Do I have Histamine Intolerance?
By Joanne Aponte, ND • January 27, 2021
Histamine intolerance is when your body can no longer efficiently breakdown the chemical histamine.
Symptoms of histamine intolerance are broad and many. Allergy like symptoms are common, such as runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, and hives. Symptoms can also affect other body systems and include:
- Nervous system: headache, insomnia irritability/depression/anxiety, brain fog, easily motion sick
- Cardiovascular: heart palpitations, tachycardia, rapid heart beat after eating,
- Respiratory: mucous production, nasal congestion, Asthma, chronic cough
- Digestive: abdominal pain, reflux/GERD/heartburn, flatulence, diarrhea
- Skin: itching, flushing, hives, rash
- Female: severe menstrual cramps
- Other: joint pains and fatigue
Foods high in histamine tend to aggravate symptom. High histamine food include:
- Aged and processed cheeses
- Tinned fish/other tinned products
- Meat ,if no longer fresh, dry-cured and aged meats ( (bacon, sausage, ham))
- Fermented food (sauerkraut, kimchi, vinegar, yogurt, wine, beer, etc.)
- Tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, avocado
- Alcohol (esp wine, beer)
- left overs, bone broth
How does histamine intolerance develop?
In a normal healthy small intestine, there is a healthy brush border that contains digestive enzymes that help break down your food and absorb nutrients into the body. Damage to this brush border and gut lining can lead to loss of the digestive enzymes including the enzyme DAO (Diamine oxidase). DAO is the enzyme that breaks down the chemical histamine.
The gut lining and small intestine brush border can be damaged when there is dysbiosis ( an unhealthy imbalance of the gut microorganisms ) or when there is overgrowth of bacteria in the small intestine (aka SIBO). Dysbiotic organisms growing in the gut secrete gases and toxins that damage the gut’s absorptive surface and lead to the loss the enzymes. Overgrowth of yeast and candida the gut in particular, seems to lead to more histamine intolerance.
Also, in dysbiosis, some of bacteria actually secrete their own histamine when they feed on the food you eat. This histamine gets absorbed into the body making the issue worse.
For some with a histamine intolerance, there is a genetic component. There can be genetic glitches (called polymorphisms) that reduce a person’s ability to break down histamine.
How do I know if I have a histamine intolerance?
There is no easy and reliable way to test histamine levels in the body. The best way to narrow down if histamine intolerance is a factor is to do a 2-3 week trial of a low histamine diet and see if symptoms improve. Patients often quickly feel better once removing high histamine foods.
How to resolve a histamine intolerance:
- Follow a temporary low histamine diet to allow for healing of the small intestine and repletion of DAO enzyme
- Repair the microbiome and correct dysbiosis, yeast overgrowth and SIBO.
- Heal the intestinal lining
- Identify nutrient deficiencies that impair the body’s ability to breakdown histamine (Magnesium, B2, folate and B6 are involved histamine breakdown). These nutrients are commonly depleted in persons with a damaged gut lining.
- Supplement with nutrients that help reduce histamine while addressing the underlying cause– Quercetin, B5, Vitamin C and B vitamins along with a DAO enzyme supplement can be very helpful in reducing symptoms.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.