Histamine is an important part of your body’s immune response, but high levels of the chemical compound can cause health problems.
Histamine is a chemical produced in cells throughout the body as part of the body’s inflammatory response to allergy, infection, or injury.
When damaged or exposed to allergens, cells in the skin, nose, throat and lungs release histamine, resulting in pain, itchiness, redness, runny nose, and wheezing.
Histamine also plays an important role in digestion by aiding in the production of stomach acid, as well as regulating sleep.
Histamine intolerance occurs when the body responds to foods that are high in histamine or that prompt release of the body’s own histamine.
The symptoms of histamine intolerance may vary from person to person.
Histamine intolerance can mimic many of the symptoms of an allergic reaction and may range from mild to severe.
Symptoms may include stuffy or runny nose, wheezing, headache, diarrhea, itching, hives or redness of the skin, low blood pressure, and anaphylaxis.
Researchers estimate that approximately one percent of people have histamine intolerance. It’s most common in middle-aged adults.
Histamine intolerance may be treated with a histamine-free diet and antihistamine medications.
Histamine in Food
Long-ripened or fermented products, including aged cheeses, processed (deli) meats, sauerkrauts, and wine contain high levels of histamine.
Yeast products such as beer and some breads are also histamine-rich. Certain fruits and veggies, including tomatoes and spinach, also contain high levels of histamine.
Some foods, while low in histamines themselves, are known as histamine liberators, meaning that they help to release histamine from other foods.
Foods with histamine-releasing properties include citrus, peanuts, fish, shellfish, and egg whites.
People with histamine intolerance may be instructed by their doctor to eliminate or reduce histamine-rich foods and histamine-releasing foods from their diets.
Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking
- Histamine and allergies, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology
- Histamine intolerance and histamine foods, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition