If you suffer from symptoms such as itching or dermatitis, high histamine levels or a histamine intolerance could be a reason for the reaction.
These skin conditions may occur when there is a build-up of histamine in the body. Drugs, medical conditions, the environment, nutritional deficiencies, and diet can all play a role. A skin histamine reaction can be very uncomfortable and can be painful, especially if you continue to scratch the inflamed area.
What are Histamines?
They are chemicals made by your immune system and act as part of your bodies defence system. If you are allergic to a certain food, pollen, dust or substance such as latex it means your body thinks this usually harmless substance is harmful and sets off a chain reaction. It starts by releasing histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream to protect it. This can cause common symptoms such as sneezing, itching and tearing up.
Many foods and drinks contain histamine, and these usually increase as the food ages, spoils, or ferments. Some foods and drinks also contain compounds that help to release histamine in the body or block the production or effectiveness of the enzymes DAO (diamine oxidase) and HMNT (histamine-N-methyltransferase). These enzymes normally help to break down histamine within cells. If you frequently experience histamine reaction on your skin then it may be beneficial to limit your intake of these foods and drinks.
Common Foods and Drinks Rich in Histamine:
- smoked products, such as sausage, ham, bacon, or salami
- legumes, such as chickpeas, soybeans, and lentils
- aged cheeses
- canned, pickled, and fermented foods
- salty snack foods
- dried fruits
- canned fish, such as mackerel and tuna
Foods that are thought to trigger the release of histamine include:
- most citrus fruits
- cocoa and chocolate
- wheat germ
- additives, preservatives, and dyes
- beans and pulses
Types of Skin Conditions That can by Triggered by Histamines
This condition is triggered by an allergic reaction, inflammation, dryness or other skin damage. It often occurs when you suffer from atopic dermatitis (eczema), urticaria (hives), psoriasis, drug reactions, allergy to mites and dry skin.
The itch is often treated with antihistamines and other drugs that alter the immune reaction.
Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Atopic Dermatitis (or eczema) is a common chronic inflammatory skin disease and is characterised by an overactive immune response to environmental allergens and dry, itchy skin. Greater histamine release has been observed in the skin of patients with AD and antihistamines are often prescribed to help these people overcome itching. Therefore people with eczema can have histamine intolerances but it is unlikely that the histamines are the cause of the eczema.
Is your perioral dermatitis because of histamines? Perioral Dermatitis is an inflammatory rash occurring around the mouth, nose, chin and eyes. It is common in women and triggers for this condition can include histamine intolerance or using topical steroid medication. Other triggers can be ingredients found in skincare that can cause perioral dermatitis.
Rashes and Hives
When your body releases histamines it boosts blood flow in the affected areas. When histamines are released in large quantities the surrounding blood vessels may then leak fluid which will cause a swelling in the skin and appear as hives. Histamine skin rashes and reactions are very common because they are a process that helps rid your body and skin of allergens.
Antihistamines, Steroids and Immunosuppressants
Antihistamines are medications that help with allergies, and also with stomach problems, cold, anxiety and more. These drugs help treat conditions caused by too much histamine. Older antihistamines tend to cause more side effects, particularly drowsiness. However, newer antihistamines have fewer side effects, so they may be a better choice for some people.
Steroid medications (corticosteroids) are anti-inflammatory drugs and have a similar effect to the hormones produced by the body. Whilst the use of topical steroids can certainly help skin conditions, for some people like Kiri, there can also be serious side effects. Topical steroid addiction/withdrawal, sometimes referred to as ‘red skin syndrome’, can occur when frequently using or misusing moderate to high potency corticosteroids then stopping. If you're unsure about stopping the use of a steroid you're currently using then seek medical advice from your Doctor or Dermatologist first.
Topical immunomodulators (immunosuppressants) are agents that regulate the local immune response of the skin.
Immunosuppressants have the potential for serious side effects, including:
- Increased risk of infections
- Upset stomach and vomiting
- Increased risk for certain types of cancers
- Increased blood pressure with cyclosporine
- Increased risk of kidney damage with cyclosporine and methotrexate
- Risk of liver damage with methotrexate
Please be aware that Elidel and Tacrolimus are classed as immunosuppressants. Immunosuppressants suppress your immune response to an issue, so it is still possible to rebound from these creams. Please read about the FDA's Black-box warning for these medications here.
If you drink alcohol whilst using these creams you may experience hot flushing and burning sensations - this is more common than not. If you experience facial flushing or skin irritation when you drink alcohol during treatment with Elidel/Tacrolimus cream, tell your doctor. Facial flushing or skin irritation (e.g. rash, burning, itching or swelling) can occur in people who drink alcohol while they are using Elidel/Tacrolimus cream.
What You can do if You Think Histamines Might be the Culprit
Opt for a Low Histamine Diet
If you suffer from these skin conditions and want to understand if histamines could be one of the contributing factors, the first step can be adopting a low histamine diet. You may also have a histamine intolerance if you have certain medical conditions such as chronic stress, gastrointestinal disorders, and liver conditions. You may wish to seek advice from a health care practitioner so that your proper nutritional intake is maintained.
A low histamine diet includes:
- Prioritise eating fresh foods
- Fresh fruit, except strawberry, citrus, kiwi fruit, plums, banana and papaya
- Fresh meat and fish (avoid canned meat and fish)
- Fresh vegetables, except tomatoes, spinach, and cabbage
- Grains: rice, corn, millet, oats, sorghum except barley, wheat, rye and spelt
- Oils: Most cooking oils
- Herbal tea
Some people can only tolerate very small amounts of histamine and others can be more liberal, so getting you’re your right can be through trial and error. Remember that the histamine content of food varies depending on the duration of storage, ripeness or maturity, cooking, and processing.
A healthy diet is also great for your gut health, which in turn helps your skin.
Try Taking Probiotics
While topical probiotic skincare can be great for your skin, helping your gut by taking oral probiotics could help with your histamine levels. By balancing out your gut microbiome with an oral probiotic you help to boost your immune system as well as repair damage to your gut linings which have been damaged by high histamine levels. Studies have shown that there may be therapeutical benefits for diseases such as allergies, eczema and viral infections when you take probiotics.
Use a Holistic Approach to Skincare
For people suffering skin conditions, a holistic approach is often the best way to address your challenges.
Since launching AMPERNA®, founder Kiri has helped many people around the world through their skin care journey. Her Holistic Skin Coaching Service means you can discuss all your skin concerns and develop a tailored plan to work towards healthy glowing skin.
Kiri helps by understanding her clients stress levels and working with them on an exercise and healthy lifestyle plan that will support skin health.
AMPERNA® is probiotic skincare range dedicated to creating revolutionary and unique formulas to rebalance and transform the appearance of even the most sensitive skin.
You can find out more about Holistic Skin Coaching Service here.