Histamine can dilate blood vessels to bring more blood flow and white blood cells to local areas, which causes rashes, redness, heat, and pain. This process can help the body clear up damaged tissues or can lead to chronic inflammation or allergies if too much histamine is released for too long. An allergy is an abnormal, acquired sensitivity to certain substances including pollen, drugs, and numerous environmental triggers. Type I hypersensitivity is characterized by the excessive activation of mast cells and basophiles by a kind of antibody called IgE, triggering a systemic inflammatory response that can result in symptoms as benign as a runny nose or as life-threatening as anaphylactic shock and death.
It has been shown that cells that produce histamine have the most wakefulness-related firing-patterns of any neurons so far recorded. They fire rapidly during waking hours, fire more slowly during periods of relaxation or tiredness, and completely stop firing during REM and non-REM sleep. Firing of histamine-producing cells is recorded just before an animal shows signs of waking. That is why if a person does not sleep enough, he/she will produce more histamine in the body. Abnormally higher histamine level in the body can lead to chronic allergies and inflammation.
Certain kinds of drink and food can also induce higher levels of histamine such as spoiled fish and red wine. So if you have allergic reactions right now, it is wise to avoid seafood and red wine until your allergies clear up. If you have an acute injury and your body tries to clear up the damaged tissue by releasing more histamine, you may rest more than you usually do. In that way, your body will not produce too much histamine to cause chronic inflammation.
Many histamine releasing cells can be sensitized by estrogen. When women are close to menopause, their progesterone level drops dramatically and their estrogen level fluctuates, creating the condition called estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance can also be caused by high sugar intake, non-ovulation cycles, too much coffee, obesity, environmental pollution, alcoholism, and post-partum hormone changes. That is why women tend to develop different kinds of allergies and autoimmune diseases during their periods of hormone changes such as puberty, pregnancy, or menopause if the histamine level is too high.
How do you Prevent Allergies?
1. Drink enough water to prevent dehydration and to help your body discharge environmental toxins. Chemical toxins can sensitize your body. Dehydration can lead to histamine release, which is one of the reasons why athletes may have asthma attacks during or after training or races.
2. Avoid seafood or nuts during periods of allergic reactions. Reintroduce them little by little after the allergies are gone. When you have a weak digestive system, try to eat easily digested food because your stomach may not be able to digest seafood or nut protein thoroughly if it is not functioning well. The undigested protein can trigger the allergic reaction.
3. Check your medications, because some medications may aggravate allergies. Non-steroid, anti-inflammatory medications and antibiotics are the drugs most commonly associated with hives. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI), angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI), and systemic anti-fungal medications have also been reported to cause rashes. One woman told me that after she received chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, she developed chronic hives, lasting more than a year. One day, she suffered from a headache, took one tablet of aspirin, and was then rushed to the emergency room because her throat almost closed up. Later, an allergist told her that she should not take aspirin if she has hives.
4. Avoid long-term use of antibiotics; try other ways to treat acne. For example, my daughter’s friends told me that when they cut down on sweets, ate less greasy, spicy food, and drank more water, their acne became much better. Teenager acne is due to hormone fluctuation. If they eat enough vegetables, drink more water, and avoid simple sugars, their bodies are better able to discharge extra hormone metabolites.
5. If you have never eaten a certain kind of food before, especially during childhood, try to introduce it little by little. Do not eat it everyday; start by testing it out no more than twice a week. If you find that you have itchy sensations, rashes, or acid reflux, stop eating it for a while and see if the symptoms clear up.
6. Do not over-eat any kind of food, such as strawberries or nuts. You should have as many choices as possible, with moderate amounts of each kind. The theory here is that small amounts of food will desensitize the body whereas large amounts could do the opposite. Allergy shots operate by the same mechanism. Some allergists treat allergies by introducing sublingual drops that contain many kinds of allergens in small amounts.
7. Try to protect children less than 2 years of age from bacterial or viral infections because their immune functions are not yet fully developed. If they do get an infection, do not use antibiotics for too long. Certain herbs have very good anti-bacterial and anti-viral effects, as proven by both human experience and scientific research.
8. Feed children homemade foods as much as you can, especially when they are sick and have weak digestive functions. Try to avoid feeding kids barbecued meat; well-cooked meat has a much smaller chance of inducing food allergies. Parents should start baby food as early as 6 months of age to raise a healthy child.
9. Get plenty of sleep. Remember that histamine release is closely related with the sleep-wake cycle. I have found that children who are always alert and have too much energy tend to develop various kinds of allergies due to the high levels of histamine circulating in their bodies.
10. Avoid intense exercises (such as running) if you have an allergic condition, because it can stimulate the release of adrenaline and temporarily lower the cortisol level, thus aggravating the itchy sensation. Try more relaxing exercises such as Tai Ji and Qi Gong to lower histamine release.
11. Reduce your stress level as much as possible through acupuncture
12. If you currently have allergies, do not drink red wine or any kind of alcohol, which can stimulate the body to produce more histamine. You can resume drinking once your allergic symptoms are gone.
13. Maintain regular bowel movements. Constipation can make allergies worse because toxic materials stay in the intestines for days and may be reabsorbed into the blood stream.

Author's Bio: 

Li Zheng is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, a graduate of the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine with 24 years of clinical and research experiences, including 6 years of residency, a Ph.D. degree holder in medical sciences from the US, a Harvard Medical School trained researcher and a professor at the New England School of Acupuncture. Her website can be found at Boston Chinese Acupuncture and her clinic is located at 475 Hillside Avenue, Needham, MA 02494.