Do you suffer with a chronic runny nose, hives, dizziness, fatigue, facial flushing from certain foods or any other vague symptoms? You may have histamine intolerance.
Histamine can negatively impact your health if it’s chronically elevated due to the body producing elevated levels or it’s not able to break it down effectively. People who suffer with allergies are likely to be familiar with taking anti-histamine medications when they have an allergic reaction which can provide immediate relief.
Histamine is a naturally produced chemical in the body that has very important functions:
- Histamine is released when there is any tissue injury or an allergy response via the immune system.
- It’s a neurotransmitter that communicates messages in the brain to the body.
- It’s an important compound found in stomach acid that is required for effective digestion.
Histamine causes the blood vessels to dilate so your immune cells can quickly find and attack any pathogenic cells or attend to injured cells. This reaction can cause some or all of the symptoms listed below.
Excess histamine can be associated with the following symptoms:
- Headaches or migraines
- Sinusitis and/or nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing
- Digestive issues
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Abdominal cramping
- Tissue swelling, flush appearance
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Irregular heart-beat, high blood pressure
What causes these symptoms?
Another enzyme called DAO (diamine oxidase) is also produced in the body when histamine is produced, this enzyme is responsible for breaking down histamine that is naturally occurring in some foods. If the production of DAO is negatively impacted, elevated levels of histamine can start to cause histamine intolerance symptoms.
What health concerns can increase the production of histamine and reduce DAO production?
- Poor gut health – leaky gut, inflammatory bowel disease, SIBO
- Gluten intolerance
- Poorly digested foods caused by unhealthy bacterial overgrowth
- Foods that block DAO enzymes or trigger excess histamine release
- Some medications (anti-depressants, NSAIDs, immune modulators, antiarrhymatics)
Foods that can contribute to histamine intolerance are:
- Alcohol (particularly champagne, wine, beer)
- Fermented foods and beverages
- Fruits: citrus, bananas, papaya and dried fruits
- Vegetables: avocados, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes
- Nuts (specially walnuts, cashews and peanuts)
- Processed and smoked meats
- Aged cheese
- Wheat germ
DAO blockers are:
- black tea
- mate tea
- green tea
- energy drinks
It is important to note that you can have histamine levels checked with your doctor or health practitioner with blood tests or a prick test if you suspect that this may be an issue. You can also under professional guidance do an elimination diet that is low in histamine rich and releasing foods for 2 to 4 weeks then reintroduce these foods to observe if any symptoms reappear.
If you do have histamine intolerance, reducing these foods for a period of 8 to 12 weeks is advised and work on healing the gut and getting to the root cause of why you are reacting to these foods.