Mushrooms. Yes, I know that’s not what you’re expecting to start a post about histamine and menopause, but that’s one of the first clues that something was wrong with my tolerance levels.
I always loved garlic mushrooms and mushrooms themselves were a staple in our household. But then I started to notice that eating them was becoming like a game of Russian roulette.
A game that if I lost, meant doing the 100m sprint to the loo with abdominal cramping and then keeping the toilet warm for the next hour or so.
That’s not fun in a restaurant.
I knew you could develop allergies as you grew older, so put it down to that. But it was only when chatting to Dr Nighat Arif about my Mirena coil last year and she suggested I take an antihistamine that I started researching the link between histamine and menopause.
And there’s a big connection.
What has this to do with mushrooms? Keep reading…
What is histamine?
Histamine is a biogenic amine. Yeah, I can hear you. A what? In simple terms, they’re a type of neurotransmitters – the body’s chemical messengers – found in living organisms, so animals, humans, plants, food etc.
There are five biogenic amines: histamine, dopamine, enephrine, norephrine and serotonin.
Once you see what they are, you understand the role they have in our bodies, from our heart rate and muscle strength to mood swings, sleep patterns and memory.
All of which are affected during menopause.
What does histamine do?
Histamine has three main roles in the body:
- looking after our immune system after injury or an allergic reaction;
- regulating stomach acid to help digestion, and
- communicating messages to the brain, especially keeping it awake.
What happens if you have too much histamine?
If you’ve ever had seasonal allergies, you’ll be familiar with many of these:
- respiratory problems, including nasal congestion and sinus issues;
- digestive problems, including diarrhea, acid reflux, constipation, wind, bloating, feeling nauseous, vomiting, food intolerances;
- skin problems, including itchiness, redness, flushing, rash, hives and rosacea,
- brain problems, including sleep problems, anxiety, memory loss, brain fog, fatigue, panic attacks and poor concentration;
- “women’s problems” (sorry, couldn’t resist!), including painful periods and progesterone sensitivity, and
- vascular problems connected to our blood vessels and blood flow, such as low blood pressure, dizziness, fainting, fast heart rate, migraine, headache, bloating and bruising.
Going through this list, there are many of these I can tick off. The good news is: it’s not life-threatening. The bad news is – shall we start with farting and go on from there?
What foods are high in histamine?
You’re not going to like this. Fermenting processes increase histamine levels, so alcohol is a big source of histamine. Yeah, I know… It’s always alcohol.
But that also includes the likes of fermented yoghurt, kefir, aged cheeses and sour cream.
Plus food you would think are “healthy”, such as avocados, aubergine, tomatoes, sauerkraut and kimchi, plus some fruit including strawberries, kiwi fruit and bananas. And then there’s mackerel, tuna, sardines… Remember this the next time someone talks about “clean eating”.
Green and black tea, together with my beloved coffee, are also high in histamine.
(Now mushrooms are not high in histamine, but they are high in two other biogenic amines and that can trigger histamine intolerance. Hence my dashing to the loo…)
It’s not just food that can trigger histamine – stress and some digestive problems, such as Crohns disease, can also do this, or you may just be more genetically disposed to suffering.
What about histamine and menopause?
When it comes to histamine and menopause, it’s important to know how histamine is linked to oestrogen. The two are like the bad boys in the playground egging each other on – when your histamine levels are high, they stimulate oestrogen production, which increases histamine production, which stimulates oestrogen production and so on and so on…
Oestrogen levels fluctuate wildly during menopause, hitting highs one day and then dropping the next, which means our histamine levels follow suit. So it’s no wonder every part of our body can feel it’s on a rollercoaster during menopause.
Interestingly, many women who suffer from histamine intolerance also have a progesterone sensitivity, like me.
Histamine intolerance symptoms can be worse at menopause and histamine can affect how you respond to HRT, too. Surprise, surprise, there’s not a lot of research into histamine and menopause., but synthetic HRT has been shown to worsen histamine symptoms. Ask your doctor for bioidentical HRT (rBHRT – which is the gold standard, anyway).
What shall I do if I think I’m histamine intolerant?
First of all, keep a food diary of what you eat and if it triggers any of the symptoms. Also, try to avoid known triggers, such as alcohol, caffeine, fermented food and leftovers (it ferments). That means you should also try to eat food that’s as fresh as possible.
And consult a dietician or nutritional therapist who can help.
As for me, after having my coil fitted, my symptoms were up and down for a while and I felt as if I could feel it inside me – the inflammation after being dilated, I suppose. I’ve started taking an antihistamine every day and it’s helped loads. However, it’s best not to take them long-term as it can fool your body into thinking your histamine levels are low and so it starts making more.
And it doesn’t look like it’s a placebo effect, neither. Some studies have shown that antihistamines might help some women with menopausal symptoms.
And who knows, perhaps I may even be able to have garlic mushrooms again…
Have you experience of histamine and menopause? What tips can you share? Let me know in the comments below. And if you’d like someone to talk to about your menopause, why don’t we arrange a Zoom call? Full details are here