Stress and anxiety can be caused by high levels of histamine

Susan Hunter Mental Health Leave a Comment

People who struggle with stress and anxiety, or even depression, are frequently perfectionists. They want things to be a certain way and they hold high expectations, yet living up to those expectations can be a source of stress and anxiety.

But there is frequently a third part to the equation. After extensive testing I often find these people come back with high levels of histamine in the blood. They have what I call a ‘high histamine type personality’.

Histamine is a neurotransmitter that has an excitatory effect when it crosses the blood brain barrier. If you are looking for the smoking gun in this situation, most will point the finger at environmental factors like work or stress at home, but when I look deeper I frequently find that histamine is the real culprit. Controlling helps to control stress and anxiety, which enhances performance at work, happiness at home, and general wellbeing.

stress danger signs

The clues

There are some clear traits or personality types that I observe in high histamine people:

  • High academic achievers
  • Highly motivated individuals
  • Carrying inner anxiety with a calm exterior
  • Being competitive with themselves and/or others
  • Having obsessive compulsive or ritualistic behaviours
  • Having the need for a strong sense of routine, order or control over things

When in balance, high-histamine type people are highly intelligent, super productive and tend to be successful in work and life. It’s when the histamine levels get too high that the trouble starts. It often takes the form of stress and anxiety, depression and a lower tolerance for stress.


Clearing histamine is one possible treatment. Some people benefit from reducing the foods that are high in histamine from their diet. These include:

  • Alcohol
  • Pickled foods
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts, beans and pulses
  • Cured meats and aged cheeses

When histamine in the diet does not play a role in the neurological symptoms, treatment can be managed in other ways, including the use of supplements like L-methionine and s-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe).

But a word of warning here. While using L-methionine and SAMe can help to clear the excess histamine from the blood, I strongly recommend that you see an experienced naturopath or integrative doctor to oversee the administration of these nutrients. Things can go wrong if you self prescribe them.

Behavioural change

For those in the thick of the perfectionist cycle, it’s also important to reach out for help and look at the underlying reasons for your patterns of behaviour and address that.

Brene Brown’s work on perfectionism is highly recommended. In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, she says perfectionism is what we do to protect ourselves from being hurt and criticised. When we worry over the question ‘What will people think?’, we are not allowing ourselves to be seen, warts and all. A good mantra to begin with is “I am enough”. Because you are.

Another tactic is letting go of the high expectations you place on yourself. The house cleaning can wait. The kids can eat poached eggs on toast for dinner tonight. Your work submission was not perfect but it was more than good enough. You will quickly find that your world keeps turning and you have turned down the pressure that you have been working under.

Here’s another one – not feeling like you have to do everything yourself, in the way you want it. Asking for help can relieve the pressure you place on yourself and invites other people into your life that would have otherwise been shut out. In the workplace we call it delegation. And by asking for help you are also opening the door for others to seek out your help in future when they need it. And that’s a nice thing.


Susan Hunter
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