Mast cell activation and histamine can play a role in premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
That’s why antihistamines can relieve symptoms of PMS and PMDD. And that’s why natural-histamine reducing treatments can do the same thing!
What are mast cells and histamine?
Mast cells are a type of white blood cell or immune cell that release prostaglandins, inflammatory cytokines, and histamine.
You probably know histamine as the immune signalling protein that causes allergies and swelling, but it has lots of other jobs. For example, histamine regulates stomach acid and boosts libido, which is why estrogen increases libido and antihistamines decrease it.
Histamine is also a neurotransmitter that stimulates the brain and can cause anxiety and insomnia.
Symptoms of mast cell activation and high histamine include:
- urticaria (hives)
- nasal congestion
- low blood pressure
- joint pain
- fluid retention
- tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- brain fog
- breast tenderness
- headaches or migraines.
The last few symptoms listed (irritability, insomnia, breast tenderness, and headaches) are all the typical symptoms of PMS!
How mast cells and histamine vary with the menstrual cycle
Histamine rises and falls with estrogen, so it’s high just before ovulation and then again during the premenstrual time. The tight link between histamine and estrogen is not surprising when you consider that histamine plays a key role in ovulation and female reproduction. Read The curious link between estrogen and mast cells and histamine.
Is histamine playing a role in your PMDD?
Histamine is not the only factor in PMS. There’s also the problem of progesterone sensitivity which is an abnormal response to progesterone and its neurosteroid metabolite allopregnanolone. Read Is progesterone good or bad for mood? (and how to treat PMDD).
But if histamine the main driver of your PMS or PMDD, then you’ll likely have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- Anxiety and other mood symptoms around the time of ovulation (when histamine is high).
- Headaches or migraines that are relieved by antihistamines.
- Dermatographia, which is the appearance of raised, reddish marks after light scratching of the skin.
- Breast pain (because histamine and mast cells are directly involved in breast pain and fibrocystic breast disease).
- Period pain (because histamine causes pain).
How to lower histamine and relieve PMS and PMDD
- Reduce mast cell-stimulating foods such as cow’s dairy and alcohol. Read What dairy does to periods.
- Reduce histamine-containing foods such as red wine, cheese, avocado, tomato, bone broth, and fermented foods (including sauerkraut and kombucha).
- Take a histamine-reducing supplement such as quercetin, magnesium, SAMe, or vitamin B6.
- Take natural progesterone because it up-regulates the DAO enzyme that clears histamine. Progesterone capsules can also overcome the progesterone sensitivity associated with PMDD.
👉 Tip: Histamine reduction is a big part of why magnesium, vitamin B6 and natural progesterone work so well for PMS and other women’s health conditions.
What is your experience with PMS and PMDD?