Histamines

cheese-and-salame

Histamines are present in many foods, especially those that have been aged. Foods with the highest histamine levels are aged cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, meats, salami, bacon, wine, sauerkraut, pickles, soy sauce, and vinegar. However, they are also found in some fresh fruits and vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, eggplant, and citrus fruits. They can also form in meats that have been ground, cyovac’d, canned, smoked, frozen, and stored in the refrigerator after being cooked.

Some people – like myself – have histamine intolerance, and ingesting even the smallest amount can produce a wide variety of unpleasant and disabling symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:

  • Pruritus (itching of the skin, eyes, ears, and nose)
  • Urticaria (hives)
  • Rashes
  • Acne
  • Angioedema (swelling of the face, mouth, and throat)
  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Tachycardia (racing heart rate)
  • Arrhythmia
  • Chest pain
  • Panic attack
  • Asthma attack
  • Nasal constriction
  • Flushing of the face and skin
  • Nasal mucus production
  • Conjunctivitis (irritated and watery eyes)
  • Migraines and other types of headaches
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation)
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Vertigo (dizziness)
  • Balance problems
  • Irritability and impatience
  • Digestive upset
  • Heartburn or gastro-esophageal reflux
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

The cause of histamine intolerance may be multifaceted. One of the most likely causes is a deficiency of one or both of the enzymes responsible for breaking down and eliminating histamines from the body. As Maintz and Novak explain in their comprehensive review article,

“Histamine intolerance results from a disequilibrium of accumulated histamine and the capacity for histamine degradation. Histamine is a biogenic amine that occurs to various degrees in many foods. In healthy persons, dietary histamine can be rapidly detoxified by amine oxidases, whereas persons with low amine oxidase activity are at risk of histamine toxicity. Diamine oxidase (DAO) is the main enzyme for the metabolism of ingested histamine. It has been proposed that DAO, when functioning as a secretory protein, may be responsible for scavenging extracellular histamine after mediator release. Conversely, histamine N-methyltransferase, the other important enzyme inactivating histamine, is a cytosolic protein that can convert histamine only in the intracellular space of cells.”

Many things can potentially interfere with the production of Diamine oxidase and N-methyltransferase. According to Dr. Amy Meyers in her blog post on this subject, these including Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, Inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut, gastointestinal infections, genetic mutations, mitochondrial dysfunction, and a wide variety of medications such as pain relievers, antidepressants, immune modulators, and even certain antihistamines.

The most powerful thing someone with histamine intolerance can do is to simply avoid foods that are known to be high in histamines. However, this can be a real challenge for someone who wants to do a low carb ketogenic diet or even a zero carb diet, as high-histamine foods often play a central role in low-to-no carb diets. And, if you are unaware that you are histamine intolerant, following the food recommendations espoused by most of the low and zero carb advocates can leave you feeling down right awful. When I first embarked upon a low carb ketogenic diet and then a more restricted zero carb approach, this is precisely what happened to me because almost everything I ate was high very in histamines. The only thing that did not make me feel too bad was raw egg yolks and heavy cream! I knew and felt that what my body really wanted was red meat, but every time I tried it I got a terrible migraine, severe digestive upset, and lots of mucus.

Fortunately, I did not have to flounder around in the dark for to long. Amber, a Zero Carb blogger with food sensitivities similar to mine referred me to an excellent article on histamine intolerance by Dr. Georgia Ede who – incidentally – also has a long history of bizarre reactions to a great many foods herself and eats a mostly meat diet as a result. I could not believe what I was reading! I had practically every symptom on the list. It was an incredible relief to finally understand why I was reacting badly to so many foods, but it was also stunning to me that no doctor I have consulted during the past 20 years every suggested histamine intolerance (or salicylate intolerance) as a possible cause of all my problems.

Now, the only thing I needed to do was find a source of unaged meat. However, that is easier said than done. It took me a few weeks, but I finally found a small local butcher shop that carries fresh-frozen, unaged, grassfed veal. It is likely that there are still some histamines present in this meat, as histamines continue to form even while meat sits passively in frozen storage. But the level must be considerably less because I respond to it way better than any of the other meats I tried previously. Discovering that I am histamine intolerant is just as huge as discovering that I am salicylate intolerant. It has provided me with enormous clarity regarding the path I need to follow, and I can finally move forward with confidence.

It may be possible to restore one’s ability to properly metabolize histamines, but the process is complex and may take years to accomplish. Nevertheless, if you feel that you may have histamine intolerance, I encourage you to read Joseph Cohen’s comprehensive blog post outlining the possible avenues for investigation. One of the easiest things you can do is a trial run with DAO enzymes to see if they make any difference in how you feel. I am planning to experiment with this myself in the near future. But for now, I am simply going to seek out and eat only those meats that have not been subjected to any intentional aging process. It is possible that my gut will heal on this diet, and one day I will be able to eat a wider variety of meats. Time will tell.

40 thoughts on “Histamines

  1. “Histamine, tyramine, cadaverine, spermine, spermidine, putrescine, tryptamine, and agmatine are considered to be the most important biogenic amines occurring in foods ”

    true… but even joe cohen is clueless WHY this happens, WHAT is deranging the intricate and complex regulatory system
    .
    I have found that jawbone cavitations are most of the time the root cause of histamine hypersensitivity. I have my patients remove all root.canals teeth (always badly infected with huge production and download of the abovementioned poisons) and have all the extraction sites, wisdoms on top, re-opened and curetted, ozonated and finally neuraltherapy (procaine) applied to the clean bone to restore cellular and meridians function..
    after this job is done (by a specifically trained neurofocal dentist, like this one, http://naturaldentistry.us/holistic-dentistry/meridian-tooth-chart-from-encinitas-dentist/
    stay away from others!!) , ,ALL ALLERGIES usually disappear within weeks or months, having freed the body from its toxic, metabolic burden that is “SHORTING” up a gazillion of enzymatic patways, histamine included..
    few NAET treatments with histamine vial and sensitive food groups might help to speed up the process .
    i have seen hundreds of cases, with pretty awesome results when the job, diet and dental work is managed properly.. being already on a zero carb diet is the best starting point!!
    I suggest reading
    cr. munro hall book : Toxic dentistry exposed
    video:

    below: dr. adler about wisdoms, the worst offenders… when still in or when taken out as video above…
    http://www.healingteethnaturally.com/impacted-wisdom-teeth-testimonials.html

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    • Thanks for your comments and links, Ricky. In my case, I believe is started with a GI infection I acquired in India at age 16. That, coupled with a vegan diet high in wheat, lead to the expression of Celiac disease. I have no root canals and very few fillings (no more Mercury). I do have a friend who has severe mastocytosis and many of the same issues as me who had extensive work done for jaw bone cavitations where his wisdom teeth had been removed. It helped for a while, but the benefits did not last more than about a year. He then had more surgery, but experienced no benefits this time. As far as NAET is concerned, I did that for 8 months without any benefit. But they are all issues worth exploring.

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      • yes… as a NAET therapist i can now state that without ruling out all the dental issues, such technique is often useless.
        once cavitations and wisdoms are out , neuraltherapy has been applied to jump-start teeth meridians, works like magic! :-O
        sadly, I am probably one of the few that made the connection… most others abandon naet after a while, as I almost did.
        i now use it only AFTER dental job, (if needed) or in the (very rare) cases non needing dental care.
        if your friend did not follow cavitation with neuraltherapy , no results, sorry… missing the last crucial step often times is fatal for missing the finish line…
        do you still have wisdoms in your mouth? even if apparently “normal”, they affect heavily metabolism, small intestine, blood count, circulation.

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    • Ricky, I am hoping you are still active on this site. I am going through this very thing. I have had 2 operations so far and have 2 to go. I have been following up with ozone injections weekly into the cavitation sites and am starting the procaine this week. Apparently my dentist does the procaine into acupunture meridians from the jaw down through the neck. everything I eat makes my throat raw and ear plug up. I feel like I have strep throat and an ear infection24/7. On top of that every single time I eat I feel sick. I have started the all meat diet with the tiniest bit of relief. Is there any advise you can give to push things along a little quicker. This has been going on about ten years and has gotten really bad the last three. Thanks in advance

      PS. My problems all started from an accident where I broke several back teeth had root canals that became infected.

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    • For future readers, check out MTHFR.net, histamine intolerance is usually caused by MTHFR and Dao genetic mutations leading to a lack of ability to digest or clear histamine from the body. Not your dental work.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Esmee,

    Thank you for this amazing website and all your hard work to make it happen.

    As with yours, my own health is very sensitive to histamines. I have been looking for a local butcher who has recently slaughtered meat. Thus far, none.

    Once I find one, I might need to buy in bulk and freeze most of it. I am wondering if putting meat in the freezer will slow down the growth of histamines.

    Also, I wonder if freezing meat causes its quality to be degraded somehow.

    Might you have any insights into these things?

    Again, thank you very much,

    Todd

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    • Hi Todd, yes freezing slows histamine production considerably. I buy my meat two days after slaughter and freeze it immediately. I have not had any problems with this. There probably is some loss of quality to the meat once it is frozen, but for me the histamine issue is much more important. If you live liver, you could always try to get your hands on some fresh grassfed liver and eat it for extra nutrition. Thanks for your questions.

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  4. Hello Esmee,

    I just found a local butcher who has freshly slaughtered meat. It is from lamb. The fattiest selection they had was shoulder. I bought five pounds to try it out.

    Unfortunately, it was an un-chewable tangle of tendons and bones. Also, it was not nearly as fat as, say, a rib eye from beef.

    I wonder if you might share which low histamine cuts work best for you?

    Thank you again for trying this zero plant food approach, as well as for all your hard work to share your discoveries with us!

    Todd

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    • Hi Todd, I have found a butcher who gets fresh pork in once a week. They are able to grind it and put it in the freezer within two days of the animal being slaughtered. They portion it into 1 lb. packages for easy use. I have not been reacting to this meat. I thaw a package in warm water just before use. I add butter to my meat for extra fat because that seem to work better for me. Nest time, maybe you could have your butcher take all the toughest parts and grind them for you and package in meal size portions for you. Your other option would be to buy lamb shoulder chops and pan fry them. The main thing is to not cook more than you think you will eat because any left overs will become high in histamines by the next day. Also, the meat needs to go in the freezer as you bring it home unless you plan to eat it immediately. Long slow cooking, like in a crock pot, will also create more histamines. Ground meat creates histamines really fast too, so if you are buying meat from a fresh lamb, don’t buy ground meat that has been sitting in the case. Have the butcher grind it for you fresh, and then get it in the freezer as quickly as possible. I hope this helps. Esmee

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  8. Another part of the histamine puzzle may be this:

    How long will it take to heal histamine intolerance and how long will it take before
    fermented veggies can be introduced? Are there any specific supplements you suggest
    to help with this intolerance?
    It is very individual how long it takes to heal. Keep testing if you are getting more
    tolerant by trying to eat tomato, eggplant or spinach before trying to eat fermented
    vegetables. I believe that it is the abnormal gut flora that produces excessive amounts of
    histamine and also impairs enzymes which break the histamine down in the body.

    This is from the FAQ’s on the site of dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, author of the GAPS program. She advises to use the GAPS dietary protocol to eliminate histamine producing bacteria from the gut. Elswhere in this document she tells that she has a number of patients that are very healthy following a no plant diet.

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  11. Hello Esmee,

    I cannot find any information on the histamine content of beef tallow. I know aged beef has more histamine than some people can tolerate but I am wondering if that is true of beef fat alone. I want to try restricting histamine from my diet but would like to cook lamb in beef tallow if it is suitable as I have a good supply of tallow on hand.

    If it is not low in histamine I will use butter instead.

    Thanks for all the great information.

    Derek

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    • Hi Derek, unfortunately I do not know the answer to your question. I have wondered about that myself because I do not personally do well with tallow or any rendered fat. Butter that has been cultured can be very high in histamines as well. It makes me feel really bad. I have never actually tried uncultured butter for comparison. I have just been sticking to rare chuck roast steaks and not adding extra fat. That has been working pretty well for me.

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  12. something is messing me up. I am trying to figure out if its eggs. I feel like crap for a couple days. I only am eating meat, eggs and water right now. Esmee, should i cut the eggs out and see if that helps?

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  13. Esmee, I tried posting once but the page disappeared. I hope I’m not reposting. Anyway I’m 30 days in and doing quote well except for gerd and histamine issues which are probably responsible for the gerd. Anyway, my question is have you had any relief from this horrible histamine issue. Does broth help? Does fasting help? Will time cure this? I can only find out what it is and can’t find anyone who has actually cured it. Any thoughts?

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    • I did a 16 water fast about 8 months after starting ZC, and it significantly increased my tolerance for histamines. I am now able to eat beef from a regular market without getting a migraine. The GERD mayor may not be related to histamines. Many people have found that they simply do not do well with rendered or overly cooked fats and meats. Dairy can also be a problem for some in this regard. Can you give me more details of what you are eating?

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      • Thank you for the answer. What I am eating exactly is alot of steak with fat (blue rare). I have a fair amount of bacon and sausage sort of a side dish. Occasionally I will have sausage patties for lunch but lately I’ve been intermittent fasting every other day.
        I have eliminated all dairy and eggs they make me sick

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        • Sausage and bacon are both very high in histamines. I cannot get near them. The best thing to do is just fresh fatty beef and water for 30 days. This will give you a baseline from which to test other ZC foods.

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  15. Did you ever try a DAO enzyme? I have problems with Histamine intolerance and I want to try this but I’m not sure which brand I should go with. I like to be very selective when it comes to supplements as there are some very unscrupulous companies out there and I’d like to not waste my money on something that either doesn’t work or is filled with junk. Any help would be appreciated.

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  17. Try finding a halal or kosher butcher.
    By law, they must sell meat within 24 hours of slaughter.
    Any city with large moslem or large Orthodox Jewish communities should have a butcher. Lamb isn’t usually aged, so that’s a safe choice.

    But they probably won’t be grass fed, organic. If you live in NYC or Toronto, you might find grass fed kosher meat, but otherwise, you can’t even find it on the West Coast.

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