Green tea, chai lattes, fermented foods and avocados may be superfoods for some but for others they may be a biochemical nightmare. Debilitating symptoms such as headaches, skin disorders, aching joints and gastric stress can lead sufferers to try the latest healthy eating trends in the quest for an alleviation of symptoms.
If you have been going to town on fermented foods, bliss balls and berry smoothies thinking that these foods may help alleviate your symptoms you may be surprised to hear that for some they could actually be worsening symptoms.
Histamine and amine intolerance occurs due to an accumulation of histamine or an impaired capacity for the breakdown of histamine within the body. Histamine is a chemical substance known as a biogenic amine which is produced by the body and some foods. Histamine is involved in the immune system response, the digestive system, and the central nervous system. It can work as a neurotransmitter communicating important signals from the body to the brain. Histamine is also a component of stomach acid and helps break down food in the stomach.
When histamine is ingested from foods it can usually be detoxified by substances called amine oxidases, however if a person has low amine oxidase activity they are at risk of histamine toxicity. The main enzyme responsible for the breakdown of ingested histamine is called Diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO is found mainly in the kidneys, thymus, and the placenta in pregnant women (which is why allergies often improve during pregnancy). When DAO is functioning efficiently ingested histamine is broken down within the digestive tract and removed before it can enter the body. When histamine levels inside the body become excessive, DAO, and another enzyme called histamine N-methyl transferase (HNMT) break down the excess. If DAO activity is impaired, histamine can accumulate to excess and may cause a number of adverse symptoms that mimic a hypersensitive or allergy type reaction. Histamine can build up due to the ingestion of histamine-rich food or by food, drink or medications that either release histamine or inhibit the DAO enzyme. Decreased DAO enzyme production and high histamine tends to be more common in people with the following -
Methylation dysfunction, gut disorders such as celiac disease, leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, dysbiosis and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
DAO activity can also be inhibited by certain medications. Increased histamine may aggravate symptoms such as gastric stress, nausea, headaches, mood disorders, depression, sinus problems, skin rashes, eczema, rosacea, psoriasis, join inflammation, breathing difficulties, rapid heartbeat, rashes, itching, burning eyes, and flushing of the skin. Usually symptoms can be minimised by a low histamine diet or by taking antihistamines. SAMe and methionine help to reduce histamine by methylating it. People with high histamine and vegetarians or vegans may not be getting sufficient methyl compounds in their diets and may need professional methionine or SAMe supplements. Nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin C, copper, B12, folate, B6, B2, B1, zinc and methionine and nutrient excesses such as histidine and too much protein can aggravate histamine intolerance. It is extremely important to follow the advice of a professional healthcare practitioner prior to taking any supplementation. Some people can react adversely to certain supplements and professional guidance is imperative.
1. Keep a food diary and monitor symptoms. This will give you a good idea of which foods you are most sensitive to.
2. Avoid canned food, particularly fish and meats
3. Avoid precooked and pre prepared ready meals, the older the food the more histamine it can produce.
4. Avoid fermented foods such as aged cheeses, cultured vegetables, alcohol, yeast products (yeast serves as a catalyst for histamine production)
5. Avoid food additives such as preservatives and azo dyes as these can mediate the release of histamine.
6. Where possible buy and eat fresh products.
High histamine and amine foods to reduce: Cheeses like camembert, stilton, brie, gruyere, cheddar and parmesan Citrus fruits, pineapples, peach, nectarines, plums, strawberries, cranberries, dates, dried fruit, berries, bananas, pearsTomatoes, avocados, eggplant, capsicum, spinachSoy products like tempeh, tofu, soy sauce and miso Fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles Olives Tomato ketchup, tomato paste, mustardHerbs and spices – nutmeg, cinnamon, star anise, all spice, chai, paprika,Yoghurt (fermenting can increase tyramine and histamine but it varies depending on the cultures used – see probiotics) AlcoholVinegarSmoked meat and fish products – salami, ham, sausages, smoked salmonShellfishBeans and legumes – chickpeas, soy beans, peanutsNuts – esp walnuts and cashew nutsChocolate and cocoa/cacao based productsSnacks and lollies with preservatives and artificial colouringsBone broth (the longer the cooking process the higher the amines)
Diamine Oxidase (DAO) blockers to reduce: Alcohol Black tea Coffee Energy drinks Green tea Matcha Chai Mate tea
Histamine liberators to reduce: Citrus fruits – kiwi, lemon, lime, pineapple Papaya Tomatoes Cocoa and chocolate Nuts Beans and legumes Wheat germ Food Additives – benzoate, sulphites, nitrites, glutamate, food dyes
Low histamine and amine level foods:Fresh fruitsFresh vegetables Fresh meat (frozen is ok) Chicken (providing it is freshly cooked) Egg yolks (egg white – is a histamine liberator only when in its raw state) Fresh fish Grains – some people that are sensitive to histamine may also find that they are sensitive to gluten. Monitor your symptoms. Fresh milk and milk products Coconut milk, rice milk Ricotta, cream cheese, butter Most cooking oils Most herbs Most non-citrus fruit (except pineapples, strawberries, bananas) Herbal teas (except chai, green, matcha)
Anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory foods to increase:Watercress
Onions Garlic Holy Basil Thyme Nettle Peppermint Ginger Apples Supplements and medications.
Supplements and OTC meds that increase DAO levels include: Vitamin C Vitamin B6 Pancreatic enzymes Benadryl
Supplements and meds that inhibit DAO: Alcohol Curcumin (turmeric) Cimetidine – an antihistamine
Probiotics: Decreases histamine – B infantis, B lognum and L plantarumIncreases histamine – L casei, L reuteri and L bulgaricus.
Supplements and ingredients that stabilize mast cells and reduce inflammation: Quercitin Turmeric Curcumin (also decreases DAO) Reishi mushrooms Yohimbine Adrenaline Eleuthero Rutin Theanine Astragalus
Important: Always seek professional recommendation prior to taking any supplements or making any dietary changes