Do you know that there is an increased likelihood of autoimmune conditions if you have histamine intolerance, mast cell activation syndrome or vice versa?
This can come as quite a shock to many.
There are over 100 autoimmune conditions. In this blog post, I will delve deeper into the topic of thyroid autoimmunity and explore the increased prevalence of autoimmune conditions in individuals with histamine intolerance and mast cell activation syndrome.
Firstly, let’s have a look at the thyroid:
What is the Thyroid?
The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland located in the front of the neck. Despite its small size, the thyroid plays a crucial role in regulating many functions.
Let’s look at 4 key areas:
- Hormone Production
The primary function of the thyroid gland is to produce and release two essential hormones. Thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). T3 is the more active form, while T4 acts as a precursor and is converted into T3 as needed. These hormones are vital for regulating the body’s metabolism, controlling how the body uses energy, and influencing various other physiological processes.
- Metabolism Control
Ever wondered what controls your metabolism? It’s your thyroid. Thyroid hormones affect the rate at which the body burns calories and converts food into energy. When thyroid hormone levels are too high (hyperthyroidism), metabolism can become overly active, leading to symptoms such as weight loss, increased heart rate, and nervousness. Conversely, when thyroid hormone levels are too low (hypothyroidism), metabolism slows down, causing weight gain, fatigue, and cold sensitivity.
- Feedback Mechanism
Thyroid hormone production is regulated by a feedback loop involving the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. When thyroid hormone levels are within the normal range, this feedback loop keeps the system in balance.
- Iodine Requirement
Iodine is an essential nutrient for the thyroid gland. The thyroid extracts iodine from the bloodstream to synthesize thyroid hormones. A deficiency in iodine can lead to thyroid dysfunction and the development of conditions like goitre (enlarged thyroid gland) or hypothyroidism.
Common Disorders of the Thyroid:
There are several thyroid disorders that can affect the gland’s function. These include:
Characterized by an underactive thyroid, resulting in low levels of thyroid hormones. Common symptoms include:
- weight gain
- cold intolerance
Marked by an overactive thyroid, leading to excessive production of thyroid hormones. Symptoms may include:
- weight loss
- rapid heartbeat
- heat intolerance.
An enlarged thyroid gland (Gotire) is often caused by iodine deficiency or thyroid dysfunction.
Thyroid Nodules: Abnormal growths or lumps within the thyroid gland. They may be benign or cancerous.
Hashimoto’s disease and Graves’ disease are two common autoimmune disorders that affect the thyroid gland. They represent opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to thyroid function, with Hashimoto’s leading to hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) and Graves’ causing hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid).
Hashimoto’s disease, also known as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the thyroid gland. This chronic inflammation gradually damages the thyroid, leading to a decrease in thyroid hormone production.
Graves’ disease is another autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to produce antibodies that stimulate the thyroid gland to produce excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. This results in hyperthyroidism.
Overall, the thyroid gland plays a pivotal role in regulating metabolism, energy production, and various physiological functions. When it functions properly, it goes unnoticed, but when it malfunctions, it can have significant and far-reaching effects on an individual’s health and well-being. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for managing thyroid disorders and maintaining overall health.
Autoimmune conditions – why it’s common to have more than one
When your immune system is functioning optimally, it keeps you safe from viruses, bacteria, yeast, toxins, and even cancer cells. It mounts an immune response, generating antibodies that act as warriors to eliminate invading pathogens. It assembles cells to seek out and remove any foreign intruders that pose a threat to your health.
However, when an autoimmune disease takes hold, your body loses its ability to differentiate between its own healthy cells, unhealthy cells, and external invaders. Essentially, your immune system malfunctions. Attacking it’s your own healthy cells, tissues, and organs.
Poly-autoimmunity or multi-autoimmunity is where an individual has multiple autoimmune diseases. I often see this in clinical practice.
Factors that explain the increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases:
Several factors can explain why individuals with one autoimmune disease are at an increased risk of developing additional autoimmune conditions:
- Shared Genetic Predisposition
Many autoimmune diseases have a genetic component. Certain genetic factors can predispose individuals to autoimmune disorders. If someone has a genetic predisposition to one autoimmune disease, they may also be more susceptible to others. These shared genetic factors can increase the likelihood of developing multiple autoimmune conditions. However, we can often improve the outcome of our genetics (epigenetics) by making improvements to our environment, lifestyle, diet and nervous system stress.
- Common Underlying Mechanisms
Autoimmune diseases share some common underlying mechanisms, such as immune system dysfunction and the production of autoantibodies (antibodies that attack the body’s own tissues). When these mechanisms are dysregulated, they can lead to various autoimmune diseases. For example, abnormalities in the immune system that contribute to one autoimmune disease may also play a role in the development of others.
- Environmental Triggers
Environmental factors, such as infections, exposure to certain chemicals, and dietary factors, can trigger or exacerbate autoimmune diseases. If someone is exposed to multiple triggers, they may develop multiple autoimmune conditions over time. Additionally, the presence of one autoimmune disease may alter the immune response, making it more susceptible to other autoimmune triggers. Reducing exposure to mould, heavy metals, chemicals in air and water, and pesticides on food can all help improve autoimmune conditions as well as mcas and histamine intolerance.
- Autoimmune Cascade
In some cases, one autoimmune disease can trigger or contribute to the development of another. For instance, a person with one autoimmune condition may have an overactive immune response that leads to the production of autoantibodies against multiple tissues or organs, increasing the risk of developing additional autoimmune disorders.
- Compromised Immune Tolerance
Autoimmune diseases often involve a breakdown in immune tolerance, which is the body’s ability to distinguish between self and non-self antigens. When this tolerance is compromised, the immune system may mistakenly attack healthy tissues, increasing the risk of developing multiple autoimmune conditions.
- Chronic Inflammation
Many autoimmune diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation, which can affect multiple organs and systems in the body. Chronic inflammation in one area can contribute to systemic inflammation, potentially leading to the development of other autoimmune diseases.
- Age and Gender
Some autoimmune diseases have a higher prevalence in specific age groups or genders. As individuals age, their risk of developing autoimmune conditions may increase, and some autoimmune diseases are more common in either males or females. This can lead to the co-occurrence of multiple autoimmune conditions. It is more common to have an autoimmune condition if you are female and over 40!
How do autoimmune conditions relate to histamine intolerance or mast cell activation syndrome?
When our immune system is imbalanced as well as attacking the body’s own cells it can also mount a hyper-reactive or over-reactive response to things that are usually safe, such as foods, pollen etc. Mast cell activation is an immune imbalance in the same way that an autoimmune condition is. So we need to address the causes that are creating the overactivity of the immune system.
With mast cell activation our mast cells – part of the first line of defence of our immune system – are reacting to foods, things in our environment or stress and producing histamine and other inflammatory cytokines. Histamine can trigger pain when it connects to receptors on our nerves and contribute to inflammatory pain conditions.
As well as thyroid disease there are other autoimmune conditions that are commonly present and often linked to mast cell activation and histamine release. Autoimmune diseases can affect many areas of the body.
For instance, when it affects:
- the joints it is often called rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia
- the hormones, you can get Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s or Graves disease
- the gut, you might see coeliac disease or pernicious anemia (B12) and IBD
- the skin, we can get psoriasis, vitiligo or scleroderma
- the nervous system we see multiple sclerosis
- and other parts of the body such as Sorgen’s syndrome – the eyes and mucous membranes are impacted
You can read more about Histamine intolerance and Mast Cell Activation syndrome in this blog.
Poor gut health is also common to many autoimmune conditions, and it is also important to address any nutrient deficiencies that might also be prevalent due to this. Particularly with things like pernicious anaemia which is a type of anaemia characterized by a deficiency of vitamin B12. This is essential for the production of healthy red blood cells. This condition is primarily caused by an autoimmune reaction that targets the body’s own gastric parietal cells or the intrinsic factor, both of which are necessary for the absorption of vitamin B12 in the small intestine. Pernicious anaemia is a chronic and potentially serious condition that requires ongoing management.
Improving the health of the gut, reducing overgrowth of yeasts, mould or bacteria, restoring the gut microbiome and rewiring our nervous system to improve stress can all improve both Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), histamine intolerance and accompanying auto-immune conditions.
What can I do?
There are many things you can do to improve your health and your autoimmune conditions. Trialing a low histamine diet is one thing that can help reduce pain as well as avoiding processed and packaged foods and choosing an organic high vegetable diet.
Overall, when we do an assessment of your health, we consider all the factors, by looking at the body as a whole. Issues with hormones, thyroid health and other autoimmune conditions are common in my clients as well as histamine intolerance and mast cell activation syndrome. It is possible and important to address and support all of these conditions naturally, to improve every part of your body.
Struggling to get answers about your histamine intolerance symptoms?
Watch my free Masterclass – The 5 Steps to Healing from Histamine Intolerance.
You will learn my 5-Step plan, the exact same method I used to recover from histamine intolerance. These 5 steps everyone with histamine intolerance must know to resolve all those confusing symptoms and get back to eating foods you love without fear!