By Suzy Cohen
Histamine can cause allergies, and it is found in hundreds of foods that you consume daily, but an allergy is different than what I want to share with you today. An allergy causes an almost immediate reaction to the food you just ate, whereas an “intolerance” is a reaction that occurs later. Why later? Because the blood levels of histamine need to spike for the reaction to take place, you are reacting to histamine, not the food itself. See the difference?
High blood histamine levels will cause chronic health conditions, which could be life-long. In contrast a true food “allergy” results in symptoms within a few minutes like lip swelling, itchiness, sneezing, hives, diarrhea and possibly anaphylaxis.
A problem with histamine break-down can cause many disorders that you would never connect to histamine (since you associate histamine with sneezing and runny nose). You could have a problem with your genes for example, and this would cause histamine levels to rise. You may be taking a medication that increases histamine levels. I have a longer version of this article (over 3,000 words long) which I can email to you if you sign up for my website at suzycohen.com.
If your physician doesn’t tease out the problem of high histamine, you may suffer with migraines, clusters, Hashimoto’s, anxiety, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, dermatographia, vertigo, abnormal menstrual cycles and much more.
Histamine isn’t a bad guy, it’s needed to create stomach acid and to perfect your gut motility so that you can get food through you properly. DAO or “diamine oxidase” is an enzyme that is outside the cell (termed “extracellular”) and it breaks down histamine. Supplements are sold at health food stores nationwide, and you should ask your physician about them. They are not right for everyone, however, if you have a histamine intolerance, they may improve symptoms dramatically. I leave this to be decided by you and your physician. Avoiding histamine-rich foods can impact your situation as well, especially if you avoid fermented foods and left-overs. The following foods are high in histamine (or provoke excessive release from your mast cells). Either way it’s not good so reduce histamine by avoiding:
Farmed seafood, including shellfish, smoked meats , Bologna, Eggs, Fermented dairy products like buttermilk, yogurt, cheese and kefir.
Citrus fruits
Dried fruits: Apricots, cherries, cranberries, prunes, currants, raisins and dates
Tomatoes and tomato sauce
Spinach (it’s high in oxalates anyway, so keep this to a minimum)
Vinegar-containing foods like salad dressing, pickles, relish, etc
Vegans eat a lot of fermented foods, like tofu and tempeh. These can raise histamine levels and cause anxiety and skin problems. Reducing histamine can help. Finally, people with hypothyroidism, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or any other auto-immune disorder such as Multiple Sclerosis may have been misinformed about a “healthy” diet. Fermented foods may not be wise for you after all, these foods are super high in histamine and this can increase your symptoms. Symptoms should resolve within a month, and if not, you can take DAO supplements. There are many brands, just buy what you like.