Overactive histamine responses can be miserable. With change of seasons upon us, it’s important to support the immune system before the first surge of environmental irritants hits.
What you may not know is that the root cause of your congestion may not be environmental, but digestive! According to Ayurveda, hypersensitive immune responses are caused by digestive imbalances that congest digestive-related lymph.
Most digestive issues can be traced back to the impact of stress on the intestinal wall, causing the first signs of lymph congestion. The lymphatic system carries the bulk of the body’s immunity and is easily congested as a result of digestive stress.
It is now a well-documented fact that we process stress through the intestinal wall. We manufacture and store 95% of our serotonin in the gut, leaving only 5% in the brain at any given time.1,2
This validates the relationship between stress, digestive strength, and lymphatic congestion that makes up Ayurveda’s philosophy of overactive histamine responses.
Let’s learn more about this response and how to support the body’s fight against it.
The Histamine Response
According to Ayurveda, stress negatively impacts the intestinal wall, which may be linked to occasional constipation or loose stools. Imbalanced intestinal villi are where the lymph system and immunity begin.
Once lymph around the gut, called gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), becomes sluggish, the body’s immune response is literally stuck in traffic. This in turn creates systemic lymph congestion that can create hypersensitive immune responses all over the body.3
Lymph vessels lie adjacent to the mucosa of the gut and respiratory tract, right on the other side of the intestinal and respiratory walls. If the lymph becomes congested, the immune system cannot respond to irritants in time, which triggers a hypersensitive histamine response at the site of the irritation.
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Reversing the Histamine Process
Logically, to reverse this cascade of histamine-inducing events, we need to do the following:
- Help the body process stress without impacting digestive process.
- Support a healthy environment around villi in intestinal tract.
- De-congest lymphatic system.
- De-sensitize hypersensitive mucus membranes in gut, respiratory tract, and lymph.
- Moderate histamine response to environmental irritants.
To accomplish this, I have listed some important nutrients below that can support a healthy histamine response to stress and seasonal changes.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is essential to humans and must be obtained exogenously. While most mammals are able to synthesize ascorbic acid, humans lack an enzyme required for this process and can quickly become deficient if dietary or supplemental intake is inadequate.
Stress, smoking, pollution, and temperature changes all increase our need for vitamin C. Well-known functions of vitamin C include antioxidant support from damaging free radicals and the synthesis of collagen, which may help protect the gut wall against the ravages of stress.
Vitamin C also supports the synthesis of carnitine, a compound which helps the body cope with stress by supporting neurotransmitters to support a stable mood and healthy stress response.
Vitamin C also plays a lesser-known role in deactivation of histamine.4,5*
Quercetin, dihydroquercetin (DHQ), and rutin are active bioflavonoids found mostly in fruits, veggies, soy, teas, and legumes, known for their role in moderating exaggerated immune responses. Bioflavonoids work synergistically with other antioxidants to protect tissues from negative effects of oxidation and inflammation often observed during hyperimmune reactions.6
Immune-moderating effects include inhibition of mast-cell degranulation and prevention of histamine release during hypersensitive episodes.7-9
Quercetin is a natural flavonoid found in most fruits and vegetables. It supports activities of other antioxidants, protects white blood cells and capillaries, supports bronchial function, and assists in chelation of metals which cause toxicity.10 Quercetin is also found to moderate inflammation pathways and support antioxidant protection within cells.11
Rutin is a flavonoid that supports lymphatic function. It’s found in high amounts in buckwheat, apples, and asparagus. Rutin reduces capillary permeability and edema, which can reduce mucus fluid buildup or “a runny nose.”15 Rutin may protect against oxidation. This function of rutin is supported by ascorbic acid, or vitamin C.6
NAC is the acetylated form of the conditionally essential amino acid l-cysteine. As a precursor to the “master antioxidant” glutathione, NAC plays a significant role in detoxification and antioxidant protection. NAC also functions as a natural mucolytic, reducing viscosity of mucus commonly produced during a hyperimmune response.13,14
Stinging Nettle Extract
Stinging Nettle Leaf (Urtica dioica) has been found to regulate a variety of inflammatory activities associated with hyperimmune response, including mast-cell degranulation, prostaglandin formation, and histamine action.16-18
Bromelain refers to an enzyme complex extracted from the stem and fruit of the pineapple plant (Ananas comosus). Its modulation of the inflammatory response is thought to exert a beneficial effect in combating hypersensitive immune reactions, earning it approved status by the German Commission E for “micro-inflammations” and related discomforts.18,19
Early studies identified its positive effects on controlling edema, tissue permeability, and vasodilation.20 Bromelain is also found to enhance the absorption of quercetin.21
Brahmi (Centella asciatica) is a small plant in India used in Ayurveda to support the nervous system, stress, mental clarity, and memory. Recently, this herb has been shown to support the healthy lining of the stomach and intestinal wall by encouraging synthesis of collagen, a protein that provides elasticity and function to inner and outer skin.22-26
Brahmi is also shown to support health and circulation of periodontal tissue of the mouth.25 Since stress has a direct impact on health of intestinal villi, which is responsible for immunity, brahmi has a place in your arsenal for seasonal environmental irritants.
Manjistha (Rubia cordifolia) is the classic blood purifier and lymph-mover of Ayurveda. Studies show it supports antioxidant and liver protectant activity.27,28 Since the liver and lymph are two of the body’s most prolific detox systems, manjistha may play an important role in drainage of lymph and support for the liver in regulating histamine and immune responses.
Your Seasonal Plan
Consider adding significant amounts of foods that contain the above nutrients to your daily diet a month or so before the change in seasons, practice stress-coping mechanisms like one-minute meditation, and consider LifeSpa’s Aller-Rest formula for herbal and nutritional support.