A low-histamine diet is recommended for people with histamine intolerance. While histamine aids in several bodily functions, excess histamine can lead to symptoms similar to an allergic reaction. Roughly 20% of the western population deals with food intolerances, with histamine intolerance being one of the most common (1). In this article, we will explore what histamine intolerance is, how a low-histamine diet is beneficial, and what foods to avoid.
In This Article
What Is Histamine And Histamine Intolerance?
Histamine is a chemical substance released by mast cells (a type of white blood cells) that helps regulate the body’s response to foreign substances. Simply put, your body releases histamine when it perceives something as harmful. While the body gets some amount of histamine from its own cells, histamine is also found in certain foods.
According to the Food and Health Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, histamine-rich foods may cause histamine intolerance in sensitive individuals who have trouble breaking down this compound (2). Similar to an allergic reaction, the symptoms of histamine intolerance are (1):
- Skin inflammation
- Itchy skin
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, there is no specific test for diagnosing histamine intolerance (3). So, doctors opt for an elimination diet. This means removing histamine-rich foods for 4 weeks and gradually adding them back. This allows your doctor to determine which food is triggering the symptoms.
How does a low-histamine diet benefit us? Let’s find out in the next section.
Benefits Of A Low-Histamine Diet
- May Lower The Level Of Histamine In Your Body
The primary purpose of a low-histamine diet is to decrease the level of histamine in the body. Diamine oxidase is an enzyme that is responsible for breaking down histamine in our bodies. Studies have suggested that low levels of diamine oxidase (DOA) may increase the levels of histamine in the body (4). In another study, patients with histamine intolerance had lower DOA activity. The same patients when asked to go on a low-histamine diet with DOA supplements saw an improvement in the symptoms (5).
- May Help Reduce The Symptoms Of Hives
A low-histamine diet may be instrumental in reducing the symptoms of hives. A study was conducted in 2018 to see the effect of a low-histamine diet on patients with chronic hives. The patients were prohibited from consuming histamine-rich food for 4 weeks. After 4 weeks, the researchers found a significant decrease in the histamine levels and severity of hive symptoms (6). Research also suggests that consuming a low-histamine diet for 3 weeks may be beneficial to patients with hives accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms (7).
- May Help Manage Atopic Dermatitis
Similar to symptoms of histamine intolerance, the symptoms of atopic dermatitis may worsen due to the intake of histamine-rich food. A study conducted on a boy with atopic dermatitis found that a low-histamine diet is instrumental in the reduction of symptoms (1), (8).
- May Reduce The Symptoms Of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Eating a low histamine diet may reduce the symptoms of IBS. Research suggests that avoiding gluten-rich foods and fermented products may play an important role in reducing the symptoms of IBS (9).
Even though a low-histamine diet has many potential benefits, it is highly recommended that you consult a doctor before going on this diet.
If you aren’t sure which foods are high in histamine? Check out the next section to read about which foods to avoid on a low-histamine diet.
Foods To Avoid On A Low-histamine Diet
Today, due to limited evidence, it is difficult to quantify histamine levels in food. Factors such as storage time, addition of preservatives, and how old the food is can impact its histamine levels. Make sure you avoid foods labeled as “histamine liberators” as they are meant to help release histamine from other foods you consume. Here is a list of foods that may have higher levels of histamine (10):
- Cheese, sour cream, buttermilk, and yogurt
- Kimchi and sauerkraut
- Pickles or pickled veggies
- Salami, sausages, and fermented ham
- Beer, wine, and champagne
- Miso, tempeh, natto, and soy sauce
- Sourdough bread
- Frozen, salted, or canned fish such as sardines and tuna
- Tomato ketchup
While the above is a list of foods to avoid, below is a list of foods that are considered to be low in histamine.
- Herbal teas
- Quinoa, buckwheat, and rice
- Chia, flax seeds, and hemp
- Vegetables excluding spinach, eggplant, and tomato
- Freshly cooked seafood and meat
- Gluten-free products
- Cooked eggs
- Dairy-free products
- Coconut products such as coconut milk, coconut meat, and coconut butter
The next section explores the cons of eating a low-histamine diet.
Cons Of A Low-histamine Diet
While limited studies indicate that a low-histamine diet can help reduce symptoms of various diseases, more studies are warranted to confirm that.
- There is no scientific evidence currently that suggests that a low-histamine diet may improve quality of life in the long term.
- A low-histamine diet may lead to malnutrition. Before you opt for it, it is recommended to consult a doctor for better understanding.
- A low-histamine diet may be hard to sustain as it requires complete elimination of processed and canned foods. This may be hard for people who rely on these kinds of food for convenience.
To Sum It Up
Histamine intolerance is a medical condition that is difficult to diagnose and a low-histamine diet may be essential in tackling it. Limited scientific evidence suggests that a low histamine diet may help in the reduction of symptoms of hives and atopic dermatitis. While cutting out fermented products and other selected foods may be beneficial for a while, it may lead to malnutrition in the long run. Before you opt for this diet, consult your doctor to plan a balanced diet that meets all your dietary needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I lower my histamine levels quickly?
Taking antihistamines, corticosteroids, and DAO enzyme supplements may help lower your histamine levels quickly. Consult your doctor before taking these medications.
Are potatoes high in histamine?
No, potatoes are not high in histamine.
What time of day is histamine highest?
Though the histamine levels keep fluctuating throughout the day, the body releases higher levels of histamine at night and the lowest levels in the afternoon. Excessive histamine may result in itching, difficulty breathing, and lack of sleep. Therefore, it is best to consume low histamine foods after evening.
- Your body becomes histamine intolerant when it is unable to metabolize histamine.
- This condition manifests in the form of an allergic reaction.
- Studies suggest that a low histamine-breaking enzyme and diamine oxidase may cause the intolerance.
- Avoid fermented foods like pickles, kimchi, yogurt, etc., while on a low-histamine diet.
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- Histamine Intolerance: The Current State of the Ar
- Public Health Risks of Histamine and other Biogenic Amines from Fish and Fishery Products
- Diamine oxidase use in children
- Serum diamine oxidase activity in patients with histamine intolerance
- Serum diamine oxidase activity as a diagnostic test for histamine intolerance
- A Histamine-Free Diet Is Helpful for Treatment of Adult Patients with Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria
- A Popular myth – low-histamine diet improves chronic spontaneous urticaria – fact or fiction?
- Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis with a Low-histamine Diet
- A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis Evaluating the Efficacy of a Gluten-Free Diet and a Low FODMAPs Diet in Treating Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Histamine intolerance and dietary management: A complete review