2024-05-23 Blog By Isha Patel

Histamine Intolerance: A Comprehensive Guide to Symptoms, Solutions, and Gut Health

Understanding Histamine Intolerance

Histamine is a natural compound produced by the body and found in certain foods. It plays a crucial role in the immune system, acting as a signalling molecule. However, some individuals may have difficulty breaking down histamine, leading to an accumulation of this compound in the body. This condition is known as histamine intolerance.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance can manifest in various symptoms, including:

  1. Digestive Issues: Abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhoea, or constipation.
  2. Skin Problems: Itching, hives, eczema, or flushing.
  3. Respiratory Symptoms: Sneezing, congestion, runny nose, or asthma-like symptoms.
  4. Headaches: Migraines or tension headaches.
  5. Cardiovascular Symptoms: Rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, or dizziness.

Causes of Histamine Intolerance

Several factors can contribute to histamine intolerance, including:

  1. Impaired Enzyme Function: Histamine is broken down by enzymes like diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT). If these enzymes are deficient or not functioning properly, histamine levels can rise.
  2. Histamine-Rich Foods: Certain foods are naturally high in histamine, such as aged cheeses, fermented foods, cured meats, and alcoholic beverages.
  3. Histamine Releasing Foods: Some foods can trigger the release of histamine in the body, even if they are not high in histamine themselves. These include citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and spinach.
  4. Gut Health: Imbalances in the gut microbiome can affect histamine levels. Disruption of beneficial bacteria or overgrowth of harmful bacteria can lead to histamine intolerance.

Dietary Restrictions and Alternatives

Managing histamine intolerance often involves following a low-histamine diet. Foods to avoid or limit include:

  • Aged cheeses
  • Fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi)
  • Cured meats
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Citrus fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Shellfish

Instead, focus on fresh, unprocessed foods and consider incorporating alternatives such as:

  • Fresh meats and poultry
  • Fresh fish (if tolerated)
  • Fresh fruits (except citrus and strawberries)
  • Fresh vegetables (except tomatoes and spinach)
  • Gluten-free grains (e.g., rice, quinoa)
  • Non-dairy milk alternatives (e.g., almond milk, coconut milk)

Herbs and Supplements

Certain herbs and supplements may help support histamine metabolism and alleviate symptoms of histamine intolerance:

  1. Quercetin: A flavonoid found in foods like onions, apples, and green tea. It has natural antihistamine properties and may help stabilise mast cells.
  2. Vitamin C: Acts as a natural antihistamine and can support DAO activity.
  3. DAO Supplements: Oral supplements containing diamine oxidase may help break down histamine in the gut.
  4. Probiotics: Beneficial bacteria in the gut can help maintain balance and reduce histamine production.
  5. Butyrate: A short-chain fatty acid that supports gut health and may help regulate histamine levels.

The Role of the Microbiome

The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in histamine metabolism. Beneficial bacteria help break down histamine and maintain a healthy balance of this compound in the body. Conversely, dysbiosis, or an imbalance in gut bacteria, can contribute to histamine intolerance.

To support a healthy microbiome and reduce histamine intolerance, consider the following:

  • Eat a diverse range of fibre-rich foods to nourish beneficial bacteria.
  • Consider probiotic supplementation, particularly strains known to degrade histamine.
  • Address any underlying gut issues, such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”).

If this resonates with you then…

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