Histamine intolerance belongs to a group of conditions that are usually overlooked and ignored, although they could be the reason some people feel fatigue or even pain. The purpose of this article is to provide valuable information abut histamine intolerance and what foods you should eat in order to avoid it.
What Are Histamines?
Histamine is a chemical that occurs naturally in some foods. The chemical is also present in the body, where it is involved with the immune, central nervous, and digestive systems. As a neurotransmitter, histamine sends important messages or signals from your body to the brain. It is also a component of stomach acid, which helps you break down food.
You have probably heard the term histamine if you suffer from any sort of allergy, e.g. food allergies, pollen allergies, and many others. You probably used antihistamines to relieve symptoms of your allergy. This happens because the primary role of histamines in one’s body is to cause an immediate inflammatory response. Basically, histamines can be considered red flags which inform your body that something is wrong.
What Is Histamine Intolerance?
Histamine causes our blood vessels to swell and dilate. In turn, white blood cells rapidly find and attack problem or infection. Since the body contains histamine and some foods are rich in this chemical, it is not unusual for some people to become intolerant. The buildup of histamine in your body can cause itchiness, headaches, and other symptoms that will be discussed below.
Histamine intolerance occurs when your body is unable to break down histamine properly. It means, simply, that your body contains excessive amounts of this chemical.
Symptoms Of Histamine Intolerance
If you experience these symptoms, then chances are high that you deal with histamine intolerance:
- Irregular sleeping pattern
- Arrhythmia (accelerated heart rate)
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Irregular menstrual cycle
- Tissue swelling.
Histamine intolerance is usually caused by consumption of histamine-rich foods.
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How To Improve Symptoms Of Histamine Intolerance
Since histamine intolerance is usually caused by consumption of histamine-rich foods, then making some diet adjustments can alleviate symptoms. This notion has been explored extensively by Laura Maintz and Natalia Novak from the Department of Dermatology, University of Bonn, in Germany. They are authors of one of the most detailed articles about histamines and histamine intolerance. Both authors have conducted extensive research about histamine intolerance in order to get as much data as possible. Results of their research were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Authors of the paper revealed that a histamine-free diet supported by antihistamines leads to an improvement of symptoms. However, authors also stress the importance of conducting further clinical studies on this subject, since it is still a widely unexamined condition.
What Foods Should I Eat To Avoid Histamine Intolerance?
Onions contains a compound called Quercetin, which acts as a natural antihistamine and prevents immune cells from releasing histamines. Scientists believe Quercetin has the ability to prevent and ease symptoms of allergies.
It is usually used in teas, but nettles can be a healthy addition to some meals as well. Another reason why you should add nettle to your diet is the fact that it is a natural antihistamine. For example, in one study, conducted by Mittman P from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, 58% of participants reported their symptoms decreased after consumption of freeze-dried nettles and 69% rated it better than placebo. Results of the study were published in Planta Medica.
Pomegranates contain polyphenols like tannins and anthocyanins and are rich in antioxidants. This fruit has the ability to reduce inflammation, ease symptoms of allergies, and thus prevent histamine intolerance. Tariq M. Haqqi from the Department of Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at School of Medicine, University of South Carolina, along with a group of scientists, conducted a study to inspect whether pomegranate modulates inflammatory reactions. Results of the study were published in the Journal of Inflammation and showed that pomegranate stimulated inflammatory gene expression and it may be of therapeutic use for the treatment of inflammatory diseases by suppressing activation of mast cells (they play a pivotal role in inflammations and infections). You can eat pomegranate by itself, make a juice, tea etc.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apples are rich in a wide range of nutrients that provide our body with vitamins, minerals, and other healthy components. Just like pomegranates, apples inhibit the release of histamines from mast cells, which makes them perfect for people with histamine intolerance.
Omega 3 fatty acids
Omega 3 fatty acids reduce allergic reactions due to their anti-inflammatory properties, and they act as natural antihistamines. Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in fish, some nuts, etc. Moreover, your body needs high level of Omega 3s for overall health, so including more in your diet or supplementing is always a good idea.
While cooking your favourite meal, instead of using butter or canola oil, opt for a healthier alternative. Olive oil is one of the primary sources of oleic acid, which increases the release of diamine oxidase (DAO) into the bloodstream by 500%. When oleic acid helps release DAO into your blood stream it degrades free amines and histamines, which relieve symptoms of histamine intolerance. Just be careful not to cook with olive oil at a high heat, as it burns easily.
Eggs are actually quite low in histamines and safe to eat in moderate amounts. They are also rich in antioxidants that fight the free radicals which destroy healthy blood cells. Eggs are also rich in protein, boosting your energy throughout the day.
Chicken, or poultry in general, is also a good source of oleic acid, which increases the release of DAO and eases symptoms of histamine intolerance.
Whole grains are a rich source of antioxidants, iron, fiber, and magnesium, all of which improve our overall health. Moreover, since gluten aggravates histamine intolerance, products that contain whole grains are a healthy alternative. They are also known for their anti-allergic properties.
Fresh seafood and meat
If you simply can’t imagine going vegetarian, then make sure you eat fresh ingredients. Regardless of the type of meat, always strive to avoid processed products, as they are high in histamines and will only worsen your condition. Instead, opt for fresh seafood and unprocessed meats, since they are low in histamines. They should still, however, only be consumed in moderate amounts. Remember, excessive consumption of these foods could induce the opposite effect and you should try to eat fish or meat, including poultry, only once or twice a week.
TIP: avoid canned or smoked fish.
NOTE: always make sure products you purchase are fresh, especially fruits and vegetables. The older the produce, the more histamines they contain.
IMPORTANT: it is important to keep a food diary and write down everything you eat. Some foods may aggravate histamine intolerance, while other foods will not, and only by keeping a log of everything you eat will you find out what to avoid.
In conclusion, it may seem that histamine intolerance prevents you from eating foods you like, but it’s all about eating good quality food. For example, avoid unhealthy and processed foods, and if purchasing fruits and vegetables always make sure they are fresh. It’s important to have a food diary to keep track of how some foods affect your condition.
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