Is it possible that your probiotic could be making you sick? Sadly, it is! In this post I'll be touching on a fairly uncommon topic--low-histamine probiotics. So what is histamine and what does that has to do with probiotics? Let's find out.
Probiotics are something that's commonly accepted as being something that is good for everyone. Gut health is crucial for overall health and probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to recolonize the gut to restore balance. So one would think that taking probiotics would always be a good thing. Right?
For some people, taking probiotics could be a completely bad idea.
That is, if they are taking the wrong kind of probiotic.
Histamine intolerance is something that we've talked about on the blog before. In this post we talked about what histamine intolerance is and in this post we talked about how to deal with a histamine intolerance, or histamine allergy.
One thing that wasn't mentioned, however, is the role that probiotics play in histamine intolerance treatment.
My Search for Low Histamine Probiotics
Around Christmas of this past year, I kind of "fell into" a detox. Just in case you were wondering, detox isn't the best idea during the Holiday Season--I don't recommend it. However, the whole thing led to some very interesting information which I will now pass on to you.
It all started with my taking a heavy-duty liquid fermented superfood probiotic. I had taken it years ago and it had clearly done some heavy duty work on my gut. This time I felt that I needed to get out of my current probiotic rut and wanted to give it another go. It went well for awhile, but then the reactions got a little intense. They subsided, but then came back in another area, and I was pretty scared. Scared that I was histamine intolerant.
So I plunged into researching histamine intolerance online and was determined to figure out what I could do about it.
One of the recommendations that I found was to get on a low histamine probiotic so as to recolonize the gut without inflaming the already problematic condition.
What Is Histamine?
We covered quite a bit about histamine in this post, but here's a quick review.
Histamine is a chemical produced by your body that is involved in your immune system, proper digestion, and central nervous system during immune responses. It sends messages from your body to your brain, and is a component of stomach acid (which helps you digest your food -- I've talked about stomach acid and rosacea before). But the role of histamine that is central to our discussion today is how histamine is involved with the immune system.
You mostly like are familiar with the word "histamine" as it being a part of the word "anti-histamine" -- those substances that one takes when allergies are being a bother. Histamines are alerting your body of a real (or mistaken) offender and cause an inflammatory response. And it causes this all over the body.
If your body can't break down the histamine well enough or fast enough, you end up with histamine intolerance.
That leads to the problems outlined in this post on histamine intolerance, but basically you can have all kinds of symptoms including things that one would typically associate with allergies, such as:
Histamine and Probiotics
Basically, if you have a histamine intolerance issue, the last thing that you want is to be taking probiotics that make more histamine. If you do that, instead of getting healthier, you could be exacerbating an underlying health issue and well--your probiotics could be making you sick.
And if you are making your own Water Kefir, Homemade Sauerkraut, and more, that may or may not be a good idea depending on your issues with histamine.
Additionally, there are some probiotic strains that have been shown to be helpful in reducing the histamine response.
According to the research that I have done, the following are various probiotic strains and the effect that they have on histamine levels. Of course that research could change in the future.
Histamine Raising Probiotic Strains:
- Lactobacillus bulgaricus
- Lactobacillus casei
- S. thermophilus
- Lactobacillus delbrueckii
- B Lichenformis - appears to raise histamine (source)
- Lactobaccilus helveticus
Histamine Lowering Strains:
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Lactobacillus gasseri
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus
- Bifidobacterium longum
- Lactobacillus plantarum
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Lactobacillus salivarius
- Bifidobacterium lactis
- Bifidobacterium Bifidum - (source)
- Lactobacillus reuteri**Lactobacillus reuteri is kind of in a class by itself. Many place it in the "histamine producing" category, but interestingly enough, it doesn't belong there. Lactobacillus reuteri does, in fact, cause histidine to convert to histamine, but this histamine raises cAMP which actually reduces the inflammatory response. Fascinating! I therefore put it in the "histamine reducing" class due to this aspect. (3)
Lactobacillus plantarum does not appear to have an effect on histamine, but lowers/inhibits tyramine and putrescine.
Histamine Neutral Strains
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus Lactis
- Lactococcus Lactis
It's possible that other strains might end up have their own special section as well in the future, as more is known about them, but Bacillus Coagulans appears to be a bit unique and I had trouble sorting this strain out.
There is research stating that the B. Coagulans SL5 causes increased histamine, but the B. Coagulans in 2 of the gut health products that I recommend below is MTCC 5856, which is a different strain. In fact, Lactospore (MTCC 5856) is used in some supplements that are made to support those with histamine issues.
Furthermore, there is also this research showing that B. Coagulans is helpful in allergic situations on a number of fronts.
Possible Histamine Intolerance Supports:
There are a number of studies on its effectiveness in treating gastroenteritis (source). Some researchers have linked this condition to high histamine/mast cell issue (source 1 & source 2). So possibly this strain could be a good support.
There are some reports apparently about this yeast causing histamine issues in some people, but it has been used for detoxifying gliotoxin (source) and apparently increases DAO production which means it should help with histamine issues. (source)
- L. Paracasei has been shown to possibly help with leaky gut or allergies (source)
- L. Casei Shirota
Although L. Casei has been shown to raise histamines, L. Casei Shirota has been shown to modulate histamine levels. (source)
- Lactobacillus Crispatus has been shown to have anti-allergenic effects (source)
Does this all make you feel like your head is going to burst?
I get it.
Basically, if you are looking to avoid probiotic strains that might make histamine issues (and inflammation) worse, you want to avoid the Histamine-Raising Strains and get probiotics that have the Histamine-Lowering Strains in them and if they have the Histamine-Neutral Strains in them that's fine too.
So---In order to work on mine and my son's possible histamine issues, I went a hunt to find probiotics that had the strains that we wanted, but didn't have the problematic strains.
It was quite a job, trying to figure out what to buy with all of those "lacto this" and "bifido that" words popping out at me. I thought I would go a little cross-eyed trying to sort it all out, but I did find some products that were just perfect for what I was looking for.
Where to Buy Low-Histamine Probiotics
Some of the brands listed below, like Metagenics, claim that their product is fine when not refrigerated during shipping, etc. If you are concerned about that please take care to buy them either in a store where they are refrigerated or have them shipped in a cold pack.
Following are a bunch of options that will fit the bill......
One of My Favorite Probiotics
Recently, our family started using Smidge (formerly GutPro). It's a probiotic unlike many others in that it's super concentrated. It's not cheap, but it lasts a REALLY REALLY long time.
Just a teensy bit on a teensy spoon and that's all you need!
I have tried sooo many probiotics over the years, and with many of them, I feel NOTHING. But with Smidge? Gurgle gurgle gurgle.....something is happening for sure!
The Smidge Powder is a REALLY economical product (all the frugal folks' ears just perked up!) Just make sure to get the teensy stainless spoons that Organic3 has if you get this product because you are going to need them!
Depending on how you use the probiotics, you might want to sets so if one is dirty you have another set at the ready. You cannot use the spoons if they are damp at all as that will compromise the bacteria. Wet bacteria, in this case, is dead bacteria.
Other Low-Histamine Probiotic Blends
This blend was created for the express purposes of having a blend for those with histamine intolerance. Some have said that this probiotic blend has really helped with their histamine issues, both to probiotics and to other foods. The company has a great Subscribe and Save program so you can save money. Some people use this product alongside the company's Histamine Block.
Following are some blends of various strains that should not exacerbate histamine intolerance and might even help heal it.
These are the blends that I purchased after researching this topic and I am continuing to use them.
Low-Histamine Probiotic Singles
The following are individual strains of bacteria that should be helpful for histamine intolerance.
Klaire Labs Ther-biotic Factor has only Lactobacillus rhamnosus.
Custom Probiotics L. plantarum probiotic powder or
Jarrow Formula’s Ideal Bowel Support for Lactobacillus plantarum.
Most natural practitioners who recommend rotating between different kinds of probiotics so as to populate the gut with different strains. So purchasing several or all of the above varieties and rotating between them would achieve that goal.
A Pre, Pro, and Postbiotic Low-Histamine Blend
This is a later edit to this post, but there's new science coming out in the gut health world that includes postbiotics and I'm trying out this new product that's showing a lot of promise.
GOS - a prebiotic shown to reduce histamine levels (source)
L Plantarum - reduce
L acidilactici - reduce
L brevis - some strains raise and some reduce
EpiCor+ - appears to reduce histamine levels (source)
So out of the 5 components in the product, 4 are histamine reducers and the one, brevis, might be as well. I am researching this and will update it, but I am very pleased with the product so far and think it's truly worth considering. Most gut products do nothing for me, but this is one the few that has. Should you wish to try it, this new product, also provided above, gets you $10 off the product, applied at checkout.
What probiotics do you use?