The word histamine is misunderstood. Most people associate it with allergy symptoms such as a runny, itchy nose and sneezing, but the truth is, histamine actually helps the body as well.
So what’s the story about histamines? Should you worry about high histamine levels?
Let’s find out how you go about lowering your histamine levels through diet and other methods.
What is Histamine?
Before you learn about how to lower high histamine levels (if you need to), let’s take a quick look at what histamine really is. It helps the body in three major ways.
- Histamine works as a chemical messenger in the nervous system.
- It is a component of stomach acid, also known as gastric acid. This helps the digestive tract work normally.
- Histamine helps to dilate blood vessels. When blood vessels are dilated, this allows white blood cells to attack pathogens. This is an immune response to perceived dangers to the body.1
As you can see, having proper histamine levels is important for your health and well being. It helps blood vessels free up immune system cells to do their job. It’s also key to our digestive system.
But if you have high histamine levels… that can lead to an allergic reaction due to a histamine response. It could also lead to other potentially serious health issues.
How the Body Helps Protect Against Histamine Overload
One of the negative effects of too much histamine is that it can lead to allergy-like symptoms and more. But the body should have defense mechanisms in place to protect against an allergic reaction.
Two enzymes in the body help promote histamine degradation. Each is a type of natural antihistamine, meaning they help break down an excess of histamines so they don’t cause problems.
One is known as HMT (n-methyltransferase). It mainly has to deal with histamine in the central nervous system.2
The other is DAO (diamine oxidase). Most of the problems associated with histamine are due to DAO failing to do its job. There are several reasons this can happen:
- A gastrointestinal issue can reduce the amount of DAO that’s available.
- Medications can often block the production of DAO.
- Certain foods can block DAO production as well.3
What are Signs of Histamine Intolerance?
If you have high levels of histamine and develop symptoms as a result, you are experiencing histamine intolerance. Patients experiencing symptoms of histamine intolerance typically report the following:
- Abdominal cramps
- Breathing difficulties
- Digestive problems
- Blood pressure issues
- Runny nose4
With the exception of blood pressure… these symptoms are similar to seasonal allergies symptoms.
If your doctor says you are experiencing allergic reactions, you might want to see if they could test for histamine intolerance. That could be the cause of the allergic reaction you’re experiencing.
What Causes Histamine Reactions?
We already mentioned DAO failure as one of the reasons why histamine levels in the body get too high. Symptoms can develop as a result. But histamine levels can cause problems due to other reasons as well. Here is just one:
Something Affecting Your Gut Health
Your gut, or gastrointestinal tract, has a lot to do with your health. Histamine can, for example, build-up due to a variety of gut issues like leaky gut.7 Leaky gut is where toxins move through the small intestine into the bloodstream.8
One study shows that probiotics, or “good” bacteria, can help with leaky gut.9 That means it’s important to support your system with both probiotics and prebiotics. This helps your body load up on good bacteria, and ward off the bad ones.10
They could also help you avoid bacterial overgrowth.11 This could also lead to histamine accumulation.
Which Natural Antihistamines can be Added to a Histamine Diet?
There is no way to completely eliminate histamine from your diet. There is no food source that acts as an antihistamine.
But there are some foods that are low in histamines. Others are high. They can worsen the negative effects of histamine. Here are some foods to include in your diet, as well as others to avoid. Think of this as a histamine diet of sorts.
Foods With Low Histamine Levels:
- Egg yolk
- Fresh fish
- Fresh vegetables
- Milk substitutes (such as coconut and rice milk)
Foods With High Histamine Levels
- Canned foods
- Salty snacks
- Smoked meats (such as ham and salami)13
Some people on a histamine diet suffer from food intolerances that can cause symptoms. If you fall into this category, ask your doctor to see if you’re also having a reaction to histamine. Your doctor may recommend an elimination diet to see what is leading to those symptoms.
Getting Your Histamine Levels Under Control
If you experience symptoms of high levels of histamine… talk to your doctor. He or she can see what is causing your reaction and recommend a course of action. Is the problem related to your diet? Will antihistamine medications help? How about a histamine-free diet?
A medical professional will study your systems. Then they’ll determine the best way to reduce them. He or she may have worked with other patients who had the same problem. These patients could hold a clue to what’s going on with you.