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Have you heard about Histamines? Surely at some point you or someone you know has suffered from spring allergies and the doctor has prescribed antihistamines. However, histamines make up much more than that. If you’ve ever ever suffered from severe migraines, anxiety, redness from drinking, an itchy tongue, or a stuffy nose from eating a banana, avocado, or eggplant then it’s possible that you might have an intolerance.
What Is A Histamine?
It’s a neurotransmitter that sends messages from the brain to the central nervous system.It produces an immediate inflammatory response to a possible threat and, when traveling through the bloodstream, it affects the lungs, the skin, the brain and the cardiovascular system, causing reactions such as skin irritation, redness, headaches and much more.
It’s a chemical that is stored or metabolized through two enzymes. The enzyme histamine N-methyltransferase in the central nervous system is responsible for catabolizing histamine whereas in the digestive system, the enzyme Diamino Oxidasa is in charge.Both of these are very important, but the one generated in the digestive system is entirely responsible for processing the histamine that is ingested through food.
What Does Histamine Intolerance Mean?
Intolerance to this neurotransmitter means that you have a DAO deficiency (Diamine Oxidase) which is the enzyme that metabolizes histamines in the digestive system. Usually this is not caused by a genetic condition, but rather is a secondary condition of another disease. For example, histamine intolerance may appear in other medical conditions such as Celiac disease, “leaky gut” syndrome, when the body doesn’t absorb fructose properly, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, lactose intolerance, abnormal bacterial growth in the intestines and even cancer. It can also be a reaction to certain medications like anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, allergy medications as antiarrhythmic drugs and others.
We should not self-diagnose histamine intolerance. Instead go to a doctor if you feel you present any of the systems or characteristics associated, so that a medical team can conduct a proper diagnostic analysis and show the activity of Diamine Oxidase in your digestive system.
Some symptoms are:
- Migraines or severe headaches
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Vertigo or dizziness
- Arrhythmia or a fast heart rate
- Irregular body temperature
- Abdominal pain
- Stuffy nose, sneezing or shortness of breath
- (In women) abnormal menstrual cycles
What Foods Contain Histamines?
- Fermented alcoholic beverages: wine, champagne or cava, beer
- Fermented foods: sour cabbage, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, kombucha, etc.
- Foods with vinegars: pickles, pickles, mayonnaise, olives
- Cured meats: bacon, salami, pepperoni, hot dogs
- Sour foods: sour cream, sour milk, sourdough bread
- Dehydrated fruits such as peaches, dates, figs, or raisins
- Citric fruits
- Mature cheeses and goat cheese
- Walnuts, cashews and peanuts
- Vegetables: avocado, eggplant, spinach and tomato
- Some fresh and / or smoked fish: sardines, anchovies, tuna
There are also foods that cause it to be released into the body:
- Ethyl Alcohol
- Cow’s Milk
- Wheat germ
- Preservatives and colorings
And as if those weren’t enough there are also foods that block the enzyme Diamine Oxidase:
- Energy drinks
- Black tea
- Mate (infusion)
- Green tea
Keeping a food diary is a good idea as it can help identify patterns in our diet that let us know which foods make us feel good or bad or if we show any of the symptoms of an intolerance after eating particular foods.
How Can You Maintain A healthy Diet And Have Histamine Intolerance?
With a long list of natural foods it seems impossible to maintain this lifestyle with a condition such as histamine intolerance. However, a healthy diet can be very beneficial because it naturally focuses on the most nutritious nutrient-dense foods. Remember that a healthy diet avoids processed foods which is a great advantage for people who suffer from a histamine intolerance, as processed foods cause much more discomfort.
Some low-histamine and natural foods are:
- Fresh beef or chicken
- Wild fish
- Fresh fruit: mango, pears, watermelon,apple, kiwi, melon, grapes
- Fresh veggies: almost everything except what was mentioned above
- Dairy: coconut milk, or other plant-based milks such as rice, hemp and almond
- Fresh Herbs
Planning is key if you want to have a healthy diet together with a diet low in histamines. A very useful and very simple tip is to try to buy animal proteins as fresh as possible and freeze them immediately, this is because the longer the meat sits, the more histamine accumulates. It’s also useful to buy vegetables that are as organic as possible. If you have this condition you can also benefit from foods such as legumes as long as they are prepared correctly.
In the long run, with a good diet, medical supervision and even Diamine Oxidase supplements things will become easier and with time you will be able to eat some foods again without suffering the symptoms of histamine intolerance.