No doubt you’ve heard of “antihistamines” – those medications that help us battle our allergies – but did you know histamines can have a big role to play in our health?
Read on to learn more about histamine intolerance and how a dietary adjustment might make all the difference.
Histamines and their functions
Histamines have many functions. We know them for their role in controlling our allergic responses and our immunity, but they’re also responsible for stimulating gastric acid secretion, impacting the sleep/wake cycle, and working as neurotransmitters.
While histamines are essential in small amounts, if we’re receiving too many histamines for our body to process, we can develop an intolerance.
Some people may develop a histamine intolerance if they lack good levels of the histamine-degrading enzymes diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT), or if they experience gut microbiome distress.
DAO can be impaired by medication or alcohol use, nutritional deficiencies, and even menstruation. Lower levels of HMNT may lead to respiratory issues or asthma.
Research conducted into food hypersensitivity and histamine intolerance found that those with histamine intolerance had abnormalities in their gut microbiome, including reduced alpha-diversity, bacterial changes and elevated zonulin levels.
Symptoms of histamine intolerance
Histamine intolerance triggers allergy-like symptoms. You might experience:
- a runny nose
- gastrointestinal distress
Diagnosing and treating a histamine intolerance
Histamine intolerance affects only 1-3% of the population and is often difficult to diagnose. Testing DAO levels, adopting a low-histamine diet, and possibly administering supplements of the DAO enzyme are all regarded as potential treatments.
Histamines in food
Some foods are known to have higher levels of histamines or amines that trigger a histamine release, and eating them in large amounts can lead to symptoms of histamine intolerance.
A low-histamine diet is not a cure-all. It can be restrictive and is intended to be temporary. Its success likely depends on a person’s baseline DAO levels, and patients with lower or intermediate levels tend to have better results with a dietary or supplement approach.
Low-histamine diets are generally adopted for a period of ten days to several weeks. After this time, food is reintroduced and any trigger foods are noted. We recommend patients keep a journal to log foods and symptoms.
Foods that have the potential for higher levels of histamine include:
- Canned, cured and fermented meats and fish
- Fermented or pickled vegetables
- Fruits and vegetables, such as spinach, tomatoes, strawberries and citrus
- Alcohol, particularly wine and beer
Food freshness, storage and preparation can influence histamine levels, with fermented foods tending to be much higher in histamines.
If you suspect histamine intolerance
If you suspect a histamine intolerance, speak with your GP about trialling a low-histamine diet, treat conditions causing high histamine, using natural supplements to treat them. Our friendly, experienced team at Wandal Medical Centre is committed to offering the highest standard of holistic medical care to all our valued patients. We offer a range of services guaranteed to help you feel your best. Contact us today at (07) 4927 4411.