Histamine serves vital roles in the body, such as communicating with the brain, activating the production of stomach acid, and dilating blood vessels to lower blood pressure. It is a molecule commonly associated with allergies. Histamine is found all over the body, although it gets stored in immune cells known as mast cells and basophils. It fulfils its function by adhering to particular receptor cells in strategic areas. But what is a low histamine diet?
Most people can handle foods high in histamine, but about 1% of the population suffers from histamine intolerance. Histamine builds up in these people’s bodies. It can disrupt regular biological functioning if it doesn’t break down adequately and levels grow too high. Itching, sneezing, headaches, joint discomfort, irritable bowel syndrome, and nausea are common allergy symptoms. Although you may not have all of these symptoms all of the time, as histamine levels rise, symptoms may become more severe.
According to studies, a low-histamine diet is one of the essential techniques for determining your threshold and whether histamine intolerance is relevant to you. It is, however, not a long-term therapy option because such a restricted diet is unlikely to provide appropriate nutrients.
The HealthifyMe Note
The low histamine diet is gaining popularity. It soothes rashes, headaches, bloating, and other symptoms caused by histamine-containing foods. In addition, it has lately proven helpful in treating long-term COVID-19 symptoms.
Histamine Intolerance and Its Causes
Histamine intolerance (HIT) is different from bee stings or peanut allergies. This histamine intolerance is the overproduction of histamine in the body and its inability to break down.
How much is excessive is mainly dependent on each person’s overall health and well-being. Histamine tolerance varies from person to person. Studies state that certain stimuli cause our mast cells to release histamine, and we also obtain some histamine from the foods we eat. Because some foods contain histamine and some are known to increase histamine production, our diet plays an important role. Other possible reasons can be:
- Medication that inhibits or stops the generation of DAO(diamine oxidase). DAO is responsible for breaking down histamine.
- Gastrointestinal ailments include leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Foods high in histamine can trigger DAO enzymes to malfunction.
- In most cases, DAO and, to a lesser extent, histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT) degrade ingested histamine. However, according to Trusted Source, various factors can affect how DAO and HNMT work.
- Bacterial overgrowth is another reason that might lead to histamine intolerance. Bacteria thrive when food does not adequately digest, resulting in more histamine.
How to Diagnose Histamine Intolerance?
It can be hard to diagnose histamine intolerance because histamine levels fluctuate, just like other substances, depending on how quickly your body processes it. Therefore, eating a high-histamine food (or more than one simultaneously) may elicit symptoms one day but not the next.
Your doctor will rule out other possible diseases or allergies that cause similar symptoms before diagnosing. Doctors may also recommend a 14-to-30-day elimination diet. This diet asks you to eliminate any items rich in histamine or histamine triggers, then gradually reintroduce them while monitoring for new reactions.
Doctors frequently diagnose histamine intolerance after ruling out other illnesses that cause comparable symptoms. They might start with a food allergy or intolerance test. After evaluating associated diseases, one may pursue a diet free of high histamine foods. You may be histamine intolerant if your symptoms improve when you reduce or eliminate histamine from your diet.
A gastroenterologist may test for the following things in people who have chronic digestive symptoms:
- celiac illness
- lactose sensitivity
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Inflammatory bowel syndrome
A prick test is another method for detecting histamine intolerance. A study looked at how well a prick test could detect histamine intolerance. The researchers pierced the skin of 156 participants and administered a 1% histamine solution. The prick test revealed a little red, itchy bump on the tested region that did not resolve within 50 minutes for 79 per cent of those with probable histamine intolerance.
A doctor would generally request that someone with histamine intolerance keep a diet diary. The process can assist them in identifying symptoms and eating habits. While investigating HIT as a possible cause of symptoms, it’s critical to rule out other possibilities, such as genuine allergies, mast cell disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, fructose malabsorption, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, colitis, and so on.
Low Histamine Diet
Studies suggest that the food list—and any other food lists you may come across via various resources such as the internet—is only meant to be used as a guide, not as an authoritative source. Because many HIT patients have several intolerances, starting an exclusion diet without first getting a diagnosis from a doctor and consulting with a dietitian is not recommended. No such thing as a histamine-free diet exists. Before you eliminate items from your diet, speak with a nutritionist.
Foods with lower histamine levels that people should choose instead:
- Meat (prefer lean options) that is still fresh (cooled, frozen, or new)
- Hake, trout, plaice, and other fresh/frozen fish
- Chicken (frozen or fresh)
- Except for plantains, most fresh fruits have a low histamine content.
- Except for tomatoes, eggplant, and spinach, fresh veggies
- Grains, including rice noodles, white bread, rye bread, rice crispbread, oats, puffed rice crackers, millet flour, and spaghetti
- Pasteurised milk and milk products are available fresh.
- Goat milk and sheep milk are two milk replacements.
- Butter, cream cheese, and mozzarella
- Check compatibility before using most cooking oils.
- Check compatibility before using most leafy herbs.
Foods that elevate histamine levels include:
- Food in cans
- Cheeses that have reached maturity
- Salami, ham, sausages, and other smoked meat items.
- Chickpeas, soy flour, beans, and pulses
- Peanuts, cashew nuts, almonds, and pistachios are long-stored nuts.
- Chocolates and other products containing cocoa.
- Rice vinegar seitan
- Ready-to-eat meals
- Salty nibbles, sweets with artificial colours and preservatives
Benefits of a Low Histamine Diet
The primary goal of this diet is to determine whether or not a person is histamine intolerant. There are various other benefits and drawbacks. There isn’t much research on the advantages of a low-histamine diet because of the difficulty in detecting histamine sensitivity.
- The main advantage of a low-histamine diet is that it aids in diagnosing histamine allergy.
- Histamine intolerance can cause symptoms like sneezing, headaches, and itchy skin. It can help you rule out other food intolerances and aid in diagnosis. Following a religiously low-histamine diet can help you discover and avoid foods high in histamine that could trigger an allergic reaction.
Possible Side Effects of a Low Histamine Diet
This eating paradigm, however, may have certain drawbacks and disadvantages.
- A low histamine diet can be time-consuming and demanding. According to feedback from Long-Covid support groups, many people attempted the diet but found it impossible to stick to due to their debilitating symptoms.
- Histamine levels in food might vary significantly. Studies state that the amount of histamine in food varies depending on maturity, storage period, and treatment. Therefore, it can make determining the amount of histamine in foods difficult.
- Due to the large number of foods excluded from this diet, there are limited possibilities for obtaining the balanced diet required for overall health. This diet may cause malnutrition because it is too restrictive.
Histamine Intolerance Symptoms
HIT symptoms are similar to other illnesses such as food allergies, IBS, and gluten sensitivity, making diagnosis challenging. In addition, an increase in histamine can lead to some undesirable symptoms. Among these, bloating is common.
- Migraines and various types of headaches
- stomach aches (IBS)
- Rapid heartbeat
- Itching and hives
- Skin flushing and redness Wheezing
- Streaming eyes
- The tongue and mouth swell
- Menstrual cramps are excruciating
The HealthifyMe Note
It’s crucial to determine whether you have symptoms of histamine intolerance before starting a low-histamine diet. Some symptoms include headaches, hives, itchy skin, red eyes, runny nose, and nasal congestion.
The best method to treat an intolerance, like an allergy, is to avoid the substance in question—in this case, histamine. A histamine-free diet may be sufficient to alleviate your symptoms. While a histamine-free diet is the only genuine long-term treatment for histamine intolerance, a few other choices can help you manage symptoms. Research suggests this may be especially beneficial for people who experience frequent and severe symptoms.
In addition to a changed diet, your doctor may suggest that you take certain supplements to help decrease or eliminate your symptoms. If you’re on one of these drugs, your doctor may adjust your dose, switch you to a different drug that doesn’t affect histamine, or stop you from taking it if it’s safe.
Take the following steps to minimise histamine levels in your food:
- Prepare your meals at home, and eat only fresh fruits, veggies, and meat. These have a low histamine content.
- Consume foods in their natural state.
- If you’re on a low-histamine diet, stick to it for no more than four weeks.
- Keep a food journal in which you record everything you eat, including the ingredients. Take note of when you consume the food.
The Low-Histamine Diet is for people who have histamine intolerance and allergy symptoms. Histamine intolerance affects only one out of every 100 people, making it extremely rare. However, this diet is also very restrictive and difficult to follow. Putting undue stress on the body might lead to malnutrition because restricting histamine also means restricting other critical elements from meals that you should avoid.
Avoidance is the most effective treatment for intolerance. You can control your symptoms by avoiding foods that contain histamine or cause your body to release it. Consult your doctor about whether you additionally need to take an antihistamine or an enzyme booster supplement.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What foods are on a low histamine diet?
A. Foods on a low histamine diet include fresh meat and freshly caught fish, non-citrus fruits, eggs, and gluten-free grains, such as quinoa, rice, coconut and almond milk (dairy alternatives). Fresh vegetables except for tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and eggplant.
Q. What foods should I avoid on a low histamine diet?
A. Foods to avoid on a low histamine diet include alcohol and other fermented beverages, yoghurt and sauerkraut, dried fruits, avocados, eggplant, spinach, processed or smoked meats, shellfish, and so on.
Q. What lowers histamine fast?
A. Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine that lowers histamine levels and relieves allergic symptoms. Fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and berries are high in vitamin C.
Q. Are bananas high in histamine?
A. Although bananas do not contain a high amount of histamine, they can trigger histamine-producing cells. Hence, bananas are not advised for a low-histamine diet.
Q. Are potatoes high in histamine?
A. Potatoes do not have a high histamine content and do not increase the body’s histamine burden. Therefore, most people with histamine intolerance can eat them safely. You can also eat potatoes with additional food sensitivities, such as gluten sensitivity.
Q. How do I stop histamine release?
A. Taking antihistamines, for example, could help. Avoid medications linked to histamine sensitivity, which may necessitate prescription switching if one takes corticosteroids. However, you must take any medicine only after consulting your doctor.
Q. Does fasting help histamine intolerance?
A. Fasting increases histamine levels in the portal blood (capillary blood from the oesophagus, stomach, small and large intestine, pancreas, gallbladder, and spleen to the liver) while increasing hepatic OEA (a molecule in the intestine responsible for satiety) synthesis.
Q. How do I lower histamine levels at night?
A. It is better to consult a doctor in such cases.
Q. Is coffee high in histamine?
A. Coffee contains a lot of histamines and can cause an allergic reaction, but it’s not like a conventional allergy reaction. Caffeine induces an inflammatory response in some people with caffeine and histamine intolerances.
Q. What are the symptoms of high histamine levels?
A. Histamine sensitivity or the symptoms of high histamine levels include headaches or migraines, sinus issues or nasal congestion, weariness, hives, digestion problems, menstrual cycle irregularity, nausea and vomiting.