If you’ve experienced severe headaches, had irregular menstrual periods, intestinal troubles, and dry or irritated skin, a low-histamine diet might help to change things around.
The best way to start on the low-histamine plan is to start by eliminating certain foods from your diet, Dana Remedios, BA Hon, RHN, RNCP, holistic nutritionist and health coach at Flora Health, tells Amodrn, and seeing if it works for you. It’s important to focus on eating a varied, nutrient-dense, high-quality diet, first and foremost, Remedios says. From there, you can take the next steps—there are tests you can request from a clinician to determine if you make too much histamine, or don’t break it down. While tests can give you some answers, opting for a more natural approach, and seeing what works best for you might show you the quickest results.
It is possible to have a mast cell disorder (like MCAD), or an enzyme deficiency (low DAO or HNMT), or even an unhealthy gut environment, all of which might be involved, she adds. If there are lots of gut symptoms, getting checked for SIBO – an overgrowth of certain bacteria in the small intestine – is advised
The warning signs you need to watch out for:
According to Remedios, if you’re experiencing bloating or gut irregularities, fatigue, migraines, rashes, hives, or other allergy-type symptoms, flushing, asthma, disturbed sleep, and obsessive behavior, you might be in need of a low-histamine diet. “Frequently experiencing several of those symptoms is a sign, but one of the things many people with histamine issues notice is that these symptoms come and go,” Remedios says. Notably, histamine issues may also lead to brain fog, and if antihistamine help to reduce your anxiety, that could be yet another sign of histamine intolerance.
How histamines affect your health:
“Histamines are extremely important biochemical compounds produced by our immune cells and gut bacteria and broken down in the nervous system and the gut,” Remedios adds. “They mainly function as neurotransmitters, but also regulate stomach acid production, allergic response mediation, muscle contraction, blood vessel permeability.”
There are four different types of histamines — H1, H2, H3, and H4 — and all differ based on the types of effect they have on your body. Here’s some you need to know, according to Remedios:
- H1 is one that totally is “allergy-like”. It’s involved in hives (urticaria) and allergies. It also is involved in the sleep/wake cycle — the first-generation H1-blocking antihistamines can make you drowsy because of this.
- H2 releases hydrochloric acid in the stomach, so is connected more to gut symptoms like bloating or reflux. Pepcid acid medication is an H2-blocking antihistamine.
- H3 is more like a classic neurotransmitter, likely involved in OCD, sleep disorders, and ADHD — all brain and mental health symptoms.
- H4 is involved in hives and asthma, so typical allergy symptoms again.
Our diets come into play because there are histamines in foods, and the histamine in our gut can be stored by our mast cells
she adds, so changing up your diet can be the key to finally feeling better.
The foods you should avoid on a low-histamine diet:
- Alcohol: Red wine and sangria, notably, are high in histamines. Beer, white wine, and cider can also contain histamines. Hard alcohol and spirits are generally low in histamines, but they aid in the release of histamines in your body, so you might be better off avoiding those, too.
- Fermented foods: Yes, even our favorite foods like kombucha, kefir, yerba mate, yogurt, kimchi, miso, soy sauce, sauerkraut, and pickles may cause histamines to react negatively.
- Smoked and cured foods: Think cheese, smoked salmon, beef jerky, and smoked sandwich meats all contribute to histamine intolerance, as well.
- Fish: Notably, in leftover form, Remedios warns. Shellfish, in particular, can also have an adverse effect.
- Pre-packaged seasonings: Spices like curry, paprika, cayenne, cloves, cinnamon, anise, as well as those that are pre-made mixes, can hurt, so try for fresh herbs that’ll bring flavor and fragrance to your dishes instead.
- Nightshades and other produce: Produce like spinach, tomatoes, avocado, pumpkin, and eggplant, as well as citrus fruits, pineapple, papaya, cranberry, raspberry, strawberry.
- Nuts: Skip the cashews and walnuts, most importantly.
The foods you should add to a low-histamine diet:
- Teas and coffee: While skipping black tea (which has fermentable qualities), you’ll want to add herbal teas like chamomile, holy basil, and peppermint into your morning drink option choice. Coffee is also approved, as is green tea, which will give you a caffeine boost, as well.
Vitamin B: “For those with brain fog, B1 is helpful, but really all the Bs including B2, B3, and B12 can reduce histamine symptoms,” Remedios says.
- Probiotics: “Since you’ll be avoiding many fermented foods, getting a good probiotic and then feeding your gut with healthy resistant starch will be important,” she continues.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Promote healthy gut bacteria by adding cruciferous veggies into your diet, as well as tubers, quinoa, bananas, rice (all colors), and amaranth, Remedios suggests.
The lifestyle changes you should be making:
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“Remember histamine is produced by some of the species of bacteria found in our gut. Avoid antibacterial products which may cause gut imbalance and avoid histamine producing probiotics,” she adds. “Exposure to a wide variety of microbes by venturing outdoors into nature, breathing in the forest air, living with dogs all can help.” More than that, you’ll want to improve your sleep quality, because deep sleep and a proper rhythm during your day can lead to less potent histamine effects. Avoid heavy meals and limit your exposure to mold, Remedios adds. By making these changes — as intimidating as they might seem — you can finally begin to experience improved gut health, no headaches, and a boost in overall health.
Check out The New Health Rules for simple changes to achieve whole-body wellness.