Estrogen and Histamine

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Balancing Your Hormones Leave a Comment

Your body feels its best when your hormones are in balance with each other. Too much or too little can throw everything off. As a result, I talk a lot about the importance of hormone balance, especially with estrogen and progesterone, but today I want to dive into the less commonly talked about but significant connection between estrogen and histamine.

You may have heard of histamine in connection with allergies. When your nose starts running in the springtime, an overproduction of histamine is to blame, which is why antihistamines are medications people take to combat seasonal allergies.

But for some people, histamine production goes haywire or just isn't broken down, causing even more symptoms. 

So what's the connection with estrogen? Turns out higher-than-normal estrogen levels (aka estrogen dominance) can make histamine levels jump even higher or even interfere with the enzymes that help remove it from your body.

In this article, I'll explain the connection between estrogen and histamine, how it can make you feel, and what steps you can take to get your body back in balance.

What is Estrogen?

Estrogen belongs to a group of hormones responsible for so many essential functions in your body. It's primarily produced in your ovaries, but fat, bone, and other tissues can also produce estrogen. Beyond sexual health and reproduction, estrogen is also protective for your bones, heart, and brain

So when estrogen levels are out of balance, it can lead to not-so-fun symptoms. People with low estrogen can experience symptoms that mimic perimenopause or menopause (characterized by low estrogen), like irregular periods, hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings. 

Higher than normal estrogen, also known as estrogen dominance, can cause weight gain, heavy or prolonged periods, uterine fibroids, and depression.

The issue isn't just that estrogen is high or low; it also impacts the balance of other hormones, which only adds to the problem.

What is Histamine?

Histamine is produced by several different immune cells, primarily mast cells. It's made throughout your body but mainly found in your skin, lungs, and GI tract.

When your body senses a trigger, whether it's pollen, food, or any type of allergen, mast cells release histamines. Once released, histamines promote inflammation, including increased blood flow to the area, causing typical allergic symptoms like coughing, itchy eyes, runny nose, or anaphylaxis in more severe cases.

Just like estrogen, histamine exists in a delicate balance in the body. Histamine is broken down by two special enzymes—diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine N-methyltransferase, so you don't end up with too much in your body.

If histamine isn't properly broken down, the excess builds up and causes symptoms. This condition is known as histamine intolerance. For people with histamine intolerances, certain foods that contain histamine or add to histamine release (more on this below) make symptoms even worse by adding to the histamine load.

Interestingly, mast cells are also found in your uterus. Research suggests that histamine may even play a role in ovulation and pregnancy, once again displaying how hormones all work together and are intimately tied to the immune system for optimal health.

Does Estrogen Affect Histamine?

Estrogen increases histamine in the body and links to the immune system via receptors on your immune cells. 

Mast cells not only release histamine, but they also have receptors for estrogen. When estrogen binds to these receptors, more histamine is released from mast cells in your uterus. So the more estrogen you have in your body (think estrogen dominance), the more histamine is released.

While estrogen can trigger histamine release, histamine can also increase estrogen production. Estrogen may also slow down diamine oxidase (DAO) production (the enzyme that breaks down histamine) in the gut, at least in animal studies

In other words, more estrogen means you release more histamine than you can break down, and since histamine turns up estrogen production, it can quickly become a vicious cycle.

Even further adding to the problem, progesterone, which tends to be low or off-balance for people with estrogen dominance, can inhibit histamine release. So lower progesterone means even less help slowing down excess histamine.

You may also notice that histamine intolerance symptoms are worse at different points during your cycle. Even when hormones are balanced, estrogen is at its highest point right before ovulation, so symptoms are often worse here.

Estrogen Allergy Symptoms

Since histamine is associated with allergic reactions, there’s often the misconception that when you have an estrogen-related histamine intolerance you are allergic to estrogen, but this is not true. 

As you learned above, it’s not that estrogen      is causing an allergic reaction in your body. Instead, estrogen-dominance exacerbates histamine release which leads to symptoms.

As with all hormone imbalances, symptoms can vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common signs that what you are feeling could be related to the histamine estrogen connection:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Skin rash
  • Hives
  • Worsening menstrual cramps 
  • Food intolerances 
  • Gut issues like bloating, pain, and diarrhea

In instances when estrogen is higher or unchecked during the luteal phase, as we see in instances of low progesterone, women may experience symptoms that get grouped into a term called period flu. It may be related to the estrogen-histamine connection.

Support For Histamine Intolerance with Estrogen Dominance

Hint: Check your lifestyle. The root cause for estrogen dominance with histamine intolerance can't be simplified to just one reason. It's likely a combination of your genetics, environment, and behavior. As a result, it takes a holistic approach to address the symptoms and start healing from the inside. 

Your primary focus is hormone balance. Supporting healthy estrogen levels can help slow down histamine production. If you aren't sure where to start, I've created a free hormone balancing starter kit with a hormone-supporting meal plan along with tips and tricks that you can find here.

Additionally, here are a few more lifestyle factors to consider:

Bump Up Your Fiber Intake          

High fiber intake is associated with lower estrogen levels because it helps your body remove excess estrogen through your bowel movements. Fiber may also play a role in mast cell activation. Try to include a variety of fiber-containing foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.

Limit High Histamine Foods           

This one's a bit of trial and error because each person's ability to tolerate histamine-containing foods is different. That said, certain foods (especially aged and fermented foods) are higher in histamines, such as wine, avocado, hard cheeses, fermented foods, and vinegar, so it's worth experimenting by removing them to see if you feel better.

Some foods aren't necessarily high in histamines but can stimulate histamine release. These foods include cocoa, citrus, and tomatoes. There's no single gold-standard histamine food list, but here is a commonly used option.

Consider Vitamin B6      

Vitamin B6 can be helpful for hormone balance, especially if you are also histamine intolerant. Vitamin B6 can help increase DAO enzyme production, so you can more efficiently break down and remove excess histamine. It's also good for hormone balance, PMS, and can even help you sleep better.

You can find vitamin B6 in foods like chicken, beef liver, fish, and potatoes, but you also could consider a supplement, especially if you are also trying an elimination diet to lower histamine foods.

You’ll also find that vitamin B6 is one of the key ingredients in our Balance Women’s Hormone Support supplement.

Minimize Alcohol           

I know many people don't love seeing alcohol on the list, but if you are dealing with high estrogen and histamine, you have double the reason to pay attention to how much you drink. 

As just mentioned, alcohol is high in histamines that only add to levels in your body. Plus, alcohol is linked to higher estrogen levels and can negatively impact your period. If you drink daily, try to cut back (or even eliminate entirely for a bit) and see how it makes you feel.

Practice Stress Reduction      

Chronic stress can increase histamine release in your body, and it can also seriously throw off hormone balance. So how do you manage it? The truth is that many people don't because they assume that stress reduction means meditating every day (fantastic if this works for you) or keeping a daily gratitude journal (also wonderful), but these actions don't speak to them. 

True stress reduction means you find what works for you. If you don't want to journal or meditate, don't. Try walking daily, breathing, sitting in nature, or laughing with friends. There's no one way to practice stress reduction. It just has to work for your lifestyle.

Support Gut Health

Gut health is critical to hormone health and addressing histamine issues. In addition, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth or SIBO can be a common culprit behind histamine issues.

Add Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an important cofactor for the DAO enzyme, which will help with histamine clearance. In addition, vitamin C can help with progesterone levels, which help counter the effect of estrogen. Here’s a list of vitamin C rich foods to consider.

Sip a Cup of Nettle Tea

Nettles, specifically the compound quercetin that they contain, can help stabilize mast cells. This makes them a little less inclined to dump histamine into your system. Sipping a nettle tea throughout the day in addition to the previously mentioned strategies may help.

The Estrogen Histamine Connection Wrapped Up

The connection between estrogen and histamine isn't often discussed, but it's essential to understand. Both high estrogen and high histamine can cause problems on their own, but when out of balance at the same time, it can seriously impact your daily life.

However, you can feel better by experimenting with lifestyle changes to work on hormone balance and lowering histamine. Severe histamine intolerance often requires support from a health care practitioner who really understands the condition, so don't be afraid to reach out for help if you feel overwhelmed.

Before reading this article, were you aware of the estrogen and histamine connection? If so, what's your experience been like? Please share in the comments below!

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.