It’s 2 days before we may be sending off our stunningly beautiful, 2 year old German shepherd dog to her new home and I am struggling with the whole thing. She came to us probably too soon after our 13 1/2 year old Elle GSD and beloved fuzzy family member had to pass on. Elle was deathly sick so it was the humane thing to do to put her down. Steve and I both cried. Then along came Luna on a rescue website 10 days later and we were off and running in a caper that had more surprises and trials than we could have ever imagined! Now all I can do is sob some more when I think about where we have landed with our furry family members. Soon, both will be gone.
I am struggling again and largely bedridden most days. The drainage from chronic sinusitis is both gross and bloody; nausea has been profound and triggered by a recent ’bout with a cold then the flu. The convulsive episodes are stranger now, with an aura of spaciness leading into them that is atypical for me. Rescue remedies leave me with massive fatigue, if I have not already passed out when in bed. And shaking episodes of up to 20 minutes make it difficult to function even if I do happen to be upright when they occur. What keeps me from despair in this current downward trend is that there appears to be a causative effect of an allergy to our German shepherd dogs. Only as Elle was dying, inactive, and no longer shedding did all symptoms get better for about 2 weeks. My improvements continued as I removed older rugs and cleaned all of her favorite places in our home. And now as Luna enters her 3rd week with us, her gorgeous long hair and dander dropping everywhere, my health has headed into a significant decline. But I have never tested as allergic to dogs! What could be going on?
You know I share all this stuff because writing clarifies my thoughts and research findings. Perhaps there will be a secondary benefit of a fellow sojourner with chronic illness finding something in my story that resonates with him or her. More importantly, Gentle Reader, I hope you see the Lord’s hand working for good and His glory through the seemingly most impossible of circumstances. Ten years of virtually daily convulsive episodes and reactivity is hell to endure. I have tried to live around and through the shroud of pain and suffering, without losing my mind or life itself. Life’s lessons rarely come from the good times. Even so, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ IS GOOD, has a plan and a purpose for every paw print traipsed along the way: hers, hers, and my own. What if Luna is a gift from the Lord to show me how to get well? Would the tears of sorrow from losing one more thing give way to joy if I gain so much more in the end? My husband and I both are about to lose a fun, furry companion but he may re-gain his life partner, his wife! My activity level and health had dramatically improved during the week before we got Luna. What if I could be almost fully restored?
We can hope so, eh? Here we go again with some new ideas, some new notes:
Histamine is chemically classified as an amine, an organic molecule based on the structure of ammonia (NH3). In humans histamine is found in nearly all tissues of the body, where it is stored primarily in the granules of tissue mast cells. The blood cells called basophils also harbour histamine-containing granules. Once released from its granules, histamine produces many varied effects within the body, including the contraction of smooth muscle tissues of the lungs, uterus, and stomach; the dilation of blood vessels, which increases permeability and lowers blood pressure; the stimulation of gastric acid secretion in the stomach; and the acceleration of heart rate. Histamine also serves as a neurotransmitter, carrying chemical messages between nerve cells.
Histamine, is a prominent contributor to allergic disease. Elevations in plasma or tissue histamine levels have been noted during anaphylaxis and experimental allergic responses of the skin, nose, and airways. Thus although histamine is only one of many mediators of allergic disease, it plays a primary role in allergic rhinitis, urticaria, anaphylaxis, and to a lesser degree, asthma.
Hypersensitivity reactions (HR) are immune responses that are exaggerated or inappropriate against an antigen or allergen. Coombs and Gell classified hypersensitivity reactions into four forms. Type I, type II, and type III hypersensitivity reactions are known as immediate hypersensitivity reactions (IHR) because they occur within 24 hours. Antibodies including IgE, IgM, and IgG mediate them. There are tests for these antibodies, however, our Family Doctor states that these tests aren’t as accurate as they could be, creating false positives.
Other classes of disease including histamine include Mast Cell Activation Disease, dietary and digestive considerations, neurological and psychological conditions, migraine, brain trauma, and more.
Apart from its central role in the mediation of allergic reactions, gastric acid secretion and inflammation in the periphery, histamine serves an important function as a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system. The central histamine system is involved in many brain functions such as arousal, control of pituitary hormone secretion, suppression of eating and cognitive functions.
The central histaminergic actions are mediated by H1, H2, H3 and H4 receptors. The histamine H3 receptor regulates the release of histamine and a number of other neurotransmitters and thereby plays a role in cognitive and homeostatic processes. Elevated histamine levels suppress seizure activities and appear to confer neuroprotection. So far, H3 receptor antagonists/inverse agonists have garnered a great deal of interest in view of their promising therapeutic properties in various CNS disorders including epilepsy and related neurotoxicity.
The role of the brain histaminergic system in neuroprotection remains a challenging area of research that is currently under consideration. Based on recent findings, which include changes in H1 and H3 receptor expression in a KA-induced epileptic model, it has been proposed that the brain histaminergic system is involved in experimental SE (status epilepticus) and subsequent neurodegeneration (Jin et al., 2005; Lintunen et al., 2005). (Ibid)
Histamine is considered to be an anticonvulsive neurotransmitter as its low levels are associated with convulsions and seizures (Kiviranta et al., 1995; Chen et al., 2003; Hirai et al., 2004). In the review referenced here, an attempt has been made to scrutinize the recent experimental evidence that has evoked the possibility that the histaminergic system, via modulation of H3 receptor function, can be engaged to mediate a neuroprotective effect in epilepsy-related neurotoxicity and also to address the possible mechanisms involved. (Ibid)
H3 receptor antagonists (particularly Pitolisant and Ayurvedic preparations) appear to possess both anticonvulsive and neuroprotective and/or disease modifying activity as suggested in numerous experimental findings. But this could also occur from a non-histaminergic mechanism. On the basis of the substantial experimental findings generated so far, H3 receptor antagonists can be envisaged as having a therapeutic effect on epileptic and associated neurodegenerative disorders. (Ibid)
So herein we find a correlation between histamine, allergic reactions, and epileptic-type disorders. Now I don’t have epilepsy per se, as determined by several EEG studies. But I definitely have a biologic if not neurologic basis for a Convulsion Disorder that worsens with several distinct triggers and physiologic/chemical factors, not the least of which is the recent exposure to a significant allergen. As soon as Luna settled into our home, it felt like many different systems in my body went haywire including itchy skin and the gastric upset. I had fewer symptoms when away from home for a treatment at our local hospital on Tuesday. Elle was a short-haired dog and Luna is long-haired, active, and came to us in heat. Hormones don’t typically make a dog more allergenic, however pheromones might do all kinds of crazy things. Luna certainly had more of a scent during her first 10 days with us than we recall Elle ever having, even after bathing Luna and as her heat cycle continued. Luna also weighs 10 pounds more than Elle. The earliest we can have her neutered, per our vet is about a month from now. I really don’t know how I would make it until then as I am definitely reacting to her right now! Anyways, getting a dog spayed doesn’t change the allergens that reportedly come from her fur and saliva.
All of this is to say is that there may be a scientific reason that I cannot turn off an allergic, histamine reaction that may exacerbate a neurologic condition when that trigger remains in our living environment. There is a possibility of a loading phenomenon that occurred over the decade of serious illness when Elle was with us. My body got overloaded with so many medical insults that we didn’t notice the hidden allergy; I did have other signs of system overloads such as shingles and chronic headaches. Then just recently, the headaches diminished significantly by changing to a low tyramine diet! Who knew this could happen? It’s very similar to a low oxalate diet but years on a LOD made no impact on daily headaches that had worsened over the past 2 years. I would wake up every day with my head pounding before even trying to get out of bed. Another take-away here is that things do change over time. For this reason we must be vigilant to keep observing, continue researching, change our treatment protocols, ask questions, and seek the best sources we can find for help again and again. Is there more to know even a decade later? Yes, there certainly can be. And when all is submitted to prayer, then I have found that the Great Physician can order my steps through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Renewal is always possible.
Right after Steve and I started putting some of this story together, made our decision to put her up for adoption, and made Luna available on the same animal rescue site in which we found her, Steve got an email from a wonderful family who wants to meet her. They sound just like us in many ways. Perhaps we can serve as the dog foster parents for a formerly sheltered pup who blossomed under our care. I wish you could meet her, Gentle Reader. She went from being terrified of everything and everyone to wagging that bushy, bushy tail when you approach her soft brown eyes and smile that nudges your hand to pet her just a little bit longer. Scratch my belly! Seeing her running alongside Steve as he cross-country skiis is an awesome sight to behold! I wonder what she will be like after she gets her vaccines and runs free at a dog park, lap after lap after lap. Oh Luna bean, I do believe your best days are ahead of you.