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When you experience a runny nose or itchy tongue after eating certain foods, or have unexplained headaches or migraines, or your face flushes after drinking red wine, then you may have a histamine intolerance.
Lydia and I did a recent podcast all about histamine intolerance — listen to that here. In preparation of that podcast, I had to do some research on the topic since it was one that I was not yet familiar with.
I love learning new stuff and figuring out how/if I need to implement changes into my life. I am not certain if I have histamine issues, but it’s definitely something to be aware of and pay attention to as I continue through my healing journey.
It’s pretty exhausting to constantly see long lists of foods that you should and should not eat. I too am tired of it — everyone under the sun seems to have ideas about what we should avoid and what we should consume.
I’m not here today to tell you that you have to go on a low histamine diet. I’m just here to share some basic info on histamine intolerance and see if it helps you narrow down on foods that may be triggering negative reactions in your body.
How Histamine Affects Your Body
Histamine is a neurotransmitter that sends important messages to the brain from the body. This chemical is involved with your digestive system, immune system and central nervous system. It also aids in the breakdown of food in the stomach as part of the stomach acid.
But you are probably most familiar with histamine when it comes to your immune system. When anyone experiences seasonal allergies, they will notice a “flare up” during a certain time of year. That’s because the body is signaled to cause an inflammatory response when it feels threatened by any potential attackers. The body’s natural response is to cause the blood vessels to swell or dilate so that the white blood cells can fight off any infections or problems. That’s when you may experience feelings of being flushed, itchy or get headaches.
However, when your body doesn’t respond properly and break down histamine, you can develop a histamine intolerance. As histamine travels through your bloodstream, it can affect your brain, lungs, gut, skin, and cardiovascular system that can extend to a variety of health problems.
Common Symptoms of a Histamine Intolerance:
- Abdominal cramps
- Acid reflux
- Arrhythmia or accelerated heart rate
- Asthma-like symptoms
- Chest pain
- Chronic headaches/migraines
- Digestive tract upset
- Nasal congestion, sneezing, difficulty breathing
- Runny nose
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Vomiting or nausea
The Low Histamine Diet
Aside from your body producing histamine, there are foods that contain histamine naturally, activate the release of histamine, or obstruct the enzyme that breaks down histamine. Here is a list of high-histamine foods and histamine-releasing foods to consider avoiding if you have (or suspect) a histamine intolerance.
High-Histamine / Histamine-Releasing Food List:
- Most citrus fruits
- Dried fruit: dates, figs, prunes, raisins, apricots
- Vegetables: spinach, eggplant, tomatoes, avocados
- Nuts: walnuts, peanuts, cashews
- Cured meats: bacon, lunch meat, hot dogs, salami, pepperoni
- Smoked fish and certain types of fish: tuna, mackerel, mahi-mahi, sardines, anchovies
- Aged cheese including goat cheese
- Beans and pulses: chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts
- Vinegar and vinegar-containing and pickled foods: olives, pickles, mayonnaise
- Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, sourdough bread, etc.
- Fermented foods: vinegar, soy sauce, kombucha, kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, etc.
- Alcoholic beverages, especially wine, beer and champagne
- Chocolate and other cocoa-based products
- Processed / pre-packaged food with preservatives, artificial coloring, etc.
On the other end of the scope, here is a list of low-histamine foods that do not cause an increase of histamine in your body.
Low-Histamine Food List:
- Most cooking oils
- Egg yolks (egg white is debatable in the histamine intolerance community)
- Alternative dairy products: almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, hemp milk
- Pasteurized dairy products: milk, cream, cream cheese, butter (aged cheeses tend to be high-histamine)
- Freshly cooked meat, poultry (cooled, frozen or fresh)
- Freshly caught fish
- Fresh vegetables (except tomatoes, avocado, eggplant and spinach)
- Most leafy herbs
- Fresh fruits: apples, pears, grapes, watermelon, kiwi, mangos, cantaloupe (except strawberries)
- Most non-citrus fruit juices
- Gluten-free grains: rice, quinoa, rice noodles, etc.
- Herbal teas
The Breakdown of Histamine
“Once formed, histamine is either stored or broken down by an enzyme. Histamine in the central nervous system is broken down primarily by histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT), while histamine in the digestive tract is broken down primarily by diamine oxidase (DAO). Though both enzymes play an important role in histamine break down, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition found that DAO is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine. So if you’re deficient in DAO, you likely have symptoms of histamine intolerance.” Source
Some of the more common cause of DAO are: leaky gut, gluten intolerance, certain medications and foods that block DAO like tea, alcohol and energy drinks.
Treating Histamine Intolerance
If you think you have a histamine intolerance, there are a few ways you can find out: blood tests, a food elimination diet or the low histamine diet.
The easiest way to treat this type of sensitivity is to remove high histamine foods from your diet for about one to three months, and possibly adding a DAO supplement. But you really need to work with your physician to find the root cause of your intolerance. You may have to slowly take yourself off certain medications if it’s the cause, for example. If you have a leaky gut or can’t eat gluten, you may need to start a regime to heal your gut.
Just remember, though, that you may not have to avoid these types of food for the rest of your life, just for a short period of time until you get back to optimal health.
- Probiotics and Histamine Production?
- Is Your Body Antihistamines?
- Histamine Intolerance, MTHFR and Methylation
- Histamine Intolerance Awareness