Signs of histamine intolerance
I have always suffered from bouts of repetitive sneezing during my childhood that one time my younger brother kept counting the times I've sneezed and the number amounted to twelve in a row. After the birth of my eldest son, my symptoms only worsened and asthma attacks were added to the list. I used to stock up on over-the-counter anti-histamine drugs, which I took almost daily for quite some time, not knowing that I was only harming myself, masking the symptoms and not addressing the root cause.
It wasn't until I changed my diet, got rid of all the chemical laden detergents, perfumes, body lotions and shampoos in my house; and started exercising that my symptoms almost vanished. It is really amazing how simple changes can affect the quality of your life.
The role of histamine inside our body
We need histamine to digest food, move the bowels, pay attention and regulate our immune response, however, when our ability to breakdown the excessive amounts of histamine becomes compromised we may develop an intolerance and we start suffering from a plethora of irritating health conditions.
Signs of histamine intolerance
- Runny nose
- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
- Bloody nose
- Exercise-induced asthma
- Motion sickness
- Menstrual cramps
- Food allergies
- Rapid heart beat
- Seasonal allergies
- Profuse sweating
- Sea sickness
Causes of high amount of histamine in the body
- Deficiency in diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme, which is responsible for breaking down the extra histamine that enters our body when we eat histamine-rich foods or foods that make our body release histamine.
Enzyme DAO is dependent on iron, copper, vitamins B6, B12 and C; and deficiency in any of these nutrients could result in the suppression of the enzyme, as well as elevated levels of blood histamine.
Some of the medications that may deplete these nutrients include:
- Hormone replacement drugs
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Deficiency in HNMT, which is another enzyme that breaks down histamine. However, unlike DAO, which works on an extracellular level, HNMT works on an intracellular level (reduces excessive amounts of histamine inside the cells). It is noted that HNMT needs vitamin B2 (riboflavin) to function properly.
Chemicals and the detoxification system
Fragrances and chemicals need to be detoxified within the body and any issues with the enzymes involved in detoxification can slow down the detox process of these chemicals. This causes toxic levels of chemicals and fragrances to build in the body, which in turn can trigger high histamine levels and lead to an intolerance.
Chemicals that trigger histamine intolerance include
- Fragrances. These include many known hormone disrupting and cancer causing ingredients. They are often added to cleaning products, laundry detergents, perfumes, soaps, air fresheners, and scented candles.
- Triclosan. This is an antibacterial product in many soaps. Yes, it kills bad bacteria, but it also kills all the good bacteria on your skin too. Triclosan is linked to cancer and hormonal imbalances.
- Ammonia. Found in many glass cleaners and polishing compounds, it is a big contributor to asthma and bronchitis.
- Chlorine. This is a bleaching agent and its fumes can cause breathing issues and skin problems.
Other ingredients to watch out for include,
2-Bromo-2-Nitropropane-1,3-Diol, Didecyldimethylammonium Chloride, Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride, Ethanolamine, Formaldehyde, Glutaral Diethanolamine, Quaternium-15 and Triethanolamine.
Note: Look for natural fragrance-free products or try making your own at home using essential oils such as tea tree, lemon, grapefruit and eucalyptus.
Foods to eat and foods to avoid
Some foods such as avocado and ripe bananas are naturally high in amines, which is the form of histamine in foods, while others trigger histamine production within the body such as olives. The following is a list of the permissible and impermissible foods on a low-histamine diet, according to the Weston Price Foundation:
Allowed: All fresh vegetables (except those on the “avoid” list). Water chestnuts can be used to make a starchy flour.
Avoid: Bell peppers, eggplant, onion (raw), pumpkin, spinach, tomatoes, winter squash, fermented vegetables (sauerkraut, pickles, etc.), overripe or rotten vegetables, all pickled vegetables (or anything that contains vinegar), prepackaged salad or other vegetables.
Allowed: Apples, coconut, fig, lychees, mango, melon, passionfruit, persimmon, pomegranate, quince, rhubarb and starfruit.
Avoid: All other fruit, especially strawberries, dried fruits, overripe or rotten fruit, olives and avocado.
Meat and chicken
Allowed: Fresh meat, chicken and fish.
Avoid: All shellfish, fish that has not been cleaned and frozen immediately, canned fish. All processed meat, aged meat, meat that has been cooked and not immediately frozen, leftovers from the fridge, meat that is not fresh, fermented meat and canned meat.
Allowed: Properly sprouted beans (except red beans and soybeans).
Avoid: All legumes that have not been sprouted, red beans, soybeans in any form and peanuts.
Allowed: Mascarpone, fresh mozzarella, fresh cream, uncultured butter and buttermilk and fresh, raw milk. Some people tolerate any super fresh cheese such as non-aged chèvre and feta.
Avoid: Cheddar, Monterey Jack, processed cheeses, aged cheeses of all kinds, fermented dairy of any kind (yogurt, kefir, some types of cheese, sour cream, creme fraiche, etc.) and cottage cheese.
Allowed: Fresh cooked eggs.
Avoid: All raw egg whites. Use caution with cooked egg whites.
Avoid: All nuts (coconut is a fruit and is allowed), but especially almonds, pecans and walnuts.
Allowed: Soaked chia seeds, freshly ground and soaked flax seeds and their oils, and properly sprouted seeds.
Avoid: Un-sprouted seeds and sesame seeds.
Herbs and spices
Allowed: Salt, pepper, fresh curry leaves, wasabi, fresh herbs and freshly ground spices (except those on the “avoid” list). Some allowed herbs and spices include: allspice, basil, bay leaf, caraway, cardamom, chives, coriander (cilantro), fenugreek, garlic, ginger root, marjoram, mint, myrtle leaf, oregano, parsley, peppermint, pimento leaf, rosemary, sage, savory, sumac, tarragon and turmeric. Black cumin seed (but not regular cumin) has antihistamine properties and is encouraged. Alcohol-free vanilla and other extracts are also allowed.
Avoid: Alcohol-based flavors, anise, artificial flavors, brewer’s yeast, cayenne pepper, chili, chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, curry, mace, mustard seed, nutmeg, smoke flavor, soy sauce and all soy products, tamari, tamarind (fermented), thyme, vinegar of all kinds and any food containing vinegar.
Allowed: Coffee, fresh raw milk, mineral water, fresh water, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, dandelion tea, ginger tea, rooibos tea, coconut water and coconut milk.
Avoid: Soft drinks, all alcohol, anything fermented (such as kombucha and kefir), black tea, green tea, red raspberry tea, nettle tea, mate tea and energy drinks.
Fats and Oils
Allowed: Cold pressed and unrefined seed and nut oils, extra virgin olive oil, pure uncultured butter and cream, coconut butter and coconut cream, duck fat and goose fat.
Avoid: Vegetable oils, heat-treated or refined nut and seed oils, fried foods, processed foods, partially hydrogenated oils and fats, fish oil, avocado, olives, margarine and other fake fats.
Allowed: Pasteurized honey (or raw honey from a reliable source), maple syrup, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, treacle, molasses, jaggery, palm sugar, pure jams, jellies and marmalade.
Avoid: Flavored syrups, prepared desserts and icings and dried fruit; high fructose corn syrup and agave. Caution with sugar alcohols such as xylitol (which can cause gas in those with compromised gut health).