by Leia Mulroy | Clinical Nutritionist

Do you experience unexplained skin rashes or itchy skin? How about a itchy throat or flushed face after consuming cheese, eggplant, tomatoes or wine? Continuing irritable bowl symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, excess gas? or maybe you get constant allergy reactions like sinus congestion, stuffy head and running nose?
If you answered yes to any of these, you may have a histamine intolerance.

What is Histamine?

Histamine is a chemical that is produced during any allergic response.
When an allergen triggers the immune system, mast cells (a type of white blood cell) release histamine as part of the inflammatory immune reaction. It’s this inflammation that gives you puffy, swollen eyes or a blistery skin rash. As well as being produced during the immune response, histamine can also be absorbed from histamine-containing foods, and produced by the bacteria in the gut.

What is a histamine reaction and how does it effect my body?

Our body controls the fine balancing act of the production and degradation of histamine according to our immune system.
When the immune system reacts to an allergen, one of its processes is to release histamine. This acts as a type of protective mechanism to alert the body that something has happened. This can be a reaction to a food, plant, bacteria, virus or insect bite.
This release of histamine creates an inflammatory cascade and causes a build up of fluid and blood flow to the area in an attempt to accelerate the immune systems response to the irritant. This process also activates nerve endings creating that irritating itch.
What you will see here are that the classic allergy symptoms start to appear:

  • Itchy eyes and throat
  • Swollen and watery eyes
  • Runny nose and sinus congestion
  • Itchy skin (with or without associated rash)
  • Swollen, red patches on the skin
  • Swollen joints
  • Digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, bloating
  • Headaches and migraines

Over time, with constant exposure to a particular allergen, this release of histamine can start to build up and the body has trouble breaking it down faster than its being produced.
The main enzyme responsible for breaking down this excess histamine is called Diamine Oxidase (DAO).
Some individuals have a deficiency of DAO, either genetically (less than around 1%) or caused from environmental factors such as:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Chronic oxidative stress
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Food intolerances
  • Allergies
  • Systemic toxic load.

A collection of these underlying factors can cause our natural detoxification pathways to become sluggish and no longer able to cope.

Histamine in Food

A lot of everyday foods can contain a high level of histamine and contribute to the production of histamine release in the body. Individual sensitivities will vary greatly with each person depending on other possible underlying conditions such as other food intolerances and allergies, digestion, current gut health and immune function.
Below is a list of high histamine producing foods, and food chemicals and enzymes that can exacerbate histamine reactions:

  • Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, Kombucha, Vinegars (eg: apple cider), Soy sauce, Kefir, Yoghurt, Pickles, Miso, Tofu, Tempeh
  • Aged foods: All cheeses from cows, goats, and sheep
  • Cured meats and smoked fish: Bacon, Salami, Pepperoni, Luncheon meats, Smoked fish such as Mackerel, Sardines, Tuna, Salmon, Anchovies and All canned fish
  • Alcohol: All
  • Vegetables: Avocado, Eggplants, Spinach, Tomatoes
  • Nuts: Walnuts, Cashews, Peanuts
  • Lectin containing foods: White potatoes, Potato starch, Tomatoes, Soy, Gluten grains (rye, wheat, spelt, kamut, oat, barley), all Legumes
  • Citrus and Dried Fruits: All dried fruits, All berries, Banana, Oranges, Apricots, Prunes, Dates, Figs, Raisins, Apples, Papaya, Pineapple
  • Other: Cacao beans (chocolate), refined sugar, soft drinks, all packaged foods, Artificial colours and flavours, Lollies.


Can lifestyle and dietary factors contribute to a build up of histamine?

Numerous lifestyle, diet and genetic factors may influence how you produce and metabolism histamine. These can include:

  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Dysbiosis of the Gastro -intestinal system
  • Underlying food intolerances and allergies
  • Environmental allergies
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Chronic high stress
  • Adrenal fatigue
  • Underlying Viral and Bacterial infections
  • Genetic polymorphism such as DAO enzyme and MTHFR
  • Consuming high sugar, processed and packaged foods
  • High Alcohol intake


How can I naturally lower my histamine levels?

It is highly recommended to firstly discuss your symptoms with a qualified practitioner to assess your current and past health history to gauge if histamine intolerance may be affecting you. This allows the practitioner to link other underlying conditions with your presenting symptoms to create an in-depth treatment plan for you.
Histamine intolerance is considered a symptom (except for genetic polymorphisms) of an array of underlying conditions that has created this imbalance state over time. Your practitioner may look at possible causes relating to the nervous system, digestion and gut health, immune function and diet and lifestyle habits. Specific dietary elimination plans such as a low histamine diet may be implemented to reduce the histamine build up.
Some helpful natural anti histamine nutrients to consider include Vitamin C, Zinc, Digestive enzymes and Quercetin.
If you would like to get in touch with Leia and learn how histamine intolerance may be affecting you and your lifestyle, she is available for private consultations at Vive Health Clinic. 07 3399 1002