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Histamine Intolerance

Histamine Intolerance causes symptoms similar to food allergies after ingesting certain foods. These symptoms may include:

  • upset stomach
  • hives
  • runny nose
  • cardiovascular symptoms including arrhythmia, and/or low blood pressure
  • skin issues

While not considered an allergy by many traditional medical doctors, histamine intolerance produces similar symptoms to an allergic reaction.

What is Histamine?

Histamine is a naturally occurring chemical in your body that is also present in some foods. Patients with histamine intolerance are unable to break down histamine, allowing it to build up in the body and cause symptoms.

Causes of Histamine Intolerance

Mast cells in your body’s mucous membranes release histamine and other chemical signals to help fight infections and regulate organs. The enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) is present in our bodies to break down histamine. Some people have low levels of DAO, increasing their difficulty in breaking down histamine. If you are unable to break down histamine you may experience symptoms including diarrhea, headaches, runny nose and hives. There are various reasons why DAO levels may be low, they include:

  • Age – histamine intolerance occurs more frequently in people over 40
  • Medications – including analgesics, antidepressants, antihistamines and mucolytics, especially when used by children
  • Chronic stomach conditions – IBS, Crohn’s and parasitic infections affect the mucous membranes in the small bowel and thereby decrease enzyme production
  • Genetics

Food Triggers

If you believe you have histamine intolerance reactions you should avoid foods high in histamine. This includes fermented foods and others including:

  • chocolate
  • nuts and peanuts
  • fish and shellfish
  • nightshade vegetables
  • cheeses
  • alcohol
  • highly processed foods with preservatives and colorants

Medications increase Histamine Levels

Either by causing mast cells to release histamine, or by reducing DAO in the body the following medications are known to increase levels of histamine or decrease DAO in the body:

  • contrast agents in medical imaging
  • muscle relaxants
  • opiods/narcotics
  • analgesics
  • anti-inflammatory drugs
  • local anasthesia
  • blood pressure medicine
  • anti-depressants
  • bronchodilators


It may take a while to get a diagnosis of histamine intolerance, patients are advised to:

  • Keep a food and symptom diary
  • allergy testing
  • blood tests for histamine and DAO levels present in the blood

Management and Treatment of Histamine Intolerance

People with histamine intolerance can learn to manage symptoms by monitoring and changing their diet and sometimes with supplementation. This intolerance is not necessarily permanent and you may be able to go back to eating some foods that you have eliminated. Some steps to take are:

  • AllerCeaseā„¢ treatment to desensitize you from food and environmental triggers
  • avoid food triggers in the meantime
  • antihistamines – natural options include Quercetin, Stinging Nettle and Bromelain
  • DAO supplements
  • Mast cell stabilizers

You should never start a course of supplementation or natural antihistamines without the guidance of a trained holistic practitioner. Seek immediate medical care from an emergency room or dial 911 if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • swelling of the lips, tongue or throat
  • trouble breathing
  • a sudden drop in blood pressure (symptoms include dizziness, weakness, fainting and confusion.)

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Author Info

Arthur Cushing