#004: Histamine Part 1

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Intro: (00:03)

Welcome to the Health Babes Podcast with Drs. Becky Campbell and Krystal Hohn, where we talk everything health.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (00:14)

Welcome to the Health Babes Podcast. I’m Dr. Becky Campbell, and my co-host…

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (00:20)

Dr. Krystal Hohn.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (00:22)

Today we are going to talk about histamine. It is a huge topic right now, and so many people are realizing that they’re dealing with this. And this is something that I have, and Krystal, you have dealt with it too.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (00:36)

Absolutely. To some extent. Everybody has some form of, I feel, histamine intolerance. Don’t you think?—the more that we practice.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (00:44)

Yes, I do. It’s funny because I was talking to JJ Virgin today and she goes, “How many people have histamine intolerance?” And I was like, “Everyone.”

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (00:51)

Yes, to an extent. Absolutely. So, yes.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (00:55)

And I don’t really mean everyone, but I think that so many people have it. And you just don’t know because it’s really this thing where you don’t feel well, you have this wide range of symptoms, and your doctor doesn’t know what it is. And again, as we said in the last episode, you leave with a prescription for antidepressants. Unfortunately, it’s not talked about a lot yet. I think more people are talking about it. I certainly talk about it a lot. And our audience will definitely want to hear about this. So we’re going to kind of have Krystal just ask me the main questions about histamine intolerance, and I’m going to go through that to educate you. We didn’t really do a post asking you guys [questions] on this, but I know that this is what everybody wants to hear about.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (01:45)


Dr. Becky Campbell: (01:46)

We’re just going to go through it and give you guys the main points of histamine intolerance and kind of help you identify this yourself.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (01:53)

Yes. So why don’t we start off back with at least: What is histamine? Let’s do that.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (01:59)

Histamine is a chemical that we make in the body and that we also ingest; it’s in food. Histamine is not a bad thing. Histamine gets a bad rap, because you hear the word ‘antihistamine’ medication. So you would assume that you don’t want histamine in the body, but it has a lot of really important jobs. One of the jobs of histamine is to cause inflammation in our body if our body senses that there is a pathogen there. That allows our white blood cells to come in and kind of find the pathogen, and the immune system can do its job of getting rid of it. It helps with our stomach acid, which is extremely important for digestion. It’s a neurotransmitter, so it helps our body talk to our brain. And it’s very involved in the brain, actually. So that’s why you see a lot of symptoms of histamine intolerance tied to the brain, like insomnia—

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (02:56)

Yes. Anxiety, and other things. Yes.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (02:59)

Yes. So the problem is actually not histamine. The problem with histamine is that when it is done doing its job, it should be broken down, and there are different enzymes that do that. The main enzyme is called DAO, which is predominantly made in the gut. And that enzyme will come in, and it will break down the histamine and get rid of it. But unfortunately, because there’s such poor gut health these days—

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (03:29)

It’s so true!

Dr. Becky Campbell: (03:31)

Yes, and [there are] so many other factors that lead to the reduction of that DAO enzyme, whether it’s genetics, medication, vitamin deficiencies, or whatever it is. A lot of us aren’t producing enough of that, so we can’t break down the histamine enough, and then it’s left out. We have histamine receptors all over the body, and it’s getting into these receptors and causing these symptoms that people have.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (03:56)

Yes. Talk to the listeners a little bit about the bucket that you talk about so much in your book and some of the things that really overflow our buckets. Could you talk about how it’s not… [Dr. Becky shows book with picture of overflowing bucket] Exactly! Yes. So some of the things that really drive that bucket to overfill. So let’s talk a little bit about that.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (04:17)

A really good way to think of what’s going on: Let’s just imagine that you have a bucket, and there are all these things filling this bucket that are causing the histamine in your body to get higher and higher or not be broken down. So that would be like gut issues, environmental toxins, and nutrient deficiencies. Stress is a big driver.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (04:41)

That’s a big one. And people don’t take that one as seriously, right? And we do get a lot of stress management techniques, right? Wouldn’t you say that a lot of people don’t take it as seriously as they should?

Dr. Becky Campbell: (04:54)

[inaudible] meditate. They’ll take 72 supplements and eat nothing, but they won’t meditate. So it really all matters, and that’s something that we talk about a lot. But that, hormone imbalances… And a lot of people are estrogen-dominant these days, and that’s because all the products that we use have these Xenoestrogens that are raising our natural estrogen levels, and estrogen drives histamine in the body. So, all these different things are making us release more histamine. They’re making us unable to break down histamine the way that we should. So what we do in the practice is look for all those things that are filling your bucket.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (05:38)

And that’s what we do testing for. We look at your hormones; we look at your cortisol, which is your stress hormone. We look at your gut health to see if there are any bugs. And some of these bugs actually create more histamine in the body. So we look at all these things. We look at the foods that you’re eating to see if they’re high in histamine. What we try to do is empty that bucket out. That’s kind of the goal. That’s what we do with our patients.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (05:59)

So we get the bucket as empty as we can. And that’s when people can start to reintroduce more high-histamine foods and not feel so restricted because that is not our goal. We don’t want people to feel such a restriction. But we do want people to understand that you do need to eat the foods that your body likes. And that may vary. You know, you may be on vacation and have no stress. You may be able to eat guacamole until the cows come home.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (06:30)

Exactly. The avocados is hard for people, isn’t it?

Dr. Becky Campbell: (06:34)

Yes, because they’re high in histamine and everyone likes to eat them, including myself. And then you may be back home, you’re really stressed out in your job, you’re having issues with your spouse, whatever, and you try to eat an avocado, and you get a migraine immediately.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (06:48)


Dr. Becky Campbell: (06:49)

Yes. What we do with our patients is try to get them to be very aware of: What does your bucket look like right now? We’ve worked on all this stuff, but what are your stress levels right now? So is this a good time to add back high-histamine foods, or is it not? And that’s why the diet kind of varies a little bit with what you’re going through and how that bucket is looking.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (07:14)

Right. Let’s talk about some of the foods that are higher in histamine. Yes.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (07:18)

First of all, I want to show you guys that—

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (07:21)

She has an amazing list in her histamine book that is just so thorough.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (07:29)

But I wanted to make a list, and it is a ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘maybe’ list because I want people to try to eat as much as they can and not feel so limited. The plan here is that we do this in phases, and we start with eliminating the ‘no’ foods. The ‘no’ foods are the foods that are really high in histamine, like fermented foods. Fermented foods actually have bacteria that create histamine. That is why people struggle so much with fermented foods. People who don’t know they have a histamine intolerance will be told to do—and I’m not going to call it any specific diet—a diet plan. And a lot of these diet plans are very high in fermented foods. Because they have extreme nutritional value, they’re doing what they’re told to do, and they’re getting sicker and sicker. And that’s because they don’t know about this histamine picture.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (08:30)

Fermented foods, avocados, dried fruits, [or] anything aged. The older the food sits out or sits even in the refrigerator, the more of that histamine-producing bacteria builds [up] on that food. That’s why we talk about freezing your food and getting fresh food. And some people will tell you not to eat meat because there’s an amino acid called histidine in meat that breaks down into histamine. But if you get really fresh meat and you’re eating maybe three or four ounces of meat and then a bunch of vegetables, you should be fine. It’s usually not the issue; it’s more what the food is. And strawberries, which is surprising.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (09:16)

Right. It’s so sad, but it’s a big trigger for a lot of people. Yes.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (09:20)

And I think spices [are] too, like cinnamon. That’s why, in my books, even though I use apples in a lot of other things because they’re actually anti-histamine [foods], I don’t use cinnamon with them because some people do really bad with cinnamon.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (09:32)

Don’t you find everybody is so different too with their reactions to histamine foods? That’s why when we work with our patients, we have them log their symptoms with the tracker and things like that so that we can help them best because everybody is different, especially with reintroducing after you fix some of these drivers.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (09:50)

Oh, sure. Everyone’s different. Sometimes people are like, “I’m fine with that food; that food doesn’t bother me.” Whereas someone else is on death’s door if they eat it.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (10:02)

I know. We have some really sensitive patients, and it just takes time as you get to some of these root causes. Especially if they’re dealing with mast cell [activation], right?

Dr. Becky Campbell: (10:12)

Absolutely. And there are different levels of histamine intolerance and mast cell activation syndrome.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (10:16)

There really is.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (10:18)

Mast cell activation syndrome is the biggest driver of histamine intolerance. Basically, mast cells are white blood cells that produce or release histamine. With mast activation syndrome, they’re either producing too much or releasing it too easily. If you would only release histamine when there’s a real threat, like I talked about earlier with the pathogen being there. People with mast activation syndrome may smell perfume and start dumping histamine. There are different levels. Some people are extremely sensitive, and I’ve been [on] all of the levels.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (10:56)

Yes, you really have. You’ve been through it personally. This is why you’re helping so many people. And even with the book, it’s amazing. It’s still new, I feel—very new. Yes, it’s a lot. It’s very complex, that’s for sure, [based] on what we found in practice. Let’s talk about some of the testing for histamine intolerance, or some of the testing that we do too, to help our patients.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (11:20)

Yes. We like to look at what’s going on with the gut. We use a stool test from Precision Analytic… No, that’s the DUTCH test.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (11:31)

Yes. The GI-MAP.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (11:32)

The GI-MAP we used for the stool and also Doctor’s Data. They’re both good companies that we like. They’re looking at yeast, bacteria that shouldn’t be there, bacteria that should be there, parasites, and stuff like that that can drive H. pylori, which is a bad type of bacteria that a lot of people have. And they’re all big drivers of histamine intolerance. So we like to see what’s going on there, address that, and give them a protocol to kill all that stuff and protect the lining of the gut. This test looks at leaky gut, which is extremely important when it comes to any type of food sensitivity.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (12:10)


Dr. Becky Campbell: (12:11)

And then we do the DUTCH test, which looks at the sex hormones. Estrogen is very involved. Low progesterone is also very involved because progesterone can help you produce more DAO, the enzyme that breaks down histamine. So we like to look at the balance of that and make sure that we can help them balance that out. Cortisol is a big driver [inaudible]. That’s the stress hormone, which activates our sympathetic nervous system. Our sympathetic nervous system is our fight or flight nervous system, which we want to have active when someone is chasing us, but we don’t want it active when we’re trying to rest or do something calm without feeling nervous and anxious. So when you activate the sympathetic nervous system, your body produces more mast cells and releases more histamine. All those things are really tied to it. So we like to look at that. We like to look at blood.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (13:13)


Dr. Becky Campbell: (13:15)

Yes. Looking at nutrient levels. Vitamin C, copper, B6—those are all very tied to deficiencies and histamine intolerance. We look at that. We just try to really look at everything we can. We look to see what the thyroid function looks like because thyroid issues can drive histamine intolerance as well. Histamine intolerance can drive thyroid issues.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (13:39)

It’s true. Everything is so connected, right? So, making sure you’re getting all the pieces of the puzzle is where the testing comes in.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (13:49)

[inaudible] for both those issues. And me, I mean, I have Hashimoto’s and mast cell activation syndrome, so it’s common. So that’s what we do. We really try to empty the bucket and get our patients really stable. We do it with supplements. We use quercetin, which is a natural antihistamine. We have a blend we use called HistoRelief. We support the liver, which is really important because people with histamine intolerance tend to be bad detoxers. They don’t push stuff out well, which is why they tend to be so sensitive. And a lot of times, they can’t even handle supplements or food. They’re very sensitive to everything. So I find that starting with liver support—and I do talk about this in the book, the different ways you can support your liver—is really important, [along] with taking the major high-histamine foods out. And we just kind of go from there.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (14:45)

Exactly. Yes. You know how even with testing for mast cell activation syndrome, it’s still new and there’s still a lot of research out there, right? So, specific markers for mast cell [activation syndrome] are not as specific, right? It’s not as easy—

Dr. Becky Campbell: (15:03)

There are specific markers, and I actually list them in the book, but the problem is that—tryptase is an example—you have to be reacting. If you’re feeling fine and you go get that and they say: “Oh no, it’s not high. You don’t have mast cell activation syndrome,” that’s not—

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (15:25)

Exactly. It’s just not as specific. It’s still very new. So that’s where it’s so important to focus on these drivers, such as infections and hormones, even—oh gosh, Beck—like heavy metals and mold with histamine.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (15:41)

Yes. I’m telling you, mold is literally the biggest driver, in my opinion. And you know that a couple of years ago, I was fine. I was fine, and I was doing great. My health was great; I felt great. I had some stress with some other stuff. But besides that, I was living in mold, and I had no idea. I can smell mold from a mile away, and I was literally sleeping on top of it! It was coming in. There was a burst pipe in the flooring under my bed. It was coming up through the carpet [inaudible] underneath the bed. So it was kind of holding it all there. I was waking up feeling like I had drunk 20 beers or whatever. I couldn’t drive my kids to school; I literally couldn’t function.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (16:39)

I remember when you went through that. It was terrible.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (16:42)

And it was months. It was months. And I did every test on myself. I didn’t think it was mold because I knew I smelled mold easily, and I never smelled it. I even had my breast implants removed, thinking it was a breast implant illness. About two weeks after I had my breast implants removed, I moved into another room while I was recovering from that, and I felt so much better. I was like: “Oh, it was that; I had that.” Then I realized there was mold. We actually went to get a new bed, and when we moved the bed, we were like, “Whoa!” The smell really came out. Yes, it was that. Anyway, I can’t tell you how many of our patients are living in mold. And I say to them: “Listen to me. You are not going to feel 100% unless you get rid of mold.” It’s really important. I would say that’s probably the number one trigger for mast cell activation syndrome.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (17:43)

And a lot of people just don’t realize it either. It’s different from state to state. Like in Florida, for example, it’s so humid. So [with] the water and the mildew, it’s so easy [for mold] to grow. Even in California, my mom went through the whole mold… It was a nightmare—an absolute nightmare. Then it gets scarier, too, because it’s a costly thing. Having to leave your—

Dr. Becky Campbell: (18:10)

Yes. People don’t want to deal with it and will put it off for a while. And I noticed that it’s literally ruining their lives. It’s sad. And it is expensive. And you have to find the right person to find it because we had people come in and they just tested the air quality. Well, mold can be behind your walls.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (18:36)


Dr. Becky Campbell: (18:37)

They need to look in your air ducts and behind your walls. They need to look everywhere. If they’re not willing to do that, they’re not the right company. I’ve had patients say, “Well, the first company didn’t find it.” I’m like, “Well, where did they look?” They tell me, and I’ll say, “You need another company,” and they will get another company. And they’re like, “They found it everywhere! My whole house is infested with it, but it was all behind the walls.”

Dr. Becky Campbell: (19:00)

I mean, that’s a big remediation project, but it’s worth it. I have a patient who recently went through remediation, and she did the work, and she’s like: “I’m a new person. I feel so much better.” We did a two-month mold protocol just to make sure it was out of her body because I had tested her previously for mold in her body, and she did have it. That’s when I was like, “You really need to get serious about this remediation.” And she’s a different person. She feels amazing. She can eat what she wants. She doesn’t have histamine intolerance anymore.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (19:32)

Right. Right. I feel too—especially being in practice longer now, we see so many people—everybody handles it differently depending on where they’re at in their health. We are exposed to mold outside and all of these things. But there are certain people, even genetically, who just can’t handle this. You have to look into that and take it seriously to really take your health to the next level and help yourself, but it’s scary.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (20:01)

[inaudible] on how you push toxins out. There are a lot of genetic mutations that have to do with that and liver function, and that’s why we’re always working on all that stuff. You know, I’m that type of person; I hold on to everything because of my genes.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (20:16)

Yes. We’re the same. Me and Beck are the same, aren’t we?

Dr. Becky Campbell: (20:22)

[inaudible]. But we have to support. We have to use liver support. We have to use glutathione. We have to do all that stuff. When we do, we’re great. When we don’t, it starts to come back in because our bodies don’t do it well on their own.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (20:37)

So after we work with patients—this is something to talk about, reintroducing—a lot of patients will say, “Oh my goodness, do I have to stay low histamine forever?” Let’s talk a little bit about that, because I think that’s important.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (20:49)

I think people are very quick to try to reintroduce. We put them on about a 30-day supplement and food plan while we’re waiting for their testing to come back. And they think it’s a 30-day thing, and they’re like: “Okay, well, I did your plan, and I felt really good. Then I started eating the way I was because the 30 days were over and I felt bad again.” I’m like: “Whoa! This is not… No!” So you have to really address the driving factors to be able to get to that point and let your body heal, to be able to get to that point to start to reintroduce.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (21:27)

So once you are there, I recommend eating a food—and only trying one at a time—that has been a problem for you in the past and eating that food for a few days in a row. And if you do well every day with that food, you’re probably okay with it. And then you may find foods that you do okay with to a certain level. Like, you can go here, but you can’t go here. That’s how I am with avocado. I can’t go free for all with avocado, but I can definitely eat it, whereas before I couldn’t look at an avocado without getting a headache. So that’s how we do that.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (22:00)

And I say to people: Just be very aware of your stress levels. If you’re stressed, maybe keep your diet low in histamine. And if you’re doing really well, you’re really happy, and things are great, then you can probably push a little bit further. But there are certain foods that I never want people to eat. I never want people to eat gluten, ever! There’s no nutritional value in gluten whatsoever, and in many people, it causes leaky gut. And leaky gut causes sensitivities to food; it causes autoimmune disease. It’s a nightmare.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (22:35)

[inaudible] gluten and thyroid.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (22:37)

Yes, exactly. Yes. Then there are some foods like dairy that I might say, “Okay, why don’t you get raw dairy”?

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (22:44)

They’re better quality.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (22:46)

Right. You know what I mean? And sugar—[use] coconut sugar, maple sugar, or something like that, but all the time. In this book, I did give recipes like that because I didn’t want people to feel like they had nothing to eat, but I didn’t want people to eat the apple bread every single day. It needs to be in moderation because sugar is sugar, regardless, and nobody does well with a lot of sugar.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (23:13)

When patients are staying away from low-inflammatory foods and limiting their grains and dairy, they start to make a lot of those yummy grain-free—you know what I’m saying?—sweet treats, and they go overboard. And they’re like, “I don’t know why my gut hurts.” “Well, you just ate a pound of almonds!” You know what I mean? You could go crazy with it, so you definitely have to have balance.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (23:36)

Yes, that’s true. Yes, it is. And unfortunately, I see these posts and stuff on Instagram, and people are like: “I hate when people say, ‘It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle,’ and stuff.” But it’s true! You can’t eat whatever you want—food that’s full of chemicals and trans fats, all this crap that’s in this food, whether it’s high in histamine or not—and expect to be in good health. You can’t. So it is a lifestyle to a certain degree. And it’s not all foods that you have to never eat again. But keep it real food. Have whole foods [inaudible].

Dr. Becky Campbell: (24:24)

There are so many resources now. There are so many companies that make paleo foods. There are just so many ways you can find recipes, [like on] Pinterest. To me, there’s really not a huge excuse. And it can depend on economic status, for sure. So it’s not that everybody has the same options. But I’m talking about the people who do have the option. You have to decide that if your health is important to you, you’re going to listen to your body, eat the foods that your body likes, and stay away from the foods your body doesn’t like. And if it doesn’t like it and tells you, then just know you’re going to probably suffer when you eat that.

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (25:05)

That’s true. I know. This was good! I think everybody’s going to really understand and know where to start if they’re dealing with a lot of histamine symptoms. Yes, this was good.

Dr. Becky Campbell: (25:16)

Yes. I have a histamine guide. It’s basically a quiz that asks you some questions to see if you probably have histamine intolerance. And then that leads to a PDF that tells you what to do. It basically gives you a breakdown of what we’ve talked about. So we’ll put that in the show notes. We’ll link to that for you guys. We’ll link to the book so you can look at that. On DrBeckyCampbell.com, we have tons of articles and everything, connecting all this together. Well, thanks for listening, guys!

Dr. Krystal Hohn: (25:52)

All right. Have a great day!

Dr. Becky Campbell: (25:54)

Have a great day!