Do you ever experience random headaches or migraines? Do you ever feel as though your tongue is swelling when you eat certain food? Or maybe you have skin rashes, eczema, diarrhea, itchy eyes, runny nose or congestions? When noticing such symptoms, many of us simply assume them to be seasonal allergies or caused by other minor reasons. However, one of the explanations behind such symptoms can be a condition called histamine intolerance.
What is Histamin Intolerance?
Histamine is a natural compound that can be found in different food containing the amino acid “histidine”. In addition to this, however, it is also an important amine produced by different cells of the immune, gastrointestinal and neurologic systems. Histamine is actually a signaling molecule that communicates information between cells and receptors in the body, stimulating many different processes.
A few other Histamine functions:
- It is an element of the immune system and the body’s inflammatory reaction, making it a part of our protective mechanism against infection, insect bites etc.
- It also works as a neurotransmitterin the brain and controls the sleep-wake cycle.
- It regulates physiological functions in the gut and the production of gastric acid.
In a healthy person, once histamine has done its job, it is broken down by certain enzymes. In some cases, however, the body may be unable to deal with the histamine that it has generated or consumed. The enzymes may not be able to break down the molecule for a number of reasons, such as genetic mutation, reduced amount of enzyme activity, nutrient deficiency or simply an imbalance between the consumption of histamine-rich food or food that naturally blocks enzymes.
Interestingly, one of these important enzymes called DAO is produced in the gut. So, if intestinal function is compromised there may not be enough DAO to degrade the histamine normally. This is why, very often, people who have an issue with their gastrointestinal systems are also prone to other symptoms representing histamine intolerance.
Nowadays, it is also becoming evident that children with autism have a tendency towards histamine intolerance. Because the brain has cells that trigger the release of histamine as a response to neurotensin, this can cause autoinflammation leading to headaches, ‘brain fog’, and other neurological symptoms so often associated with ASD.
Note that histamine intolerance is not a true food allergy since it comes from the body’s inability to clear the cumulative buildup of histamine. Because of this, the symptoms may not be immediate and it may, therefore, be difficult to identify a particular food as the trigger. As the mechanism of histamine intolerance is different from any food allergy and is not mediated by antibody IgE, a standard allergy test will not able to recognise it.
If you think you may have histamine intolerance, a food diary is the essential tool necessary for exploring this possibility further.
You need to monitor the following:
- Food rich in histamine
- Food releasing histamine
- DAO enzyme inhibitors such as alcohol, tea (black, green, mate), and various energy drinks
Food rich in histamine:
- Fermented food: sauerkraut, kombucha, fermented dairy including yogurt, kefir, sour cream, soy sauce, fish sauce
- Vinegar and Vinegar-containing food: pickles, olives, mustard
- Cured meats: bacon, salami, hot dogs, sausage
- Aged, dried, jerky, smoked and less fresh meat and fish, as well as anchovies and mackerel
- Aged cheese
- Nuts: Peanuts, walnuts, and cashews
- Vegetables: avocados, mushrooms, aubergine, spinach, and dried tomatoes and tomato sauce
- Dried fruit and citrus fruit
- Long/slow simmered and roasted food: such as bone broths and pot roasts
- Fermented alcohol: wine, beer, brandy, port, sherry, rum, champagne
- Probiotic supplements
Food releasing histamine:
- Nuts and peanuts
- Fruit: Papaya, Pineapple, Strawberries
- Artificial preservatives and dyes
If you notice a correlation between the consumption of the above products and your symptoms, I would suggest:
- Trying a temporary low histamine diet.
- Working on supporting and strengthening your immune system.
- Working on your gut health.
- Look into supplement support with your practitioner.
- Adjusting your cooking methods to lower the levels of histamine in your food (cook your broth for a shorter period of time, avoid slow cooked food, eat fresh meat instead of frozen and avoid leftovers).
Should you have any questions or feedback, please email me your comments!
Photo by Alex Guillaume