Histamine intolerance often goes undiagnosed in many people, partly due to histamine’s wide ranging actions on various body systems. Histamine plays a number of essential roles in the body and particularly within the immune and nervous systems. It is involved in triggering the release of stomach acid to help digestion, as part of your immune response following an allergic reaction or injury and as a neurotransmitter communicating messages to your brain.
When levels of histamine become too high it can affect you in various ways and can cause an array of symptoms including headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, asthma, breathing difficulties, fatigue, hives, psoriasis, menstrual cycle irregularities, brain fog, ADHD, IBS, food sensitivities, nausea or other digestive issues. Severe cases of histamine overload may cause abdominal cramps, constipation, vomiting, anxiety, dizziness, high blood pressure or arrhythmia.
Diamine Oxidase (DAO) is the main enzyme responsible for the breakdown of dietary histamine and it is produced mainly in the kidneys and the thymus gland in the gut lining. If you have a low activity or deficiency of this enzyme you become more at risk of developing an accumulation of histamine in your blood.
When you ingest foods high in histamine or when it is released by cells that store it in the body, your histamine levels may become too elevated for your capacity to metabolise it, causing histamine to accumulate in the blood and cause adverse effects.
Maintaining a healthy intestinal mucosal lining helps to ensure sufficient DAO is produced to protect you against the absorption of too much histamine from foods and reduces the capacity for histamine to pass through the gut lining and trigger reactions in various body systems.
Histamine in Foods
Amines, including histamine are found in most foods in differing amounts and normally should be metabolised in order to be eliminated via the urine.
Foods high in histamine include preserved, processed and fermented foods with wine, beer, cured meats such as bacon, sausage, smoked salmon, ham, cheese and vinegar, (especially balsamic vinegar) and over-ripe fruits. Fresh fruit, vegetables and meats tend to be low in histamine.
There are also certain foods that may not contain high levels of histamine, however are often associated with triggering the release of your body’s endogenous histamine, that which is located in your body’s mast cells. These foods include milk, egg white, food additives such as glutamate, benzoate, food colourings, sulphites and nitrites.
High Histamine Foods
- Aged cheeses
- Canned and pre-prepared foods
- Chocolate and cacao
- Citrus fruits
- Pickled and canned foods
- Products containing yeast
- Rice vinegar
- Balsamic vinegar
- Preserved/cured meats
Low Histamine Foods
- Boiled or poached eggs
- Fresh meat
- Certain freshly caught fish such as trout and salmon (avoid canned fish)
- Rice and nut milk
- Apples and most fresh fruits, except citrus
- Olive oil
- Fresh vegetables, except tomatoes, spinach and eggplant
- Rice, quinoa, corn
Tips to reduce your histamine load
Enhance the integrity of your intestinal epithelial barrier (your gut lining) by avoiding known allergens and food intolerances which irritate and inflame the lining. Talk to your practitioner about the best supplement for you to help repair your leaky gut including L-glutamine, collagen, n-acetyl glucosamine, slippery elm, and marshmallow root.
Certain probiotics are also useful in dampening the histamine response, particularly the strains Bifido infantis, Lactobacillus rhamnosis GG, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium lactis and Lactobacillus plantarum. These probiotics are all useful in helping to either reduce your sensitivity to histamine or help to break down histamine in your body.
Feed your healthy bacteria and probiotic bacteria with prebiotics, the nutrients they need to thrive. Just some examples of prebiotic foods include Jerusalem artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, cauliflower, chickpeas, lentils and globe artichokes.
Supplement with vitamin C and quercetin to help break down histamine.
Take a B-complex vitamin that contains adequate amounts of B6 to help support DAO activity.