Histamine is part of the body’s natural immune response to an allergen or injury, but in some people it can cause a histamine intolerance whereby the body is unable to breakdown the excess histamine and it starts to create health issues.
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There are several reasons as to why histamine may build up in the body including:
- Menopause or hormone imbalances
- DAO deficiency – this is the enzyme that is involved in histamine metabolism
- Digestive issues and gut bacteria imbalance
- High histamine foods
Following a low histamine diet may help to ease or reduce the severity of symptoms in the short-term, but it can be quite restrictive, making it a challenge both practically and nutritionally in the long term. If you're considering a low histamine diet, it’s recommended that you work with a registered nutritionist to ensure that you can maintain a balanced diet and don’t experience malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies.
The 'histamine bucket'
This is a great visual aid for explaining histamine excess or histamine intolerance.
We each have a histamine bucket and it begins to fill with histamine from various sources and triggers i.e.
- gut dysbiosis
- allergens such as pollen, dust etc
- certain medications
If, however, you're not able to breakdown and clear the histamine effectively, i.e. you're missing the DAO enzyme, then the bucket continues to fill up until it is overflowing. An overflowing histamine bucket not only worsens histamine-related symptoms but also leads to a histamine excess.
Conditions associated with a histamine excess
- Hay fever or allergic rhinitis
- Atopic dermatitis
- Allergic asthma
- Pruritus or urticaria
- Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)
Ways to manage histamine excess
There are several ways to better manage your histamine excess, including:
1. Antihistamines – these are over the counter or prescription medications that block histamine in the body, and aim to stop the allergic reaction from happening. What they can’t do however, is help manage the histamine load or ‘bucket’, making them more of a short-term solution.
2. Natural antihistamines – nature also has some natural antihistamines, such as vitamin C, which can be bought as supplement, or you can look to increase foods in the diet that contain these nutrients such as: okra, blueberries, onions, parsley, sage, olive oil and grapes. Be aware however, that some of the foods high in these nutrients – e.g. pineapple, apple and strawberries – are also high in histamine! These natural antihistamines include:
- Vitamin C: helps to remove histamine in the body when it is produced
- Quercetin: inhibits the production and release of histamine
- Stinging nettle or nettle leaf: naturally blocks histamine production
- Bromelain: helps to fight inflammation by reducing swelling or irritation caused by histamine
3. Zeolite Clinoptilolite powder – this is a natural mineral that contains mostly silica, and when consumed it binds to excess histamine in the body which is then removed through natural bowel movements. As this follows a natural process, it can be taken as a long-term supplement for managing histamine excess.
4. Remove high histamine foods – removing high histamine foods can help prevent an excess of histamine in the body.
High histamine foods to remove on a low histamine diet include:
- Dry goods: chickpeas, soy flour, peanuts, cashew nuts, pistachios and almonds
- Breads: sourdough
- Condiments: pickles, vinegars and tomato ketchup
- Meat: cured or fermented meat such as salami, prosciutto, chorizo and bacon
- Fish: frozen, salted or tinned fish such as sardines and tuna
- Vegetables: aubergines, spinach and tomatoes
- Fruit: dried fruit, cherries, mangoes, pineapple, apples and bananas
- Fermented dairy products such as cheese (especially aged cheese), yoghurt and sour cream
- Fermented vegetables including kimchi and sauerkraut
- Fermented soy including miso, soy sauce and tempeh
- Fermented drinks such as kombucha, ginger beer and kefir
- Alcohol: wine, beer and champagne
There are also some foods known as histamine-liberators to watch out for. While these foods are low in histamine themselves, they can help the release of histamine from other foods. For this reason, be mindful of how you feel when consuming these foods.
- Citrus fruits: limes, oranges and lemons
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