Four things that can lead to histamine intolerance


The role of histamine

Histamine is an incredible natural chemical that helps regulate immune reactions, gut function and central nervous system processes. It’s also the chemical responsible for common allergy symptoms like swelling, itching, mucus and sneezing.

Believe it or not, allergy symptoms are designed to help our body defend itself against pathogens. (For instance, a runny nose reduces further exposure to airborne substances.) So, histamine forms an integral part of a healthy inflammatory immune response.

However, for some people, histamine levels can ‘build up’ in the body, sparking new (or exacerbating existing) allergy symptoms and lead to a condition called ‘histamine intolerance’.


What is histamine intolerance?

Typically, there are natural enzymes that help break down and maintain histamine balance in the body. But, if your body cannot break it down properly, histamine levels begin to build up, which leads to a condition known as histamine intolerance.


Why does histamine build up in the body? 

We produce more than we need

An overproduction of histamine may be due to:

  • An unhealthy balance of gut flora,often seen with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Chronic allergies and sensitivities – reactions cause your body to release more histamine than usual
  • Gut conditions – like leaky gut syndrome, low gastric acid levels and weak digestion

We’re not breaking down histamine effectively

Our intestines produce certain enzymes that help breakdown and balance histamine. So, when our enzyme levels (particularly DAO) are compromised, it can increase histamine levels and may even spark histamine sensitivity.

DAO levels are directly influenced by our diet, particularly our consumption of zinc, copper, and vitamins B6 and C. So, it’s important to ensure we get enough of these key nutrients. They can also be affected by some medications, alcohol consumption, genetics and hormone imbalances. So, consult with your health care practitioner If you suspect you have histamine intolerance.

We’re consuming too many high-histamine foods

It’s usually only once your histamine levels are high, and you have difficulty breaking it down, that high-histamine foods become a challenge. Watch out for aged or fermented foods, such as cured meats, wine, blue cheese, yoghurt and sauerkraut. Other culprits include citrus fruits, strawberries, dried fruits, tomatoes, eggplant, anchovies, chocolate, tea, yeast and some preservatives.

Some foods also encourage our bodies to release histamine (even though they don’t contain much themselves). Bananas, pineapples, tomatoes, peanuts, egg white and shellfish all fall into this category.

We overusing anti-histamines

Anti-histamines help to stop allergy symptoms as they block histamine receptors throughout the body. Although, as this stops histamine being metabolised in the usual way, it can result in an access of histamine floating around in the body, with no where to go.

Using anti-histamines over a long period of time also makes your body create more histamine receptors throughout the body, trying to metabolise the excess histamine. This is why many people find anti-histamines stop working after using them over an extended period of time.


Please note this blog is general information only, please consult your healthcare professional before making any diet or lifestyle changes.