Have you noticed fermented and aged foods, wine, and cured meats cause certain symptoms in you? If so, you may have a histamine intolerance.
Histamine sensitivity can produce a wide array of symptoms, however some of the more common are hives, swelling of the face or throat, a headache, nasal congestion, skin problems, a racing heart, anxiety, watery red eyes, heartburn, headache, and irritability.
Histamines are found in many common foods, but are most common in those that have been aged or fermented. These include aged cheeses, alcoholic beverages, sauerkraut, kimchee, yogurts, kombucha, kefir, cured meats, and foods with vinegar. Bone broth that has been simmered for a long time also produces histamine reactions in many sensitive people.
It’s frustrating because some of these foods are recommended on a leaky gut protocol. However, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a permanent problem. Many people can resolve histamine sensitivity by avoiding histamine triggers while following protocols to repair leaky gut and improve oral tolerance.
The body produces histamine when you have an immune reaction in order to increase blood flow to the affected area. Although a histamine sensitivity is vexing, histamine plays other important roles in the body. Most people are familiar with histamines in response to seasonal allergies, which people dampen with antihistamines.
Histamine intolerance is not a food allergy
Histamine intolerance differs from allergies in that a histamine reaction builds up over time. The more foods and drinks you consume with histamine the more you react. This is because histamine levels in the blood need to reach a certain level for reactions to take place.
In fact, it’s common for an allergy test to come back negative for the person struggling with histamine intolerance.
What causes histamine intolerance?
A histamine intolerance happens when there’s a defect in the breakdown of histamine, particularly a deficiency in the enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO), which breaks down histamine.
Why do some people get histamine intolerance?
It’s believed gut bacteria imbalances contribute to a histamine intolerance. We all have both good and bad bacteria in our guts, and ideally the beneficial outnumber the harmful bacteria. However, unhealthy modern diets, stressful lifestyles, and the use of antibiotics can throw these bacteria out of balance so that the bad bacteria overwhelm the good.
Excess harmful bacteria promote inflammation, prevent complete digestion of food, and lead to a build-up of histamine. Fortunately, you can restore balance through eating a diet comprised primarily of vegetables and low glycemic fruit and supplementing with probiotics.
Foods high in histamines
Below is a list of foods high in histamines, which it may be helpful to avoid is you are having histamine intolerance issues. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut are the biggest culprits (although anaerobically fermented foods may be fine).
- Fish and shellfish, unless freshly caught
- Processed, smoked, fermented meats
- Leftover meats (bacteria act on leftovers, producing histamines)
- All fermented milk products, including all cheeses, yogurt, buttermilk, and kefir
- Some fruits: Citrus, strawberries, apricots, cherries, grapes, raspberries, pineapple, cranberries, prunes, loganberries, dates, raisins, currants
- Some vegetables: Tomatoes and tomato products, spinach, red beans, eggplant, olives, pumpkin, avocado, pickles, relishes, and other foods containing vinegar
- Food additives: Tartrazine, artificial colors, preservatives, especially benzoates and sulfites
- Seasonings: Cinnamon, cloves, vinegar, chili powder, anise, curry powder, nutmeg
- Miscellaneous: Fermented soy (miso, soy sauce), fermented foods, tea, chocolate, cocoa, cola drinks, alcoholic beverages, and de-alcoholized beer and wine.