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Histamine Intolerance: Understanding Its Cause and Symptoms

If you find yourself struggling with allergy-like symptoms, popping antihistamines like Tic Tacs, or just think there's the possibility you might be getting a reaction but can't quite pinpoint it, then this blog is for you.


Let’s start with understanding what histamine is and how it works in the human body.


What is Histamine


Histamine is a natural compound in the body that can also be found in a certain food. It is released by cells in the body for many important functions.

  • It triggers the release of gastric acid in the stomach to regulate the digestive system.


  • It acts as a neurotransmitter which is very important in the brain function and nervous system.


  • It is the body defense mechanism that signals the immune cells to fight foreign invaders.


  • It also plays a key role in our alertness. So when people take an antihistamine such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, and any other Loratrodine derivatives, they often feel drowsy because these antihistamine molecules are blocking the histamine that allows us to be alert.


Histamine intolerance: Understanding Its Cause and Symptoms


Histamine intolerance is not an allergy to histamine itself, but a sign that the body has too much histamine.


As described above, Histamine is very important in our body but most people think of it as a problem. What they don’t realize is that histamine only becomes a problem when the body has too much of it, an overload.


Your body has two enzymes that keep levels in check, naturally allowing it to process and metabolize excess histamine build-up.


Diamine oxidase (DAO) is one of the enzymes that help break down excess histamine in our body. It is released when eating food that is rich in histamine. For some people with DAO deficiency, their body may not be able to produce enough DAO to break down excess histamine. When the body accumulates too much histamine, you will have a buildup of histamine that develops to Histamine Intolerance which is commonly associated with food allergies.


Histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) is the second histamine-metabolizing enzyme expressed in the central nervous system. This plays an important role in degrading histamine and in regulating the airway response to histamine.


Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance?


Symptoms of histamine intolerance may look like an allergic reaction but the only way to be sure is to have a medical test. You may experience sneezing, hives on the skin, itch, flushed skin, red eyes but most alarming is when histamine contributes to anaphylaxis, a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction…

Histamine intolerance is something you may be living with, but you don't have to!


To address the symptoms, people usually go to drug stores for antihistamine. This is a huge mistake, not just masking the symptom of the bigger underlying problem but also putting your long term health at risk.


Antihistamines will reduce your body’s response to higher levels of histamine, but they will also inhibit your alertness, cognition and in some cases can cause permanent memory loss.[1]


It can help but they also can inhibit the function of the enzymes which metabolize histamines. It could be that you're reducing the amount of DAO in your body that's actually able to metabolize the build-up of histamine in your body.


Instead of treating the symptom, you should be looking at the root cause, solving the source of the problem, not just addressing the symptoms and putting Band-Aids on the broken situation. Understanding its root cause and how to treat it is a valuable step toward greater vitality and lowering this response in your body.


In this case, histamine intolerance is typically something you can actually work on through your diet. There are a lot of foods that are higher in histamine. If you suspect that you have histamine intolerance then adjusting your diet to minimize your consumption of the histamine rich foods is one of the best steps to treat this. You don’t have to completely stop eating these (although once you experience lower histamine and how you feel you may realize they’re not worth it) but be careful and limit your consumption of the foods that could trigger the build-up of your histamine.



Rich-histamine Foods and Beverages

  • Eggplant, Avocado, Spinach, Tomatoes, Beans

  • Aged Fruits (Pineapple, Bananas, Most Citrus fruits, Nuts)

  • Dried fruits like apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins

  • Some fish (mackerel, anchovies, sardines, tuna..etc)

  • Pork, Sausages, Bone broth

  • All Fermented foods (sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha)

  • Eggs, Cheese

  • Green Tea

  • Alcohol

  • Vinegar and vinegar containing foods like olives and pickles

  • Sour foods like sour cream, buttermilk, sourdough bread

  • Leftovers

  • Chocolate

  • Cured or Smoked Meats

*Take note I’ve bolded many popular Carnivore Diet items which can still be exceptionally high in histamine. One should be careful with how to consume and prepare these items, and in some cases consider eliminating, especially if you’re sensitive and experiencing high histamine symptoms.


In general, aged, preserved, and fermented foods have much higher histamine while fresh meat, fresh fruits, and vegetables have much lower histamine.

The other thing is to consider adding in something that can fuel your kidneys to help them produce more DAO. You can supplement the kidney. If I know I’m personally going to be consuming a higher histamine diet I will proactively add in kidney supplements with those foods. Consider ancestral supplements kidney.


The main takeaways here are: histamine intolerance is something to be treated at the source, not masked. Histamine plays key functions in our alertness, immune function, and overall vitality. The primary causes are foods and environment (allergens). We have great control to reduce several of these variables and by avoiding these things, our bodies will naturally heal and thrive without the side effects and long term consequences of consuming antihistamines.


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