine from circulation, by reducing histamine in the diet or improving the concentration of enzymes like diamine oxidase (DAO) which break histamine down, can help to redress the hormonal imbalance and reduce any associated symptoms.

An example of this can be seen in pregnancy when DAO secretion increases from the placenta, thus allowing histamine to be more readily removed from circulation. Subsequently, during pregnancy, affected women can see a remission in histamine-related symptoms only for them to return after giving birth.  

Histamine intolerance is therefore something to consider when oestrogen-dominated symptoms are experienced and prior recommendations have not been able to completely resolve them.

Maintz L., Bieber, T. & Novak N. Histamine intolerance in clinical practice. Deutsches Ärzteblatt 2006; 103(51-52):A 3477-83.

Maintz L., Novak N. Histamine and histamine intolerance. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2007; 85:1185-96.

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