Histamine Intolerance: Symptoms and Treatments

Histamine intolerance can be miserable. If you have histamine intolerance, don’t miss helpful information on what foods to avoid and foods that are okay to eat.

When spring arrives the beauty of flowers can have a price to pay for our bodies. If you suffer from histamine intolerance, you may have more than just a stuffy nose. An actual histamine intolerance involves the amount of histamine in your digestive system and the foods you eat. Couple that with seasonal allergies and you may be downright miserable. This article explains all about the symptoms of histamine intolerance and what you can do about it.

What Is Histamine Intolerance?

In order to understand histamine intolerance, we first need to understand histamines. These are neurotransmitters found in the body that are released when you have allergies, food intolerance, or inflammation. On a normal day, histamine just hangs out in the background, helping regulate your body functions. It gets sent to the spot where it is needed, does its work and then another chemical shuts it down. This chemical is known as, DAO (diamine oxidase).

People who suffer from histamine intolerance have been found to have low levels of DAO in their bodies that causes histamine to build-up. Pair that issue with eating high histamine type foods and the body tends to develop an intolerance to any histamines present.

What Are Histamine Intolerance Symptoms?

Histamine intolerance can cause a wide host of symptoms that affect the body as a whole, including:

  • Abdominal Cramping
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Rash/Hives
  • Skin Flushing
  • Insomnia
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Swelling
  • Irregular Periods in Women
  • Congestion/Stuffy Nose/Trouble Breathing
  • Dizzy Spells
  • Panic Attacks
  • Heart Rhythm Disturbances
  • Abnormal Body Temperature

The symptoms can be very non-specific and confusing because they tend to affect the entire body. This makes it hard to pinpoint the cause. As you can see above, some symptoms look like an allergic reaction, but a histamine intolerance is not an allergic reaction. If you have any of the above symptoms you need to see your doctor for allergy testing first. If the results are negative, then you may be intolerant of histamine.

Which Foods Can Cause Histamine Intolerance?

The following are the foods that can cause histamine intolerance group by how they affect histamine in the body:

Foods High in Histamine or Trigger Histamine Release

  • Bananas
  • Beer
  • Canned Meats or Fish (tuna, chicken, salmon, sardines, etc.)
  • Canned Vegetables
  • Champagne
  • Chocolate
  • Cider
  • Cow’s Milk/Dairy
  • Dried Fruit (dates, raisins, apricots and prunes)
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Papaya
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Pineapple
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Processed Foods
  • Sauerkraut
  • Sausages
  • Shellfish
  • Strawberries
  • Tofu
  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar and Condiments with Vinegar (ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise)
  • Wheat Germ
  • Yeast
  • Pumpkin
  • Mango
  • Peanuts
  • Raspberry

Also, any food colorings and preservatives can contain excess histamine.

Foods That Block DAO

  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Black Tea
  • Energy Drinks
  • Green Tea
  • Mate Tea

How to Treat Histamine Intolerance

First, you will need to see your doctor for testing. They usually put you on a diet low in histamines for one to three weeks to see if you feel better. There are some blood tests that can check your histamine levels or DAO levels, but they are not always accurate. The best way to check is the histamine elimination diet.

You will need to avoid foods that have high histamine levels, but not eliminate them completely. You will find your tolerance of histamine foods over time. How much histamine that can be tolerated is different for each person.

When you begin the low histamine diet, you will exclude the foods high in histamine and then introduce them slowly back in to your diet. This will help to confirm the diagnosis of histamine intolerance and help you judge how much histamine food you can tolerate. Not re-introducing foods can reduce needed nutrients in your diet.

Low Histamine Diet

Food allergies are treated by completely removing the offending food from the diet. Food intolerances are treated by limiting the amount of the offending foods just enough that they don’t cause a reaction in the body. Begin by eating the following foods that are low in histamines:

  • Meat, Poultry and Fish (fresh or fresh frozen)
  • Egg Yolks
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables (no strawberries or tomatoes)
  • Whole grains (Rice, yeast-free bread, oats, gluten-free pasta)
  • Fresh Milk and Dairy
  • Coconut Milk, Flax Milk, Rice Milk
  • Butter and Cream Cheese ( Avoid Aged Cheeses)
  • Cooking Oil
  • Herbs
  • Fruit Juices (non-citrus)
  • Herbal Tea

Should You Take Antihistamines?

Doctors may also recommend taking an antihistamine medication. This isn’t always necessary if you follow the diet closely, but is helpful in people with severe histamine sensitivity. Always ask your doctor first before taking any medication and understand certain antihistamines may cause drowsiness. The types used are the same that are used for allergic reactions. These include:

  • Prescription – Your doctor will need to write you a prescription for the following antihistamines: Astelin nasal spray, Atarax, Clarinex, Xyzal and others, but these are the most commonly used.
  • Over-the-Counter – With your doctor’s okay, you can pick up an over-the-counter antihistamine including: Benadryl, Claritin, Zyrtec, and others. Some of these may have side-effects like drowsiness. Use caution when driving.
  • Vitamin C – Taking around 2,000 mg a day can work as an all-natural antihistamine.

Helpful Tips for Reducing Histamines in the Diet

  • Eat only fresh foods. The longer food sits, it grows bacteria that can trigger a histamine reaction when eaten.
  • Do not over ripen fruits. The riper a fruit is the higher the histamine level.
  • Drink more water. If you do not drink enough water you can become constipated. The longer food sits in the digestive tract it ferments and attracts histamines.
  • Avoid fermented foods. Cheeses, vinegar, wine, sauerkraut, and soy sauce all contain excessive histamines. 
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