Histamine is a biogenic amine that is produced naturally in the body and occurs normally in foods. It is a normal and necessary chemical involved in inflammation, mucous secretion, cytokine production, gastric acid secretion, smooth muscle contraction, vasodilation, neurotransmission and regulation of the sleep-wake cycle.
Histamine toxicity occurs when the amount ingested overwhelms the detoxification capacity of the individual, causing an array of symptoms. This can be due to either excessive consumption of histamine containing foods or impaired detoxification.
These symptoms of histamine intolerance mimic an allergic response.
Symptoms can include
Abdominal distension, nausea, vomiting, cramping, diarrhea, constipation, reflux, headache, palpitations, tingling, sleep disturbance, rash, eczema, itchy skin, inflammation, asthma, rhinitis.
Symptoms can occur within 20 – 30 minutes of ingestion of the high histamine food, and remit within 24 hours; except in the case of chronic presentation (headaches, reflux) where high histamine food is regularly ingested.
Histamine intolerance is also implicated in chronic gastrointestinal diseases, as the digestive system and detoxification systems are compromised.
Histamine in Food
The production of histamine requires microbial activity, which is why fermented foods are high in histamine. A lot of people have started eating a diet higher in fermented foods because they are healthy, however some people can’t effectively detoxify the histamine. They are then left wondering why they have allergy symptoms when they are making healthier choices with the incorporation of fermented foods.
Foods high in histamine are:
Alcohol and other fermented drinks/ kombucha
All citrus fruits — oranges, lemons, lime and grapefruit
Any foods containing artificial colouring or preservatives
Berries — fresh, frozen or canned
Cheese (camembert, brie, gouda, swiss etc)
Chocolate and cacao
Fermented dairy products, including cheese, yogurt and buttermilk
Fermented foods, such as pickles, relishes, sauerkraut
Fish (frozen, cured, smoked)
Meats that are processed, cured, smoked or fermented
Tomatoes — fresh, canned, pureed or in sauces
The main enzyme responsible for histamine degradation is diamine oxidase (DAO), which is expressed in the gastrointestinal cell wall. DAO deficiency is found in the majority of patients with histamine intolerance. This may be caused by genetic polymorphisms, from gastrointestinal mucosal inflammation, or from high alcohol intake or certain medications. Research shows that the degree of gastrointestinal damage directly correlates to the level of DAO impairment.
Serum immunoglobulin E (IgE) can be used to rule out allergies, and low histamine diet can also determine reactivity.
Management of underlying gastrointestinal inflammation is fundamental to the treatment of histamine intolerance. If you have allergy symptoms, and would like to investigate further, make a time to speak with us www.thenaturopathic.co/book
Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of digestive complaints, skin issues, mood disorders, hormonal concerns, fatigue, and also has a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions. Yvette consults in South Yarra, Camberwell, and Australia-wide via Zoom. Book HERE
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