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Healing Your Gut Series: Are You Suffering From Histamine Intolerance

Healing Your Gut Series

Healing Your Gut Series: Are You Suffering From Histamine Intolerance?

By Christina Reeves (Bio below)

“It’s 8am on a Sunday, and a sharp pain in your chest wakes you up. “Weird” you think, as you make your way over to the bathroom for a glass of water… Over the bathroom sink you notice your reflection in the mirror. Your face is flushed and your neck seems like it’s swelling. “What the…??” you exclaim out loud.

The fresher the product the better!

The fresher the product the better!

You rush back to the bedroom, your hands flying through the covers and pillows, looking for the possible insect that could have caused the sting, all the while your mind is at work—trying to think of the possible cause for this unexplainable breakout. That’s when you realize–there’s nothing. Absolutely NOTHING that could have caused this breakout! You don’t eat wheat, gluten, processed foods or sugars—not for months. Okay, so maybe you had a couple of fruits, cheese, and steaks at last night’s dinner. Maybe even a dark chocolate bar. But those are WHOLE foods, and you’re not allergic to them. You’re a healthy person; you shouldn’t have these breakouts! So what is happening, and what could it possibly be?”

If this sounds like you or someone you know, then I have the answer for you. There are very big chances you could be suffering from something called a histamine intolerance. Doesn’t sound familiar? Don’t worry; most people have no idea what histamine is, or how it could affect them.

Thankfully, that’s all about to change. Hopefully this article can shed some light into what could be causing your random breakouts and give you the solution on how to fix them.

How to know if you have a histamine intolerance?

A histamine intolerance is becoming more common, as the number of people making the switch to healthier lifestyles grows. Before going into specifics, it’s important to first clarify what I mean by the term “healthier.”

I’m talking about those of you eating less processed sugars and foods, who have cut out/greatly minimized known allergens like wheat and gluten, pasteurized/processed dairy, and soy products.  I’m referring to people who believe in natural foods and follow a Paleo, primal or a similar whole foods diet. You know, the types that have increased the amount of vegetables, fruits and nutrients in their diet and consume quality meats, eggs and fish. The type of person who sometimes has a cheat day, but isn’t really the first one to suggest having McDonald’s for lunch.

If you can associate with at least some aspects of these groups of people, but sometimes find yourself in a similar situation to the histamine-analogy person above, then let’s get right into it, because this article is for you!

(However, if you’re NOT one of these people, then I would suggest FIRST looking into your diet and getting rid of any known allergens BEFORE considering histamine as a trigger for your skin problems or heart pains.)

What and where is histamine?

Histamine can be commonly found in two main places: our body and food.

In the body, histamine plays a very important role. It acts as a bioactive neurotransmitter chemical that aids in the efficient functioning of many body systems. Some ways that histamine helps us is by defending the body against bacteria, dangerous foreign bodies, or toxins that could potentially cause us to get sick. As humans, we have a high amount of histamine found concentrated in our stomach, lungs and skin.

In food, histamine is usually found in aged or fermented foods, (think blue cheese or red wine) but can also be found in fruits, like citrus and some berries.

How the body handles histamine

Because histamine is found naturally in humans, certain amounts are okay and even necessary for proper body function. Medical studies have shown that histamine levels of .3 to 1.0 nano grams per millilitre in plasma are considered to be normal. This varies from each individual, but in general this means that everyone has a “safe level” of histamine that their body is able to tolerate without experiencing any negative symptoms. Basically, as long as you don’t go over your safe levels, you’ll be fine.

Now, because the body is smart (and knows that you can’t resist those histamine foods that sometimes push you over safe levels!) it has also created an enzyme called Diamine Oxidase (DAO). This DAO enzyme helps the body to break down any excess levels of histamine that we might get from food. In short, DAO makes it possible for you to have histamine-rich foods (like strawberries for example), without having any negative side effects.

In a perfect world, this DAO enzyme would break down excess histamine without problems, and we could eat cheese and chocolate while drinking wine to our heart’s content. Unfortunately, it’s not always the case.

There are two main factors that make this impossible for some:

1) In many people, excess histamine is strongly linked to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) causing unhealthy gut problems. There are certain bacteria in the gut that create excess amounts of histamine, even without you consuming histamine foods. When these bacteria grow out of control they create excess histamine from an amino acid called histidine, which is found in proteins and foods. This means that if you have a bacterial imbalance in your gut (an unhealthy gut), cutting out all the histamine-rich foods still won’t do you any good, because of these bacteria creating excess histamine.

2) Some people have a low-level of the DAO enzyme. This means that their body doesn’t break down histamine as fast, making them more sensitive to histamine-rich foods. This is why some people on Paleo or whole food diets, that allow for a lot of histamine rich foods like cheese, red meat, and fruits can experience problems.

The side effects of too much histamine:

If you have an unhealthy gut, or a low-level of the DAO enzyme, then you could have a histamine intolerance. Some of the side effects of a histamine intolerance include:

  • Anxiety or symptoms of a panic attack
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma
  • Bruising
  • Digestive tract (gut) problems like indigestion
  • Eczema-type breakouts
  • Flushed skin
  • Fatigue or grogginess, irritability
  • Heartburn and chest pain
  • Headaches or head throbbing
  • Hives and swelling
  • Itching and rashes (especially around the eyes, ears, nose and neck)
  • Insomnia
  • Tissue swelling or bloating
  • Watery, reddened eyes

A histamine intolerance is a very tricky thing, because (as you can see from the list above) a lot of times it can look like an allergy. Even doctors have a hard time pinpointing histamine as the cause. However, if you find yourself eating well and healthy, but are still having these types of side effects, then you could very well be suffering from a histamine intolerance.

How to heal a histamine intolerance

In the order of importance, here are some ways to treat it:

1) Heal your gut.

Like I mentioned earlier, you could be cutting out all the histamine-rich foods and still have a problem with excess histamine if there is a bacterial imbalance in your gut. One way to heal your gut is to get rid of inflammatory foods (like gluten, dairy, and high amounts of sugar) that feed the bad bacteria, and increase the amounts of probiotics and Omega 3’s in your diet to feed the good bacteria. Once your gut is healed, you should be able to tolerate most histamine-foods again!

2) Cut down on histamine-rich foods.

If you’ve already taken steps to heal your gut, but still suspect you’re suffering from a histamine intolerance, then the next step is to minimize your intake of histamine rich foods.

Here are a few histamine-rich foods that you should try to avoid:

  • Fermented milk products: yogurt, kefir, bleu cheese and aged cheeses
  • Shellfish: smoked, canned, fresh or frozen
  • Processed, cured, or smoked meats: bacon, sausages, pepperoni, smoked/cured ham, etc.
  • Citrus fruits: oranges, lemons, limes, grape fruits
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Artificial food colorings and preservatives
  • Aged drinks: like red wine, cider, kombucha

3) Eat quality foods low in histamine

If you want to continue to keep histamine levels low, you can replace the high histamine products with foods that don’t contain high amounts of histamine.

  • Change things in your diet and eat more fresh meat and fish, fresh chicken, and cage-free eggs.  The fresher the product the better!
  • Go for safe starches like rice, rice noodles, potatoes, vermicelli or sweet potato noodles.
  • Increase healthy fats and natural oils like coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and butter.
  • Have lots of leafy vegetables, fresh fruits (not citrus or berries).
  • If you can tolerate dairy, opt for the non-fermented kinds like ricotta, cream cheese, whole milk and whole cream.

Stay in your body’s safe levels

One last thing to keep in mind is that histamine is NOT an allergy, but rather intolerance. Remember, everyone is able to tolerate a certain amount of histamine in his or her body that is considered “safe.” This means that you don’t have to necessarily quit all histamine foods cold-turkey. An intolerance (unlike an allergy) can be controlled and even healed.

In my research, I’ve found that the majority of people with histamine problems have had a lot of success in healing their gut first, and afterwards are able to return to histamine-rich foods. In my case, I suffered from an unhealthy gut, and couldn’t consume ANY histamine food without breaking out in a rash or eczema. After finally healing my gut and getting rid of the bad bacteria that was causing the excess histamine in my body, I’m now able to drink red wine, eat bacon and have lots of chocolate! I can even eat some fermented dairy like greek yogurt and kefir without having any negative side effects.

Of course this may not be the case for you, and that’s okay! If you’re lucky, you may only react to the foods with the highest amount of histamine, making it possible for you to eat lower histamine foods more often.

The key is to stay within your body’s safe levels, and most importantly, find out what specifically triggers your histamine intolerance. Whether its healing your gut or reducing histamine-rich foods, going slowly is a good way to determine the direct cause of your unexplainable skin problems or body pains.

Heal your histamine intolerance and get rid of the healthy person’s problem!

christinareevesphoto

Bio: As a former eczema sufferer, Christina Reeves made it her goal to develop a method that would clear eczema, fast and naturally. Her book, The Flawless Program,  focuses on gut health as a way to permanently clear skin issues in just 30 days! With her website, she hopes to give insightful information to anyone looking to heal their gut or fix their skin, naturally and forever!

13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Danielle C #

    This is amazing!! I have been dealing with HIT for 3 months now. I can only have a handle ful of foods these days that don’t break me out.

    Question: how long did it take you to heal your gut?

    Like

    November 17, 2016
    • Glad you liked the article. My digestive issues only took a couple of weeks to resolve (thankfully!), but everyone is different of course. Hope this helps and good luck on your journey!

      Like

      November 29, 2016
  2. Such a great article, pinning for reference!

    Like

    March 15, 2016
  3. CANDY #

    Thank you for sharing this useful knowledge 🙂

    I’ve experienced horrible neck-to-ankle (yup, except head & toes) rash while i was on extremely healthy diet (fresh natural whole food ONLY, except for wine, and a tbsp of creamer w/my morning coffee. The latter two had been in my diet for more than 10years with no reaction).

    You’ve inspired me to look into DAO enzyme… However, I got really confused about “green tea”…… According to some, green tea is an DAO blocker. YET at the same time green tea is also works as antihistamine… That seems to contradict itself? Just wondering what are your thoughts on this? Should we incorporate 1 cup of green tea a day or avoid it?

    THANK YOU AGAIN FOR YOUR TIME ❤
    Candy

    Like

    December 9, 2015
    • I’m so glad it could help! Not sure about the green tea… but if you’re looking to boost the DAO enzyme, I suggest supplementing with Vitamin B6 and magnesium (two vitamins that boost it!). You can also get these through foods (such as potatoes, bananas, etc.) Hope this helps, let us know how it goes!

      Like

      December 17, 2015
  4. Ranjan #

    Hello Christina – Your article is so helpful and thanks for that. I want to know how to increase
    Diamine Oxidase (DAO) naturally. I am an histamine/allergy sufferer.

    Like

    September 4, 2015
  5. Troy #

    Hello!! Thank you for this article, it’s extremely insightful. I have mastocytosis so it is just a bit different than a histinamone intolerance but I follow a very similar diet. How long would you say it takes to “heal” your gut? I have been doing a detox juice and low histamine diet, combined with omegas, for over a week. I will also be starting a probiotic once I figure out which one is best lol I was just looking for some guidance on how long it may take to reset my gut! Thank you so much, any advice would be helpful!!

    Like

    August 22, 2015
    • Hi Troy – I’m not an expert personally, this post was from a guest on our blog. But I do know healing can take quite a long time. It really depends how long you’ve been having issues with your gut. But I hear it usually takes one year or more. Good luck!

      Like

      August 24, 2015
  6. aly #

    It seems that all the foods suggested to heal your gut are high in histamines. What did you do to heal your gut? Great article. Thanks.

    Like

    May 14, 2015
    • Hi Aly – Any oils high in DHA and EPA as well as a good probiotic are essential. You can also try lglutamine.

      Like

      May 28, 2015
  7. I recently wrote a piece on histamine intolerance as the cause of migraines. I had been getting migraines for 6 years before I was able to peg it to histamine rich foods like processed meats and red wine or DOA blocking food like green tea. An elimination diet is really the only way to figure out what your individual triggers are!
    I am glad to hear you are now able to consume these foods after healing your gut! Thank you for the motivation to do better. 🙂

    Like

    September 10, 2014
    • Hi there – That’s really interesting that you went through the same thing. I’m so glad you uncovered the hidden trigger! Jennifer

      Like

      September 10, 2014
    • Hi and thanks! 🙂 Glad I was able to share some motivation. Histamine is a very tricky thing, it’s great you were able to find out what caused your migraines!

      Like

      September 19, 2014

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