Histamine Definitions and Related Links:
“Substance that plays a major role in many allergic reactions. Histamine
dilates blood vessels and makes the vessel walls abnormally permeable.”
MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
Medline Medical Encyclopedia says “An
efficient immune response protects against many diseases and disorders.
An inefficient immune response allows diseases to develop. Inadequate,
inappropriate, or excessive immune response causes immune system
The immune response is
how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses,
and substances that appear foreign and harmful to the body.
“The immune system normally
responds to harmful substances such as bacteria, viruses and toxins by
producing symptoms such as runny nose and congestion, post-nasal drip
and sore throat, and itchy ears and eyes. An allergic reaction can
produce the same symptoms in response to substances that are generally
harmless, like dust, dander or pollen. The sensitized immune system
produces antibodies to these allergens, which cause chemicals called
histamines to be released into the bloodstream, causing itching,
swelling of affected tissues, mucus production, hives, rashes, and other
symptoms. Symptoms vary in severity from person to person.”
Again, Medline states “The
immune system protects the body from potentially harmful substances by
recognizing and responding to antigens. Antigens are molecules (usually
proteins) on the surface of cells, viruses, fungi, or bacteria.
Nonliving substances such as
toxins, chemicals, drugs, and foreign particles (such as a splinter)
can be antigens. The immune system recognizes and destroys substances
that contain these antigens.”
Mosby’s also describes an antigen
as a “substance usually a protein that the body recognizes as foreign
and that can evoke an immune response.” So you can see that they don’t
seem to be too different and for our purposes, let’s say they cause the
body to react: to produce histamine.
An antigen is a substance that
can provoke an immune response. Typically antigens are substances not
usually found in the body.
Mosby’s’ describes an allergen as
a “common environmental substance that can produce a hypersensitive
allergic reaction in the body, but is not intrinsically (naturally)
harmful. Common substances are pollen, animal, dander, house dust,
feathers, and various foods.”
An allergen is a substance
that can cause an allergic reaction. Allergens are substances that, in
some people, the immune system recognizes as "foreign" or "dangerous"
but cause no response for most people.
A life-threatening complication is
anaphylaxis, a severe,
whole-body allergic reaction that can result in death. While people with
oral allergy syndrome rarely have an anaphylactic reaction, they should
ask their doctor whether they need to carry injectable epinephrine.
“The body's immune system
normally reacts to the presence of toxins, bacteria or viruses by
producing a chemical reaction to fight these invaders. However,
sometimes the immune system reacts to ordinarily benign substances such
as food or pollen, to which it has become sensitive. This overreaction
can cause symptoms from the mild (hives) to the severe (anaphylactic
shock) upon subsequent exposure to the substance. An actual food
allergy, as opposed to simple intolerance due to the lack of digesting
enzymes, is indicated by the production of antibodies to the food
allergen, and by the release of histamines and other chemicals into the
These steroids are similar to hormones
that your adrenal glands produce to fight stress associated with
illnesses and injuries. They reduce inflammation and affect the immune
Excellent corticosteroids site
As with all our information, please use
this only to educate yourself. It is not meant to be a diagnostic or
treatment tool. There are several other resources at the end to help you
learn more. There are also many links along the way. I purposefully
included definitions as you really need to understand the medical
If I can help you learn how the body
works and reacts in different situations, with simplified words or word
pictures, you can control your own health much better. Your common sense
can guide you.
I was first introduced to the
“histamine” term in relation to Meniere’s Disease by a reader who asked
me about a “histamine diet”. From all I knew about histamine, I felt I
would not want anyone on such a “diet”. In retrospect, I think this name
is a misnomer and is misleading. But the concept behind it is very
important to understand.
Histamine has far reaching effects.
Anyone who has ever dealt with allergies is always on the lookout for
the cause of increased histamine levels. That is what anaphylaxis is all
about. It’s what you are always trying to prevent! I doubt that many
people outside of the medical community know what it does and how it
affects your body: why you do need to know about it. Toward the end I
will comment on the “histamine diet”.
Here is one very important underlying
idea. Nothing EVER happens in your body without a cause. And every cause
has an effect: one or more (signs & symptoms). Please keep this in mind
as you read on. Start challenging yourself to look at any symptoms (good
and bad) and ask yourself why this has happened. Also recognize that our
traditional health care ideology focuses on treating symptoms: “effects”
of the cause. Relatively little is done to look for the underlying
cause. (That’s usually our fault: we don’t like to be uncomfortable.
Therefore “please give me something to take away the pain, or itchiness,
etc.”) We want instant solutions and comfort.
By Karin Henderson - Nurse, Retired.