Is Your Allergy Real or Imagined?

The term “psychosomatic” refers to an illness or a condition that is caused or aggravated by a mental factor, like internal conflict or high levels of stress. It is estimated that 75% to 98% of mental and physical illnesses are psychosomatic, or caused in some way by your mind or your thoughts.

Allergies have become vastly more common over the centuries, and there are a lot of myths surrounding them. As a result, some people think allergies are totally psychosomatic.

An estimated 3% of people have a real food allergy, but 30% of people only have an imagined allergy Allergies are not necessarily “all in your head,” but factors like stress and emotion can cause allergic reactions or make them worse. For example, someone allergic to daisies may have a stress-induced reaction at the sight of a plastic daisy.

Another reason so many people “think” they have allergies is because they are suffering from something that has not been diagnosed or has been wrongly diagnosed. These undiagnosed problems include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), anxiety disorders, fungus rashes, and histamine intolerance.

Allergic reactions can be very unpleasant. For this reason, they are sometimes accompanied by anxiety and panic. As a person experiences more frequent and more intense allergic reactions, those feelings of anxiety and panic can increase to intolerable levels.

If you are experiencing what appears to be a severe allergic reaction, but have not been able to determine the allergen, you may be suffering from histamine intolerance.

Such a reaction looks and feels similar to a life-threatening anaphylactic reaction, and is generally accompanied by high levels of anxiety.

Histamines are chemicals that are naturally produced by your body’s immune system. Histamines are responsible for ridding the body of allergens. They do this by causing you to tear up, sneeze, itch – or exhibit an unmistakable reaction

When this sort of immune response is triggered by a harmless substance (like pollen) or food (like peanuts), that person is said to have an allergy.

If you suffer from any or all of the following symptoms, you may have histamine intolerance:

• Unexplainable anxiety/ headache
• Flushed face when drinking red wine, beer, or champagne
• Itchy tongue/ runny nose after eating certain foods
• Difficulty sleeping/ fatigue
• Hypertension
• Dizziness/ vertigo
• Abdominal cramps/ abnormal menstrual cycle
• Nausea/ vomiting
• Difficulty breathing
• Hives

High histamine levels can be caused by any of the following: bacterial overgrowth, leaky gut, GI bleeding, allergies, diamine oxidase (DAO) deficiency, and consuming foods high in histamines.

Diamine oxidase (DAO) is the enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine. A blood test can tell you if your body isn’t producing enough DAO to break down the histamine you are ingesting.

Foods that are naturally high in histamines include: red wine, beer, champagne, bananas, eggplants, avocados, fermented foods (like sauerkraut), vinegar-containing foods (like pickles), cured meats, dried fruits, most citrus fruits, aged cheese, nuts, and smoked fish.

People with undiagnosed histamine intolerance are generally treated with antihistamines when they have a reaction. The symptoms will subside, but the problem remains undiagnosed. The person will continue to have “allergic reactions” accompanied by panic and anxiety.

Find out if you have histamine intolerance by cutting histamine-high foods out of your diet. You can have your blood tested for DAO and histamine levels, but this is generally unhelpful in diagnosing intolerance.

As mentioned above, the main indicators for histamine intolerance are symptoms resembling allergies/ allergy attacks in the absence of a diagnosed allergy.

You can easily treat histamine intolerance by maintaining a diet low in histamine, taking a DAO supplement, and keeping fast-acting antihistamines on hand in case of an attack.