Many individuals have signs of histamine intolerance and benefit from avoiding high-histamine foods. Symptoms of histamine intolerance often mimic allergy symptoms and may include rash, hives, headache, rosacea, diarrhea, postnasal drip, runny nose, itchy eyes, low blood pressure, asthma, sinus symptoms, flushing, slow or irregular heartrate (1).
A histamine intolerance develops when too many histamines in a body accumulate and exceed the body’s ability to break them down. Histamine is typically broken down in the gut so signs of histamine intolerance can often point to leaky gut. Therapies that help identify the root cause of leaky gut and then help repair and heal the gut lining can be instrumental in overcoming a histamine tolerance. The bacteria in the gut also generate histamine, and some species of bacteria generate more histamine than others. Therefore, a histamine intolerance may also be a sign that the bacterial balance in the gut is off, this is called “gut dysbiosis”. In this case, stool testing that identifies the root cause of a gut imbalance is valuable in rehabilitating the gut and overcoming histamine intolerance. The Digestive Cleanse and Critter Cleanse in the Body Tune-up are helpful strategies for improving gut health in these areas as well. Histamines are also affected by hormones whereby estrogen dominance leads to higher histamines. Therefore, testing and balancing hormones may also be helpful in managing histamine intolerance.
While working to address the root cause of a histamine intolerance, it can be helpful to follow a low-histamine diet. Histamine is formed as a breakdown product in perishable food, in microbial fermentation and maturation processes, and in the ripening of fruit. Even some vegetables are naturally histamine containing, although very fresh (2). Histamines are highest in:
Fermented or microbially ripened products (for example, alcoholic products, vinegar, yeast, bacteria)
Perishable fresh produce with inadequate / uncertain freshness
Canned or processed foods
Kept warm or reheated food (especially fish, meat and mushroom dishes).
Avoid these high-histamine foods (2):
• Fish, if not freshly caught or frozen
• Meat, if no longer fresh such as sausages and dry-cured meats
• Aged cheese, processed cheese (histamine increases with aging)
• Any fermented food, like Sauerkraut and Kimchee
• Tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, avocado
• Alcoholic drinks, fermented fruit juices, kombucha
• Vinegar, pickled vegetables
• Soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce
The foods and additives listed below can release endogenous histamine from certain cell types in the body (like mast cells). This mechanism is independent from poor breakdown of histamines discussed above and even can happen in a healthy person if they eat too many:
• Alcohol (ethanol)
• Nuts (walnut, cashews)
• Seafood, shellfish, crustaceans
• Chocolate, cocoa
• Tomatoes, ketchup, tomato juice
• Citrus fruits
Often a supplement that works as a natural anti-histamine can help provide relief from symptoms in an individual with histamine intolerance. I suggest either Natural D Hist by Ortho Molecular (they have a nice version for children known as D-Hist Jr) or Histo-X by Apex Energetics as natural supplements that are often very effective in bringing relief!
1. Maintz, L & Novak, N., 2007 Histamine and histamine intolerance, Am J Clin Nutr. May;85(5):1185-96
2. Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI). Leaflet Histamine Elimination Diet. Simplified histamine elimination diet for histamine intolerance (DAO degradation disorder)Version 2015-10-16