What Is Histamine Intolerance and What Can You Do About It?

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If your body reacts to a wide range of foods with symptoms that can range from cold and flu-like symptoms to migraines, it’s natural to think that you might be allergic to those foods – but that might not always be the case. Instead, you might be suffering from what is known as histamine intolerance, and the foods that you react to are ones with high levels of histamine in them. 

Histamine is a chemical that is naturally produced in the body, along with being found in certain foods. When you have an allergy to something, your body will release histamine, which in turn, causes an allergic reaction. However, histamine intolerance is not actually an allergic reaction – it’s a reaction that certain people will experience after consuming foods that are naturally high in histamine.

People with histamine intolerance often have low levels of the enzymes that process histamine in the body. Without enough of these enzymes there to process histamine, the histamine builds up over time leading to allergy-like symptoms. 

Common Symptoms:

The most common symptoms of histamine intolerance include digestive issues, hives, flushes, eczema, headaches, and hay fever. Histamine intolerance can also lead to more severe problems, such as triggering asthma attacks, anaphylactic shock, or erratic heartbeat. It may also be associated with some more serious chronic health conditions. 

If you tend to experience these symptoms after eating foods that are naturally high in histamine, you may be suffering from histamine intolerance. Keeping a food log can be an ideal option to help you figure out the problem. 

Diagnosis:

Histamine intolerance can be tricky to diagnose because the histamine can build up over time. Eating food that is high in histamine might cause symptoms one day but not the next. If you avoid eating high histamine foods, this may allow you to reduce your histamine build-up, which can help to reduce any symptoms. Histamine intolerance cannot be diagnosed with a traditional allergy test; the only way to determine if you are suffering from this condition is a double-blind food challenge following a histamine-free diet. 

Avoiding Foods That are High in Histamine:

The only way to get complete relief from histamine intolerance symptoms is to stick to a histamine-free diet. You will be able to discuss which foods are best avoided with your doctor, but generally speaking, any aged or fermented foods, along with certain vegetables that are high in histamines like spinach and tomatoes, are usually the most likely to cause problems. Aged cheese, red wine, sauerkraut, and any foods containing yeast tend to be very high in histamine and should be avoided. And, bear in mind that citrus fruits can trigger your body to release any stored histamine, which can, in turn, trigger symptoms. Those sticking to a histamine-free diet are will usually need to avoid fruits like oranges and grapefruit. You should also give up alcohol since alcohol can make the enzymes that process histamine in your body less effective. 

Other Treatments:

While avoiding foods that are high in histamines is the only way to control your histamine intolerance over time, there are some other treatments that might be useful to you. There are supplements designed to help block histamine if you eat a food that contains it, or you can use Benadryl, which is easy to get over the counter, to ease symptoms if you start to have a reaction. Doctors recommend supplements that contain high doses of vitamin C and vitamin B6, which can kick-start the activity of histamine-processing enzymes in the body. 

If you suspect that you have histamine intolerance, speak to your doctor, who can help you get to the root of the issue. 

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