Histidine is one of the most abundant amino acids in our body. It plays a major role in many physiological processes such as energy production, protein synthesis, cell division and other metabolic functions.
The main function of histidine is to provide energy for all the biochemical reactions. If not utilized properly, it will cause damage or even death.
Therefore, its importance cannot be underestimated.
However, there are some conditions where excessive amounts of histidine may lead to toxicity. These include:
1) Overly high doses of histamine (from food products, drugs etc. )
2) Abnormally increased levels of histidine (metabolic conditions, genetic mutations etc)
In the following sections, we shall discuss these in detail.
What are the conditions that cause increased levels of histidine?
As mentioned above, there are several possible conditions that may lead to an increased histidine levels in the body. They include:
a) Metabolic conditions: One such condition is ‘histidine ammonia-lyase deficiency’, which is a genetic disorder.
Due to a decrease in the level of a particular enzyme, the body is unable to break down excess amounts of histidine. As a result, increased levels of it are found in the body, which leads to neurological symptoms, such as intellectual disability, hypotonia (muscle weakness), seizures and others.
b) Genetic diseases: Some other health conditions that are caused by abnormal increases in the levels of histidine include:
* Lesch-Nyhan syndrome, which is a rare disease that is caused by a mutation in the ‘HGPRT'(hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyltransferase) gene. It is characterized by a number of symptoms such as developmental delays, behavioral problems, involuntary movements and bone fractures.
* Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency, which is also a genetic disorder. It is caused by an inefficiency in the ‘ORNT’ gene that produces a particular enzyme.
The condition is associated with a variety of symptoms such as low blood pressure, heart problems and kidney stones.
Besides these conditions, several other diseases may also be caused by abnormal increases in the concentration of histidine.
What are the conditions caused by excessive doses of histamine?
There are several health conditions that may be caused by excessive amounts of histamine in the body. They include:
a) Anaphylaxis: This is a serious condition that occurs due to an extreme release of histamine in the body. The symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, difficulty in breathing etc.
Anaphylaxis may sometimes lead to death.
b) Urticaria: This condition is characterized by the appearance of hives on the skin. It is also known as hives.
The affected skin may be red and swolen. It may sometimes turn purple or blue.
c) Angiodema: Also known as angioedema, this is a health condition that is caused by the swelling of the deeper layers of the skin. It mainly affects the lips, genitals, hands and feet.
The swelling may be so extreme that it may affect the ability of an individual to breath.
d) Asthma: This is a condition that affects the lungs. It is characterized by recurring episodes of breathlessness, wheezing and coughing.
Allergies are known to trigger this condition.
e) Urticaria pigmentosa: This is a rare condition that is caused by an excessive release of histamine in the body. It is associated with hives that have changed in color.
f) Isolated angioedema: Also known as hereditary angioneurotic edema, this is a condition that is caused by swelling of various parts of the body. It mainly affects the skin, mucousal membranes and internal organs.
What are the symptoms of increased levels of histidine?
The symptoms of an increased level of histidine in the body may vary depending on the cause leading to it. Some of the common symptoms include:
a) Difficulty in breathing
b) Pain in various parts of the body
c) Dizziness and fainting spells
d) Stomach pain
e) Nausea and vomiting
g) Sneezing and coughing
i) Itching, among others.
Treatments for increased levels of histamine
The specific treatment options for a particular disease or condition will depend on the underlying cause that has led to an increase in the concentration of histamine. In some cases, the symptoms may be treated by taking anti-histamines and other drugs as advised by your doctor.
Research is still ongoing to find more advanced and effective treatments for conditions that are caused by increased levels of histamine.
Prevention of increased levels of histamine
While there is no specific way to prevent excessive amounts of histamine in our body, we can certainly try to avoid allergens and other triggers that can lead to allergic reactions and thus an increase in the concentration of histamine in our body.
a) If you know that you are allergic to certain substances, your best bet is to avoid them. This can be achieved by reading food labels on packaged foods and avoiding anything that you might be allergic to.
You should also try to limit your exposure to any substance you are allergic to, if possible.
b) If you know what is causing an allergic reaction, try to take an anti-histamine immediately.
c) If you know you are prone to allergic reactions, make sure you always carry your anti-histamine with you at all times.
d) Always keep yourself hydrated.
e) Try your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis.
f) If you are experiencing a severe allergic reaction, seek immediate medical attention.
Take care of yourself and be healthy!
Sources & references used in this article:
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- Inborn error of histidine metabolism (H Ghadimi, MW Partington, A Hunter – Pediatrics, 1962 – Am Acad Pediatrics)
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- Toxicity of Copper, Cobalt, and Nickel Salts Is Dependent on Histidine Metabolism in the YeastSaccharomyces cerevisiae (DA Pearce, F Sherman – Journal of bacteriology, 1999 – Am Soc Microbiol)
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