By Ronald Hoffman, MD
Do you have allergies? Sneezing, wheezing, burning eyes, or flushing, itchy skin with hives? Do certain foods trigger stomach cramps or diarrhea? Or do you suffer from frequent headaches or migraines, bouts of nausea, severe menstrual cramps, or panic attacks characterized by a racing heart?
You’ve dutifully tried allergy shots—sometimes for years!—to no avail. Antihistamines work for you, but only partially. Food allergy tests keep coming up negative. There seem to be no clear dietary precipitants—your food reactions seem to be all over the map. But your doctor insists your allergy blood tests and skin tests don’t come up positive for foods. Still, you try popular gluten-free, dairy-free or candida diets, but they only make minor dents in your symptoms.
The answer may lie in a new understanding of something called histamine intolerance. Histamine, of course, is what antihistamines are supposed to suppress. Histamine is part of our bodies’ natural response to insults or invaders. It prompts blood vessels to swell and fluid to leak from capillaries, causing swelling. Think of the itching you get at the site of a mosquito bite, in response to the foreign proteins deposited by the insect’s saliva.
Histamine intolerance is actually a “pseudo-allergy,” which is why it’s not picked up by conventional allergy blood tests that measure IgE. It results when histamine levels soar in the body.