Is Histamine Causing Your Anxiety? Understanding and Managing Its Impact

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

Could a chemical response in your body be fueling your anxiety?

Key Points:


Do you ever experience anxiety seemingly out of the blue, with a pounding heart, racing thoughts, and trouble breathing? While anxiety is often linked to stress and emotional triggers, there might be a surprising culprit lurking in your body: histamine.

Histamine, the very same chemical responsible for itchy eyes and a runny nose during allergies, also acts as a powerful stimulant in the brain, similar to adrenaline. Recent research suggests a potential link between high histamine levels and anxiety.

This article dives deep into the surprising connection between histamine and anxiety. We’ll explore how histamine functions in the body, its role in anxiety symptoms, and uncover practical strategies for managing high histamine levels to promote better mental well-being.

Understanding Histamine’s Role in Anxiety

Histamine, an amine produced by our immune system, plays a key role in the body’s allergic response. Beyond allergies, histamine also serves as a neurotransmitter in the brain, carrying messages between nerve cells.

However, due to its highly stimulating nature, excessive histamine has been linked to mental health concerns, particularly anxiety.

Elevated histamine levels can trigger responses eerily similar to those caused by adrenaline, the “fight-or-flight” neurotransmitter. This means excess histamine can lead to a cascade of symptoms commonly associated with anxiety, including:

The key difference lies in the trigger source. Adrenaline typically surges in response to external stressors, while histamine can be triggered internally by the body’s own immune response.

This revelation suggests a fascinating possibility: some anxiety and panic attacks might not stem from emotional responses in the brain, but rather from physiological reactions within the body itself, with histamine playing a central role.

This connection between histamine and allergy symptoms hints at a potential link between high histamine levels and anxiety. Let’s explore this concept further!

The Link Between Allergies & Panic Attacks

If you have allergies accompanied by symptoms such as itchy eyes, runny nose, congestion, or post-nasal drip, chances are that your doctor has recommended antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec. In that case, you may notice that antihistamine makes you feel sleepy and calm.

Why is this?

The Calming Power of Antihistamines

Ever wonder why antihistamines make you feel drowsy and relaxed alongside relieving allergy symptoms like itchy eyes and runny nose? The answer lies in histamine’s influence on the body.

As discussed earlier, histamine acts similarly to adrenaline, a neurotransmitter associated with the stress response. Both elevate alertness and prepare the body for action.

When antihistamines block histamine receptors, they effectively reduce histamine levels. This not only alleviates allergy symptoms but can also lead to a calming effect, potentially explaining the drowsiness associated with some antihistamines.

Histamine Intolerance: A Hidden Culprit

The connection between allergies and anxiety goes deeper than just shared symptoms. If you experience both allergies and anxiety, it suggests two possibilities:

  1. Histamine Overload: Your environment or diet might contain excessive triggers that overload your body with histamine. Common dietary culprits include aged cheeses, fermented foods, and certain fruits and vegetables.
  2. Histamine Detoxification Issues: Your body might struggle to break down histamine efficiently. This can be due to factors like a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1) or an impaired DAO enzyme, which plays a crucial role in histamine metabolism.

In essence, the calming effect of antihistamines hints at a potential link between high histamine levels and anxiety.

How Thiamine Deficiency Contributes to Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Let’s delve deeper into how a deficiency in thiamine (vitamin B1) can disrupt this critical process and worsen anxiety symptoms.

The Missing Link: Thiamine Deficiency and Histamine Breakdown

We’ve established that elevated histamine levels can contribute to anxiety and panic attacks. But what if your body struggles to break down histamine effectively? This is where thiamine (vitamin B1) enters the scene.

Thiamine, a water-soluble vitamin crucial for various bodily functions, plays a vital role in histamine metabolism. It acts within a specific pathway called the histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT) pathway. Here’s how thiamine deficiency can lead to anxiety and panic attacks:

In simpler terms, a lack of thiamine throws a wrench in the histamine detoxification process. This can lead to a buildup of active histamine and potentially worsen anxiety and panic attack symptoms.

3 Pathways to Reduce Histamine Levels and Manage Anxiety

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your body’s natural histamine detoxification process.

Combating Anxiety by Lowering Histamine: Detoxification Pathways

If high histamine levels are contributing to your anxiety, addressing your body’s ability to detoxify histamine can be a game-changer. Here’s a breakdown of the three main pathways involved in histamine metabolism:

1. Methylation Pathway:

2. Acetylation Pathway:

3. DAO Pathway:

Optimizing these pathways through dietary changes and potential supplementation can significantly improve your overall health, reduce inflammation, and promote emotional well-being, potentially leading to a decrease in anxiety symptoms.

Symptoms of Potential Histamine Intolerance:

While the exact symptoms can vary from person to person, here are some common signs that might indicate high histamine levels in your body:

Note: It’s important to note that these symptoms can also be caused by other underlying conditions or root causes. If you suspect high histamine levels, consulting a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis is essential.

Causes of Potential Histamine Intolerance:

Several factors can contribute to high histamine levels in the body. Here’s a breakdown of three common causes:

1. Gut Issues:

Consider these questions to assess your gut health’s role in histamine levels:

2. Genetics:

Genetic variations in enzymes responsible for histamine breakdown, particularly diamine oxidase (DAO), can lead to an inability to effectively process histamine. Genetic testing can help identify such variations.

3. Toxic Metal Exposure:

Exposure to heavy metals like mercury or lead can disrupt histamine detoxification pathways. Heavy metals can displace essential minerals needed for proper enzyme function, hindering histamine breakdown.

While avoiding heavy metal exposure is ideal, testing for heavy metals can be considered if dietary changes haven’t improved symptoms.

The Road to Managing Histamine and Anxiety

Understanding the potential link between high histamine levels and anxiety can be empowering. However, managing histamine effectively can be complex, as it involves addressing dietary triggers, potential genetic factors, and environmental influences.

If you suspect histamine intolerance is contributing to your anxiety, the Holistic Wellness Collective can help you:

Learn more Holistic Wellness Collective, get support, and learn more about managing histamine levels and other factors that impact your mental health.

Important Note: This information is intended for educational purposes only and should not be a substitute for professional medical advice. Consult a healthcare professional for diagnosis and personalized treatment plans for suspected histamine intolerance.

Check out Dr. Nicole’s Videos about Histamine, Histamine Intolerance and Anxiety:







This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first.

Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational free resources, online courses, and membership group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.