Holistic Approach to Wellness
Do you experience unexplained headaches or anxiety? What about irregular menstrual cycles? Does your face flush when you drink red wine? Do you get an itchy tongue or runny nose when you eat bananas, avocados, or eggplants? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you could have a histamine intolerance.
What is histamine?
Histamine is a chemical involved in your immune system, proper digestion, and your central nervous system. As a neurotransmitter, it communicates important messages from your body to your brain. It is also a component of stomach acid, which is what helps you break down food in your stomach.
You might be most familiar with histamine as it relates to the immune system. If you’ve suffered from seasonal allergies or food allergies, you may have noticed that antihistamine medications like Zytrec, Allegra or Benedryl provide quick relief of your symptoms. This is because histamine’s role in the body is to cause an immediate inflammatory response. It serves as a red flag in your immune system, notifying your body of any potential attackers.
Histamine causes your blood vessels to swell, or dilate, so that your white blood cells can quickly find and attack the infection or problem. The histamine buildup is what gives you a headache and leaves you feeling flushed, itchy and miserable. This is part of the body’s natural immune response, but if you don’t break down histamine properly, you could develop what we call histamine intolerance.
Because it travels throughout your bloodstream, histamine can affect your gut, lungs, skin, brain, and entire cardiovascular system, contributing to a wide range of problems often making it difficult to pinpoint and diagnose.
Common symptoms of histamine intolerance include:
• Difficulty falling asleep, easily arousal
• Vertigo or dizziness
• Arrhythmia, or accelerated heart rate
• Difficulty regulating body temperature
• Nausea, vomiting
• Abdominal cramps
• Nasal congestion, sneezing, difficulty breathing
• Abnormal menstrual cycle
• Tissue swelling
What Causes High Histamine Levels?
In addition to the histamine produced inside your body, there are also a variety of foods that naturally contain histamine, cause the release of histamine, or block the enzyme that breaks down histamine, diamine oxidase.
HIT sufferers have different thresholds, i.e. tolerance levels, so the next step after completing a successful elimination diet is to establish your threshold level, with the aim of gradually improving it over a period of time.
It is important to eat foods that are low in histamine levels in accordance to your threshold. Please always remember that there is no such thing as an “histamine-free diet.” There are supplements and herbs that can help support healthy degradation of food derived histamine. HistDAO by Xymogen is one we carry or try Holy Basil tea.
How do I break down histamine?
Once formed, histamine is either stored or broken down by an enzyme. Histamine in the central nervous system is broken down primarily by histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT), while histamine in the digestive tract is broken down primarily by diamine oxidase (DAO). Though both enzymes play an important role in histamine break down, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition found that DAO is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine. So if you’re deficient in DAO, you likely have symptoms of histamine intolerance.
Causes of Low DAO:
• Gluten intolerance
• Leaky gut
• DAO-blocking foods: alcohol, energy drinks, and tea
• Genetic mutations (common in people of Asian-descent)
• Inflammation from Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.
o Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin)
o Antidepressants (Cymbalta, Effexor, Prozac, Zoloft)
o Immune modulators (Humira, Enbrel, Plaquenil)
o Antiarrhythmics (propanolol, metaprolol, Cardizem, Norvasc)
o Antihistamines (Allegra, Zyrtec, Benadryl)
o Histamine (H2) blockers (Tagamet, Pepcid, Zantac)
Although histamine blockers, a class of acid-reducing drugs, seem like they would help prevent histamine intolerance, these medications can actually deplete DAO levels in your body.
Here are some general pointers:
Avoid or reduce eating canned foods and processed meals
Avoid or reduce eating ripened and fermented foods (older cheeses, alcoholic drinks, products containing yeast, stale fish)
Histamine levels in foods vary, depending on how ripe, matured or hygienic the foods are
As much as it is possible, only buy and eat fresh products
Don’t allow foods to linger outside the refrigerator – especially meat products
Ensure that your food preparation area (kitchen) is always kept clean
Everyone has their own threshold; you will need to find yours
Consult a certified nutritionist about working out a balanced diet
Learn to cook! It can be loads of fun once you get into it
Low histamine level foods:
Fresh meat (cooled, frozen or fresh)
Freshly caught fish
Chicken (skinned and fresh)
Fresh fruits – with the exception of strawberries, most fresh fruits are considered to have a low histamine level (also see histamine liberators below)
Fresh vegetables – with the exception of tomatoes
Grains – rice noodles, yeast free rye bread, rice crisp bread, oats, puffed rice crackers, millet flour, pasta (spelt and corn based)
Fresh pasteurised milk and milk products
Milk substitutes – coconut milk, rice milk
Cream cheese, butter (without the histamine generating rancidity)
Most cooking oils – check suitability before use
Most leafy herbs – check suitability before use
Most non-citric fruit juices
Herbal teas – with the exception of those listed below
High histamine level foods:
Pickled or canned foods – sauerkrauts
Smoked meat products – salami, ham, sausages….
Beans and *pulses – chickpeas, soy beans, peanuts
Nuts – walnuts, cashew nuts
Chocolates and other cocoa based products
Salty snacks, sweets with preservatives and artificial colourings
Histamine liberators: substances that cause the release of histamine from mast cells or basophils (white blood cell).
Most citric fruits – kiwi, lemon, lime, pineapple, plums…
Cocoa and chocolate
Beans and *pulses
Wheat germ (gluten)
Additives – benzoate, sulphites, nitrites, glutamate, food dyes
*Pulses are part of the legume family, but the term “pulse” refers only to the dried seed. Dried peas, edible beans, lentils and chickpeas are the most common varieties of pulses
Diamine Oxidase (DAO) blockers: Diamine oxidase (histaminase) is an enzyme found in high concentrations in the intestinal mucosa of humans and other mammalian species
Yoghurt – depends on the bacteria culture used
Egg white – it is a histamine liberator only when in its raw state
Yeast – even though it does not contain histamine as such, yeast serves as a catalyst for histamine generation during manufacture. There is no yeast in the end product.
Dr. Amy Myers – she is a wealth of knowledge