Histamines are an organic chemical compound naturally produced within our body. It is involved in our immune system, central nervous system, and for proper digestion. The immune system produces histamines in response to allergic and inflammatory reactions. A problem can occur if someone has difficulty processing the chemical (can’t break it down to remove from the body) or if the body produces too much of it.
Histamines are produced by a type of white blood cell called mast cells. Mast cells are concentrated to the eyes, sinuses, skin, urinary tract but are also active throughout the body including the brain and GI tract. This is how histamine affects so many parts of the body and can create a range of symptoms that can be hard to track and diagnosis histamine intolerance.
The following are some common signs of a histamine intolerance:
Eyes to itch, burn, or become watery
Nose to itch, sneeze, and produce more mucus/nasal congestion
Skin to itch, develop rashes or hives, flushing
Diarrhea and abdominal cramps
We discussed that our body produces Histamines but in addition, it is also found naturally in a variety of foods. There are foods which are histamine rich, histamine releasing, and DAO blocking. The body has 2 enzymes that primarily break down histamine; DAO (diamine oxidase) and HNMT (histamine N-methyltransferase). DAO primarily breaks down histamine in the gut/ingested histamine. Each of us will have a different capacity to produce DAO, either by genetic variability or it could be limited due to intestinal damage like leaky gut, SIBO, gluten intolerance, IBD, and possibly medications to name a few reasons.
In order to identify if histamines are a problem or you know you have a histamine intolerance, it is always a good idea to work with us as a team to develop the best plan for you. Most likely your plan may include:
- Keeping a food journal to identify any triggers
- Following a low histamine diet for a little while, track symptoms or disappearance of them and then re-introducing the foods one by one. Most people may discover they don’t have to eliminate all high histamine foods but certain ones, a certain combination of foods, or there is a tolerable limit. It is impossible to avoid histamine all together.
- Support healthy enzyme function
- Treating underlying causes that are exacerbating the problem (ex Leaky Gut). Overall gut health can determine the body’s ability to break histamines down and eliminate them.
The treatment goal is trying to find the root cause for your Histamine Intolerance. In many cases, it may be possible to reverse histamine intolerance by healing the gut or removing whatever is inhibiting DAO activity.
Please see below for a more detailed list on the Low Histamine Diet which will include a list of Histamine rich foods, histamine releasing foods, and DAO blockers.
Alcohol of any kind
Fermented/aged meats (salami, sausages, pepperoni, lunch meat, hot dogs, canned meats/fish)
Fermented beverages (kombucha)
Fermented dairy (yogurt, kefir, sour cream, buttermilk, cottage & ricotta cheese)
Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, natto)
Fish and seafood, especially if leftover, smoked, salted, or canned
Soy sauce, tamari, coconut aminos, liquid aminos
Spoiled food/old leftovers
Vinegars/Vinegar containing foods (olives, pickles, mayonnaise)
Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, grapefruit, oranges)
Legumes ( especially soy, red beans)
Nuts (especially walnuts, cashews)
DAO Blocking Foods: