Could I have Histamine Intolerance? By Isha Patel

Could I have Histamine Intolerance?

What is histamine? 

Histamine is a biogenic amine that is present in lots of foods and produced by a small subset of human cells, including mast cells, basophils, platelets, histaminergic neurons and enterochromaffin cells. 

Histamine is a neurotransmitter which is produced in an allergic reaction; this can sometimes cause itching, redness, swelling, coughing and rashes. Histamine is known to regulate sleep and also aids in digestion by playing a role in stomach acid secretion.

What is histamine intolerance?  

Histamine intolerance is caused by an accumulation of histamine and the inability of the body to degrade it. In healthy people, dietary histamine can be detoxified by enzymes called amine oxidases, particularly, the Diamine Oxidase (DAO) enzyme. Those who have low levels of these enzymes have a higher risk for histamine toxicity.  

What are the symptoms of histamine intolerance?

  • Wheezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Flushing
  • Rash/hives/eczema
  • Itching
  • Swelling of face/hands/lips
  • Arrhythmia 
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal Pain

Is there a connection between gut health and histamine?

DAO enzymes are synthesised and stored within the epithelium of the small intestine and colon. Upon histamine ingestion, the enzymes work to metabolise histamine and reduce the amount absorbed into the bloodstream. Decreased DAO production leads to increased histamine absorption, resulting in histamine accumulation.

Can you test for histamine?

Histamine levels can be measured in plasma or urine. Elevated histamine concentrations and reduced DAO levels are both classically found in histamine intolerance and can be used as diagnostic tools along with a food diary.

Which foods are high in histamine?

  • High concentrations of histamine are found in products of fermentation such as aged cheeses, sauerkraut, wine, processed meats and  canned fish. 
  • Foods that have been linked with histamine release include: citrus fruit, papaya, strawberries, pineapple, nuts, peanuts, tomatoes, spinach, chocolate, fish, pork, egg whites and additives and spices.

Consumption of histamine-rich foods releases histamine which can provoke allergic-like symptoms in those with a histamine intolerance. These symptoms can be reduced by a low histamine diet.

General tips to manage histamine are:

  • Avoid or reduce eating canned foods.
  • Avoid or reduce eating overly ripened and/or fermented foods (aged cheeses, alcoholic drinks, products containing yeast, stale fish)
  • Histamine levels in foods vary, depending on how ripe, matured the foods are–with higher levels the more ripe or aged.
  • Buy and eat fresh food.
  • Do not allow foods to linger outside the refrigerator – especially meat products or eat left-overs.
  • Choose fresh (not aged) meats, fresh white fish or choose those that have been flash frozen.

Everyone responds differently; histamine can have a  cumulative effect on symptoms, so for some, small amounts may be tolerated but multiple sources of histamine in the diet can trigger more than one symptom.

If you’d like to discuss your gut health, book a consultation with us.

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