Most people would associate the word histamine with springtime hay fever, the dreaded itchy eyes and throat, runny nose, sneezing and overall feeling like crap!
Histamine occurs naturally in many foods, normally detoxified by the body, however low enzyme activity or high consumption of histamine containing foods may result in a build up of histamine within the body, referred to as histamine intolerance (HIT).
Diamine oxidase (DAO) is the main enzyme involved in metabolising ingested histamine. Reduced DAO activity may result in further symptoms such as headaches, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, skin rashes, sleeplessness, nausea, asthma-like symptoms, irregular blood pressure or other allergic reactions.
For people suffering from HIT, these symptoms aren’t necessarily associated with environment exposures, it can be all year round, with symptoms rising post meal or beverage.
A balanced level of histamine is required for healthy digestion and immune system response. Inflammation, injury, allergens or infections trigger the release of histamine to allow the body to heal.
Taking antihistamines all year round is only masking the symptoms, not solving the underlying issues. There may be small changes you can make to reduce/remove these unwanted symptoms…
High Histamine Foods
Try avoiding these high histamine-containing foods and see if your symptoms start to change
Alcohol (especially red wine and champagne)
Other beverages such as coffee, black and green tea, soy milk
Aged and processed cheeses such as cheddar, blue cheese, brie, camembert, feta, cottage, ricotta, cheese slices, cheese spreads, goats cheese
Smoked, aged or canned meats/fish
Processed meats such as sausages, bacon, deli meats, salami, pepperoni, chorizo
Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kombucha, pickles, relishes
Vegetables such as tomatoes, avocados, spinach
Legumes, chickpeas, soy beans, red beans
Fruits such as bananas, citrus fruits, mango, pineapple
Low Histamine Foods
Stick with low histamine foods such as:
Fresh beef, lamb, pork, chicken, turkey
Asparagus, beetroot, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, garlic, kale, leeks, lettuce, squash, sweet potato, turnip, zucchini
Apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, melon, plum, raspberries
Water, herbal teas (except green), oat milk, rice milk
Nutrients to Support DAO Activity
The three main nutrients essential for the function and production of DAO are:
Vitamins C: also acts as a natural antihistamine
Other HIT Factors
There may be additional reasons that make you more susceptible to HIT such as:
Some medications interfering with DAO activity
Gastrointestinal damage (e.g. Crohn’s, coeliac, intestinal surgery, chemotherapy)
Stress and physical injury
Please speak to your health care professional before making long-term dietary changes or introducing supplements. This is only a guide and should not be followed as a long-term treatment without professional advice.
Grace Pettitt (BHSc Nut Med)