The Histamine, Mast-cell Activation, and Blood Sugar Connection

July 20, 2016  |  Blog, Histamine Intolerance

One of the most overlooked ways in which histamine tolerance can be improved is through the stabilisation of blood sugar levels.

In the scientific literature, it is a well established that there is a bi-directional relationship between blood sugar control and histamine levels.

This means that unstable blood sugar can increase histamine levels, and histamine levels can progress the development of diabetes or insulin resistance.

Histamine Intolerance and Diabetes

Diabetes is a metabolic disease characterised by an increase in the amount of glucose in the blood.

It is caused either by a destruction of the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, or resistance to the effect of insulin (which normally lowers blood glucose levels) or a mixture of both factors.

Histamine intolerance is directly implicated in diabetes. Studies have consistently shown:

  • Increased histamine levels in diabetics,
  • Low levels of diamine oxidase (DAO) which breaks down ingested histamine in diabetic experimental animals,
  • H3 receptors (one of the 4 histamine receptors that regulate the supply of histamine) reside in the pancreatic cells that produce insulin, and
  • H3 receptor blockers lead to a reduction of glucose levels in diabetic experimental animals.

Whats more, histamine levels by affecting the permeability of the blood vessels, are directly implicated in the widespread symptoms and progression of the disease.

Mast-cell Activation and Diabetes

Mast cell activation is also directly implicated in diabetes. Studies have consistently shown:

  • Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that become overladen with glucose in diabetics, directly lead to mast-cell degranulation, which then releases histamine, and
  • Mast-cell stabilisers and anti-histamines have been shown to decrease complications from diabetes.

An increased number of mast cells, with the subsequent release of histamine and blood vessel inflammation, has also been found in diabetics.

Histamine Intolerance and Insulin Resistance

Whilst histamine is known to pay a role in regulating blood glucose levels in diabetics, the role of histamine in insulin production and low, high, or unstable blood sugar is hypothesised by not fully understood.

Within my practice, I see health on a spectrum, where blood sugar issues can exist, long before the symptoms of insulin resitance and diabetes.  Certainly, fluctuating blood sugar causes a great deal of stress on your body, and histamine is a symptom of a body under stress.

What’s more it’s entirely preventable with dietary and lifestyle changes.

Blood Sugar Control

I encourage all of my clients to test the stability of their blood sugar by using a glucometer.

Its easy and inexpensive to do. You prick your finger with a sterilised lancet, and then you apply the drop of blood to a “test strip,” that has been inserted into the glucometer, and it measures your blood sugar.

Based on these glucometer results, you can adjusting your protein, carbohydrate and fat ratios, and also any identify inflammatory foods, to maintain blood sugar control.

Whilst it is not the only cause of histamine intolerance it is frequently overlooked.

Personally, I have seen really significant improvements in my health, through addressing blood sugar fluctuations, and I know you can too.  In fact, I started this histamine journey with fluctuating blood sugar issues against a family history of diabetes.

If you suspect that blood sugar control might be playing a role in your histamine intolerance or mast-cell activation I can help you to stabilise your blood sugar and develop a bio-individual diet.


Additional Reading:

Pini Alessandro, Obara Ilona, Battell Emma, Chazot Paul L, Rosa Arianna Carolina.Histamine in diabetes: is it time to reconsider?.Pharmacological Research

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  • Alice

    I have searched coconut flour without any success in terms of it causing any histamine issues. I too now realize that I have been histamine intolerant all my life. I feel the basis this histamine intolerance was gluten intolerance which I now realize affected me all my life. So question I cannot find an answer to is ‘What About Coconut Flour’ in terms of consuming it if we are histamine intolerant? Thanks so much. I love your site, just found it and it is full of excellent information.

    • Hi Alice
      There is no formal testing of coconut flour with the food lab listings I use. I would therefore consider what its composition is and how it is processed. If it is processed from dessicated coconut then it would likely be high. Depending on your threshold you may be able to tolerate some coconut flour in your diet. The other issue with coconut is it retains pesticides so organic would be preferable. I hope that helps.

      • Alice

        Thanks so much. No one seems to test coconut flour for some reason. I have dealt with ‘Fast Track Digestion’ and his Glycemic Index Food List has about everything but coconut flour. For us grain free/nut free people, I cannot think of another flour that works for some kind of flat bread and such. I need to avoid histamines/fructose/gluten/oxalates. Thanks again though. I will look into the processing. I had not thought of doing that. I only order my coconut flour and coconut oil from Tropical Traditions because they test even their organic things for glyphosate. So now I will check on how their coconut flour is processed.

        • lorettarox

          Cassava flour (tapioca) might be an alternative.

        • Sandra Pawula

          I can’t tolerate any coconut products, except small amounts of fresh coconut meat.

  • Mike Robins

    Hello Alison. do you what causes geographic tongue? i know histamine makes mine worse but I do not believe histamine alone is the root cause. Any suggestions would be appreciated. thank you

    • Mike thanks for dropping by. I would be running functional testing and focusing on improving your overall health. It is my experience that symptoms can be a distraction.

  • Sandra Pawula

    I have had chronic elevated serum tryptase for the past 8 years (probably longer) but fortunately it’s not highly elevated.

    I find this article is so interesting as I’ve been on a grain free, sugar free diet for six months now, but I haven’t seen a marked change in my H1AC marker. However, during that time I was eating some foods recommended by my nutritionist (like collagen and whey protein powder among others) that definitely irritated my system and may have caused more mast cell activation. I’m off those now so in time I’ll be able to see if the H1AC marker comes down or whether I need to reduce the few starchy carbohydrates I eat.

    Thank you, Alison. Your site is a treasure trove of information for people like me who have mysterious issues. I am so grateful to you. I have purchased two of your books and will probably get a third one soon.

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  • Miren Hary

    Hi Alison , I thought you might be interested in this research paper. best wishes

  • Sarah Johnson

    Alison, this is exactly what I am looking for in regards to help with MCAS. I’m having a hard time, I believe staying off of sugar because I have such a drop in blood sugar that I have a panic attack. Carb sensative? Let’s set up a time to talk. I really do need your help. Sarahejohnson1@live.Com

  • Guest

    Hi Alison,

    You might find this talk very interesting. How one diet for a person might give completely different glucose readings if another person ate that same diet:

  • Anastasia Mckillip Beavers

    I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia in high school, my mother has it as well, and her mother was Diabetic.
    I learned to avoid refined carbs in the morning, and all seamed to be going well…. then October happened. Some how I gained 10 lbs and my periods (once totally predictable and painless) started going crazy. It wasn’t until I eliminated all processed foods that is stabilized.
    But i wasn’t even aiming to fit that.. i was trying to de inflame my body due to sciatica pain (hips out of place possibly hypermoble ligaments). But I was happy to see the change… not only that i dropped all 10 lbs in two weeks… i have a feeling I was toxic!
    I had allergies before my first pregnancy, but they seemed to disappear until lately (4 yrs).
    That’s when I started to learn about the histamine intolerance. I have had eczema since 2004… i stopped drinking coffee and eating avocado and banana/strawberries and noticed a major leap in healing. Id been chasing on spot with a steroid cream for 6 months. Its almost gone now.
    I also found i did not feel as good eating fish as I do chicken… and i cut down on eggs… the only problem is now my blood sugar is dropping… I’m not sure quite what to eat to keep it up (i’m eating palio plus home made hummus and quinua).. and i’m not sure why I’ve lots so much weight. I’v been wondering if they aren’t all related (muscle pain (cervical myofacial syndromn, sciatica, hypoglycemia, eczema, vision problems, and seasonal allergies)
    Thank you for posting this information it helps me not feel so alone. I’ve also had anxitey troubles since jr high. Any advice is welcome. -Anastasia Beavers

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  • sophie stewart

    Not convinced of this. I have seen no improvements with blood sugar stabilization, including being in ketosis and monitoring blood sugar and ketones several times a day.

    • Hi Sophia blood sugar is just one part of the equation. In my opinion, it is an important one and something I always address upfront. I also do not recommend ketosis/ketones for everyone as in some instances it can be problematic.

  • David Huff

    I had been suffering from sinus and respiratory allergies all my life and struggled with cystic acne that didn’t respond well to treatments. I started a histamine elimination diet and my skin actually cleared up! But I still get breakouts if I eat too much of any sugar so this connection makes alot of sense to me now! Thanks for this article.

    • I have resolved respiratory (asthma) through reducing histamine secreting bacteria. There is strong research showing this is linked to an imbalance of histamine bacteria. I am working on a blog post on this currently.