Low Histamine Diet
One-quarter of what you eat keeps you alive.
The other three-quarters keep your doctor alive.
Written by White Shark, 2009
What is Histamine?
Histamine is a natural chemical produced by the body and is also present in many foods. Histamine is released by the body during times of stress, allergy, infectious diseases etc. Histamine (2-[4-imidazolyl]ethylamine) was discovered in 1910 by Dale and Laidlaw, and it was identified as a mediator of anaphylactic reactions in 1932. Histamine is a potent mediator of numerous biologic reactions inside our body.
Who are the people who are hypersensitive to Histamine?
Many people are hypersensitive to histamine, especially people suffering from allergies, asthma, urticaria, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, pompholyx, irritable bowel syndrome, and anyone suffering from an acute infection. Elevated histamine concentrations and diminished DAO activities have been shown for various inflammatory and neoplastic diseases such as Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, allergic enteropathy, food allergy, migraines, headaches, and colon cancer. Histamine-intolerant women often suffer from headache related to their menstrual cycle and from dysmenorrhea. These symptoms may be explained by the interplay of histamine and hormones. Histamine has been shown to stimulate, in a dosedependent manner, the synthesis of estradiol.
What is Histamine Intolerance?
Healthy people have an enzyme, diamine
oxidase (DAO), which breaks down any excess histamine that they absorb from
a histamine-containing food or any histamine stored inside our own cells, liberated
by histamine liberator foods.
When healthy people eat a food which contains histamine, or foods that liberate
histamines, it does not affect them thanks to a healthy level of diamine oxidase
in their body. However, some people have a low level of this enzyme. When they
eat too many histamine-rich foods they suffer ‘allergy-like’ symptoms such as
headaches, rashes, itching, eczema, hives, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain,
flatulence, etc. This is called histamine intolerance. When you are
hypersensitive to histamines, it is called histamine intolerance.
Histamine intolerance results from a disequilibrium of accumulated histamine and the capacity for histamine degradation.
Next diagram shows all the symptoms associated with histamines, and the pathways how histamines affect different organs and different functions.
What dietarry factors have an important effect on the histamine levels in our body?
There are 4 major dietary factors that can affect histamine levels inside our body.
consumption of foods known as high histamine foods, like vinegar.
consumption of foods known as histamine liberators, like sugar, MSG, sulfites, nitrites.
consumption of diamine oxidase blockers (DAO blockers), mainly alcohol.
consumption of diamine oxidase competitors (DAO competitors), mainly alcohol.
What foods are known as High Histamine Foods?
Foods that are particularly high in histamine and other vasoactive amines include but are not limited to:
Fermented drinks like champagne, wine, beer, cider and other fermented drinks and spirits. (alcohol is also DAO blocker)
Vinegar and foods containing it such as dressings, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard
Prepared salads, salads with dressings, pickles
Tinned and canned vegetables and other foods
Sauerkraut and other pickled foods
Marinated Tofu and soya sauce
Parmesan cheese and all other fermented cheeses
Sausages and all other processed meats (ham, salami, gammon, bacon, mortadella)
Mushrooms and quorn
Tinned, canned and smoked fish (tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel) and crustaceans.
Dried fruit, seeds, nuts.
Yeast extract, yeast, foods made with yeast like bread
Chocolate, cocoa, coca-cola, and all industrial drinks. Water is the only safe drink.
What foods are known as Histamine Liberators?
Foods that stimulate release of histamine
from mast cells are called histamine liberators. Even foods low on histamines
can be histamine liberators.
Examples of histamine liberator foods are:
Sugar, Chocolate, Corn syrup, dextrose, other sugars
Food additives like preservatives, MSG, glutamates, benzoates, sulphites, nitrites, several colorants (yellow E-102 and E-110, E-124, amarant E-123)
Artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sorbitol, xylitol
Sweet and sour tropical fruits like bananas, avocado, papayas, kiwi, pineapple, mango, figs, dates
Citrus fruits like lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruits, mandarins, clementines, tangerines
Sweet common fruits like grapes, cherries,
Almost all berries like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries
Spices, most herbal spices including black pepper, sweet pepper
Nightshades like tomatoes, paprika, peppers, potatoes, eggplant.
Tree-nuts and peanuts, including walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans etc.
Shellfish including oysters, prawns, blue shells
Some food additives such as glutamates, benzoates, sulphites, nitrites, several colorants (yellow E-102 and E-110, E-124, amarant E-123), can release endogenous histamine.
According to the Department of Dermatology at the University of Bonn (Germany), the intake of endogenous histamine-releasing foods or drugs causes the same symptoms as rich-histamine food intake.
If you are suffering from any chronic health problem, odds are your diet is an important factor.
Huge number of people suffering from different chronic health problems are actually intolerant or hypersensitive to some of the foods they may be consuming on the daily bases.
Low histamine diet can help many people recover.
Alcohol is one of the most harmful products for people with DAO deficiency. It contains histamine, cadaverine and other amines, it releases endogenous histamine and has the property of blocking DAO, with the possibility of interfering in the metabolism of its own histamine and of the one found in ingested food. Ethanol intake causes DAO activity reduction, even in healthy people without genetic DAO deficiency and not only in people predisposed to low DAO levels.
Ethanol aggressively attacks DAO, so even with a normal level of DAO (activity higher than 80 HDU/ml) histamine saturation in blood occurs. This is perfectly reflected in the mechanism taking place in a hangover. Most people, even without having low DAO activity, present a typical picture of general discomfort that encompasses the set of symptoms, and these alcohol effects are due to the increased histamine in blood.
What foods are known as low histamine foods?
Commonly considered safe low histamine foods, for 99% of people are:
- Grains: natural whole grain rice, natural whole grain oats, whole grain millet, whole grain buckwheat, quinoa
- Unrefined and unprocessed sea salt, with no additives. Extremely important part of the low histamine diet, as it is a natural antihistamine! Read the label! Available online!
- Fresh, clean water. Another very important part of the low histamine diet, as it is a natural antihistamine!
- natural fresh unprocessed meat
- natural, wild, fresh unprocessed ocean fish like cod
- Root vegetables: carrots, red beet, onions. (some people react on onions! be careful with onions!)
- natural organic apples, natural organic plums
- adzuki beans, mungo beans (may not be well tolerated by all people, be careful with beans)
- sweet potatoes
- whole fresh sesame seeds (not for everyone)
- chia seeds
- fresh raw milk (milk is a common allergen, not safe for many kids)
- coconut. Most people can tolerate coconuts! But some kids react on coconuts
Though beans and raw milk possess antihistamine properties, you can still be allergic to or react to them so please always proceed with caution! Beans contain lectins, surface proteins, and people of blood type O have particulary problem to tolerate beans. Soy is also a bean, and is also a top allergen. Milk is a top allergen!
Can I Improve my Tolerance to Foods?
Harmful foods - foods you should always be avoiding?
If I am hypersensitive to some food, does it mean I am also allergic to it?
To not tolerate some food or to be hypersensitive to some food does not automatically mean that you are allergic to that
food ! It only means you are hypersensitive.
An allergy is defined as a specific antibody response. An allergy is the response of the body's immune system to normally harmless substances, such as pollens, foods, and house dust mite. In IgE mediated allergies the immune system produces exaggerated amounts of a distinct class of antibodies known as IgE antibodies that are, specific for the particular offending allergens.
There are 2 general types of allergy tests. Skin tests and blood tests.
There are three common types of skin tests: Skin prick test, Intradermal test and Skin patch test.
During the skin prick test, skin is intentinally injured by a series of scratches or needle pricks allowing the solution with allergn to enter the skin. A drop of a solution containing a possible allergen is placed on injured skin. If the skin develops a red, raised itchy area (called a wheal), it usually means that the person is allergic to that allergen. This is called a positive reaction to the allergy test.
During the Intradermal test, a small amount of the allergen solution is injected into the skin. This test is usually performed when when a substance does not cause a reaction in the skin prick test but is still suspected as an allergen for that person. The intradermal test is more sensitive than the skin prick test but is more often positive in people who in reality are not allergic. (false-positive test results are common).
For a skin patch test, the patch with allergen solution is taped to the skin for 24 to 72 hours. This test is used to detect a skin allergy called contact dermatitis, common cause of eczema.
Allergy blood tests are designed to measure the level of substances in the blood called antibodies. Blood tests are not as sensitive as skin tests but are often used for people who are not able to have skin tests and for babies.
What are the most common signs of food intolerance?
Signs of intolerance could be, but are not limited to:
- colic, flatulence, diarrhea, gas and bloating
- abdominal pain
- headache (immediately, or even many days after eating that food )
- itch, eczema, rash
- excessive sweating'
- fever, freezing
- excessive anger
- head banging
- pain in different parts of body
- reaction on the skin
- reaction in the eyes, eye twitches
- muscle twitches, cramps, tremor
- mood swings
- hot flushes
- chronic fatigue
- chronic insomnia
- hair loss
- grey hair
- etc ...
Histamine and headache
Headache can be induced dose-dependently by histamine in
healthy persons as well as in patients with migraine (53, 61).
Histamine-induced headache is a vascular headache caused
mainly by nitrate monoxide (62). Histamine releases endothelial
nitrate monoxide upon stimulation of H1R, which is also expressed
in the large intracranial arteries (63). In migraine patients,
plasma histamine concentrations have been shown to be
elevated both during headache attacks and during symptom-free
periods. An increase in the number of brain mast cells is associated
with pathologic conditions such as migraine, cluster headache,
and multiple sclerosis (64). Many migraine patients have
histamine intolerance evidenced by reduced DAO activity, triggering
of headache by food rich in histamine (eg, long-ripened
cheese or wine), and the alleviation of headache (ie, disappearance
of symptoms) under a histamine-free diet (57, 65) and
therapy with antihistamines (66).
Histamine and gastrointestinum
Besides headache, gastrointestinal ailments including diffuse stomach ache, colic, flatulence, and diarrhea are leading symptoms of histamine intolerance. Elevated histamine concentrations and diminished DAO activities have been shown for various inflammatory and neoplastic diseases such as Crohn disease (17), ulcerative colitis (67), allergic enteropathy (39), food allergy (33, 68, 69), and colorectal neoplasmas (24). In the colonic mucosa of patients with food allergy, a concomitant reduced HNMT (70) and an impaired total histamine degradation capacity (THDC) (69) have been found (33), so that the enzymes cannot compensate each other. Therefore, an impaired histamine metabolism has been suggested to play a role in the pathogenesis of these diseases.
Histamine and airways
During or immediately after the ingestion of histamine-rich food or alcohol, rhinorrea or nasal obstruction may occur in patients with histamine intolerance; in extreme cases, asthma attacks also may occur. Reduced HNMT activity has been shown for patients with food allergy (70) and asthma bronchiale (71).
"Let thy food be thy medicine,
and thy medicine be thy food."
Hypocrites, the Father of Modern Medicine
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