What Does A Bucket Have to Do With Allergies? Plenty.

The information provided in this post is for information purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.
It is not a substitute for your doctor's care plan or advice.

Histamine and Allergies. Histamine Intolerance and Allergies

(Please welcome back Erin from Natural Wonderer. Today she brings you the second of two posts full of surprising information about histamine allergy, or histamine intolerance. In her previous post on histamine intolerance, she covered:

– what histamine is
– what it means to be intolerant to it, and
– the causes of histamine intolerance.

You may want to catch up by reading the other post before jumping in here!)

As we talked about in the first post, Think You Have Allergies? Think Again, histamine intolerance can be a cause of allergy-like symptoms.

The situation with histamines is complex and confusing.

Hopefully this post will help you understand them better and figure out if they are a problem for you or not.

How do you know if you are histamine intolerant

There are no definitive tests for determining histamine intolerance.

There are labs that can test the levels of the enzyme DAO in the blood, but doctors don’t know enough about what normal levels of the enzyme are to be able to accurately determine the results of the test. Tests that measure the levels of histamine in blood plasma are also offered, but these levels can change from hour to hour and aren’t a reliable marker of difficulty processing histamine.

The easiest and most reliable way to determine histamine intolerance is by embarking on a strict low histamine diet for 7-14 days. If symptoms improve, histamine intolerance is most likely an issue at play.

Foods High in Histamine

In general, the longer a food is stored or left to mature, the greater its histamine content will be. For example, fresh meats and fish contain very little histamine, but the processing and maturation of the meat causes more histamine to form in it. Foods which are not high in histamine when fresh will contain high levels of histamine when fermented, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha.

There is no agreed upon list of foods that are high in histamine, most likely because each individual will react to different amounts of histamine in foods, and food sources and processing methods vary so greatly.

Some foods that are generally thought to be problematic for those with histamine intolerance include:

  • Alcohol (especially wine and beer)
  • Most fish
  • Tomatoes
  • Smoked and processed meats such as bacon, salami, ham, and bratwurst
  • Fermented fruits and vegetables
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant
  • Avocado
  • Mushrooms
  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Pineapple
  • Peas
  • Citrus fruits
  • Vinegar
  • Soy
  • Cheese, yogurt, and other cultured milk products
  • Chocolate/cocoa
  • Coffee (use this coffee substitute instead)
  • Bread and other items made with yeast
  • Peanuts, cashews, and walnuts

Some foods are naturally higher in histamine and some are higher in the amino acid that turns into histamine. For this reason, it is necessary for each person to experiment over time to figure out what he or she can and cannot tolerate.

Pizza - Foods High in Histamines

 

 

 

 

 

Can Histamine Allergy/Intolerance be Healed?

In short the answer to this question is yes.

With time and effort the condition can most likely be healed or greatly improved.

Research on the condition is so new that there is very little data on which to base the success of healing protocols other than anecdotal evidence from people who have implemented diet and lifestyle changes to improve their condition with success.

Diet Change

The first step to reversing histamine intolerance is to remove high histamine foods from the diet.

Some sensitive individuals will need to strictly remove all high histamine foods from their diet. Others whose symptoms are less severe may not need to be as militant in avoiding foods but will need to monitor their histamine “bucket” to avoid overflow.

Although it would be possible to live on a low histamine diet indefinitely, it would not be enjoyable or necessary. It is important to not only remove high histamine foods from the diet at first, but to replace them with foods of equal or greater nutritional value. Histamine intolerance is a sign of damage and malfunction in the body (and often a lack of nutrients), so nutrient dense foods are necessary for healing and repair.

Restore Gut Bacteria

Since histamine intolerance is oftentimes a result of unbalanced gut bacteria, it is important to work toward restoring balance of this flora. This is a tricky task for individuals who are sensitive to fermented foods due to the histamine produced in the fermentation process. Probiotics generally are not thought to cause reactions in histamine intolerant individuals and can be used starting in very small amounts and working up to a therapeutic dose.

However, there are some strands of probiotics that are known to either exacerbate histamine issues or that can help remedy them. Read this post for more on low-histamine probiotics.)

After an initial period of avoiding ferments, one can add them to the diet gradually with care taken not to upset the histamine bucket.

Reduce Inflammation

In most cases, the body that struggles with histamine intolerance is an inflamed body, so one of the main goals in healing should be reducing overall inflammation. This can be done by eliminating inflammation-causing foods and increasing activities that help to reduce inflammation, such as meditation, yoga, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress.

It is also important to understand sources of extrinsic histamine and how they are entering the body in order to be able to limit them when needed. For example, a histamine intolerant individual should figure out any and all allergens that are causing reactions because the release of histamine in the body is always higher when allergens are present. Any measures that can be taken to avoid exposure to those allergens will aid in quicker healing.

Take Natural Antihistamines

Many foods and herbs have natural antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. You can add these to the diet as tolerated in order to help with the overall histamine load. Some items appear on both high histamine and antihistamine food lists, so it is important to figure out what makes you feel the best.

Please note that there are some affiliate links in this post. If you click on them and make a purchase, I might make a commission. Your price does not change, however, and I greatly appreciate your support.

Some common natural antihistamines include:

  • Nettles
  • Butterbur
  • Basil
  • Thyme
  • Cardamom

Finally, there are a few products available on the market that can help to contain histamine reactions when they occur. Supplements such as Histame and Daosin, when taken within 15 minutes of consuming a high histamine food, can help to lessen or avoid reactions to histamine by giving the body more of the DAO enzyme needed to degrade it.

Not everyone finds that these products are effective, and they do not provide a long term solution. However, they can be helpful in social settings when food is not always directly in your control.

Can’t I just take an antihistamine to solve the problem?

Over the counter antihistamine drugs do prove effective as short term solutions for some sufferers of histamine allergy, especially those with severe reactions. I wouldn’t recommend them as a long term solution due to the list of precautions and potential side effects that comes with them.

It is in your best interest over the long haul to work on healing your gut and reducing inflammation in your body instead. Many people with histamine intolerance find that histamine medications do not help anyway, because there are four types of histamine receptors in the body. Most antihistamines only act on two of those four. If the medication doesn't act on the proper receptors, then it won't work.

Conclusion

As researchers and medical professionals learn more about histamine allergy in coming years, expect to hear more about this topic.

No matter whether its symptoms are mild or life-threatening, it is a sign of impaired gut function and inflammation, both of which cause larger problems. If you have allergy-like symptoms without a clear cause, you might try a low-histamine diet in order to determine if histamine intolerance might be the source.

Further Resources
The Low Histamine Chef– low histamine recipes, interviews, and more
The International Society of DAO Deficiency– in depth information on deficiencies in the DAO enzyme
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition– full length article on “Histamine and Histamine Intolerance”
Chris Kresser– “Headaches, Hives, and Heartburn: Could histamine be the cause?”

Again, neither Adrienne nor I are physicians.  Please consult with a medical professional prior to making changes to your diet, exercise routine, or supplements.

What do you think about this?
Had you heard about histamines before? 

Erin Ter Beest - Writer for Whole New MomAbout Erin

Erin Ter Beest lives and blogs in Alto, Wisconsin. She takes care of her son, Sawyer, while dabbling in traditional foods, alternative health, raising chickens and milk goats. She did all of this while building a small, sustainable house with her husband, Casey. Find more of Erin’s thoughts on all things food, nutrition, farm, and home at her website, Natural Wonderer.

CC images courtesy of the following:By Janine from Mililani, Hawaii, United States [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and By Jon Pallbo ([email protected]) (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Common

These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom, LLC.

Comments

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  1. Thanks for this! I have been suffering from chronic congestion for years – people think I have a cold ALL THE TIME. coughing and sniffling and watery eyes and only getting worse. Visits to an allergist and ENT proved not helpful. I also have face flushing that feels like a sunburn after eating sometimes and acne – that’s not real acne (I’m 45!).
    Anyhow, histamine intolerance makes total sense to me! Especially since I eat so many of the foods on the histamine list! I now feel like I can take control of my diet and hopefully see some results.

  2. Hi,
    Can I take apple cider vinegar if I am intolerant to histamine?
    Thanks

  3. Interesting! I was recently allergy tested and histamine was one of my top allergens. I just thought I’d take and antihistamine and that was it. I had no idea that diet played a role in this. Any tips on what to take or avoid if I have a histamine allergy? Thanks!

  4. Sheila Henry says:

    I am 71 have always been a fit outdoorsy person ,hikes anytime of yhe year and in 2015 I was covered in hives after swimming in a lake on a beautiful warm day .Well I now have cold uticaria and cannot tolerate temperatures below 20 cel and also when I sweat skin goes cold hives come out .I am fanatic about any info to help as it has made me a recluse in many ways.Also sweat profusely after certain foods e,g flaxmeal on my cereal .

    • I’m so sorry. Do you have a functional doctor or someone like that whom you can visit and consult with? I know that for me it’s better to avoid foods that cause a negative reaction. Take care.

    • Flaxseed was just removed from the Is Food Making You Sick book as it increases histamine.

  5. Is apple cider vinegar a high histamine food? I see vinegar is….does that include ACV?

  6. OutdoorLady says:

    Realize this is old post but for others who land on this page, want to add I’ve recently discovered I suffer from histamine intolerance. After extensive research, I came across the work/youtube interviews of Dr. Janice Joneja and shortly thereafter, started the low-histamine diet. Within 1 week, the major symptoms I’d been suffering with for 20 yrs. had subsided. ALL the positives from the food allergy prick tests I had done on my back were high histamine foods. According to Joneja, thyme is a big no-no.

  7. A short question, how much time does it take to lower histamine Levels if one would og on a low histamine diet?
    1 week, one month ?

  8. Thank you so much for putting this up! When I first heard of this it was so hard to find information on it. I wish I’d had an article like this to find – very complete.

    Oh, and one thing to add, actually, in terms of natural remedies and foods that can help. Because histamines are released by mast cells when they degranulate, a mast cell stabilizer (makes the mast cells more stable) can be very helpful, too. It makes the mast cells less likely to degranulate and release histamines (so some people consider it kind of ‘anti-allergic).

    The flavonoids luteolin and quercetin are natural mast cell stabilizers (This doctor has done research on this specifically: http://www.mastcellmaster.com/research.php ), which are also anti-inflammatory, and they can be beneficial in lowering the amount of histamine released into the body.

    List of foods with high quercetin: http://www.quercetin.com/overview/food-chart
    Short list of foods high in luteolin: http://nutrition.merschat.com/foods-by-nutrient.cgi?Nutr_No=773

  9. What does one’s diet actually look like on a low histamine diet??? these are all yummy foods! And I’m GF.

    • That is an excellent question, Michelle! I think diet is a highly individual thing. What might trigger someone’s histamine response (overflowing the bucket) every time might not bother someone else. I’ve found through a lot of experimenting something that works for me. I try to eat a nutrient dense, traditional foods diet without stressing too much about situations where food is not under my control, but I am strictly gluten free, as well. For me, it’s all about trying to balance my intake of histamine with actually enjoying my food and getting all the nutrients I need. Not always an easy task, but it has gotten easier with practice and helps me to avoid a lot of unpleasant symptoms. Of course, I’m not a healthcare professional, so your doctor may advise you differently. 😉

  10. I found this whole series super fascinating, some great food for thought! The analogy of the bucket is helpful too. Featuring your post this week on AFW! Thanks!

  11. In the past month I’ve discovered that I think I have histamine intolerance too. I can relate to histamine thimble instead of bucket. LOL (ok, not so LOL) I always have symptoms. The last straw was the flushing skin. I felt like I had a sunburn all the time and I could correlate it worsening after meals.

    I haven’t been able to find information on how long it takes for the histamine levels to lower in the body. Does anyone know? How long before symptoms start to go away?

    • That’s a great question, Kathy! I don’t know the answer, but I would guess it would vary depending on the level of histamine you have in your body, the amount of environmental triggers that are currently present, and the amount of histamine that you continue to consume (because it is impossible to avoid it completely). Your histamine levels are constantly fluctuating, so some days you’ll have more symptoms than others. I can’t really speak to how long it takes to heal histamine intolerance, either. That will also vary greatly depending on how strict you are with a healing protocol, how your body reacts to the protocol, and how much damage is already in your body. These would be great questions for a health practitioner! Good luck on your health journey.

  12. Thanks for linking up to Tip Me Tuesday linky party this week Erin. {knuckle bumps} Did you know that I can “lend” your blog posts my Google page rank for better search engine traffic? {fabulous} If you upload at least 2 images, 2 steps, and blog post URL into your Tip Junkie craft room, you’ll be in business! {wink} ~ Laurie {a.k.a. the Tip Junkie}

  13. Thank you for this informative post!! I have recently begun to suspect histamine intolerance with my ongoing food sensitivity issues. There are very distinct reactions to many of the foods on the high histamine list. I will bring this up to my naturopath and see what she thinks. Meantime, I’m going to be careful not to overfill my bucket!

  14. Sharon Devi says:

    Thank you for the article. I have really bad hayfever for all of the spring season, which continues on to 1-2 months in summer. I know when I eat chocolate, dairy products (cheese, yoghurt), coffee or eat-out (processed food) my hayfever gets worse. I need my antihistamine tablets so survive the day. So, the list above is spot on, except for the Vinegar & Citrus part. I am a little confused about that.

    You see, I noticed that when I drink Apple Cider Vinegar +Honey + Lemon Juice – X3 times a day, my hayfever condition improves and I can function without the need for antihistamine tables. I have experimented with drinking the ACV mix 1x day vs 3x a day. I can say when I take it 3X a day, I feel great.

    Could you please explain why Vinegar & Citrus (which according to this article, are problematic for those with histamine intolerance), actually helps my condition. I’m a little confused. Thank you.

    • That’s a great question, Sharon! I, too, have found that the ACV + honey + lemon juice helps with allergy-like symptoms. I think it is a case of the good in these products, especially this specific combo, outweighing the bad. I do find that sometimes if I have one of those ingredients by itself (not in combo with the others, such as ACV on salad dressing) I have increased symptoms. I definitely can’t explain the reason behind this scientifically, but I think it’s just another one of those instances where you listen to your body and do what makes it feel best. There are also a couple of other foods on the high histamine list that don’t tend to bother me at all, such as bananas and pineapple. Maybe it is due to the source of histamine in them? I have no idea! 🙂

  15. I want to say thanks to both of you ladies: Adrienne & Erin 🙂 I really feel like this is a missing piece to the puzzle of my health (or what is lacking in it, rather) that I can add for discussion when I go see a Dr in the next few weeks…And yes, I know there is a long road ahead, especially since I am starting with one visit to a community health center Dr before probably ending up eventually with someone who will listen more to my desires for natural treatment. I have peace about starting there though, because my husband has asked me to…well actually, I didn’t (ehum)…But then I went to a ladies retreat and someone gave a testimony that God used to remind me that I do have a choice about listening to him(God), but if I want to show I love him(God), I must actually do as he directs…So, the community health center is soon to be part of my current (crazy) adventure called life 🙂 No matter what, it will be an exciting opportunity to share God’s love with other humans. Again, I just can’t thank you enough for sharing this freely!!! God bless and God speed <3

  16. I never knew about the list of histamines. Thanks for that! I noticed that most of those items are also on the “moldy list” for my mold allergy.

    By the way, I refer to my bucket as a “thimble”!

  17. I was seriously surprised at some of the high-histamine foods on the list. Oy. I am not doing so good. Cheese, fermented foods, bacon. More bacon. Tomatoes, Avocados. I am in trouble!

    I am currently on a ketogenic diet and really rely on bacon, avocado and cheese!

    • It’s tough – are you having symptoms?

      • Out of the symptoms in the list from the first article here is what I experience:

        Itching (especially of the skin, eyes, ears, and nose)
        Swelling (especially in mouth and throat) (I have tightness in my throat but no visible swelling)
        Hypotension (a drop in blood pressure)
        Heart racing
        Headaches
        Confusion or irritability (I am irritated all the time!! hah)
        Fatigue (huge amounts of fatigue)
        Diarrhea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome
        A hangover-like feeling after exposure to high levels of histamine (not sure what a hangover feels like as I don’t drink)

        • Wow. So you know it’s from the histamines?

          • Nope. I have thyroid and adrenal issues and many of those symptoms can be considered caused by those endocrine issues. But I am not at a point right now where I would cut out the high histamine foods, so I can’t do that test right now… I am getting better. Since cutting out starches and grains from my diet, my digestive woes have decreased to the point where it seems like they are gone. I had been gluten free for over a year before I started ketogenic diet 3 weeks ago.

            I took the allergy test at this link: http://www.lef.org/Vitamins-Supplements/ItemLCM73001/Food-Safe-Allergy-Blood-Test.html

            and it measured the iGg response (immune response) and it didn’t even show gluten intolerance or wheat intolerance. It did show corn intolerance and yeast intolerance, though. And shellfish.

            Thankfully it didn’t show a dairy intolerance since I do consume large amounts of dairy, but eventually I will get to the bottom of everything!! 🙂 Little by little I am healing, and learning more and more as I go.

            I have methylation issues as well, so that also could be a cause of some of the symptoms.

            Oh well, such is life, and I continue on my journey exploring and learning!!! 🙂

            Thanks for the great content.

          • I’ve been dealing with some of the same issues, especially the corn allergy. Hang in there. It does get better. 🙂

          • Rebecca, have you ever looked at mast cell activation disorders (MCAD)? I only ask because it can have similar symptoms to histamine intolerance, frequently involves difficulties with various foods, and there does seem to be higher incidence rates (in MCAD folks) of methylation issues.

            But most doctors don’t know what this is, really, or even how to test for it, and there’s not even that much information on the web NOT involving the extreme cases (where they go into anaphylaxis frequently). But people with this can have lower level symptoms, like you describe.

            If you are interested in looking at it, this is the most recent release of diagnostic criteria (with a big chart listing potential symptoms) that was just released in February from a couple of of the experts in the disease. There’s some great Facebook support groups, too, if you look up MCAD, MCAS, mastocytosis, or mast cell disorder in the Facebook search engines.

            http://www.wjgnet.com/2218-6204/pdf/v3/i1/1.pdf

    • I can really relate. I was non-intentionally on a ketogenic diet while nursing my son after we found out about his food allergies. It was through relying so much on these foods that I discovered my histamine issues- avocado, dairy, meat- all paleo/ketogenic standbys! It’s tough to balance the goodness of these diets with the histamine issue without going overboard and completely limiting your diet, but it can be done with some practice. 🙂