Histamine can cause the recurrence of a headache that’s been treated with meds (like NSAIDs or migraine meds for example), make a pre-existing headache worse, and trigger an immediate or delayed headache. Yet studies on antihistamines as treatments have largely failed, with a few exceptions. I can tell you from personal experience that histamine is a definite trigger, one that I did manage in the past with antihistamine medication initially, but now through diet and supplements. If the latter two didn’t work for me, you’d better believe I’d take an antihistamine to keep them at bay!
Histamine has been conclusively linked to migraines for some time. In Spain, to prevent them, migraineures are frequently given a diamine oxidase (DAO) supplement to help break down histamine.
The central histaminergic system plays an essential role in our sleep and wakefulness cycle. Histamine promotes excitability in the brain to wake us and help us focus our attention. Interestingly, though studies show that histamine levels drop later in the day, I have always had my worst symptoms in the evening, with the migraine developing as of about 2pm. Though I have woken with migraines in the morning, in particular the six month hell I endured in my teens where I had a migraine daily, it’s more common for me to feel increasingly agitated as the day progresses, culminating in a 2am-5am state of hyper-excitability and headache. The worst of the symptoms would then pass and as long as I got enough sleep, I’d wake up with the majority of my symptoms better.
Researchers believe that while so far antihistamines (ones that block activity of the H1 and H2 receptors) have not been found to be effective in preventing and treating migraines, a few of them have shown some promise. Cinnarizine and cyproheptadine, for example, have been found to prevent migraine, but interestingly, their success in doing so is attributed to properties other than their antihistamine activity. Seems that their side effect profile (I’ve never heard of either being used at all) is significant, so that was considered a research bust, till scientists began looking at the H3 and H4 receptors.
Yet another stream of related research is focusing on mast cells, which contain histamine and other inflammatory mediators. When activated, by stress, allergies, foods, chemicals and medications, mast cells release histamine and all the rest. Mast cells in particular are thought to activate the pain pathway in migraine headache.
So, what can we do if suffering from migraines?
If you’re suffering from daily or chronic migraine, and are finding it difficult to nail down what’s causing them, my recommendation would be to make a spreadsheet with MIGRAINE 1 – 10 across the top. On the days your migraine is the weakest, write down everything you’re eating and the same for days that it’s a 7 and above. This will help work out triggers. You can then decide if the food that’s triggering you is worth keeping on a longer rotation.
Look into science backed supplements that may help
Discuss with your doctor whether:
Running a test for the histamine degrading DAO enzyme may help (more on diagnosis here). You can then supplement if needed
Histamine lowering supplements could be indicated: vitamin C (as per mast cell specialist Dr. Lawrence Afrin), the bioflavonoids luteolin and quercetin (as per mast cell expert Dr. Theoharis Theoharides)
Avoid fermented foods for a short time
If you’re doing ok with your histamine level and have started adding higher histamine foods back to the diet, you may wish to experiment with giving these new things a break and seeing if they’re the problem. In particular probiotics and fermented foods generally.
Look at tyramine foods
A massive migraine trigger. I have polymorphisms of both the DAO and MAO gene, meaning my body may be producing less of the enzymes that degrade both tyramine and histamine. This double whammy means more susceptibility to migraines.
Finally, if something works, don’t feel bad about doing it. If medication actually worked for my headaches I probably would have taken it. Nothing worked for me, not NSAIDs, Tylenol, DAO enzyme, migraine meds (Sumatripan), so I went with diet and supplements. We’re all different, so go with what works!
It’s finally here! Man Food – a high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredient filled book geared towards guys, women who love to work out, yoga like they mean it, or just load up on healing nutrients. Features my personal shopping list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods.
The Anti-cookbook and all liquid Anti-Detox Book, don’t treat any conditions, but feature a plethora of the high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredients that have been instrumental in helping me feed myself on a limited diet. The Anti-cookbook features a four page list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods and comes in regular and Paleo.
The Low Oxalate Cookbook features antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes.
Don’t miss the Low Histamine Beauty Survival Guide for non-toxic beauty tips, the skinny on histamine releasing (mast cell degranulating) beauty ingredients, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory beauty alternatives and the top brands natural brands I’ve found.
Take a peek at my other low histamine and antihistamine cookbooks for more high nutrient recipes
Alstadhaug, Karl B. “Histamine in Migraine and Brain.” Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain 54.2 (2014): 246-59. Web.
Molderings, Gerhard J., Stefan Brettner, Jürgen Homann, and Lawrence B. Afrin. “Mast cell activation disease: a concise practical guide for diagnostic workup and therapeutic options.” Journal of Hematology & Oncology 4.1 (2011): 10. Web.
Theoharides, Theoharis C., Jill Donelan, Kristiana Kandere-Grzybowska, and Aphrodite Konstantinidou. “The role of mast cells in migraine pathophysiology.” Brain Research Reviews 49.1 (2005): 65-76. Web.
“Dr T C Theoharides, MD Ph.D., – Research.” Dr T C Theoharides, MD Ph.D., – Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.