Getting Started With A Low Histamine Diet
This article includes information about getting started on a low histamine diet to help manage troublesome symptoms. Learn which foods are high in histamine and which foods can be enjoyed on a low histamine diet plan.
Histamine is a neurotransmitter involved in several of your body’s processes including your immune system and nervous system. As part of the immune system, histamine triggers your body’s inflammatory response when it sense irritants like pollen or dander. Histamine dilates your blood vessels and sends white blood cells to the site of inflammation.
Histamine is broken down by the N-methyltransferase enzyme in the central nervous system and by the diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme in the digestive tract. Since DAO is responsible for metabolizing the majority of ingested histamines, a deficiency can contribute to symptoms of histamine intolerance.
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.
Symptoms of Intolerance
Issues with histamine sensitivity and histamine intolerance can have a wide range of symptoms. The majority of people with histamine issues experience symptoms such as:
- Itching or hives
- Accelerated heart rate
- Nasal congestion
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Abdominal cramps
- Headaches and migraines
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 reduce histamine in the body and possibly provide symptom relief. A combination of healing your gut and following a low histamine diet can resolve histamine intolerance for many people. Read more about histamine intolerance and how a low-histamine diet can help.
Again, going on a low-histamine diet may not cure the root cause of the intolerance, but it should help manage the symptoms. It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure that your symptoms aren’t the result of something more serious.
High Histamine Foods to Avoid
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.
Keep in mind that a low histamine diet may be different from person to person. But, in general, here is a list of foods you may want to avoid on a low-histamine diet:
- Alcohol and fermented beverages (especially red wine and kombucha)
- Citrus fruits, bananas, avocado, and dried fruit. Strawberries can also be high in histamine
- Pineapple and papaya
- Fermented foods (kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, kefir, etc.)
- Soured foods (sourdough bread, buttermilk, etc.)
- Aged cheese and cow’s dairy products
- Chocolate, cocoa, and cacao
- Processed, cured, smoked, or leftover meats
- 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
- Yeast and yeast-risen breads
While it can seem very restrictive to avoid high-histamine foods, there are still plenty of nutritious foods to enjoy.
Low Histamine Foods to Enjoy
- Olive oil and coconut oil
- Freshly cooked meats and poultry
- Fresh caught seafood (you may need to avoid shellfish)
- Cooked eggs (be mindful of the whites if you are particularly sensitive)
- Gluten-free grains such as rice, quinoa, and buckwheat
- Low histamine fresh fruits including apples, pears, pomegranates, plums, cherries, grapes, and peaches
- Dairy-free milks like almond milk, hemp milk, etc.
- Leafy herbs and greens (excluding spinach)
- Freshly ground spices (avoiding curry, cayenne, chili, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg)
- Pure nut butters without preservatives
- Carob as an alternative to cocoa
- Coconut products (coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut meat, coconut milk)
- Hemp, chia, and flax seeds
- Fresh and cooked vegetables (excluding spinach and tomatoes)
- Herbal teas
It’s best to focus on a nutrient-dense whole foods diet for overall health. This means cooking at home and avoiding foods that are high in preservatives. See the list above for low-histamine foods to incorporate.
If you’re new to cooking at home, then you might want to check out my collection of posts on Clean Eating Basics. You’ll find articles on the safest cookware, best clean eating websites, best healthy YouTube channels, clean eating on a budget, and more.
There is not a lot of research on coffee and histamine. But, at least one animal study showed an increase of histamine levels after consumption of caffeine. There is also anecdotal evidence that caffeine may reduce DAO levels, the enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine. So, it is best to ask your doctor or healthcare provider whether or not coffee is okay for you to drink.
Probably not. This is because alcohol is another food that blocks DAO, which will inhibit the breakdown of histamine in your body. Alcoholic beverages are also usually fermented, which is another class of foods to avoid on a low histamine diet. As always, please discuss this issue with your healthcare provider.
A low histamine diet may help with symptoms of high histamine or histamine intolerance. When following a low histamine diet, choose foods that are low in naturally-occurring histamines and foods that are not fermented, cured, or processed in a way that increases histamines.
It is also important to note that the research is still developing regarding histamine intolerance and how to best treat it.
READ NEXT: NATURAL WAYS TO LOWER HISTAMINE IN THE BODY
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.