Histamine Intolerance

Histamine is a neurotransmitter that communicates important messages from your immune system, digestive system and your brain and central nervous system. As part of proper digestion, it is a component in stomach acid, which is needed to break down protein foods in the stomach.

For those who experience an immediate inflammatory response caused by a histamine reaction that produces allergy symptoms, either to something in the environment or in food, there are antihistamine medications. The histamine buildup produces a headache, flushed feeling and itching skin; in the mouth or on the external skin. If you don't break down histamine properly, you could develop histamine intolerance.

Histamine travels throughout the bloodstream, causing internal and external skin reactions, including the gut, lungs and skin, as well as the brain and cardiovascular system. The wide range of problems it creates are difficult to diagnose and usually just medicated. However, medications like histamine blockers that may seem to help short term, actually deplete Diamine oxidase (DAO) levels in the small intestine, which is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine. DAO deficiency increases and the use of antihistamines create greater histamine intolerance and a vicious cycle.

Medications that cause low DAO
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
Antidepressants (Cymbalta, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft)
Immune modulators (Humera, Enbrel, Plaquenil)
Antihistimines (Alegra, Zyrtec, Benadryl)
Histamine (H2) blockers, (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac)

Diamine oxidase in the small intestine is low at birth and increases gradually with age, reaching a peak at adulthood. Then it maintains normal levels in healthy individuals. When the villus mucosa is damaged, there is a progressive decrease in the enzyme activity as diamine oxidase activity levels fall. DAO activity is a unique marker for mucosal integrity.

Gluten intolerance
Leaky gut
Allergies (IgE reactions)
GI bleeding
Diamine Oxidase (DAO) deficiency
Histamine-rich foods
DAO blocking foods - alcohol, energy drinks and tea
Genetic mutations common in people of Asian-descent

High histamine foods and histamine releasing foods include:
Canned foods and ready meals
Ripened and fermented foods (mature cheese, wine, beer, products containing yeast, pickled, smoked, old fish).
Beans and pulses - chickpeas, soy, peanuts
Nuts and seeds - walnuts, cashew, sunflower seeds
Chocolate and cocoa products
Vinegar (mayonnaise, olives, pickles, salad dressing)
Soured foods - sour cream, buttermilk, sourdough bread, sauerkraut
Salty snacks
Anything with preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, etc.
Additives - benzoate, sulphates, nitrates, glutamate, food dyes
Processed meat products - bacon, lunch meat, ham, sausage, jerky, hot dogs
Tomato, spinach, avocado, egg plant, mushroom, pea, peppers, wheat germ
Histamine liberators: Most citrus fruits - kiwi, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, tangerine,
Some fruits - pineapple, red plums, papaya, strawberry, raspberry, mango, banana, dried fruit - apricot, dates, figs, raisins, prunes
Uncooked egg white
Aged cheese
Foods containing yeast, serve as a catalyst for histamine generation during manufacture.
Old food -

DAO blockers: alcohol
Black tea
Energy drinks
Green Tea
Mate tea

Low histamine foods:
Fresh or frozen meats and seafood (excluding shellfish)
Fresh or frozen meat and poultry
Fresh or frozen fish
Whole non-gluten grains
Fresh pasteurized goat milk products
Extra virgin olive oil
Most leafy herbs
Cooked whole eggs
Fresh fruit - pear, apple, peach, fresh fig, black plum
Fresh or frozen vegetables (except those listed above)
Sprouted almonds and pumpkin seeds

Headache / migraines
Difficulty falling asleep, easily aroused
Vertigo or dizziness
Arrhythmia or accelerated heart rate
Nausea, vomiting
Nasal congestion, sneezing, difficulty breathing
Abnormal menstrual cycle
Tissue swelling

How to treat Histamine Intolerance?
Remove high histamine foods while addressing the root cause; leaky gut.
"Fresh" high quality food is best. As food ages, histamine levels increase. Don't leave food out of the refrigerator and if food is going to be in the refrigerator more than 24 hours, freeze it.
Supplement DAO with each meal.
If medication is causing or contributing to histamine intolerance, work with your physical to wean off these medications is essential.
Once the gut is healed, you should be able to eat foods that are biocompatible with your blood type. Read that article in the Health Blog.

There is no such thing as a histamine-free diet. Keep a food diary and eat low histamine foods that are in accordance with your threshold.
This information is given as a form of "guidance" and should not be considered as anything more than that. You have to decide for yourself what is the best course of action for your body and see how it works for you. One size does not fit all when it comes to health and nutrition. Other variables factor in and can change things for every individual. People can have multiple intolerances. Commencing an elimination diet without professional guidance is not advisable.

If you have questions, email johnna@wholefamilyhealthandnutrition.com to schedule your free introductory consultation. I look forward to serving you. JVW