What is histamine? Histamine is taken in from foods and is stored in all tissues of the body. When its released, and works positively; it keeps the organs moving, and the body working, helping tissues in lungs, uterus, stimulating gastric juices, helping heart rate. It also helps immune cells travel into injured tissue to heal an injury or infection. The negative part of histamine starts affecting you when you cannot metabolize it well. This is when you come under the classification of being histamine intolerant.
People with such an intolerance are low in an enzyme called diamine-oxidase (DAO) that actually helps breakdown histamine in the body; and have a decrease in the effectiveness or abundance of histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT), and enzyme that helps breakdown histamine in cells. Also, an increase in how much histamine a person’s digestion releases is an important determinant. Some medications that interfere with the DAO enzyme and HNMT levels are: antidepressants, muscle relaxants malaria drugs, tuberculosis medicines, pain medication, diuretics, heart medications.
When you are intolerant of histamine and it is released in the system, you may get the following symptoms
- Itchy eyes
- Itching in the nose, or a running rose
- Itching in the skin, rashes, shingles, hives
- Sudden psychological changes
- Chronic constipation
- Gas and bloated-ness
My experience with finding out when my clients are histamine intolerant comes into play when I introduce fermented foods (histamine increases with maturation in foods that’s why fermented foods tend to be the worst culprits; for someone who is intolerant) in their diets. Usually those with chronic IBS (Irritable Bowel Disorder) problems accompanied with autoimmune ailments tend to show their intolerance towards fermented foods, as they have histamine. This basically means those with a ‘histamine intolerance’ will not be able to digest them. Here it is important to know that histamine can be consumed from food and is produced by the body.
Histamine intolerance is subjective to different people and also manifests differently for different people; very often it’s up to you to determine the limits of foods that set you off (fermented foods for example). And at some point, you can also develop the tolerance for these foods, and do a flip and are no longer histamine intolerant.
- Fermented foods
- Aged cheese
- Dried fruits
- Cured meats
Those that trigger histamine-release
- Additives (some)
- Wheat germ
Other influencing factors could be
- Liver problems
- Zinc deficiency
- Copper deficiency
- Low oxygen in the body
- Chronic stress
- Reliance on pain medication
How to tell if you are histamine intolerant and testing?
- Eliminating foods: In Macrobiotics I use food to diagnose you, and usually elimination plan always works. Usually a four-week period is good for you to be on an elimination path and strengthen and clear out histamine from your system. Then I slowly introduce the food one at a time and determine my client’s response to them.
- Diamine Oxidase Test (DAO) is a diagnostic tool to measure the levels of the DAO enzyme in your body.
- Hydrogen/Methane Breath Test which measures the hydrogen in the breath to diagnose if you have severe gastrointestinal issues; which could predispose you to being histamine intolerant
Some causes that could predispose you to being histamine intolerant
- Gut dysbiosis: A breakdown of the gut bacteria and when the bad bacteria outdo the good bacteria. These could lead to the overgrowth of candida albicans, and other negative bacteria.
- Medications: Many medications inhibit the DAO enzyme and can cause histamine intolerance.
- Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome: When you are exposed to mold, happens in India a lot especially where the monsoons are heavy; and you can end up getting histamine intolerant.
- Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO): A lot of my SIBO patients are histamine intolerant, due to the overgrowth of bacteria producing histamine from undigested foods.
- Ulcerative colitis: Same as SIBO, with ulcerative colitis, your health practitioner nees to be cautious of you being histamine intolerant.
Autoimmune Disease and Histamine
When you have an autoimmune issue, you must pay attention to foods if in an elimination diet, like I would do with all my gut dysbiosis clients and see reactions to foods. However, depending on the severity of the autoimmune issue, I tend to eliminated fermented foods completely at first.
How to cope with histamine intolerance?
- Eliminate foods that are histamine-rich foods and histamine triggers.
- Get to the cause of the problem itself; are you suffering with low immunity or do you have an underlying gut issue you are not aware off? are questions you might want to ask your healthcare provider.
- Once you strengthen and the gut is doing well, after gut bacteria are restored, you might actually be able to ingest and re-introduce foods that would first cause you a problem.
- Vitamin B6 has been known to breakdown histamine assisting the DAO enzyme.
- Vitamin C helps lower histamine levels.
- Magnesium helps the allergic response of the body.
- Copper increases DAO levels in the bloodand has been known to breakdown histamine assisting the DAO enzyme.
- Initially antihistamine supplements are recommended.
- DAO enzyme supplements.