Author - Sarah Bayliss
Nutritional Therapist with clinics in Clifton, Bristol.
Histamine is a chemical response and required for a number of biological processes including muscle contraction, gastric acid secretion (for optimal digestion), it acts as a neurotransmitter as well as supporting the immune system and wound healing.
So we need it but how much do we need? Our bodies’ work on equilibrium, the key is finding your unique balance to achieve homeostasis. It helps to think of a bath we want the bath to be full, not too full that it may overflow; therefore we need to be able to remove any excess water to stop it from overflowing and causing damage (everyone’s bath is different!).
Our bodies work similarly when looking at histamine and potential intolerance we need to consider two things, a) how much we are putting into our bodies through diet and b) how well our body is removing the excess to minimise irritation, allergic reactions and inflammation.
Elevations can be caused by high dietary exposure and poor elimination, driving an allergic reaction, genetics may also play a role. Individuals with allergies tend to have a higher baseline histamine level.
There are a number of broad symptoms that could be due to histamine intolerance, to name a few these include:
- Skin – flushing, skin rash, itching
- Gastrointestinal – nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhoea
- Headaches, migraines, dizziness
- Asthma, hay fever symptoms, nasal obstructions
The best way to determine if you have an intolerance is firstly to eliminate high histamine foods from your diet for approximately 4 weeks and review your symptoms. High histamine foods include:
- Alcoholic beverages – white and red wine, fermented beer, champagne
- Oily fish – mackerel, herring, sardines, tuna
- Cured meats – fermented sausage, salami, fermented ham
- Aged cheese – gouda, camembert, cheddar, Emmental, swiss, parmesan
- Fermented foods – sauerkraut,
- Fruits including – kiwi, citrus, strawberry, pineapple and papaya
- Vegetables – Spinach, tomatoes, and aubergines
Secondly, sufficiently supporting your detoxification pathways in your liver and ensuring your gut is functioning well, enabling good elimination. Histamine is detoxified in both your liver and your gut. Removing substances that impair our liver and gut function will be helpful and eating foods that support our liver and our gut:
- Remove alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes
- Eat a whole food diet, rich in vitamins and minerals
- Eat green leafy vegetables and cruciferous vegetables daily (cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, cabbage) to support your liver
- Eat only good sources of lean protein with most meals
- Remove processed foods, additives, preservatives and colourings
- Minimise stress
- Eat slowly and mindfully at each meal
Essentially through on-going support of our detoxification pathways will help improve our resilience and improve symptoms. Diet is critical not only in minimising problematic foods but maximising healing foods that support our organs and help to drive down inflammation. Minimising stress on the body, looking after our organs, eating well and sleeping well will all help to improve our overall resilience and therefore reduce the allergic reactions.
Laura Maintz, Natalija Novak, Histamine and histamine intolerance. (2007). The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85 (5),1185–1196.
Tuck, C. J., Biesiekierski, J. R., Schmid-Grendelmeier, P., & Pohl, D. (2019). Food Intolerances. Nutrients, 11(7), 1684.
By Sarah Bayliss, Nutritional Therapist, CNHC registered mBANT