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The Histamine Effect

The Histamine Effect

Histamine Intolerance – fairly common, poorly understood

The Histamine Effect and histamine intolerance appears to be on the increase. What is it and what can you do about it?  Intolerance results from an excess or accumulation of histamine and how well your body can break it down.  Histamine is a natural substance produced and found in many body tissues especially the lungs, nose, sinuses, skin, intestinal mucosa and in certain blood cells (mast cells and basophils) and in many foods.

It’s not all negative. We need histamine to do a variety of things in the body.  An ideal amount helps with many things in the body. It is needed for neurotransmission (helping you focus), immune regulation, wound healing, natural day and night rhythms, gastric acid secretion (helps you digest your food & move your bowels) and increases muscle contraction (enhances exercise). Problems occur when we have too much. Too much of a good thing is not always good! This is the case with Histamine.

The Histamine Effect

The Histamine Effect

Signs and Symptoms

  • Irritated, itchy and watery eyes
  • Hypotension (drop in blood pressure)
  • Tachycardia (increased pulse rate, “racing heart”)
  • Symptoms resembling an anxiety or panic attack
  • Chest pain
  • Nasal congestion, runny nose, seasonal allergies
  • Itchy skin (especially eyes, ears, and nose), rashes or hives
  • Sinuses become congested and/or cause headaches
  • Lungs to wheeze or have spasms
  • Stomach cramps  and/or diarrhea as it increases permeability of the gut
  • Stimulates gastric secretion – indigestion
  • Headaches, migraines, nausea
  • Fatigue, confusion, irritability
  • Can contribute to dysmenorrhea (painful periods)

Remember a histamine reaction can be delayed and can be due to many things, not only histamine content in food.  It can also be caused by many allergens such as inhaling pollen, dust mites, dander, drugs (penicillin, aspirin), stinging insect venom, foods (egg, wheat, milk, seafood – also see list).  Fermented foods and aged foods may cause allergy symptoms because they are either rich in histamine or contain yeast or mold as part of the fermentation process.

The problem occurs when we don’t have normal functioning of the body or when the body is over-burdened in times of stress, high histamine foods or if your genes are not functioning at their best. Many of the signs of allergic reaction result from the ability of histamine to affect blood vessels, inducing increased blood flow, vasodilation and increased vascular permeability.

There are many factors that increase histamine.  It is important to address all of these to reduce the ’histamine effect’.  As histamine levels increase, your inner tolerance goes down. At this time the body needs to get rid of some.

Genetic SNP’s – The genetic SNP effects that can therefore predispose someone to greater histamine response are diamine oxidanse (DAO) or histamine N-methyltransferase (HMNT) which bind and breakdown histamine preventing excess. Check your Genetic susceptibility (including MTHFR, DAO, MAO, HNMT the main ones). One of the main causes of histamine intolerance is an impaired enzymatic histamine breakdown process caused by genetic function of DAO or HMNT.

Methylation – Impaired methylation whereby the enzyme (histamine N-methyltransferase) requires methylation to function properly for it to work efficiently. In other words, impaired methylation can decrease the breakdown of histamine. Ensure you don’t have nutrient deficiencies of the main cofactors of methylation including B12, folate, B6, B2, B1, Zinc, Cu, Magnesium.

SIBO and/or Leaky Gut – Not enough histamine-degrading bacteria – as discussed, the other day, gut dysbiosis (SIBO) can contribute to histamine intolerance and in the long run drive up inflammation in the body. This occurs as there are certain types of bacteria in the gut that assist in degrading histamine in the gut. It’s all about maintaining balance. Histamine-degrading bacteria include bifidobacteria species including Bifidobacterium infantis, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, salivarius, and Lactobacillus gasseri.

Medications – Some medications can facilitate histamine release, and can therefore reduce the effectiveness of the DAO enzyme. Histamine levels may increase resulting in histamine reactions, even though they may never have had a histamine reaction before. Common pain killers such as aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), some diuretics, antibiotics and antidepressants are among the medications that can affect the functioning of DAO.

According to a recent paper, migraine patient’s plasma histamine concentrations have been elevated both during headache attacks and during symptom-free periods. Many migraine patients have histamine intolerance from reduced DAO activity triggering a headache by food rich in histamine.

Elevated histamine concentrations and diminished DAO activities have been shown for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and colorectal cancers.

After eating high histamine rich foods or alcohol, asthma and nasal obstruction may occur. Which has been shown to be a low HMNT activity

Need to rid of Histamine?

  • Ensure you are getting a diet high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Take care with medications – antibiotics and antacids
  • Ensure you are getting plenty of quality sleep, reducing demands on the body including stress that may lead to adrenal fatigue
  • Ensure exercise regularly however excessive exercise and alcohol place extra demands on the body
  • Remove environmental triggers that cause stress – excessive exercise, dusts and pollens.
  • Avoid aged and fermented foods – soy sauce, kefir, yoghurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha
  • Avoid alcohol especially wine and beer
  • Processed, cured, smoked and fermented meats– bacon, sausages, salami, pepperoni, leftover meats
  • Avoid caffeine (especially coffee beans that are fermented)
  • Avoid lectins in the diet from potatoes and tomatoes.find your inner stillness

Some useful recommendation to treating lowered DAO activity include:

  • Vitamin B6- increases DAO activity
  • Vitamin C – increases histamine removal and breakdown
  • Increase pancreatic enzyme activity as this helps to breakdown histamine
  • Quercetin & Bromelain are – a powerful antihistamine, whilst quercetin is also anti-inflammatory
  • Several herbs that have high antioxidant, anti-inflammatory actions and there are others that assist in healing the gut. Here are some anti-inflammatory – Calendula, Chamomile, Licorice, Antioxidant – Hawthorn, Gingko, Bacopa, Ginger, Gastrointestinal – Golden Seal, Meadowsweet, Licorice.


Foods high in Histamine

High Histamine Foods

Histamine foods

Food Amount Histamine Content, mg
Dates 3 6
Red wine 175 ml 43
Alcohol 1 standard glass ie. beer 28
Strawberries ½ punnet 8
Tomato 1 6
Tomato paste 1 tablespoon (20g) 22
Capsicum 1/2 4
Chocolate 2 rows 9
Tofu 60 g 5
Tempe 60 g 7
Coconut milk ¼ cup 7
Coconut oil 1 teaspoon 2.5
Plain Yoghurt ½ cup 6
Grapes (dark) ¼ cup 3
Avocado 1 9
Cheese 2 slices processed 7
Soft cheese: brie, camembert 2x2cm square 6
Peanuts 30 g 8

As histamine has an accumulative effect on the body, if a person has an allergic response then ideally they need to keep their daily intake to 20mg/day or less.

Eat low histamine foods and see how you feel!

For a consultation with Naturopath, Nutritionist, Senior Lecturer – Karen Green phone 0400836254

More information:

Gaining Health Naturally Naturopathy Brisbane, Sunshine Coast Qld

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