Hives, IBS, Headaches: Are You Histamine Intolerant?

What is Histamine Intolerance?

Histamine is an amine that works in the body's immune system and helps regulate and protect the body from allergens. This important chemical is produced in our body and is also a natural compound in a lot of food, but our histamine levels are also affected by our diet and lifestyle. Although histamine is a necessary and helpful part of our body's defense system, when there is an excessive level of histamine, it can also result in negative effects and symptoms involving in the skin, digestive, respiratory, and cardiovascular system.

Histamine Intolerance (HIT) refers to your body's inability to break down histamine. This will happen when there is both a high level of histamines and a low level of diamine oxidase (DAO), which acts to process histamine from food. Often, people who begin to experience symptoms of histamine intolerance will mistaken it for a new allergy development since symptoms like are commonly associated with allergic reactions. Remember that is important not to self-diagnose and change your diet or begin taking medication without first having medical professionals confirm that you do have a histamine intolerance.

Histamine Intolerance Causes

Histamine intolerance is a perfect-storm condition. It is normal for there to be a number of elements that come together to lead to a regular insensitivity and reactions to high histamine foods. Examples of causes can include family genetics, gluten intolerance, IBS, inflammation from Crohn's disease, hormone changes, diet and lifestyle, lack of sleep, or medications (like a antibiotic) that have augmented the bacteria that naturally live in your gut.

For example, if you don't sleep well and don't exercise regularly, your immune system is already compromised and sets a foundation for poor health. Then if you eat a lot of high histamine foods and don't drink enough water, your intolerance becomes even more likely. Next, if you also consume foods that release histamines in your body, symptoms may likely occur.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

  • Rash, itchiness, hives, eczema
  • Itchy eyes or nasal congestion
  • Low blood pressure, dizziness
  • Headaches, migraines
  • IBS, acid reflux, cramps, diarrhea, vomiting
  • Heavy fatigue

Low-Histamine Foods

If you are histamine intolerant, the best thing you can do on your end is to lower the presence of histamine in your body by choosing foods and drinks with low-histamine levels. You can build your diet on these low-histamine level food items. Monitor how your body reacts to your meals, and remove anything that seems to be triggering you.

  • Fresh fruit - except strawberries and citrus fruit
  • Fresh vegetables - except tomatoes, cabbage and spinach
  • Fresh meat/fish - minimize canned meat
  • Oils - cook with EVOV, vegetable oils
  • Grains - quinoa, oats, rice, corn, rice noodles, millet flour, yeast-free rye bread
  • Coconut milk, rice milk
  • Herbal tea

Minimize These High-Histamine Foods

  • Alcohol - red wine, white wine, champagne, beer
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish
  • Smoked meat - ham, sausage, salami
  • Nuts - cashews, walnuts
  • Mature cheeses
  • Canned or pickled food
  • Beans - soy beans, peanuts, chickpeas

Histamine Liberators

These foods contain chemicals that release histamines in your body, and if you are histamine intolerant, you want to lower histamine hyperactivity. It can be helpful, along with avoiding high-histamine foods to also avoid histamine liberators.

  • Chocolate, cocoa
  • Citrus fruits - specifically lemon, lime, oranges, pineapple
  • Tomatoes
  • Cow's milk
  • Additives & preservatives - sulphites, nitrites, benzoate, food color dye, glutamate

Diamine Oxidase (DAO) blockers

DAO is primarily responsible for processing and breaking down histamine from food. When these enzymes are not working optimally, histamine is not properly broken down and accumulates in your body. Avoid the following drinks that make DAO less effective.

  • Alcohol
  • Black tea, green tea, mate tea
  • Energy drinks

Managing Histamine Intolerance

This list of the best foods to consume and avoid will play a big part of successfully managing your histamine intolerance. You may find it helpful to keep a food diary to keep track of what foods you react to and which ones are on your safe list. Your doctor or specialist may recommend antihistamine medications, topical corticosteroids or other medical products to help relieve symptoms when they occur. There are a lot of things to consider when learning about a new condition, so don't overwhelm yourself. Talk to your doctor about where to start and how to slowly work towards habits, diet and products that work for you.


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