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. I’ve also included a 3-day Low Histamine Diet Plan to help get you started.
What is Histamine?
Histamine is a neurotransmitter involved in several of the body’s processes including the immune system and nervous system. As part of the immune system, mast cells and histamine trigger 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 of this enzyme 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 too much histamine builds up in the body, then troublesome symptoms including food intolerances, allergic reactions, and food allergies can occur.
Symptoms of Histamine 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:
- Itchy skin, water eyes, or hives
- Accelerated heart rate
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Abdominal cramps or other digestive issues
- Headaches and migraines
One of the most common and effective ways of dealing with histamine intolerance or high histamine is to go on a low histamine diet.
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.
You may also want to check out my list of the best natural antihistamine foods.
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. A functional medicine doctor can also help you find the root cause of your histamine issues.
High Histamine Foods to Avoid
When starting with a low-histamine diet, you’ll want to know the high histamine foods that you need 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 (see my article with the best substitutes for cocoa powder)
- 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
- Green beans and other legumes, including peanuts
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
While a low histamine diet may feel restrictive, there are plenty of foods that you can still enjoy.
Here is a list of low histamine foods:
- 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)
- 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 and seed 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 such as chamomile
Low Histamine Diet Plan
Keeping the above lists in mind for both low and high histamine foods, here is a 3-day sample menu of a low histamine diet. Feel free to make adjustments to meet your individual needs
Breakfast: Sweet Potato Smoothie replacing frozen mango for the frozen banana
Lunch: Turkey Meatloaf Muffins with a side salad
Snacks or Dessert: Vitamix Mango Sorbet
Breakfast: Overnight Protein Oats
Lunch: Keto Chicken Fajitas
Dinner: Baked Pork Meatballs served with your choice of pasta
Snacks: Whole30 Chia Pudding
Breakfast: Mango Peach Smoothie
Lunch: Healthy Tuna Pasta Salad
Dinner: Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
See my full list of the best Low Histamine Snacks to Enjoy.
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.
You can also enjoy all the snacks on this list of the Best Low Histamine Snacks.
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 on a low histamine diet.
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.
Not necessarily! While it may take a few weeks for your histamine symptoms to calm down, you may not need to eat a low histamine diet forever. Changes in hormones, gut health, stress levels, and other factors can impact your body’s ability to tolerate histamine.
Keep a symptom journal so that you can identify which foods or activities lead to symptoms of histamine intolerance, and which foods and activities help your symptoms.
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.