- 1 The Role of Histamine – Nutrition Can Fix Your Histamine Intolerance
- 1.1 What is Histamine?
- 1.2 What Causes High Histamine Levels?
- 1.3 Common Symptoms Related to Histamine Intolerance
- 1.4 Diagnosis
The Role of Histamine – Nutrition Can Fix Your Histamine Intolerance
I really wanted to explain the role of histamine and how high levels of this chemical, can cause very similar, if not identical symptoms as a food allergy and/or food intolerance. I explained in my article “Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergy”, that a food allergy is the reaction of the immune system. The immune system releases an excess amount of histamine along with other chemicals, to fight the food allergen that has been ingested. So if you become histamine-intolerant it can be as a result of an allergy, but also to other conditions that cause the over-production of histamine. I want to discuss this here, because symptoms of histamine intolerance mimic that of an allergy, so it can be difficult to seperate the two. Understanding the role of histamine and how the levels of histamine are largely affected by nutrition, can help you maintain your levels of histamine and healthy level.
What is Histamine?
Histamine is involved with the central nervous system, hence the brain, the immune system and the digestive system.
I am sure you have heard of anti-histamine medication to help with seasonal allergies that cause sneezing and itching? Well it is because histamine caused these symptoms through the immune system. It is an inflammatory response to a foreign substance it detects as an allergen. So histamines are trying to protect and defend you. But just like the stress hormone cortisol also is released to protect you in response to an immediate stress, a prolonged response can be toxic.
Any response by the body, that lasts over a longer period than normal, or releases an excess of chemicals, becomes toxic, leading to inflammation and imbalances in the body.
When histamines are released, they travel through your blood stream and affect your digestion, your gut health and the signals it transmits to the brain.
What Causes High Histamine Levels?
I want to focus on what causes high levels of histamine because one of the causes is the foods you eat. You should be aware of what foods can help or worsen histamine levels.
As mentioned, allergies and food can increase histamine levels. Other causes are:
1. Bacterial overgrowth called Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
2. Bleeding of your gastrointestinal tract
3. Diamine Oxidase (DAO) deficiency. DAI is the main enzyme that breaks down histamine in your body.
What Causes Low Levels of DAO?
1. Certain foods block the production of DAO, such as:
- Energy drinks
- Black tea
- Mate tea
- Green tea
2. Certain medications block the production of DAO, such as:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
- Immune modulators
- Histamine (H2) blockers
It is important that if you are experiencing symptoms similar to histamine intolerance or food allergy, and that you are taking one of these categories of medications SPEAK directly with your doctor before stopping or changing medications. A diagnosis must first be determined, as it may simply be a food allergy or a lack or excess of certain foods in your diet.
- alcohol, especially wine, champagne and beer
- fermented foods such as sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, and kombucha.
- dairy products
- dried fruits
- processed or smoked meats
- aged cheese including goat cheese
- Vinegar-containing foods: pickles, mayonnaise, olives.
- Soured foods: sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread, sauerkraut
- Most citrus fruits
- Certain vegetables such as avocados, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes
- Smoked fish, shellfish and certain species of fish: mackerel, mahi-mahi, tuna, anchovies, sardines
- Cow’s Milk
- Nuts, especially walnuts cashews and peanuts
- Wheat Germ
- Citrus fruits
- Many artificial preservatives and food dyes
Foods to eat (if you have been diagnosed with histamine intolerance)
- freshly cooked meat and chicken
- fresh caught fish
- quinoa and rice, or other gluten free grains
- Non-dairy substitutes, like almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk and coconut milk
- fresh vegetables, except the ones listed above (tomatoes, avocados, spinach and eggplant)
- non-citrus fruits
- fresh vegetables except tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and eggplant
- cooking oils such as olive oil and coconut oil
- pure/natural peanut butter
- Leafy herbs
- Herbal teas
Common Symptoms Related to Histamine Intolerance
- Nasal congestions
- Migraines and headaches
- Abdominal pain
- Skin reactions (itching, hives, rashes)
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Irregular menstrual cycle
These are just some of the possible symptoms. You may have other ones not listed, you can have one symptom or more, and they can be mild or severe. Every person is different.
As mentioned, the symptoms are extremely very similar to food allergies, because food allergies cause an increase in histamine levels as well.
DO NOT make serious dietary changes unless you have a diagnosis or guidance from a health practicioner.
If you have symptoms suggesting you have a histamine intolerance, you can speak with your doctor to determine if you can proceed with a blood test, to measure the levels of histamine and DAO.
If the issue are levels in DAO, there may be necessary changes to make in diet and/or medications affecting your DAO if applicable to your situation.
Skin Prick Test
If you have never been tested for allergies, another possible suggestion from a doctor, may be a skin prick test, as this test is done for food allergies as well.
A skin prick test involves “scratching” into your skin, the possible allergens such as peanuts, lactose eggs, etc to see if there is a reaction in your skin. A study tested the effectiveness of a skin-prick test with histamine. They put a histamine-solution to the pricked skin, which caused a reaction in over 70 percent of the patients, who had histamine intolerance.
As with food intolerance, which are much harder to pin-point then a food allergy, another alternative is an elimination diet. This may be difficult as it involves lots of preparation and discipline. It is not necessarily suggested to eliminate foods from your diet without discussing this with your doctor or other health profession, especially if you have other health issues.
An elimination diet, involves eliminating all the foods believed to be causing the symptoms. In this case, if food allergies have been eliminated, next would be food intolerance and/or histamine intolerance. If you had the possibility of taking a blood test, the doctor will be able to steer you in the right direction.
If no blood test is available, you would eliminate all the foods that contain histamine or cause the release of histamine from your diet, for a minimum of 3 weeks to 1 month. Then you would test each of these food groups one at a time, and monitor how you feel for 2-3 days, before moving on to the next food item. Only on the day that you are testing a histamine related food item, are you not adhering to the elimination diet.
During the 2-3 days that you monitor your body’s reaction to ingesting that food item you return to the elimination diet. You are testing one food item at a time, and even though you confirm that a food containing histamine did not cause a reaction, you remove it again from your diet until you have tested EACH histamine inducing food item. As you can see, this can take weeks so requires planning.
There are supplements you can take, before eating foods with high levels of histamine, to help with decreasing your symptoms.
I always encourage trying to deal with the root of the problem, before taking any supplementation, or at least discussing supplements with your doctor.
You can discuss the following supplements with your health physician.
G.I Hist Support sold by ProHealth (USA)
Pure Encapsulations A.I. Formula by YesWellness (Canada)
What To Eat – What Not To Eat
I have mentioned this is many of my posts, that balance and moderation is key. Of course, if you have an allergy, diagnosed through a prick test, you need to eliminate that from your diet because allergies can be life threatening. When it comes to everything else, typically, and of course there are exceptions, if we eat a well-balanced diet, while eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, legumes, your body should remain in a well-balanced hormonal and chemical state. This is of course, assuming that there are no other health issues involved. When we eat too much or too little of certain foods, imbalances, inflammation and/or malnutrition issues are all possible outcomes.
When you look at the list of foods, just reflect on your eatting habits, and take notice if you eat certain foods the majority of the time, and which foods you rarely eat. Even better is follow your typical eating pattern for at least a week and keep a journal. You can ask your nutritionist or naturopath to review this with you. This will provide them with a very clear picture.
If you have been feeling really run down with low energy and/or have been experiencing any of the symptoms described above I would highly recommend you speak with your doctor, or a nutritionist to get you down the right path for a proper diagnosis.
Send me your comments below ladies!