Tell me if this sounds familiar.
A child is sitting at the kitchen table doing their homework or drawing a picture and they can’t get it right. Frustrated, they scrunch up the page and throw it away in frustration. They may throw in a tantrum or some hostility and rudeness for good measure. The work always has to be perfect.
For kids who have a perfectionist streak, this may be the standard operating procedure. No big deal. But for kids who struggle with mood and behaviour, this might be a clue that their behaviour is being affected by a particular biochemical process that has a direct impact on their mental wellbeing.
This process is a characterised by a change in a biochemical pathway in the body called the methylation pathway. Without getting too technical, when this pathway is not working optimally we see a change in the creation, release and breakdown of neurotransmitters, and following that, a build up of a specific neurotransmitter called histamine. And this can be what’s helping to create the piles of scrunched up homework on the floor.
As a parent and health practitioner I am constantly interacting with kids. I have become very good at picking “high histamine type” kids. They look like this:
Prone to addictions like sugar and screen time
Prone to experiencing allergies
The striking thing I see is that they are often kids who are just putting way too much pressure on themselves. Their mood changes then begin to look like depression, anxiety, insomnia and/or an inability to cope with stressful situations.
So what is histamine?
Histamine is an amine that is released from mast cells as a part of allergic reactions in people and also has a role to play in gastric secretions. In the brain it functions as an excitatory neurotransmitter one that revs you up. Histamine helps control behaviour, it increase stress hormones and decreases our calming neurotransmitter, GABA. It also plays a role in controlling the sleep-wake cycle, energy metabolism, thermal regulation (how hot or cold we feel) and fluid balance.
When in balance, high histamine types are highly intelligent, productive and tend to be very successful in work and life. It is when histamine builds up that we see mental health challenges arise.
What you can do
In order to understand if a build up of histamine is playing a role in mood problems for your child, you can run investigations with a general pathology lab. Testing for serum folate, active and total vitamin B12, homocysteine and blood histamine is a great starting point to identify if your child is in fact a “high histamine” type.
The good news is, this is a manageable condition. When we have identified histamine as the problem, we are well placed to create a treatment plan which supports your child and helps turn around the short tempered responses to everyday situations. And that’s a win for everyone.