Since my diagnosis with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2012, I have experienced some of most profound symptoms of illness and it seems they come from nowhere and make absolutely no sense at all. Most of the issues revolved around food and digestion. Enjoying an evening out with my boyfriend or friends would turn into uncomfortable bloating, gas and headaches. It seemed everything I ate just didn’t agree with me. Then there is the exhaustion and the inability to function on a daily basis without needing several hours of sleep in the middle of the day. Adjusting to the thyroid medicine after my recent Hashimoto’s diagnosis and learning all I could about my newly inherited disease took every bit of joy out of my life. In time, life seemed to be settling into a comfortable understanding of what I needed to do so that I can move forward and feel better.
One year later, with some very good days and some very bad days, I have struggled through and found balance. My lab results came back with all my thyroid numbers in range and all my other lab results were in check too.
Then this past March, all went downhill fast and furious. The digestive issues came back full
force and I was seeing halo lights in my upper right eye that developed into migraine headaches and nausea.
That’s when the ear ringing started, along with loss of appetite, rash and feelings of despair. This went on for two months, day in and day out.
My friends and family thought I was a hypochondriac. My doctor, who listened to me with a smile, appears to be sympathetic but has no answers for me. Relief was minimal with ibuprofen and taking anything other than my thyroid medicine and daily supplements seemed out of the question. After, an afternoon in the emergency room because I couldn’t get an appointment with an ear nose and throat doctor for two weeks, I was told I had rhinorrhea (otherwise known as “runny nose.”) I was prescribed antihistamines.
I asked the doctor, “How could that be? I don’t have any sinus symptoms.
His reply, “You have allergies.” He had no other explanation as to why I had all these other symptoms.
Apprehensive to go on antihistamines, I decided to research my actual symptoms and to my surprise, I came across something called, histamine intolerance.
By coincidence, on many Hashimoto’s thyroiditis blogs, I discovered a common thread, others who have my condition were complaining about the same symptoms I had been suffering from for months. So, is this another avenue that the medical community needs to investigate in relation to Hashimoto’s/autoimmune thyroiditis and Graves’ disease? I think so.
Histamine is an organic compound that is necessary for the maintenance of life; it has versatile and has extensive effects during an immune response and in allergic disorders. There are four types of histamine receptor cells (H1R, H2R, H3R, and H4R). Each receptor influences different systems of the body.
"...So, is this another avenue that the medical community needs to investigate in relation to Hashimoto’s/autoimmune thyroiditis and Graves’ disease?"
H1R for example, correlates with the heart, the skin, respiratory tract, and the uterus. It affects estrogen, mucus secretion, and vasodilation. Symptoms of HR1 are tachycardia, arrhythmias, hypo- and hypertension, pruritus (itching), red skin-flushing, urticaria, sinus congestion and rhinorrhea.
H2R correlates with the cardiovascular system and the gastrointestinal system and some symptoms would include; endothelial permeability, stomach cramps and diarrhea. HR3 involves the central nervous system and common symptoms associated with it are headache, ear ringing, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, circadian rhythm, arousal, learning and memory.
H3R is involved with the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and the endothelial cells (lining) of the small intestine.
HR4 correlates with bone marrow, immune cells and mast cell secretion.
Histamine intolerance results when there is an imbalance in the body system resulting in accumulated histamine because of the body’s inability to break it down or degrade it. Rapid detoxification by amine oxidases of dietary histamine is a normal process in healthy individuals, but in unhealthy or immune-compromised people with low amine oxidase, the aftereffect is toxicity.
The enzyme, diamine oxidase (DAO), responsible for breaking down foods we consume that are rich in histamine, is diminished in patients who have histamine intolerance. Therefore histamine cannot be broken down through the normal process and will result in a histamine overload in the body. The body responds with many symptoms that mimic an allergic reaction or, as the process is known technically, a pseudo-allergy.
Alcohol and drugs have the ability to release histamine and completely block the main enzyme, DAO from metabolizing histamine and can provoke diarrhea, headache, rhino-conjunctive symptoms, hypotension, and arrhythmia. Skin issues like, urticaria rhinorrhea or nasal congestion may occur and, in extreme cases, asthma attacks can happen . The diagnosis of allergy is usually incorrect, remember, because histamine intolerance is a pseudo-allergy.
I’m sure you are curious as what I did to resolve the problem!
Well, the first thing I did was compile a list of histamine-rich foods, many of which I already avoid. What I did notice is gluten kept coming up in the food lists. Since, I am mostly gluten free already, I took it to the next step and completely removed all gluten from my diet.
The only other issues for me were my daily egg intake and my martinis. I discovered that some vodka has gluten and all alcohol completely blocks the DAO enzyme from doing its job of breaking down histamine! But removing all alcohol, eggs and what little gluten I was eating from my diet gave me little relief.
Doing further research into finding a supplement that contained the enzyme DAO to assist in breaking down the abundance of histamine was a challenge. Apparently, DAO is present in porcine bile extract and that product is not easy to find, but I did find something that is close.
JarroZymes Plus is a cold-pressed porcine extract that works great and I just need 2 pills with each meal.
The other supplements that came up for this issue is Betaine with Pepsin, I take 1,800mg with each meal.
Also adding Vitamin C and B6 which increase the DAO activity and help degrade histamine, as part of the regime. I have been taking all these supplements with every meal with little or no pseudo- allergy symptoms at all. I did break down and start antihistamines to get this under control quickly, but now the supplements seem to be keeping everything in check. I do use the antihistamines when I decide to have a gluten-free martini because its always 5 o'clock somewhere, right?
Histamine intolerance causes a condition that many people with autoimmune disease have that's called "low stomach acid." Although the symptoms of heartburn and poor digestion are the same as high stomach acid, it's a dangerous condition that can contribute to poor vitamin absorption which can lead to very serious problems later on. http://scdlifestyle.com/2012/06/hypochlorhydria-3-common-signs-of-low-stomach-acid/ Everyday with every meal I take 1,800mg of Betaine with pepsin and two Jarrow Zymes to aid in digestion and increase DAO enzyme activity to detoxify histamine in my body. Adding Vitamin C and the B6 was also critical in helping my body with DAO function.
I resumed taking L-Glutamine, this supplement was very helpful with my digestive issues when I was first diagnosed, but for some reason I discontinued taking it. I also eliminated high histamine foods from my diet for 3 weeks. That included eggs, spinach, cheese, alcohol, and chocolate and then decreased my coffee intake.
Most of my the symptoms resolved after quickly after a few hours once I started on all the supplements, all except the ear-ringing and headaches. That is when I decided to start on Claritin, as the emergency room doctor suggested. The Claritin resolved the ear ringing and headaches. Now, I only use the Claritin if I am going to have a martini, since alcohol completely blocks the DAO activity needed to breakdown histamine.
This experience has taught me that listening to my body is the biggest gift I can give myself. The medical community may not have an answer for the changes taking place inside me...but if I quiet my overly-concerned mind, and study hard, I will hear the guidance and find my path.