Abnormally high blood levels of histamine -- a condition known as histadelia -- can significantly increase your risk for depression, a relationship first studied extensively by pharmacologist Carl C. Pfeiffer, founder of the Princeton Brain Bio Center. Because its origins differ from other forms of the mood disorder, high histamine depression may not respond well to conventional modes of treatment for depression.
What Are Histamines?
You probably are most familiar with the role that histamines play in allergic reactions. When the body detects a foreign substance in the airways, on the skin or anywhere in the body, it releases histamines from mast cells to fight off the invasive force, whatever it may be. However, histamines are chemical neurotransmitters found throughout the body that carry out a variety of other functions beyond the mediation of allergic reactions. Among other things, histamines play a key role in regulation of the sexual libido, cause tears to flow and determine the body’s sensitivity to pain, according to the website of the Health Recovery Center. Although histamines are essential to normal human function, it’s possible to have too much -- or too little -- of a good thing.
Histadelia, a condition characterized by excessive levels of histamine in the blood, is usually an inherited trait, according to Canadian psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, author of “Common Questions About Schizophrenia and Their Answers.” He explains that the condition usually manifests itself when patients are about 20 years old, and because high levels of histamine speed up metabolism, patients are most often thin. Symptoms of histadelia include increased production of saliva and mucus, compulsive behavior, hyperactivity, sparse body hair, easy sexual orgasm, light sleep and depression. Hoffer says that histadelics make up roughly 20 percent of all schizophrenics and are “the problem patients at psychiatric clinics and hospitals.”
Testing Histamine Levels
Michael Lesser, M.D., author of “The Brain Chemistry Plan,” says that getting a test of histamine levels is not always easy because few clinical psychiatrists focus on elevated histamine levels as a cause of depression. However, a few specialized laboratories do offer histamine testing. Much of the psychiatric community’s attention in recent years has been focused on low levels of serotonin as the primary cause of depression. Lesser suggests that you push for histamine testing only if a serotonin test -- widely available through most labs -- fails to produce useful results and if you feel you are experiencing some of the other symptoms of elevated histamine levels.
Treating High Histamine Depression
If you suspect high histamine levels are responsible for your feelings of depression, consult your family doctor or psychiatrist for further testing and treatment. The most common treatment for high histamine depression consists of daily doses of methionine, according to the website of the Health Recovery Center. Patients typically take one 500 mg capsule of methionine four times daily. An amino acid, methionine helps to neutralize the effects of excessive histamines by methylating the brain’s ring structure that produces histamines. Patients may also receive twice-daily doses of calcium, which also helps to lower histamine levels. In extreme cases, according to the Health Recovery Center, patients may be treated with dilantin, which interferes with histaminic activity and brings blood levels of the neurotransmitter back within normal range.
- Health Recovery Center: The Ups and Downs of Abnormal Brain Histamine
- “Common Questions on Schizophrenia and Their Answers”; Abram Hoffer; 1987
- “The Brain Chemistry Plan”; Michael Lesser and Colleen Kapklein; 2003