What Is Histapenia?
Most of us have heard about histamine, and how it’s related to symptoms such as sneezing, itching, and watery eyes. You may have even heard about people who have consistently high histamine levels, and end up suffering prolonged inflammatory reactions.
In fact, most information about histamine is related to histamine intolerance and how to block or reduce histamine levels in the body.
So, if high levels of histamine are a problem, then surely low levels are ideal?
Well, not quite. Too little histamine - known as histapenia - can be just as catastrophic as too much. As a major brain neurotransmitter, histamine plays a major role in stimulating the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine from the hypothalamus. Low levels can therefore manifest as psychological and behavioral disorders.
Let’s examine why healthy, balanced histamine levels are so crucial for the proper functioning of the body and mind.
What is histamine?
Histamine is a chemical produced by your body. It’s actually known as an autacoid, which means it acts like a local hormone near where it is synthesized in the body. The highest concentrations of histamine are found in your intestinal mucosa, skin, and bronchial tissues. Histamine is also present in many foods.
As one of the most versatile molecules in your body, histamine can cause a huge range of effects depending on where it’s released.
Histamine is most commonly known for its role in allergic and inflammatory processes, including immediate and delayed hypersensitivity immune reactions. When produced during a local immune response, its main role is to cause inflammation. The release of histamine causes your capillaries to become more permeable to white blood cells and other proteins. This allows your white blood cells to target and attack foreign bodies in the affected tissue.
Histamine and your brain
Aside from stimulating the release of neurotransmitters, another role of histamine in the brain is to counteract the effects of dopamine and filter sensory data going to the brain.
American psychiatrist Carl Pfeiffer made some breakthrough discoveries regarding the influence of nutrients on mental illness. Pfeiffer believed that an imbalance of histamine was at the core of schizophrenia, and that deficiency in histamine (histapenia) was linked to excess copper in the body. Both of these conditions were related to the development of classic paranoid schizophrenia.
What happens when histamine is out of balance?
Too much or too little histamine in the body can cause severe health conditions.
According to the Pfeiffer protocol, the “normal” blood histamine range is 33-65 ng/ml.
- High blood histamine levels (70+ng/ml) are referred to as histadelia
- Low blood histamine levels are considered 27.6ng/ml for females and 20.2ng/ml for males.
- Other sources suggest histapenia is histamine levels below 40ng/ml (0.35umol/L), low basophils, and elevated copper by measuring either 24-hour urine copper or serum ceruloplasmin .
Histadelia: too much histamine
Excess histamine is often referred to as histadelia, and usually involves the central nervous system (CNS), gastrointestinal tract, cardiovascular system, respiratory tract, skin, and reproductive system. It can occur due to metabolic imbalances such as a lack of DAO enzyme, which is required to break down histamine in food.
Signs of excess histamine include:
- CNS symptoms: headaches, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, depression, panic disorders.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms: bloating, pain, diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux.
- Cardiovascular symptoms: increases in blood pressure, palpitations, and other heart rhythm disorders.
- Respiratory symptoms: cough, respiratory distress, asthmatic symptoms, sneezing, and phlegm.
- Skin and mucosal symptoms: hives, itching, redness, and swelling of the skin, lips and tongue.
- Reproductive symptoms: Women may experience dysmenorrhea and headaches associated with the menstrual cycle.
Histapenia: too little histamine
According to Pfieffer, signs of histapenia or low histamine can include:
- Canker sores
- Heavy growth of body hair
- Ideas of grandeur
- Undue suspicion of people
- Racing thoughts
- Feeling that someone is controlling your mind
- Seeing or hearing things abnormally
- Ringing in the ears
- High anxiety
- Food sensitivities
- Depressed metabolism
What causes histapenia?
In turn, lowered histamine levels allow more copper to accumulate, creating a cycle that’s generating negative symptoms and responses in the body. Because histamine also acts as a neurotransmitter, imbalances can affect brain chemistry. High levels of copper in the brain are known to cause:
- High blood pressure
Histamine and methylation
Treatment options for overmethylation
Some of the recommended nutrients for treating histapenia / overmethylation include:
- High doses of zinc, manganese, Vit C, niacinamide, Vit B12 and folic acid (though methylated folate will be preferred, especially if you have an MTHFR mutation, which is a large portion of the population)
- Tryptophan: Converts to serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter that corrects sleep disturbances and lowers agitation.
- Zinc: Inhibits absorption of copper and permits the storage of histamine.
- Buffered Vitamin C: Excretes copper, protects against copper oxidizing brain tissue.
- Niacin (B-3): Raises histamine levels
- Folate: Produces histamine
- Vitamin B12: Produces histamine
- Manganese: Inhibits absorption of copper
- Histidine: Raises histamine levels
- Quercetin: Helps to modulate histamine release by stabilizing mast cell membranes that store it.
Diet for those with histapenia
A basic histapenia treatment protocol might include:
- Histidine before meals and before bed to elevate histamine
- Niacin (Vitamin B3) twice daily with meals
- Methylfolate twice a day (not folic acid) in case of MTHFR gene mutation
- Vitamin B12 twice a day
- Zinc twice a day
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamins C twice a day
- Manganese once a day
- NAC 1000-2000mg twice a day