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Sleep issues and histamine.

What is the connection?

The general category of poor sleep is called insomnia.

Insomnia is broken dow into two categories:

  1. Initiation insomnia- difficulty falling asleep

  2. Maintenance insomnia- difficulty staying asleep

There are a lot of reasons people can't get good sleep.

We will focus on one idea, histamine, and its impact on initiating sleep.



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What is histamine?


According to the Cleveland Clinic,

"Histamine is an important chemical that has a role in a number of different bodily processes. It stimulates gastric acid secretion, plays a role in inflammation, dilates blood vessels, affects muscle contractions in the intestines and lungs and affects your heart rate. It also helps transmit messages between nerve cells and helps fluids move through blood vessel walls. Histamine is also released if your body encounters a threat from an allergen. Histamine causes vessels to swell and dilate, leading to allergy symptoms."

For our purposes it's important to think of histamine as an immune regulated chemical that deals with an assault on your body. That assault is via outside agents we refer to as allergens.



The most common allergens are:

  1. food*

  2. dust

  3. pollen

  4. animal hair, urine, saliva

  5. mold

  6. insect bites, stings

  7. chemicals

  8. drugs/medications

*(However, histamine also occurs naturally in some foods)......


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So what does this have to do with sleep or lack thereof?


It's simple.


"Histamine neurons promote wakefulness by activating neurons in the cortex that drive arousal and by inhibiting neurons that promote sleep."

So when you are exposed to allergens that stimulate the histamine response, the histamine activates the "histamine neurons" and makes you feel awake...and miserable. ;-(


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How do I know if histamine is my problem?


A simple test that anyone can do is the "Benadryl test."

(I made up that name).


You take some Benadryl and if it helps you fall asleep, then Voila!

You have a histamine intolerance.


In my humble opinion, I think this is indicative of a bigger problem related to chemical toxicity and its impact on our immune function and gut lining damage but that will be another discussion.


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What are the most common sources of histamine?


Histamine is also a naturally occurring chemical in many foods.

The top food sources of histamine?


  1. cured meats

  2. fermented foods

  3. small fish and shellfish

  4. spices

  5. dried fruits

  6. walnuts and cashews

  7. avocados

  8. tomatoes

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What can be done about it?


Well, obviously you can try to minimize the offending foods and sources of histamine.


However, we like to think of things functionally.

So, it's more important to understand how you can support your bodies natural response to histamine and promotes its proper function and subsequent breakdown.


Histamine is broken down via 2 enzymes. ( You don't need to know the names, obviously. But some of you are supergeeks, like me, and just want to know. ;-))

  1. diamine oxidase (DAO)

  2. histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT)

These two enzymes require certain nutrients in order to work properly and subsequently breakdown.


Those nutrients are as follows:

  1. vitamin B6- dark green leafy vegetables, bananas, papaya, oranges, beef liver, tuna, salmon.

  2. Folate (vitamin B9) a.k.a. folic acid- found in beef liver, dark green leafy vegetables, oranges, beans and peas.

  3. Quercetin- actually a plant pigment or flavinoid- onions, green tea, apples, berries.


I am planning on testing a supplement that does this. I will let you know what I find out. ;-)


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Sleep is critical to our overall health and wellbeing.


Insomnia affects nearly 70 million Americans.


Sometimes it's very important to think outside the box and look at other possibilities to help people.


So maybe a good detox and some whole food nutrition isn't so crazy after all in order to get a good nights sleep.


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