Histamine and Migraine

Do you get weird symptoms around your migraine episodes?

I know finding the root causes of your out-of-control migraine can feel like a full time job. One of the first things that comes up when you google “why do I have migraine” is an endless list of possibilities (stress; anxiety; tension ; tiredness; poor-quality sleep; shift work ; missed, delayed or irregular meals; dehydration; alcohol, bright lights … ) – it goes on and on! But have you ever wondered if something else could be impacting your migraine?

If you have been experiencing symptoms like unexplained hives, sinus issues, itchy skin, diarrhea, flushing, sweating … you may have a histamine issue!

Let’s do a quick science refresher – histamine is a natural chemical your body makes that acts almost like a bouncer at a club to get rid of things that bother you (aka allergens).  So when you find yourself sneezing in the springtime? You can thank histamine for that! Histamine is found naturally in all tissues of the body, so believe it or not this chemical is essential for keeping you safe on a daily basis!

Other cool things histamines helps you with? In the stomach, histamine aids in digestion by stimulating the secretion of stomach acid which helps kill off any unwanted bacteria and is essential for breaking food down so you can absorb nutrients. 

So it sounds like histamine is a good thing, but too much of a good thing can quickly turn into a NOT so good thing. Enter – histamine overload (frequently referred to as “histamine intolerance”). Common signs of histamine overload include:

  • Headaches / migraine episodes
  • Unexplained hives
  • sinus issues / sinus congestion
  • Itchy skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Flushing
  • Sweating
  • Nausea

Histamine overload for happen for a few different reasons, two big ones being 1) issues in the gut and 2) issues with hormones.

Certain friendly bacteria and other microbes in the gut naturally produce histamine, but when these microbes overgrow, histamine production can increase with them!

High estrogen levels can also contribute to an increase in histamine levels, which in turn can stimulate even further estrogen production.

Other, less common causes of histamine overload include DAO enzyme deficiency and conditions like MCAS (mast cell activation syndrome).

Low histamine diets will often be prescribed to manage histamine overload, but this is NOT a long term solution! These diets are too restrictive to stay on long term. Getting to the root cause of why you have too much histamine in your body is the way to find long term relief. You can do this by speaking with your doctor to rule out more serious conditions like MCAS or enzyme deficiency, and work with a functional practitioner like myself to uncover imbalances in the gut and hormones.

I want to hear from you – do you think histamine is part of the problem for you when it comes to migraine? Have you tried a low histamine diet before? Have you tried talking to your doctor about your concerns? Let me know in the comments!

Want more support managing migraine using a gentle, holistic approach? Click HERE to learn more about how I can help!

Written by: Kathryn Darsillo

Reviewed by: Kelli Yates, RD, LD, CLT

Published by Kelli Yates, RDN, LD, CLT

Kelli Yates, RDN, LD, CLT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist specializing in holistic migraine management and fellow migraineur!

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