095: Can Histidine Supplementation Help Leaky Skin & Eczema? [RESEARCH]

If you’re interested in a neat connection between nutrition and eczema, look no further!

I came across this interesting study that begins to illuminate the histidine-eczema connection.

If you’ve never heard of histidine before (or l-histidine), I’ll bring you up to speed in a moment on this really interesting amino acid.

This isn’t a miracle substance by any means, but there is interesting research that’s starting to explain the importance of protein in our diet (which you know I talk a lot about)!

Low protein diets can have a negative impact on health AND your skin.

Today’s episode will share with you how histidine may be a missing piece on your eczema and leaky skin journey!

Or, listen on your favorite app: iTunes (Apple Podcasts) | Spotify | Stitcher | TuneIn

In this episode:

  • Research on the histidine-eczema connection
  • What is histidine (also more formally called l-histidine)?
  • Food sources and supplements of l-histidine
  • Can histidine supplementation increase histamine levels?
  • Other nutrients needed to support histidine

Quotes:

According to the data, researchers found a dramatic improvement in eczema “similar to that of using mid-potency topical corticosteroids.”

Histidine is an amino acid that is not synthesized or made in the human body. This means that you must consume it in order to have access to it.

Scientific research into Histidine

Can Histidine Supplementation Help Leaky Skin & Eczema? [RESEARCH] (FULL TRANSCRIPT)

Welcome back to episode #95 of the Healthy Skin Show!

In today's episode, I want to talk about whether supplementing with a very specific amino acid called l-histidine can help improve skin barrier function.

And if histidine can ultimately help you rebuild healthier skin when you're dealing with something like eczema.

This episode was inspired by a study that I came across a while ago and a number of clients have also asked about it. So I figured I would look deeper into this and give you a more complete overview of it.

Before we dive into this research, we must first talk about how this topic is even connected to the skin barrier function.

The focus here is on the gene called profilaggrin (which has been discussed on the Healthy Skin Show before by Dr. Lio).

The gene codes for a protein called filaggrin. Think of filaggrin like mortar mix that’s sandwiched between your skin cells.

It helps to create this really nice tight barrier with many purposes including moisture retention.

It turns out that filaggrin is actually very histidine-rich!

About 10% of filaggrin is made up of histidine. That's a good thing because histidine is considered to be hygroscopic, meaning that it readily absorbs moisture from its environment.

Filaggrin ultimately plays a role in creating what's called the Natural Moisturizing Factor supporting your skin’s hydration and appropriate acidification of the skin.(1)

Scientists from the histadine eczema study

Histidine-Eczema Connection

Let's talk about the research especially since we know that people who are deficient in histidine can develop rashes!

This study was a very small study of only 24 people and all of whom had a diagnosis of atopic dermatitis (eczema).

All participants were over the age of 18. No one was taking corticosteroids or immunosuppressant drugs nor pregnant. They did a good job finding appropriate candidates for this study.

But again, it is a small study so it doesn't necessarily mean that these results will work for everyone.

Each study participant was given 4 grams of l-histidine which they then dissolved in a morning drink. Ideally when taking free amino acids, you can maximize their absorption by taking them on an empty stomach away from other food.

The supplementation was over a period of four weeks.

According to the data, researchers found a dramatic improvement in eczema “similar to that of using mid-potency topical corticosteroids.”(1) This supplementation was able to elicit about a 40% drop in eczema scores.

For those of you wondering whether you have a SNP in your profilaggrin gene…

While Dr. Lio has shared that it doesn't really matter whether you have a profilaggrin SNP or not, the study authors mentioned it in relation to histidine supplementation. While they don’t have any hard data, they believe that adding the additional histidine would benefit people who are heterozygous or homozygous.

All in all, I'd say that it's a pretty neat piece of research right there. We certainly need to do more, but it's a great start!

Food sources of amino acids

All About Histidine To Support Skin Barrier Function

Now that we’ve covered the research, let’s talk about histidine!

Histidine is an amino acid that is not synthesized or made in the human body. This means that you must consume it in order to have access to it.

In infants, histidine is considered an essential amino acid because its supply is quite low at that point in development.(1) Therefore, it must be consumed through breastmilk or formulas.

FYI — before doing any supplementation in babies and children, speak with your pediatrician or practitioner first to make sure it's the right fit for your child.

Supplementation that can be helpful for adults may not be advisable for children and infants.

Sources of histidine include(3): 

  • Dairy products
  • Meat products (beef, lamb, poultry, fish, gelatin)
  • Tofu
  • Beans (Navy beans, peanuts)
  • Seeds (squash, pumpkin)

Your body does have a natural reservoir of histidine found in hemoglobin and carnosine.

Perhaps you may recall that hemoglobin is found inside of your red blood cells that help latch on to oxygen molecules to be carried around your body. Carnosine is found in skeletal muscles.

You can tap into your histidine reservoir if need be, but that doesn't mean that it will always be full. 

If you do not consume any histidine, your stores will drop pretty quickly. For example, over a 48-day period, researchers discovered that storage levels will drop to “about 38% of the initial value”.(2)

That makes consuming histidine incredibly important!

Keep in mind that histidine isn’t only used for your skin. So as stores diminish, your body has to juggle what systems it will be used for.

Histidine is required for hemoglobin production (which is frankly more essential to life). Without adequate hemoglobin, it is difficult to transport oxygen throughout your body and simultaneously remove carbon dioxide.

And one last point about this study…

While no one seemed to experience any negative side effects, be aware that histidine breaks down naturally into histamine.

If you struggle with a lot of allergic issues, I would discuss histidine supplementation with your allergist or practitioner first to make sure that it's the right fit for you.

Food sources of Zinc

Other Nutrients To Support Histidine Levels

And last but not least, I wanted to point out that just histidine requires other nutrients in order for your entire body to be properly supported.

Other nutrients to consider supporting for healthy histidine levels:

  • Folate
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Riboflavin

Appropriate levels of folate are also required to support appropriate levels of histidine. It also helps prevents urinary loss of histidine since your kidneys have a difficult time reabsorbing this amino acid.(2)

Zinc can become be stripped from albumin and trigger depletion of tissue stores.(2)

To break down the histamine produced from histidine, there are two options available to your body which both require other nutrients.

Copper and riboflavin are both required for your liver to clear histamine.(2)

The other breakdown pathway of histamine is through methylation.(2) That’s a lengthy topic that I will not cover here.

Keep in mind that before you start any supplementation, you should always discuss it with your doctor or practitioner first. This way you make sure that there's no potential negative interaction that could cause a problem.

I'm curious to hear what you think of this particular study and if you're willing to give this a shot. Leave a comment below!

Share this episode with someone you know who's dealing with really dry skin from eczema. Or they're using a lot of topical steroid creams and they'd love to start tapering off and be less reliant on them. This could really help them!

I appreciate you for tuning in and I look forward to seeing you in the next episode.

REFERENCES

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5634381/
  2. Lord RS, Bralley JA. Laboratory Evaluations For Integrative And Functional Medicine. Revised 2nd Ed. Duluth, GA: Genova Diagnostics; 2012. Pg 209-211.
  3. https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-histidine-foods.php

According to the data, researchers found a dramatic improvement in eczema “similar to that of using mid-potency topical corticosteroids.”


Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS

Jennifer Fugo, MS, CNS is an integrative Clinical Nutritionist and the founder of Skinterrupt. She works with women who are fed up with chronic gut and skin rash issues discover the root causes and create a plan to get them back to a fuller, richer life.


Follow Us

Medical Disclaimer

Skinterrupt offers health, wellness, fitness and nutritional information which is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace, professional medical advice, diagnois, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health care professional. Do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining medical or health related advise from your physician or other health care professional because of something you may have seen or read on our site, or in our advertising, marketing, or promotional materials. The use of any information provided by Skinterrupt is solely at your own risk.

Nothing stated or posted on our site, or in our advertising, marketing or promotional materials, or through any of the services we offer, as intended to be, and must not be taken to be, the practice of medicine or counseling care. For purposes of this disclaimer, the practice of medicine or counseling care includes, without limitation, nutritional counseling, psychiatry, psychology, psychotherapy, or providing health care treatment, instruction, diagnosis, prognosis, or advice.