Saturday, June 25, 2016

Allergic to Pregnancy?

While researching high histamine levels and child behavior (I had a couple of cute, but wraith-y girls on my hands this spring), I read that some of the symptoms of high histamine levels involve such things as stomach upset and vomiting. Obviously, anything that talks about vomiting catches my eye these days. Did you know that some people live with an autoimmunity that causes them to have excessive amounts of histamine levels running through their bodies? For some of these people it involves not just being allergic to foods, pollen, and dust, but even allergic to their own sweat and hormones! This condition is called Histamine Intolerance. Naturally, my mind posited, "Pregnancy?"

As I continued to sit there reading about this condition it hit me: Unisom is an ANTIHISTAMINE. And it's the medicine that has worked for me (though, thankfully, I've never had to go so far as Zofran, or any others). I remember having a blood draw when my first child was a year old. It was spring and I had very mild allergy symptoms - maybe the occasional itchy eye, but nothing that disrupted life. My histamine levels were 11 on the 1-10 healthy range. I still have no idea why my histamine levels were so high, despite there being no physical manifestation of extreme allergies.

This is a fascinating (and comical) article on the science of histamine intolerance. The author says the following about why histamine intolerance occurs:
"Most cases of Histamine Intolerance are thought to be due to abnormally low levels/activity of diamine oxidase (DAO), an enzyme that destroys histamine.
DAO is located only in certain organs in the body: the small intestine, ascending colon, kidney, liver and placenta. Therefore, anything that causes temporary or permanent damage to any of these organs could potentially affect DAO function, particularly damage to the intestines, because that is where DAO is most active (in non-pregnant individuals). Examples include chemotherapy, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, kidney disease, liver failure, or surgery. Genetic abnormalities in DAO also play a role in certain cases of Histamine Intolerance.13)
DAO requires vitamin B6, vitamin C, copper, and zinc in order to function properly, so if you are deficient in any of these, you may experience Histamine Intolerance."
Interestingly, 80% of people with histamine intolerance are women. Even more fascinating, is that the placenta produces extra DAO to keep the mother from rejecting the baby, which also tends to cause a relief of all allergy symptoms for the mother. But if you'll notice from the quote, a number of those minerals and vitamins have already been covered as playing a key role in HG prevention. Vitamin B6. Copper. Zinc. Fascinating. Also? LiverGut? It's all connected, is it not?

The article goes on to say:
"Some species of gut bacteria contain histidine decarboxylase and therefore can generate histamine from proteins in the foods we eat."
And you would believe it if I told you that h. pylori contains exactly that?  In fact, a study showed that H. pylori infection is associated with increased mucosal histamine levels as well as an expansion of the gastric ECL cell lineage, according to this abstract. It also notes that "Histidine decarboxylase (HDC) is the key enzyme for histamine production in gastric ECL cells". Hm.

This article discusses the role of histamine and DAO in pregnancy.
"Pregnancies lacking an increase of DAO activity (Dubois et al., 1977) lead to elevated plasma and urine histamine concentrations (Beaven et al., 1975). These pregnancies are at increased risk for pre-eclampsia, hyperemesis gravidarum, spontaneous and threatened abortion..."
But it doesn't have much more to say beyond that. I find the link very interesting, at any rate.

So thinking about this led me to wonder - does stress cause an increase of histamine? The answer is yes. Yes it does. I happen to know I'm a chronically stressed person. In fact, I'm so accustomed to being tense that I have not been able to relax my jaw (even in sleep) for 10 years minimum. I don't know how to function outside of a state of stress. (And guess what, this is inherited/learned behavior.) When the body is stressed, guess which minerals your body rapidly looses? Magnesium, for one. And we know the importance of magnesium with regards to HG already. Even more interesting, "a Magnesium deficit lowers the allergic reaction threshold".  Oh. Hello, Full Circle.

Well. I'm going to end with that. This has been a fascinating rabbit trail...

[10 minutes later]
...Actually I'm not going to end with that because I got nosey again. I found this fascinating article, which is part 3 in a series on Magnesium (which is probably worth the read):

"In addition to minimizing foods that can increase histamine levels in the body, it is a good idea to increase magnesium levels to help support DAO levels and reduce HDC levels.  Another nutrient that appears to be important in supporting DAO levels is Vitamin B6(5,6).  There is also evidence that vitamin B6 may help transport magnesium in to cells, possibly by forming a complex between the two(7).  As far as foods to support DAO activity, one interesting finding is that fat is the only macronutrient that increases DAO levels in the lymphatic system, protein appears to only increase DAO levels in the intestinal lumen while carbohydrate seems to have no effect on DAO levels(8).  Therefore, DAO only enters the circulation in the presence of fat."
Fat transports DAO...proteins do, too, in the intestines...and carbs do nothing...Hmm...That sounds eerily similar to a certain high fat/low carb diet we learned about earlier. If you noticed in the abstract further up, it also noted that a lower DAO often results in "spontaneous abortion", which is a (terrible) medical term for "miscarriage".  The high fat/low carb diet was created specifically to treat fertility-related issues.

Furthermore, there is even a Magnesium/B6 supplement out there. I am currently taking it - and one of these days I'll do another post on my continued personal quest. And with that, I really must end this fascinating rabbit trail.

Acupuncture part 2

A post from last Fall that I never got around to posting:

The thing about acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine is that it's an entirely different method of healing. While maybe China is savvy at integrating their traditional healing arts into modern healing methods, we're not so blended in the west. It's as though I'm operating in two different spheres: one is a holistic, body/mind/spirit world, and the other is a hormone/nutrient/vitamin world. One looks at the entirety of the body and its relational operation, the other looks at independent, miscroscopic pieces within the body. How can these even overlap? I'm feeling like I need to back off the multi-faceted poking around and just do one thing for a while. At the moment, I'm just drawn to acupuncture. I am realizing that I've been so "prevent HG" focused, and haven't stopped to think about the "pre-HG" implications - meaning, that perhaps my body is functioning at subpar levels all the time, but it's only noticeable once pregnant and all hell breaks loose. I'll still pursue the various tests because I do believe I need to know those things, but beyond that I want to lay low for a while before embarking on supplements galore (I'll focus on whole foods instead). So for right now I've ceased all supplements (except Cocolaurin for gut health and Juice+).

Acupuncture, as I understand it, is primarily about energy flow - I know, all you haters just cringed. Okay, acupuncture is primarily about blood flow and circulation. This is something I've thought about in an isolated situation. I received pelvic floor therapy about two years after my second birth. I learned my pelvic floor was chronically tight. After the therapy, I had better blood flow to my legs - they no longer became tingly 30 seconds into squatting or sitting criss-cross. Around the same time in a massage class, I learned about the obteratur internus, one of the major pelvic floor muscles. The arteries run right through these muscles and if the muscles are tight, especially in pregnancy, it can pinch the arteries leading to poor circulation and vericose veins (and can also cause perineal tearing, as I experienced). This all got me thinking about blood flow. If tight pelvic floor muscles prevent proper blood flow to the legs, could it also impair blood flow to uterus and somehow play a role in HG?

Well, researching blood flow and uterus/HG/pregnancy primarily brought up acupuncture information. While nothing was really in the same vein of thought as my "tight muscles" musing above (see what I did there? Haha - edit: is it sad that, a few months later, I don't even see what I did there? I assume it was a pun), I find it interesting nonetheless. And compelling, especially from the standpoint that these are healing practices that have been used for thousands of years. I know, I know, logical fallacy, arguing from tradition. But I think it's important to not be overlooked just because it's not "modern" or "proven" or "science". Especially during a time when a women normally does all she can to keep unsafe things - like some meds, for example - out of her body and away from her developing baby. 

This article was really interesting about the different needs of the 4 trimesters (the 4th being postpartum) according to TCM. I've heard before that the postpartum mother needs heat not cool.
This article talks about how acupuncture increases blood flow to the uterus.

This is an interesting overview explaining TCM. It also looks into research and trials surrounding the use of TCM and acupuncture.

This was just really interesting with all the minute classifications within HG that TCM looks at. Very different from the broad "persistent nausea and vomiting" HG is defined as.