Histamine intolerance

Happy Spring Equinox down under! 🙂

Great news for many, however, for some Spring brings allergies and nasty symptoms, including:

  • Mucus & head/sinus congestion
  • watery, itchy eyes, cold and flu
  • wheezing
  • stuffy nose and itchy throat
  • itchy skin/eczema/hives
  • brain fog, insomnia
  • low immunity
  • fatigue/depression/pain [1,1b,1c,2,3]

This is due to the release of histamine when your body is exposed to an allergen. Your body sees the allergen as an attack on the immune system, and thus sends out defences, in the form of white blood cells, called mast cells.

Allergens include toxins, pollen, dust mites, dander, weeds, grass, pet hair, air pollutants & chemicals and Sydney seems to be full of them! [2, 2a]

spring allergies pollen

However, it might not just be spring allergies to blame. I have never really suffered from allergies but lately I have been experiencing histamine-like symptoms!

Some foods contain histamine or help to release histamine. Many people can cope with some histamine in the body and it is an important neurotransmitter and immune messenger molecule and plays an important physiological role in the body.

However, others are very sensitive and can develop histamine intolerance, for many reasons, including genetics, gut & immune health and inflammation.

Histamine intolerance is not an allergy as such but produces the similar symptoms above. It is often difficult to distinguish between an immediate allergy (Type 1 allergy), a delayed allergy/intolerance (Type 111 food allergy), or a histamine intolerance as the symptoms can often be identical. [2a]

Histamine Intolerance becomes a problem when the amount coming in is excessive or the amount being cleared is insufficient, causing a build up.

Further symptoms in addition to the above are signs of histamine intolerance:

  • anxiety & irritability
  • digestive problems
  • hormone imbalances,
  • PMS, nausea
  • racing heart
  • headaches, migraine [1,1b, 1c, 2,3]

Causes of histamine intolerance:

  1. Reasons for too much histamine into the body:
  • High histamine diet
    • Excess red wine, chocolate, avocadoes, sauerkraut, smoked meats/fish all contain high levels of histamine, causing problems if there’s an intolerance [4,8]


  • Food sensitivities/irritating foods
    • Allergenic foods (gluten and dairy) can actually also trigger histamine if the body recognises the food as an attack on the immune system [4,5]
    • Poor diet of refined, inflammatory foods can also cause a histamine release as irritates the gut causing an immune response
  • Gut flora dysbiosis
    • Wrong gut bacteria can actually make histamine [4,5a]
  • Hormones
    • High oestrogen levels stimulate more histamine and histamine stimulates oestrogen so a vicious cycle and hence
    • hence why more women are susceptible to histamine intolerance during ovulation, pre-menstruation and peri menopause [6,8]
  • Hypersensitive immune system thus seeing all pollen and food as an attacker causing autoimmune issues
  • Inflammation is a key to histamine release and can be linked to autoimmunity
  • Stress
    • Cortisol rises in stress which can reduce DHEA levels which can thus cause inflammation, homocysteine and immune suppression thus more histamine release
  • Menopause
    • can lead to low DHEA, contributing to inflammation and histamine intolerance [5a, 6,8]
  • Unstable blood sugars can also increase histamine [5a]

However, even gut bacteria produces histamine. So it’s not just about what you put in. It’s often an issue with your lack of ability to break histamine down! [7]

2. Causes for not enough histamine being cleared out

  • Lack of the histamine clearing enzymes
    • DAO (diamine oxidase) in the digestive system
    • HNMT (histamine N-methyltransferase) in the central nervous system [3,5a,8]
      • Either from genetic variants or lack of essential nutrient cofactors to produce the enzymes
  • Methylation impairments i.e. MTHFR gene and many others
    • DAO enzymes need methyl groups to increase their activity of clearing excess histamine thus those with decreased methyl groups (under/reduced methylation) tend to be more intolerant [4, 4a, 8]
  • Gut issues & low DAO production
    • Impaired gut mucosa affects DAO enzymes to clear histamine [1,8]
      • Leaky gut, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), adrenal fatigue, viruses, liver issues
  • Alcohol & medications/antibiotics
    • can cause gut damage and impair DAO activity causing histamine build up
  • Hormones
    • High oestrogen down regulates DAO enzymes [5, 5a,6,8]
    • Low progesterone causes DAO down regulation [5a,6,8]
    • Birth control causes oestrogen excess and thus histamine excess
  • Parasites can overwhelm the body leading to multiple chemical sensitivities [3c]

Natural tips to reduce histamine

Conventional antihistamines can have nasty side effects on the brain, digestion and can play havoc with your thyroid, acid production and delete the body of essential nutrients. [1b]

  1. Reduce histamine producing foodshitamine-foods
  • Avoid common foods that trigger an allergic response
    • dairy, casein, gluten, wheat, red wine, chocolate, smoked foods, fermented foods
  • Avoid high histamine foods [4]
    • Alcohol (including wine)
    • Bone broth
    • Canned foods
    • Cheeses
    • Chocolate
    • Eggplants
    • Pickled & fermented foods (kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt)
    • Legumes (chickpeas, soybeans, peanuts)
    • Mushrooms
    • Nuts
    • Processed foods
    • Smoked meat products (bacon, salmon, salami, and ham)
    • Shellfish
    • Spinach
    • Vinegar
    • Salty snacks, sweets with preservatives/ colourings
  • Avoid foods that release histamine
    • Avocados, bananas and citrus fruits and strawberries and tomatoes
    • Additives – benzoate, sulphites, nitrites, glutamate
    • Raw egg white
  • Avoid gut irritating/ inflammatory foods that block DAO
  1. Eat low histamine releasing foods
  • Eat foods low in histamine
    • Coconut milk & rice milk
    • Egg yolk
    • Fresh wild-caught fish
    • Fresh organic meat
    • Fresh vegetables (except strawberries, eggplants, tomatoes and spinach)
    • Non citrus fresh fruits (avoid strawberries)
    • Gluten-free grains (rice, corn, quinoa, millet)
    • Herbal teas
    • Olive oil & coconut oil
    • Most leafy herbs
  • Eat foods high in natural antihistamines or DAO & HNMT upregulating
    • Apples (high in quercetin)
    • Fennel
    • Watercress, parsley
    • Broccoli
    • Ginger
    • Chicken, turkey and potatoes (B6)
    • High vitamin C rich fruits and vegetables (avoid high histamine fruit/veg)
    • Asparagus and liver rich in copper
    • Olive oil (increases DAO) Research shows it helps to increase intestinal lymph DAO
    • Thyme [1,3,6]
  • Eat fresh foods
    • Processed and left over food encourages bacterial growth which is more likely to increase histamine in foods [5a,6]
  1. Heal the gut to ensure adequate DAO & HNMT production
    • Repair gut lining since this is where the important enzymes live for histamine clearance (DAO & HNMT) [7]
    • Taking liver protective and histamine reducing herbs
      • Milk thistle, globe artichoke, Albizzia, Baical skullcap, nettle
    • Take a probiotic to regain good gut flora to help repair lining
    • Do an elimination diet of at least 30-60 days, reducing allergenic and inflammatory foods and allowing the gut to heal
    • Reintroduce foods and journal foods that you react to
    • Speak to a specialist to help reduce inflammation, improve gut flora and heal the gut lining with foods, supplements and herbs [7]
  2. Natural supplementation to increase DAO, methylation and immunity
    • Vitamin C
      • A powerful antioxidant that helps prevent formation of histamine and suppresses inflammation by supporting your immune system
    • B6 & copper help to up regulate DAO enzymes [5a,6]
    • B1 helps to support the hypothalamus in adrenals issues and thus helps increase DHEA, reducing histamine intolerance [6]
    • B6 upregulates DAO (meat, chicken, and sunflower seeds) [6, 8]
    • B12 helps methylation and therefore increased DAO production [5]
    • SAMe
      • A natural antihistamine that donates methyl groups, thus increases DAO, reduces inflammation, pain and histamine levels and balances a hypersensitive immune system [2]
    • Other natural antihistamines include:
      • Quercetin, bromelain, propolis, chlorella, Stinging nettle & butterburstingingnettle2_compact
  1. Reduce inflammation
    • Vitamin B9, folic acid, helps balance homocysteine.
    • Omega 3s help reduce inflammation of excess omega 6 in our diet [6]
    • Helping regulate our immune system above (autoimmune issues) will also help inflammation
  2. Promote oestrogen detoxification [8]
  3. Minimise stress and stay active
    • Stress increases cortisol and thus inflammation and affects digestion
    • Can lead to methylation issues all leading to higher risk of histamine intolerance
  4. Stay hydrated
    • Often histamine levels are higher when you’re dehydrated so drinking more water helps to dilute and flush out excess amounts
    • Hydrate your sinuses/nostrils with saline sprays and neti pots [1,1b]
      drinking water
  5. Get enough sleepto ensure optimal immunity
  6. Salt(celtic or himalayan)
    • Halotherapy
      • salt caves, where you breathe in salt infused air, are great for relaxing and soothing sinuses
    • Drinking water with 1/4 tsp unrefined sea salt
    • Dapping some salt on the tip of your nose [2]
  7. Eucalyptus oil is great for opening the sinuses and the citronella has antibacterial properties and decreases pain and inflammation [2]

I hope the above gives you some information and relief for any reactions you might be having this Spring.

It is best to see a specialist so you can get properly tested for histamine, food intolerances, allergies and methylation issues. You can then be treated on an individual basis and given appropriate diet and supplementation to heal any related gut, adrenal and hormonal issues. Good luck.

Chrissie 🙂


1 Laura Maintz, Natalija Novak, ‘Histamine and histamine intolerance’ http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1185.full
1b Dr Christianson ‘Are your allergies making you feel rundown?’
1c Christa Orecchio ‘New Food Research to Overcome Arthritis & Allergies’
2a http://www.imupro.com.au/food-intolerance/symptoms/histamine-intolerance-b/
2 Suzy Cohen ‘Allergies and your Genes – Histamine, Autoimmunity and DAO SNPs’
3 Suzy Cohen ‘DAO deficiency and Histamine – the unlikely connection’ MTHFR Support
3b Hermann Keppler (CNM Principal), ‘Hayfever, the natural approach’
3c Izabella Wentz ‘Hashimotos’
4 Dr Will Cole ‘The MTHFR Gene Mutation: What It Is + Why You Should Care’
4a Dr Will Cole ‘The Hidden Food Intolerance That Could Be At The Root Of Your Inflammation
4 HIT ‘Histamine Intolerance Awareness’ http://www.histamineintolerance.org.uk/about/the-food-diary/the-food-list/
5 Paleo hacks
5a Alison Vickery ‘Histamine and the nervous system’ http://alisonvickery.com.au/histamine-nervous-system/
6 Yasmin Ykelestan, The Low Histamine Chef – The high nutrient approach to healing inflammation, ‘The Menopause-histamine connection’
7 Body Ecology Diet
8 Lara Briden ‘Oestrogen and Histamine’
9 Health Benefits of Quercetin http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/health-benefits-of-quercetin/
9a Chirumbolo S, The role of quercetin, flavonols and flavones in modulating inflammatory cell function. Inflamm Allergy Drug Targets. 2010 Sep;9(4):263-85.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20887269



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.