How heavy metals may contribute to histamine intolerance symptoms
What do heavy metals have to do with histamine intolerance?
In our everyday lives, we’re exposed to a fair number of compounds that enter our body systems through the environment.
In some cases, we’re quite aware of them, for example, in the case of pollution, herbicides, pesticides and even hormones in our meat.
There are, however, other compounds we don't think about as often - and, we may not even know when we are being exposed to them, such as with heavy metals.
In this article, I’ll dive into one of the most common metals you may be exposed to, where it may be hiding in your everyday life, what it could be doing to your health - particularly when you have histamine intolerance - and, most importantly, what you can do to reduce its impact on you.
What are heavy metals?
Before I discuss the specific heavy metal we'll focus on today, I want to first address the more general question of “what is a heavy metal?".
Let me explain…
Think back to high school science classes for a minute. Do you recall learning about the periodic table?
Don’t worry, I’m not going to make you recite the periodic table and all of its elements, I just want you to recall what it contains. That’s right! All of the metals we have identified that can be obtained from our environment.
Metals actually form a big part of our lives and, with the discovery of many of them, they have changed the way we can live, learn and improve how we go about doing things.
One of the most precious heavy metals we have discovered is platinum - while some of the most useful are aluminum and cadmium, for example.
Other heavy metals provide the body with important minerals we need to survive, for example, iron and zinc, while others are well-known for having serious and negative effects on the human body, for example, mercury and lead.
The truth is, even though there are many metals that have been deemed safe - and even necessary - for our bodies, with high levels of exposure, they can still cause serious harm.
Unfortunately, when you have histamine intolerance, it is possible that your exposure to heavy metals may be too high, and it could be contributing to your histamine intolerance symptoms.
Now let’s get into one of the metals that has been associated with histamine intolerance: aluminum.
Aluminum and histamine intolerance
Aluminum is in everything
Because of its low density and ability to withstand corrosion, aluminum has been incorporated into may aspects of our lives.
Think about all the places you’d see aluminum being used in your direct environment. Have you pictured aluminum foil, cans, and food trays? What about door and window frames, cars, trucks, bicycles and spacecrafts?
Did you know aluminum is also used in furniture, cooking utensils, deodorants, cosmetics, toothpaste, sun cream and medicines? It’s also in the food you eat, the water you drink, the air you break and the soil you may come into contact with (1).
You can now begin to see how much aluminum you’re exposed to on a day to basis. Although the body is well-adapted at eliminating aluminum in the urine and feces, when you’re constantly being exposed to aluminum and your liver is unable to cope, there’s a risk of higher than typical levels remaining within your body.
Research into the effects of aluminum and the effects it may have in humans, has not yielded any conclusive results, with data showing that exposure in the majority of the population is small. In these people, their bodies do eliminate aluminium at the appropriate levels, but what about when someone - like you - may not be eliminating it as needed.
Let’s look at some of the research that suggests aluminum exposure may be more harmful in some.
Allergies increase in those exposed to aluminum-containing treatments
There are a handful of reports suggesting that medication that contains aluminum can increase the risk of allergy, particularly in those who are suffering from allergies to begin with. Studies show that dermatitis from aluminum-containing treatments worsens, and that these effects appear to be on the rise (2,3).
It is well-known that aluminum induces an immune reaction, which stimulates mast cells where it promotes the release of histamines and other inflammatory mediators (4,5).
One of the most recent studies done on the effects of aluminum on mast cell activation was performed on rats, where it was found that when these animals were exposure to aluminum in their food, there was a significant impact on mast cell activation and histamine release (6).
That’s not all. This particular pathways induced irritable bowel-like symptoms in the rats, after which the authors concluded that it was highly likely that through mast cell activation in the gut, aluminum was able to induce IBS (6).
Considering the strong link between IBS and histamine intolerance (58% of those with IBS have histamine intolerance to some degree), we can begin to see the link.
If you have a higher than typical exposure to aluminium (or other heavy metals, for that matter), is it possible that it has induced your histamine intolerance and contributed to your digestive issues that are much like IBS? It’s highly possible.
So, what do you do about it?
How to reduce heavy metal levels for histamine intolerance
Your first step in the process to reducing the impact that metals like aluminum have on your health is to get rid of as many of the factors in your environment that expose you to it (7).
- Stop using aluminum foil in your home and, in particular, never heat food wrapped in foil or foil containers.
- Where possible, replace aluminum lined pots and pans.
- Use aluminum-free cosmetics, toothpaste and deodorant.
- Ask your doctor whether any of your medications contain aluminum and, where possible request other alternatives.
- Check the ingredients in the products you use on a regular basis to determine their aluminum content.
- Avoid exposure to waste water, industrial steel areas, and tobacco smoking.
- Be sure to reduce your environmental exposure to other metals such as lead, cadmium, bismuth and mercury, as they too have been found to mediate mast cell release of histamines and other inflammatory compounds.
Natural ways to help your body to get rid of heavy metals involves
- Eating lots of organic, well washed fruit and vegetables instead of packaged foods.
- Focussing on adding a wide variety of low histamine fruit and vegetables to the diet, rich in nutrients that support the liver.
- Increase intake of dietary fiber to improve the movement of waste products from the body through stool.
- For dietary specifics, please download the free low histamine diet guide by clicking below
Overall, the best way to reduce the impact of aluminum and other heavy metals on your health is to minimize your exposure to it and to optimize your diet in order to best support a healthy body which can adequately detoxify.
By dampening the impact of environmental factors while prioritizing bodily health, this is one of the many ways you can focus on improving on your histamine intolerance and the process of healing!
- Klotz, D., et al. The Health Effects of Aluminum Exposure. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017 Sep; 114(39): 653–659. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5651828/
- Lund University. "Allergy treatments containing aluminum may cause new allergy, study suggests." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2010. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101214085545.htm
- Kutlu, A., et al. Could aluminum be a new hidden allergen in type 1 hypersensitivity reactions when used as a drug additive? Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016 Jun; 33(3): 243–245. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4969423/
- McKee A., et al. Alum induces innate immune responses through macrophage and mast cell sensors, but these sensors are not required for alum to act as an adjuvant for specific immunity. J Immunol. 2009 Oct 1; 183(7):4403-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19734227/
- Fang, X., & Xiang, Z. Roles and relevance of mast cells in infection and vaccination. J Biomed Res. 2016 Jul; 30(4): 253–263. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946316/
- Esquerre, N., et al. Aluminum Ingestion Promotes Colorectal Hypersensitivity in Rodents. Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology. 2019. 7(1):235-236.
- Exley, C. Human exposure to aluminium. Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts. 2013. 15:1807-1816. https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2013/em/c3em00374d