Do you feel like you are constantly suffering from random gastrointestinal disturbances or a congested, runny nose that makes you keep a tissue box near you at all times? To make it even more complicated, do your symptoms occur randomly with no apparent pattern? Do they happen after eating? Do you ever feel flushed in the face, break out in hives or endure terrible headaches that hit you out of nowhere? Does your nose block up in the middle of a meal? Well, at the root of your symptoms, a histamine intolerance may be the case!
Statistics show that about 1% of the population suffers from histamine intolerance, and to make matters worse, about 80% of those individuals are middle-aged. That means peri- and post-menopausal women may think they’re having a hot flash, when in fact they are having a “histamine attack.” What is most frustrating for many people is that these symptoms often go undetected or misinterpreted by many practitioners.1
This is what you need to know about Histamine Intolerance:
Common Histamine Symptoms
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Chronic Constipation
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Flushing of the Face
- Runny Nose
- Problems with Menstrual Cycle
- Low Blood Pressure
- Symptoms may immediately follow eating
So, “What is histamine?” you ask? Histamine is an organic chemical signal produced by mast cells in your body in response to immune signals that is responsible for the symptoms we typically label as “allergies.” However, it can also naturally occur in certain foods and certain beverages. The biggest culprits are fermented and aged drinks and food.
Say it’s a night out with friends, you reach for that piece of cheese and sip on a glass of red wine. The next thing you know, you’re flushed in the face and endure a debilitating headache. So why did something that taste so good and seem so harmless make you feel so horrible?
Well, this is one major sign that histamine intolerance may be at the root of your symptoms. Why? Because your body is unable to break down the histamine in the food fast enough, so you develop all the typical symptoms that histamine causes. There are two enzymes that break down histamine. N-methyltransferase (HMT) breaks histamine down in the central nervous system. The other enzyme, diamine oxidase (DAO) is produced in the gut and responsible for the breakdown of food and histamine degradation.
Check out the following list with foods high in histamine.1
Common Histamine Foods and Drinks
- Pickled or Canned Foods
- Aged Cheeses
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Meats (Smoked Sausage, Smoked Ham, Salami)
- Walnuts and Cashews
- Chickpeas, Beans and Peanuts
Keep in mind that certain foods and beverages can enhance the reaction of histamine or block the action of DAO.1
Foods that Free Up Histamine (thus increasing histamine in the body)
- Citrus Fruits
- Wheat Germ
- Additives: Glutamine, Nitrites, Sulphites, Food Dyes and Benzoate
DAO-Blocking Foods (thus increasing histamine)
- Green, Black and Mate Tea (sorry tea lovers!)
- Energy Drinks
When an individual lacks DAO to properly metabolize and de-activate histamine in the gut, the body then reacts to this excess histamine. Often, this results in a cascade of symptoms (listed above) that mimic an allergic response, and these symptoms seem to come from nowhere.2
The next question is, why is your body histamine intolerant? It would make life much easier if you weren’t dealing with this, especially at a hormonal transition period. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the foods and beverages on the Avoid List? If you fit the bill for histamine intolerance, then you are either producing too much histamine in your body or your ability to break it down is impaired.1
What causes overproduction of Histamine?
Overproduction of Histamine
- GI Bleeding
- Leaky Gut
- Gastrointestinal Diseases
- Gluten Intolerance
- Ingestion of Histamine (Food and Drink)
- Impaired enzymatic function of DAO
- AND Medications that Block DAO Function
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Ibuprofen, Advil, and Aleve)
- Antihistamines (you know these as Allegra and Zyrtec to name a few)
- H2 histamine blockers (like Pepcid and Zantac)
There is a solution to histamine intolerance. Take these steps to address the root cause of your suffering and start living symptom free.
The Histamine Solutions
- Keep a Food Diary
- Keep track of what you eat, note any reactions and check the lists above to see if you consumed any histamine-provoking foods or beverages.
- Heal the Gut
- Address a leaky gut
- Supplement with DAO
- If the gut is leaky or there is another reason you may not be producing DAO to break histamine down, supplementing with DAO can reduce the histamine load on your body and reduce symptoms related to consuming histamine-releasing foods and beverages.
- Eat a Low Histamine Diet
- Fresh Poultry and Meats
- Freshly-caught fish
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
- Coconut Milk, Almond Milk and Hemp Milk
- Leafy Herbs
- Herbal teas
- Olive Oil and Coconut Oil
Hope this helps you make sense out of your symptoms, and start on the path towards proactive healing. I’d love to share more strategies to heal your gut and optimize your health with my free Quick Start Guide to a Happy Gut.
- Maintz, Laura, and Natalija Novak. 2007. “Histamine and Histamine Intolerance.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85 (9). 1185-1196
- Wöhrl, Stefan; Hemmer, Wolfgang; Focke, Margarete; Rappersberger, Klemens; Jarisch, Reinhart. 2004 “Histamine Intolerance-Like Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers after Oral Provocation with Liquid Histamine.” Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, 25 (5). 305-311