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Autism Coach

The Chronic Infection/Histamine/Adrenaline/Autism Connection

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What is Histamine?

Histamine is a neurotransmitter (like serotonin, dopamine and epinephrine) that stimulates transmissions between nerve cells.

Histamine Molecule

Histamine acts as a hormone that stimulates the secretion of acid in the stomach, contributing to digestion.

The body regulates the amount of histamine in circulation and maintains a careful balance. This is most important with keeping the body awake and alert. Antihistamines are known to cause drowsiness and sleep.

Histamine and its Role in Infection and Allergies

There is always a small amount of histamine circulating through the body at any given time. When a foreign substance is introduced, such as the toxic chemicals of an insect bite or the oil of poison plants like poison ivy, the body releases larger amounts of histamine to the site of infection.

Histamine released at the site of infections and allergic responses causes the muscular walls that surround blood vessels to relax, resulting in blood vessels widening. This widening, called vasodilation, allows white blood cells to move easily to the site of infection. Histamine also induces antibody responses by stimulating macrophages and Helper T cells to respond to infections and allergies.

Histamine also causes tissues to secrete fluids at the sites of infections and allergic responses (such as a runny nose) to rid the body of infectious agents or allergens. In the intestinal tract, this can lead to excessive mucous in the gut and chronically enlarged veins.

How Too Much Histamine Causes Too Little Histamine

The body is always trying to keep a healthy balance of neurotransmitters. If it detects too much of neurotransmitter, it may take actions to stop producing that neurotransmitter. This is called a feedback loop.

In a severe allergic reaction, the body can release very large quantities of histamine which can result in shock and sometimes death. The body cannot handle large amounts of histamine. As a result, the body will counter-act histamine by producing Epinephrine (adrenaline) which helps to de-activate histamine.

The same feedback mechanism may occur in chronic infections that trigger the release of histamine, resulting in chronically elevated levels of adrenaline.

Adrenaline triggers the flight or fight mechanism, which when chronic, can interfere with sleep, mood, and intellectual development. It can also contribute to chronically low stomach acid, which inteferes with digestion of food, providing an environment in which overgrowths of yeast, pathogenic bacteria, and parasites can occur.

When the body is poised for fight or flight it tends to dump certain minerals into the muscles to prime them for quick response, such as magnesium and zinc. This results in chronically low levels of minerals that are important for immune system support and neurological development.

So in auto-immune conditions and inflammation which may be triggered by chronic infections, you can as a result have impaired digestion, immune system response, and neurological development.

Symptoms can also include disruption of sleep, anxiety, decreased ability to learn, greater and suseptibility to infection, and mal-digestion.

Normalizing Levels of Histamines and Adrenaline

There are several approaches to reducing levels of histamines.

One approach is through breaking down the histamine.

Histamine in the central nervous system is primarily broken down by histamine methyltransferase. This implicates impaired methylation function, as being a trigger for inflammation. So methylated B vitamins and methyl donors (such as dimethylglycine or trimethylglycine) can reduce the release of histamine. Also histidine can prevent formation of histamine. Histidine is a component of the molecule, Carnosine, which has shown in studies and strongly anecdotally over the years to be of benefit for individuals within the autism spectrum.

In the digestive tract, histamine is primarily broken down by the enzyme, Diamine Oxidase (DAO). It turns out that DAO tends to be deficient in people with allergies and auto-immune conditions.

It has been shown that olive in particular boosts levels of DAO. 

However, reseearch is showing that certain foods, especially those high in quercetin, a bioflavanoid, lower levels of histamines.  Quercetin has a strong affinity for mast cells and basophils. It tends to stabilize their cell membranes, preventing them from spilling their pro-inflammatory, allergy-symptom-causing load of histamine/serotonin into the surrounding blood and tissue in response to the IgE antibody. And without the release of these potent inflammatory mediators, the familiar misery of allergies simply will not occur, even though you've inhaled the pollen, animal hair, or whatever normally triggers allergy attacks.

Foods naturally hiqh in quercetin include:

  • corriander - antihistamine, helps to stabilize mast cells
  • ginger -anti-histamine
  • garlic - anti-histamine
  • onion- anti-histamine

Below is a complete table of foods high in quercetin. I would not recommend all of these foods because they contain other nutrients that can be problematic. In particular, tomatoes, apples, spinach can be problematic because of phenolic and oxalate content.

Supplements that Lower Histamine Levels

  • carnosine
  • hIstadine
  • quercetin

Supplements that Lower Adrenaline Levels

  • rhodiola sosea
  • ginseng
  • holy basil
  • cranberry extract
  • ginkgo


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