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Feb. 23, 2023

Joanne Kennedy: Histamine intolerance and menopause

Do you know the signs of histamine intolerance?

Joanne Kennedy is a Naturopath and specialist in MTHFR, histamine intolerance, gut health (SIBO), and women’s hormones. 

Joanne runs a successful clinical practice in Sydney, Australia and sees patients online
worldwide. Joanne’s approach is to identify the root cause of illness. This is done by using functional pathology testing, assessing each patient's biochemical individuality, environmental exposures, and individual genetic testing if required.

In this episode you will learn:

  • The symptoms and signs of estrogen dominance and histamine intolerance
  • Why the menopause transition can elevate histamine levels
  • How Joanne can identify the causes of high histamine in your body
  • Detoxifying estrogen and reducing histamine-high foods can improve metabolic health and symptoms

Related episodes:
Maryon Stewart: Managing Menopause Naturally
Emily Foster: Menopause and Gut Health

Joanne's Links:
Managing Histamine Resources
YouTube Channel

Recommended Reading:
The Energy Codes by Dr Sue Morter

Where to find Sonya:
Take the Midlife Quiz
Stellar Women Website

You're invited to join the We Are Stellar Women community on Facebook, a free supportive space for all women navigating the menopausal transition. Click here to join.


[00:02] Sonya: My name is sonya lovell, and I am obsessed with helping women navigate the magical, messy, and, let's be honest, more hysterical moments of this thing called menopause. I'm a personal trainer and breast cancer survivor turned menopause coach. I help women understand what's going on, why, and what they can do to navigate the menopausal trail transition. This is the Dare Menopause podcast.

[00:31] Sonya: Joanne, thank you so much for joining me today.

[00:34] Joanne: You're welcome, sonya. It's great to meet you and to be here.

[00:38] Sonya: All right, how about you kick us off, introduce yourself to the listeners, tell us a little bit about who you are and why you're here to chat with us today.

[00:46] Joanne: Okay, so my name is Joanne Kennedy, and I'm a naturopath. I've got a clinic in Sydney, and I see patients globally on zoom all over the world. And I have a really niche area, which is histamine intolerance and MTHF. And when it comes to women's hormones, this is a really big deal because histamine intolerance is often driven by Eastern dominance, which will happen very menopause. And the way you detoxify your hormones is via methylation. That's one of the important pathways that we are looking at when we have Eastern detoxification. So I do a lot of women hormone stuff in my clinic, and also my patient base is 90% women. So, you know, inevitably, we're going to have that sort of the transition from, like, the pms stuff or pmdd into perimenopause into menopause.

[01:42] Sonya: Yeah. Cool. There's there's a whole range of years in there that you are obviously supporting your female clients.

[01:50] Joanne: That's right. That's exactly right. And in our modern world, with all the environmental toxins and the food chain being sprayed with toxins, it affects women's hormones greatly. So there are a lot of women suffering from bad hormonal imbalances.

[02:08] Sonya: So why don't we start there? I think that's a really good place to start, and I would really love it if you can actually just dive into what those hormone balance the women with the hormone imbalances, the estrogen dominance, when they present to you, what type of symptomology are you seeing, what are they presenting with?

[02:29] Joanne: Okay, so estrogen dominance will very much look like breast tenderness, bloating in fluid retention, low mood, and any histamine symptoms. This is interesting because it should increase histamine. So the histamine symptoms will be heightened anxiety, insomnia, headaches and migraines, nausea, vertigo and dizziness, a worsening of preexisting allergies or skin issues. And this can happen at Ovulation, which is when estrogen is at its highest peak, and then again just before your period when progesterone drops and estrogen is unopposed. So these are classic signs of estrogen dominance and then the histamine that's being driven from that.

[03:24] Sonya: Okay, now when I think of histamine, I think of allergy season and taking antihistamines. Yeah. Obviously the reaction in the body is similar to having an allergic reaction.

[03:40] Joanne: Yeah, that's right. But with histamine, when it's an allergy symptom, like hides, for instance, immediate breakout that's often due to something acute like pollen. Right. Being exposed to something that sets your immune system off very quickly. But what we now know about histamine is that it's made in the body and it is made as part of the inflammation cascade. And that can happen over 72 hours, whereby something that's causing inflammation chronically in the body, like bad gut bacteria, candida gluten will do it, is chronic inflaming the gut. This will cause histamine to be released over time. And you might not have an allergy reaction to that. It doesn't look like an allergy. It just more looks like the signs and symptoms that we see of what we now know is histamine intolerance. And we've got histamine receptors all over our body now. Respiratory chart, cardiovascular, gut, skin, brain, and then so many seemingly unrelated symptoms like migraines and eczema or migraines and reflux. Reflux is often histamine are coming from a chronic inflammatory state causing an increase in histamine. And due to chronic inflammation, your ability to break it down is also compromised. So it might not manifest as an acute it might just be more a chronic theme. This is why people can't pinpoint the histamine foods that are causing some of their symptoms because it's building up over time. And then the hormone link is so massive because not only does histamine increase estrogen, estrogen increases histamine. So sometimes it's a hormonal driver of histamine, not necessarily something that you ate.

[05:34] Sonya: Yeah, got it. And obviously that's when we start seeing those implications during perimenopause, when the estrogen and progesterone are on that rollercoaster. And obviously if you are having some histamine issues, they are going to be exacerbated during that period of time.

[05:51] Joanne: So often so on you, most women in perimenopause will be suffering from histamine symptoms even if they never had histamine.

[05:59] Sonya: Issues before in the past. It's really interesting because when you talk about the symptomology, I'm just sitting here going, yeah, that's something we talk about for perimenopause. That's something that we talk about for perimenopurs. So there's obviously a really strong link there between those not easily diagnosed, irritating kind of symptoms that kind of just bubble along that can be put down to. And it's one of the reasons why when we're talking to women about their perimenopausal symptoms, it's like, have everything checked out, whether it's by whoever your primary carer is, if that's a naturopath or if it's a GP, have them checked out because they can also be masquerading as something else.

[06:46] Joanne: Yeah, absolutely. When I started as a naturopath and started dealing with histamine and then all my female patients with their cycling hormones, I'm like, wow, I haven't given you any herbs for hot flushes. Your hot flushes have gone because you've got your histamines down. That's really your hormonal acne is gone. Because you've got your histamines down, your anxiety is gone. It's not necessary. Yes, low progesterone can cause anxiety but it also can be very much histamine.

[07:23] Sonya: Okay, so how can you check histamine levels? Is it something that you can have the pathology done to know where your histamine levels are, or is it something that requires a little bit of I'm going to treat you for this to see if that gives you the results that I'm hoping.

[07:41] Joanne: That's a great question. There are histamine blood tests available, but they don't provide an accurate diagnosis that you have a histamine problem. So people are like, what do you mean? So you can test histamine in the blood. Right. Histamine is broken down by methylation, and if your histamine is really high in the blood, then people are presuming that you have low methylation.

[08:12] Sonya: Okay.

[08:13] Joanne: Not necessarily the case. You might have high histamine in your blood because you have chronic gut issues, sibo, mold illness, et cetera. Right. And so that's interesting, and you can see a test of high histamine, but you really just need to be looking at the symptom picture because I've seen people with high histamine in their blood and no histamine symptoms, and I've seen people with low histamine in their blood, and they have hives. Right. So the testing just doesn't give you the picture. The symptom picture symptoms are classic, like hives. Classic issue with histamine migraines very often, especially if they're driven by estrogen.

[09:00] Sonya: So linked to your cycle of histamine.

[09:05] Joanne: Most of the time, sonia reflux is actually because it stimulates hydrochloric acid.

[09:11] Sonya: Okay.

[09:14] Joanne: Then we have vertigo and dizziness. Heart palpitations that are not driven from low iron is classic. nausea, motion sickness. And with the patient, most of the time, they're going to present with a few of these.

[09:30] Sonya: Yeah. Okay. So it won't be worth one thing in isolation.

[09:34] Joanne: It just makes some people I had a girl today, she just gets migraines, and she's always had the ovulation before a period. Like, it's classic.

[09:41] Sonya: I have a pt client in that exact scenario.

[09:44] Joanne: Yeah, it's just classic Eastern histamine. But most of the time, people will have headaches, migraines, they might get insomnia, they get some reflux, they have chronic gut issues, they'll have bad dms, et cetera. You can usually just see the picture. You just got to know the drivers of histamine, and when the patient presents the drivers as well, then that whole case picture is saying that histamine is a problem for them at this time.

[10:15] Sonya: Okay, cool. So once you've recognized that histamine is what's causing these issues, these ongoing concerns, how do you then treat the patient? What are your treatment options?

[10:30] Joanne: It's all about identifying the causes. Okay, so the main causes are gluten intolerance. Major gluten will really drive a lot of inflammation, and histamine in the gut SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth is a major cause of high histamine. We've also got helicobacter pylori. That will definitely cause an increase in histamine. Mould illness is really big for histamine issues, especially driving muscle activation syndrome. Which is a severe form. Oxalate toxicity is another major cause of histamine intolerance. And what is oxalates are interesting. So our body makes oxalate. Its real role in the body is why we need oxalate. It's not very well known, but we make oxalate. And when we can't break it down, it forms tiny, sharp little crystals. And these sharp crystals deposit in tissue. They deposit in joints, in the bladder, in the urethra, in the gut, and they cause chronic pain and inflammation.

[11:42] Sonya: So is this like gout?

[11:44] Joanne: No, it's different. They are what causes kidney stones, but they also can deposit throughout the body. And they're terrible, Sonya, and they're really bad. They make people very sick. They're disrupted by chemistry significantly, and they cause chronic inflammation. They're constantly causing inflammation, which will drive up histamine.

[12:07] Sonya: Okay.

[12:09] Joanne: I've got a girl, Melanie, working for me, who does the mold and oxalate stuff. Mold? The body will make oxalate when it's dysbiotic, when you've got a really bad gut, it can do that. It's also in a lot of mold species, contain oxalate as well. It's quite awful. So it oxalates drive up histamine and then absolutely irritable bowel disease, crohn's, ulcerative colitis will do it. And absolutely estrogen off the top of my head is a major driver. So you've got to work out what the driver is. You can't just put someone on a low histamine diet. It'll help with symptoms, but it's not going to fix them. I do a lot of microbiome testing. You can also get an overgrowth of histamine producing bacteria in the large bowel. And I also do a lot of sibo testing. sibo is a major driver of histamine. And then hormones. For me, I'm so symptomatic with hormones. It's the rise and fall, the cycle and the symptoms. It's the clinical picture and the case of a patient. For me, most of the time with understanding hormones and just knowing that the age of the late, the woman, like, if you're 49, it's like you're perimenopause. All of a sudden, you're having all these histamine symptoms. It's obviously driven from your hormones. But there's a lot of functional medicine tests that we can do to actually look at the drivers, and then we need to fix what is causing it. And most of the time, you can get on top of the problem.

[13:44] Sonya: Okay, so when it is a hormonal problem, obviously we're here to talk about mostly perimenopausal and menopausal, women. So if it is identified that it is an estrogen driven reaction creating the histamine, what is a treatment option then? What are the kind of processes that you would go with the woman?

[14:06] Joanne: Okay, if that woman doesn't have significant gut issues, she doesn't have gluten intolerance, she doesn't have sibo, her bowels are working really well, then it really is a matter of detoxifying estrogen, which I do with the use of calcium deglucate. I really, really love that because it works on detoxifying estrogen. Quite very well. So we do that. We also make sure the woman is making as much progesterone as she can. Okay? And one of the key things we need to understand about progestone is that it's excreted from the corpus luteum. So the corpus luteum, the corpus luteum is created at Ovulation and it's created from the dominant follicle. So you need to have a healthy dominant follicle, because if you have a healthy dominant follicle, then that corpus blue team is going to be more robust and it's going to be able to support as much progesterone production as possible. And how you support follicle quality is anestheticine is brilliant at supporting follicle quality. So Anestheticallystein for follicle quality, you make.

[15:16] Sonya: Sure you that's knack, isn't it? nap. That's an amazing supplement.

[15:21] Joanne: Amazing. And then you make sure that you're detoxifying your estrogen. I really love calcium deglucate and then I make sure I've got the nutrients in place. For progesterone, Iodine is essential zinc, B, six iron, vitamin D, like vitamin D, is really, really important. So making sure you are supporting the production of progesterone as much as possible whilst detoxifying your estrogen.

[15:49] Sonya: Right?

[15:49] Joanne: So what a lot of people are doing is they're just taking progesterone support natural and synthetic, and they're not detoxifying the estrogen, so they're not really getting any improvement with their symptoms because impairment menopause, your estrogen can go three times higher than when you were younger at that point.

[16:08] Sonya: Yeah, it can be crazy. Hence why some women get such extreme symptoms and fluctuations in moods and brain fog. systemically, our whole body is impacted by those fluctuations of estrogen. So that's really interesting. And I think the other thing that you touched on there, that is something that is so important for women is to really get that full picture of their metabolic health and to be looking at all of those the iodine and the B, twelve S and your vitamin D, and understanding how important all of those metabolic markers are in getting a picture of where else you can be supported to really be as healthy and future fit as you possibly can be.

[17:00] Joanne: So true. I've had patients recently that they're very periodic metaphorsal and they've got low mood and low motivation, but they're low in iron in vitamin D, and getting that up helps them significantly. You got to look at all of that stuff in combination. You can't just blame hormones. You just got to be looking at all of those other markers when they're helping your hormones. But if they're low, you might not suffer so badly when you're like 20, but when you're in the perimenopaus phase, it all adds up to making you a worse transition. But one thing I also say, sonia, is getting the histamine foods down during that perimenopausal phase. If you're really suffering from histamine and historian symptoms can really help you. It's a symptomatic symptomatic, but it can significantly help with your symptoms while you go through that transaction. Tell us what foods I mean it's wine, isn't it? So it's alcohol but it's fermented foods are very, very high. They contain histamine.

[18:13] Sonya: Sorry, we're talking about reducing those.

[18:15] Joanne: Yeah, I mean for women that are getting severe hot flushes or migraines, they're debilitating. You can remove histamine foods from your diet and have a significant improvement in your symptoms and you might just need to do it for a couple of years whilst you're going through that transition. Not all women do, but if you're suffering with migraines that are coming at ovulation before your period that are debilitating removing histamine foods for a few years out of your diet, it's going to really help you because you can't stop the fluctuation, you can help detoxify, but you can't stop it. Fermented foods are super high histamine and they live things like avocado, banana, tomato, citrus fruit that are high histamine as well. It just depends on how sensitive you are to how much you get to reduce.

[19:13] Sonya: Yeah, I think the obvious one and I talk about a little, a lot. I stopped drinking twelve months ago and one of the reasons why I stopped was, well I have two reasons but my first one, they should reroute the other way, but they're not. My first one was that my hot flushes were out of control and I would literally have a glass of wine and flush from head to toe instantaneously. And so I started drawing that, joining the dots if you like, and going hang on a second, there's got to be a link here. Also, as a cancer survivor it's much better for me to reduce my alcohol to reduce my risk of recurrence. So as I said, they should have been around the other way but they weren't. But yeah, so many women that I speak to that are still in those perimenopausal years using that wine as that crutch that cool down at the end of the day thinking that it's going to make them feel better and help them sleep better. But in fact it's having such an opposite effect on them it really heightens.

[20:16] Joanne: Anxiety, hot flushes, night sweats and it contains histamine and it destroys the gut. Alcohol really does. inflame the gut. I've read this one glass of wine increases Asian, the blood like 70%, like it's significant, huge amount, it's really big. And then it slows down your liver which detoxifies your estrogen. So it contains histamine. That increases estrogen like the alcohol increases estrogen. It slows the liver that hinders estrogen detoxification and it inflames the gut which pulls more histamine. It is unfortunately the thing that just makes you way worse. That's the thing we all want to go for. I get it.

[21:04] Sonya: Is it just wine or is it alcohol in general?

[21:09] Joanne: Red Wine is hiring, is to be named white wine, red wine, beer. Obviously you're much better off having some white spirits like a vodka soda. I know lime is high histamine. But splash a lime just a little bit is much better than a full blown cup of histamine. You're drinking a cup of so you're drinking a cup of estrogen, which sounds great, but women don't really get that it's not low estrogen yet. It's high estrogen, and then it's flat. Alcohol is just not great during that transition.

[21:47] Sonya: No, it's really not. Yeah, it really isn't. All right, so what else would you like to share with women that are listening, that are in their perimenopausal menopausal years?

[21:57] Joanne: Yes. So it's not often that I'll see a patient whereby their histamine is just driven from a hormone changes. They usually have preexisting issues that are going to drive up their histamine, and they might have always suffered from it, but it's just getting way worse in perimenopause. And this is gut stuff, sonia. This is the key to human health. It's so important. And if you have bloating indigestion, if you have reflux heartburn belching. If your bowels aren't perfect, there's something going on with your gut, whether it's from your diet or from a bacterial overgrowth, sibo being the most common. Then you really need to get on top of that in your early 40s, because if you do that, your transition through perimenopause will be a lot easier because you're going to get your histamine cut down. Right. You'll get rid of any dimbotic bacteria, you'll understand? What if if it is glue, if you're getting bloated, you're inflamed. Very simple, right?

[23:05] Sonya: Yeah.

[23:06] Joanne: If it is gluten and sugar, you need to get your diet right so your histamine bucket is not too high. Right? And so when you're moving into that transition, you don't have all this histamine that all of a sudden is causing massive issues with your hormones and bowels. You need to have really great bowels. It all comes down to gut. The other thing is the amount of stress women put on their bodies really can hinder that transition into menopause. Like, I have seen women push themselves physically with running, excessive amount of moments a day, body building, excessive exercise. It just depletes them so bad. And it disrupts their gut microbiome a lot, and they crash and it's very, very, very hard for them to get back up. And they particularly crash in dhea and testosterone. And that causes major issues with fatigue and muscle loss, which they've always tried to have against them. So adrenal fatigue, fatigue, muscle mass, poor muscle mass, massive brain fog, libido, stuff like that. Is that excessive exercise? I'm talking women that are pushing like, the tri bonds and the ten K runs and bodybuilding and way too many weights.

[24:34] Sonya: So it's that and oftentimes, from my perspective as a personal trainer and my experience in the fitness industry, there's a huge connection as well between being overtrained and underfed.

[24:47] Joanne: Yeah, okay. Yeah, of course. You see that a lot. Yeah, you would.

[24:53] Sonya: So much and so much of it is also driven by the body image issues that we have as women, that are driven by the fitness industry and the beauty industry and, you know, the fashion industry and all of that. It's such a cycle that women get trapped in this. You know, I need to over exercise, but I've got to undereat because if I do those things, I'll maintain this tiny body that I've had since I was 20 and the amount of women that I see and that I speak to and they come to me and go, I want to look like I did when I was 20, or I want to body back to what it was like when I was 30. Come on, you're 50. This is just not realistic. And it's breaking so many bodies as a result.

[25:47] Joanne: Yeah. And these women, it becomes to a point where they have chronic fatigue and you can't really reverse it. Yeah. I don't know. I do chat to my patients about just going easier on themselves and letting go. And you're fighting nature. You meant to put on fat for estrogen, which is protecting you, protecting your brain and your bones and your organs and your organs, and we've just got to embrace it. And you know what? Most men don't care. Most men just like women. I always say that to them.

[26:22] Sonya: They do it. I don't necessarily think that women do it for men. I think a lot of the pressure comes from other women or their perception of what other women.

[26:36] Joanne: Is that right? Yeah. We live in a crazy world, like that crazy society. I just think it's a shame because women grow into themselves during that fat in their 50s. So much to offer the world and so much to live for. And if you're fit and healthy and you've got some estrogen in your fat tissue, then you're going to have a better time. That's what I think.

[27:04] Sonya: I agree.

[27:08] Joanne: A little bit more plump and have your wits about you and your brain function, and you've got energy. A lot of my friends have gone through metaphors feel fantastic. They've gone through it and they've put on a bit of weight, but they've got better energy. They don't get pms. They're able to work, they're able to travel more because they've got more energy, they're able to work more. They feel amazing. So that little bit of weight gain to have some estrogen is well worth it, I think.

[27:38] Sonya: Yeah, that's a really good point and I'm glad you brought it up, joanne. It's been amazing to chat with you. Was there anything you wanted to leave us with? How can anybody that's listening that might be interested in perhaps having a consult with you or learning more about you, how can they find you?

[27:54] Joanne: So my website is joanne Au, so you can read. I've got lots of blogs, lots of video content. It links to my YouTube video content is all that they can listen. I've also got my booking if you want to see me for a consult, you can book in online. And I've actually got an e bundle, which is an ebook. If I 100 pages, it's quite long ebook and a video masterclass all on his domain intolerance. So it covers all the hormonal part of that, too. So that's also available on my website.

[28:28] Sonya: Beautiful. I will link through to all of those in the show notes as well so that anybody can find you that is interested in learning more about histamine and that impact that it has on estrogen. And I think that's so important. joanne, I wrap up all of my interviews by asking my guests the same question, and that is, what are you reading, watching, or listening to right now that is bringing you joy?

[28:52] Joanne: I'm reading a book called The Energy Codes by Dr. Sue mortar. No, it's a fascinating read. And she talks about how she links the shark system to breath, basically. And I've been doing this for about a week, only for a week, and it's allowed. It's increased my energy, it's increased my focus. It's a bit woohoo, but she talks about how and it's not weird because it's actually physics, but how energy we are all energy, and it gets compressed into our body, and you can draw universal energy into your body and crazy stuff is happening. I will think something like, I want an American practitioner to work for me. And I had an American practitioner contact me that day by email.

[29:50] Sonya: I love that.

[29:51] Joanne: I know it's a bit wu, but I love it because it's working. So Dr. Sun mortar, the Energy Code, I can't do it justice to explain what she talks about because it's quantum physics. On your quantum physics.

[30:07] Sonya: Yeah, it's cool. I love physics.

[30:09] Joanne: But how we bring energy, universal energy, into our body and how we can.

[30:15] Sonya: Store it, and then we can tap into it.

[30:18] Joanne: Store it and tap into it. But I love it because she gives you the tools to do it, the actual exercises to do it.

[30:23] Sonya: That's amazing. All right, I will definitely be linking through to that in the show notes as well.

[30:28] Joanne: Thank you. You should read it for yourself.

[30:30] Sonya: Yeah. I'm thinking it's going to also add to my increasingly large bedside table stack of books that just keeps getting bigger instead of smaller. joanne, thank you so much for your time. I've loved your chat. I've learned so much. I hope the ladies have as well. Thank you for joining me.

[30:47] Joanne: Right. Thanks, sonya.

[30:52] Sonya: Thank you for listening today. I am so grateful to have these conversations with incredible women and experts. And I'm grateful that you chose to hit play on this episode of Dare Menopause.

[31:05] Sonya: If you have a minute of time.

[31:06] Sonya: Today, please leave a rating or a review. I would love to hear from you because you are my biggest driver for doing this work. If this chat went way too fast for you and you want more, head over to Au podcast for the show notes. And while you're there, take my midlife quiz to see why it feels like midlife is messing with your head.