This post includes information about getting started on a low histamine diet to help manage troublesome symptoms and reduce histamine in the body.
What is histamine?
Histamine is a neurotransmitter involved in several of your body’s processes including your immune system and nervous system. Histamine is also a component of stomach acid, making it key for proper digestion. As part of the immune system, histamine triggers your body’s inflammatory response to attack infection and illness. It dilates your blood vessels and sends white blood cells to the site of inflammation.
Normally, histamine should be at safe levels in the body and cause you no issues. However, some people may have histamine intolerance or sensitivity. Histamine intolerance occurs when you have a buildup or overproduction of histamine and are unable to fully break it down. If histamine builds up in the body, then troublesome symptoms can occur, including typical allergy symptoms.
For many people, histamine intolerance occurs due to a gut infection or leaky gut. Histamine is broken down by the N-methyltransferase enzyme in the central nervous system and by the diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme in your gut. Since DAO is responsible for metabolizing the majority of ingested histamines, a deficiency can contribute to symptoms of histamine intolerance.
Symptoms of histamine issues
Issues with histamine sensitivity and histamine intolerance can present as a wide range of symptoms. The majority of people with histamine issues experience symptoms such as:
- Itching or hives
- Accelerated heart rate
- Nasal congestion/sinus issues
- Tissue swelling
- Irregular periods
- Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
- Abdominal cramps
- Dizziness and vertigo
- Headaches and migraines
If you’re suffering from these or other unexplained issues, and they cannot be reasonably contributed to other ailments, it’s worth looking into potential histamine intolerance.
Please note: It’s important that you work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to diagnose and treat any medical conditions that you have. The information in this post is meant for general information and education only.
Getting Started with a Low Histamine Diet
What is a low histamine diet?
A buildup of histamine can happen due to an excess of your body’s natural production of histamine (produced by a species of bacteria found in our guts) and from overconsumption of histamine-releasing foods.
A low histamine diet will not completely solve a sensitivity or intolerance to histamine or address the root cause, but it can help provide symptom relief. A combination of healing your gut and following a low histamine diet can resolve histamine intolerance for many people.
Again, going on a low-histamine diet may not cure the root cause of the intolerance, but it can help manage the symptoms. Here is a list of foods to eat and foods to avoid on a low-histamine diet.
What foods are on a low histamine diet?
In general, you’ll want to avoid foods that have been naturally preserved in some way, such as through fermentation, souring, drying, smoking, or curing. Even though fermented foods can be helpful for gut health, they also produce histamines due to the bacteria strains.
Keep in mind that trigger foods will be different for every individual. The best approach to determining if a food is worsening your symptoms is through an elimination diet. For each food listed, remove them all for thirty days, and then add each back one at a time, leaving several days between reintroductions to help attribute symptoms to the correct food.
Due to their high histamine count or histamine-releasing abilities, here’s a list of foods to avoid on a low histamine diet:
- Alcohol and fermented beverages (especially wine and kombucha)
- Citrus, most berries (including bananas and avocado), and dried fruit
- Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, etc.)
- Soured foods (sourdough bread, buttermilk, etc.)
- Aged cheese and cow’s dairy
- Chocolate, cocoa, and cacao
- Processed, cured, smoked, or leftover meat. Meat should be as fresh as possible
- Vinegar and vinegar containing foods (pickles, relishes, etc.)
- Teas (green, black, mate)
- Spinach, eggplant, and tomatoes
- Artificial food colorings and preservatives
- Seafood (fin or shellfish, in any preservation such as canned, smoked, etc.)
- Spices such as curry, cayenne, chili, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg
- Pineapple and papaya
While it can seem very restrictive to avoid high-histamine foods, there are still plenty of nutritious foods to enjoy!
Incorporate these low-histamine, nutrient-dense foods:
- Olive oil and coconut oil
- Freshly cooked meat
- Fresh caught seafood (avoiding fin or shellfish)
- Cooked eggs (be mindful of the whites if you are particularly sensitive)
- Gluten free grains such as rice, quinoa, and buckwheat
- Fresh fruits (excluding berries, avocado, citrus, bananas, pineapple, and papaya)
- Dairy-free milks
- Leafy herbs and greens (excluding spinach)
- Freshly ground spices (avoiding curry, cayenne, chili, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg)
- Pure nut butters
- Carob as an alternative to cocoa
- Coconut products (coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut meat, coconut milk)
- Hemp, chia, and flax seeds
- Fresh vegetables (excluding spinach and tomatoes)
- Herbal teas
Questions & Answers About Low Histamine Diet
What can you eat on a low histamine diet?
It’s best to focus on a nutrient-dense whole foods diet that can help heal your gut and manage your symptoms. See the list above for foods to incorporate, and stick to a diet rich in fresh foods.
How long does low histamine diet take to work?
Provided that you are also investigating and addressing the root cause of your histamine sensitivity, you should begin to see symptom alleviation very quickly once the triggering foods are out of your system. You should aim to be on a strict low-histamine diet for 30 days before beginning a reintroduction phase.
What foods are good antihistamines?
Some natural antihistamine foods include apple peels, artichokes, arugula, ginger, red onions, and pomegranates. Most of these foods contain beneficial compounds such as quercetin or polyphenols and act as histamine blockers in the body.
Can I drink coffee on a low histamine diet?
Coffee is allowed on a low histamine diet, however, particularly sensitive people may want to avoid it. Coffee contains caffeine (even decaf coffee) which may block DAO, an enzyme necessary for breaking down histamine. If you don’t notice any relief from a standard low histamine diet, try eliminating coffee as well.
Can I drink alcohol on a low histamine diet?
No–alcohol is another food that blocks DAO, which will inhibit the breakdown of histamine in your body. Alcoholic beverages are also fermented, which is another class of foods to avoid on a low histamine diet.
Conclusion About Trying a Low Histamine Diet
A low histamine diet can help with symptoms of histamine intolerance, although the long-term priority should be on healing the gut and improving health so that a wider range of whole foods can eventually be enjoyed.
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