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Histamine and Light Sensitivity

By Jennifer
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Histamine and Light Sensitivity

Histamine and Light sensitivityAlthough most of my clients come to me with a range of conditions that are adversely affecting their health few have been more affected than one of my first clients. I thought that I would share with you the life-changing steps that helped her to regain some control.

For years my client had suffered with light, chemical and food sensitivities, and seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp. The light sensitivity was so extreme that she was unable to go outside in the daylight and spent extended periods of her time in a blacked-out room; she kept the curtains closed in the rest of the house. She had been forced to give up her job and lived with her partner who cared for her. Despite her difficulties, she was very proactive and was keen to find a root cause to her problems. With assistance she had done a lot of reading and tried various supplements; she found that high dose beta-carotene reduced the pain of the burning and had led to occasional periods of improvement when she could go outside at dusk. However, the improvements were not sustained.

When I started working with her, she had recently started following a restrictive, low- histamine diet. This was giving her some relief, and we decided to continue to support the degradation of histamine, to give symptom relief, while further testing and strategies could be implemented. Most people are aware of histamine as an immune response to certain allergens, when histamine is released from the cells to provide an immediate inflammatory response. Unfortunately, for some people they are unable to break down histamine and it builds up, becoming a problem and causing histamine intolerance.

Specific probiotics, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium infantis, may reduce allergic responses by increasing levels of DAO (diamine oxidase — the main enzyme involved in the metabolism of histamine) in the gut. My client changed her probiotics to these and noticed an improvement in light sensitivity so that she was able to go outside at sunset more frequently. More foods were also re- introduced and tolerated.

A diagnosis of Histamine Intolerance is confirmed through a histamine provocation test, but unfortunately, due to her extreme light sensitivity, this wasn't going to be possible; she would be unable to tolerate being in a hospital.

The only medical diagnosis that she had received, from a consultant dermatologist, was that of photosensitive seborrhoeic dermatitis (SD), this may be caused by an overgrowth of the lipophilic Malassezia yeast. Deficiency in the enzyme necessary to convert linoleic acid to gamma linoleic acid, delta-6 — desaturase, has been associated with SD and eczema, in addition, Malassezia yeast growth also stimulates the release of histamine from mast cells. So the next area to look at was her fatty acid levels. Results of a fatty acid test suggested that my client did have impaired delta-6-desaturase activity, through an elevation in the linoleic acid/DGLA ratio. Previously, she had stopped taking EFAs due to adverse reactions, however once she had been taking the pro-biotics for a few weeks and her food sensitivities had diminished, she was able to start taking an additive-free borage oil supplement with some positive effect.

The next step I took was to use the genetic profiling tool, 23andMe. This showed that she had SNP's (single nucleotide polymorphisms) or mutations on the genes necessary to degrade histamine and support methylation. We increased her intake of the necessary co-factors through diet and supplementation. Choline, a dietary source of methyl donors, was supplemented as well as vitamin B12 in the hyroxyl form. Hydroxyl B12 was used as she was heterozygous on COMT V158M and COMT H62H; she had previously taken methyl B12 and stopped because she was unable to tolerate it. She also started on supplemental phosphatidyl serine complex and a multivitamin. Two months after starting these, she was able to go outside one hour before sunset, her scalp was improving with less pain and flakiness, and she was able to reintroduce some more foods into her diet. Fourteen months later, she was able to go outside in the daytime wearing a hat, and using a parasol on sunny days. She has continued to make further improvements and has since successfully learnt to drive, gone on holidays in Britain and been able to visit and stay with friends. All things that are so easy to take for granted but meant so much to this lady.

She also improved enough to return to her original consultant dermatologist for the first time in ten years. In his view her extreme skin burning in response to light with no visible signs is a form of dysaesthesia, a term describing a class of neurological disorders in which nerves respond inappropriately in a variety of ways. The conventional treatment for this would be medication for neuropathic pain such as amitriptyline or gabapentin, and referral to a pain clinic.

Last year I wrote the details of this client up as a case-study and it was published in the professional journals CAM magazine. If you are interested in reading the full details of the case and steps taken then please look here.

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