By Dr. Mia Iyer
When I was in my late twenties, I suddenly started experiencing runny nose and itchy eyes. I could not figure out what was going on because I was eating all the healthy things, working out, managing my stress – but yet I was experiencing these symptoms that were robbing me of a quality lifestyle. This wasn’t a seasonal issue for me – it did not matter what time of year, I was always experiencing these yucky symptoms. After some digging, I figured out the culprit. Enter histamine issues!
To understand how histamine reactions work, it is important to understand what causes the release of histamines in the first place. Our nasal, bronchial, and gut linings have many protective agents and cells. Among them is a particular type of immune cell called MAST CELL. These are very sensitive cells, and when they come in contact with triggering agents such as pollen, dander, food particles, etc., they send out a chemical alarm. This chemical alarm starts with the release of histamines!
Following histamine release, there is a chemical ripple effect, and this is what manifests as the usual allergic symptoms: itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and sinus headaches. Furthermore, there are a ton of these mast cells in the gut. However, the digestive system has a system in place with specific enzymes to deal with histamine issues. When there is a shortage of this enzyme, it can appear like the above-mentioned allergy symptoms. Nearly 40 million Americans experience these symptoms with histamine challenges. Although this problem is not life-threatening, it leads to periods of misery, lack of sleep, and productivity.
In most case scenarios, those who have mast cell issues implement drug therapies such as over the counter antihistamines. Antihistamines block histamines' effect and, therefore, can reduce symptoms of sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny nose. But did you know that antihistamines don’t necessarily have an impact on mast cells directly? They can also cross the blood-brain barrier and cause nervous system issues such as fogginess, drowsiness, and sedation.
If this is an ongoing issue, what can be done to prevent and naturally help support the immune system?
Remove or Avoid triggers: I stand by the first step in treating immune system issues – Remove or avoid the triggers! This might take a little time to figure out – but common ones are dust mites, carpets, curtains, pet dander, etc. Incorporating air filters/purifiers can definitely help.
Use natural Mast cell Stabilizers – One of my favorite botanicals for this is Quercetin. It has a proven ability to impact mast cells directly and keeps histamine from being released.
Add Nettle Leaf to simmer the histamine cascade – Nettle leaf has the ability to block many enzymes that prolong the histamine related inflammation.
Support the gut – It all comes back to the gut, doesn’t it? It is important to keep gut health in check, as it is the gateway to many immune system disturbances. Botanicals such as licorice, ginger, and lemon balm all have gut-soothing effects and are perfect for incorporating in teas!
A calming cup of tea is all it takes to soothe a sensitive immune system. In the case of histamine issues specifically, we can leverage botanicals' multifaceted effect to relax and bring balance to our immune function!