Do You Have Histamine Intolerance?

Do You Have Histamine Intolerance?

Histamine intolerance is a relatively obscure yet increasingly recognized condition that can wreak havoc on one's well-being, including mental health concerns such as anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns. To comprehend this phenomenon fully, we must first delve into the basics of histamine.

What is Histamine?

Histamine is a chemical found naturally in both the body and many foods, acting as a key player in the immune system and governing various physiological processes. Its functions range from signaling the immune system to react to allergens to promoting the secretion of stomach acid during digestion. However, when the body struggles to break down histamine efficiently or is exposed to excessive amounts of histamine, it can lead to histamine intolerance, triggering a range of seemingly perplexing symptoms.

Histamine receptors are distributed throughout the body, resulting in symptoms that can impact various systems. These symptoms may manifest anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours after consuming high-histamine foods and can include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, headaches, migraines, low blood pressure, arrhythmia, itchy skin, nasal congestion, rhinitis (runny nose), skin flushing, hives, wheezing, watery eyes, and even PMS symptoms such as painful cramping or irregular menstrual cycles.

Contributing Factors of Histamine Intolerance

Several factors can contribute to histamine intolerance, many of which involve diminished endogenous production of diamine oxidase (DAO), the enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine. These factors include genetics, medications that hinder DAO production, nutrient deficiencies (such as Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Zinc, Copper, and Magnesium), heavy metal toxicity (including aluminum, mercury, lead, and cadmium), and various digestive conditions like Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Celiac Disease, Candida overgrowth, and food allergies.

Differentiating Histamine Intolerance from Food Allergies

Histamine intolerance is often mistaken for food allergies due to the similarity in symptoms. However, the mechanisms behind these two conditions are distinct. Food allergies involve an immune response triggered by specific proteins, whereas histamine intolerance results from the body's inability to break down naturally occurring histamine in food. Moreover, a true allergy elicits symptoms more immediately and predictably than histamine intolerance reactions, which may vary in onset time.

Histamine and Anaphylaxis

While histamine is involved in anaphylactic reactions, histamine intolerance itself does not cause anaphylaxis. However, individuals with both allergies and histamine intolerance may be more prone to anaphylaxis than those without histamine intolerance. Thus, accurate diagnosis is crucial for tailored treatment plans.

The Histamine Restricted Diet

The most effective method for testing histamine intolerance is to trial a low-histamine diet and monitor symptoms. However, it's essential to work with a healthcare professional to ensure the diet doesn't lead to nutrient deficiencies. Foods to avoid on a low-histamine diet include alcohol (especially wine and beer), vinegar-containing foods, fermented foods, aged cheeses, dried fruits, citrus, certain vegetables (like spinach, avocado, eggplant, and tomato), processed or smoked meats, peanuts, wheat, and bone broth.

Histamine and Eczema

Some individuals with eczema may experience worsened symptoms following the consumption of high-histamine foods, as histamines are thought to contribute to the pathophysiology of eczema. Thus, those with eczema may benefit from adopting a low-histamine diet.

Histamine and Hormones

Histamine intolerance has been linked to hormonal imbalances, with symptoms such as severe menstrual cramps, brain fog, headaches, fatigue, and gastrointestinal discomfort. Elevated histamine levels may lead to increased estrogen production, while high estrogen levels can slow DAO production in the gut, exacerbating histamine intolerance symptoms.

Why not just take anti-histamines?

While antihistamines like Benadryl and Zyrtec may alleviate histamine intolerance symptoms in the short term, they fail to address the root cause and may require indefinite use for sustained results. Long-term antihistamine use has been associated with an increased risk of dementia and cognitive decline. Therefore, it's advisable to work with a healthcare professional to identify and address the underlying causes of histamine intolerance.

Supplements for Histamine Intolerance

Several nutrients and herbs have shown benefits for histamine intolerance, either by helping to eliminate excess histamine from the system, enhancing immune function, or reducing inflammation. Top supplement recommendations for histamine intolerance include DAO enzyme supplements (taken before meals to reduce histamine absorption), Vitamin C (a cofactor for DAO enzyme with immune-boosting properties), stinging nettle (a natural antihistamine), and quercetin (a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that modulates the immune response and blocks histamine release). Of course, make sure to consult with your health care practitioner before taking.


In conclusion, histamine intolerance presents a complex interplay of physiological factors, dietary triggers, and genetic predispositions, impacting various bodily systems and often mimicking symptoms of food allergies. With a comprehensive understanding of its mechanisms and management strategies, individuals can navigate histamine intolerance effectively, fostering improved well-being and quality of life through tailored interventions and informed dietary choices.

Questions? Call PIH at 609.512.1468 for more information.