Histamine is a compound that our body needs to survive but can cause severe allergy-like reactions in some people. Normally, histamine is an essential part of our immune response and regulates our gut and central nervous system. Here we will tell you all you need to know about histamine.
As we said, the dark side of histamine is its ability to cause allergy-like symptoms, including runny nose, itching, and sneezing. Histamine can also cause inflammation and other immune problems. But did you know some foods are naturally high in histamine? Alcohol, fermented dairy products (like yogurt), dried fruit, avocado, shellfish, eggplant, and spinach are just a few examples of histamine-rich foods.
Some choose to follow a low-histamine diet, avoiding these foods to reduce the harmful effects of histamine while maintaining enough to get the healing benefits. Read on to discover all you need to know about histamine.
All You Need to Know About Histamine: The Role of Histamine in Health
Histamine has a complex role in maintaining our health. During an allergic reaction, histamine increases blood vessel permeability and size, allowing inflammation to occur. Inflammation recruits immune cells to the site of an injury or allergy to repair the damage .
Histamine is also involved in cell differentiation, proliferation, and regeneration, keeping our cells healthy, strong, and numerous. We also know histamine is required for correct neuron signaling, keeping your central nervous system functioning as it should .
The more we learn about histamine, the more we recognize that this small compound has a greater role in our physiology than we previously thought. We are still unaware of all of the functions of histamine.
H1 receptors (those that link up directly to histamine) are found throughout our body in the nervous system, muscles, organs, and blood vessels. We know histamine is involved with allergies, inflammation, and digestion, but it remains unclear what other functions this diverse compound has on our body .
Foods High in Histamine
What foods are high in histamine? High histamine levels have been found in tuna, spinach, alcohol, sausages, and cheese. Frying seems to increase histamine levels in food. In general, processed fish (histamine levels are very high in many processed fish products), dairy, eggs, and milk products, vegetables, and fermented foods all contain some amount of histamine .
Boiling foods is the best way to preserve their nutritional benefits while not increasing histamine levels .
Hypersensitivity to Histamine
As with many compounds that stimulate the immune system, hypersensitivity to histamine is also a health concern.
This can be due to an allergy to histamine itself, an inability to metabolize ingested histamine or an excess of histamine stimulating too strong an immune response. Histamine hypersensitivity may even require hospitalization .
“Histamine intolerance” is the clinical term for an adverse reaction to histamine [5, 6].
Histamine dihydrochloride formation can occur in nature but is also manufactured synthetically to treat diseases. When histidine loses a carboxyl group, it becomes histamine dihydrochloride. Histamine dihydrochloride can stimulate gastric secretion, constrict bronchial smooth muscle, dilate blood vessels, and modulate neurotransmitters .
Because of these changes, it can induce, histamine dihydrochloride has been used as an experimental treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, hepatic metastases, and other conditions [8, 9, 10].
All You Need to Know About Histamine: The Use of a Histamine-Free Diet as a Medical Intervention
Research supports that histamine-free diets can be used as a medical intervention for some conditions, alleviating symptoms and reducing severity. For example, in a recent study, participants experiencing chronic headaches found a histamine-free diet reducing the severity of their headaches .
Several studies involving patients with chronic spontaneous urticaria also found their symptoms improved with a low-histamine or histamine-free diet [12, 13, 14].
With all of this said, histamine-free diets are not for everyone. It’s important to remember that histamine is a healthy and natural part of any diet (found even in the healthiest foods like vegetables and lean meats).
Unless you are histamine sensitive or have medical concerns involving histamine (like the above cases), a histamine-free diet is not necessarily healthier. By keeping your diet varied, containing whole, raw foods whenever possible, and boiled rather than fried foods, you are naturally getting less histamine in your diet, ideal for your body functioning.
Contact your healthcare professional if you have questions about histamine consumption and if a histamine-free diet might benefit you.
In Conclusion, All You Need to Know About Histamine
Histamine is both a hero and a villain in your body. We need it to keep our body systems running, but too much (or sensitivity to histamine) can cause chronic inflammatory conditions, allergic reactions, and other problems.
If you have questions about histamine, talk to your healthcare professional about your dietary concerns.
You might be interested in “Foods to Avoid When Takin Statins.” and “Why and When to Take Collagen.”