Antihistamine medication reduces IBS symptoms

Female digestive system

Researchers at the University of Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium have published a new study in the journal Gastroenterology on their findings that antihistamines may be the answer for those suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome [1].

As I shared in the Low Histamine 101 Guide, while it has long been known that IBS sufferers have higher than average levels of histamine in the bowels, till now the exact cause of the extreme sensitivity of the bowels was unknown.

Now a KU Leuven gastroenterology team have shown that histamine in the gut affects the TRPV1 pain receptor, causing increased perception of pain. The researchers found that histamine interferes with the histamine 1 receptor, which is located on nerves that contain TRVP1. The researchers used the treatment on a relatively small sample group and found that using the second generation antihistamine ebastine blocked the H1 receptor on the nerves, meaning less TRPV1 sensitivity and therefore less pain. They are planning a larger scale follow up to confirm their findings [2].

Scroll down to the bottom of the post for my favourite antihistamine foods that block the histamine 1 receptor (but please remember, most food studies are conducted in test tubes or on animals and may not apply to us humans). 

You can read all about the link between mast cells, “leaky gut” and Crohn’s in my post here.

IBS is a crippling disorder for many, affecting up to 15 percent of the US population (over 23 percent world wide), with about two in three sufferers being female [3].

You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook


The National Health Service in the UK advises that symptoms include:

  • abdominal pain and cramping which may be relieved by passing stools
  • changes in bowel habits (swinging from loose to constipated)
  • bloating and swelling of the stomach
  • flatulence
  • urgently needing the toilet
  • mucous in stools
  • backache
  • bladder problems
  • pain during sex
  • incontinence

They note that the symptoms of IBS can significantly impact lives and have a deep psychological impact resulting in anxiety and depression.

Enhanced signalling/perception has been on my mind since my recent interview with Harvard and Tufts neuroscientist Dr. Michael Van ElZakker. We discussed his hypothesis that in chronic fatigue (CFS) an infection in the vagus nerve, which is responsible for telling the body how ill it actually is, causes an exaggerated sickness response. While it’s now accepted that chronic fatigue may be caused by a viral infection, Dr. Van ElZakker believes the location is the key.

I have often felt that when my body was on high alert, anything that went into my stomach caused a reaction, pretty much regardless of what it was, and I speculated that the nerves in my stomach were somehow feeling “raw” , activated, or somehow amplifying the effects what should be the harmless process of digestion. It gave me courage to persist in eating healthy foods despite experiencing some reaction and I experienced great results by eating a diet almost entirely made up of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties.

I never, ever, ignored moderate to strong reactions and please understand that this is not medical advice nor do I recommend that you do as I did because we are starting from different places and may be dealing with different issues. 

What I did eventually understand was that at times my brain could cause a reaction, one just as strong and terrifying as any food could have. Read all about how the amygdala may be preventing you from re-introducing foods or causing reactions here. 

As for the IBS. Who here reading this blog hasn’t suffered all the aforementioned symptoms of irritable bowel? Certainly I have, and I’m surprised to see quite a few there that I had not remembered were linked. A long term change in diet, full of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods took care of nearly all the symptoms and what was left was alleviated by a lower oxalate diet (which I cover in my low oxalate cookbook).

Beet: reduces histamine induced inflammation and help clear up arthritic inflammation as well as a commonly prescribed medication. Acts as an antihistamine/H1 receptor antagonist (like Claritin for example) thereby exhibiting anti-asthmatic properties [4].

Onion: is one of the richest sources of histamine lowering quercetin [5].

Nigella sativa seed: antihistamine that repairs gastric damage (and as such is potentially an H2 receptor antagonist like Zantac), exhibits H1 receptor antagonism [6].

Ginger: works on the H1 receptor to treat and prevent motion sickness [7].

Please remember high FODMAPS foods may be an issue for some. 

You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook












Check out these other Healing Histamine blog posts


Yasmina was an award-winning broadcast journalist with a decade of experience covering war zones for CNN and the BBC. She devoted her journalism skills to researching and writing about histamine. Click here to learn about her. Each post is carefully and fully referenced with the latest scientific research. Not sure where to start? Here’s a four week meal plan and overall Histamine Reset.

4 Week Histamine Reset

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