Tips for a Low-Histamine Diet

by Allison Bush Editor

Histamine is a protein released by the body in response to an allergen. But with chronic idiopathic urticaria, the specific allergen is unknown. Histamines in the body dilate the blood vessels, causing itching, flaking, and reddening of the skin. So what can you do to lessen the load of histamines in the body to try to lessen the frequency of flares?

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Understand how histamine works

Histamine exists in the body to cause an immediate inflammatory response, and warn your immune system of a potential attacker (allergen). Histamine buildup can give you a headache and leave you feeling flushed, itchy and miserable.

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What does it affect?

Because it travels throughout your bloodstream, histamine can affect your gut, lungs, skin, brain, and entire cardiovascular system. This can contribute to a wide range of problems - often making it difficult to pinpoint and diagnose.

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Learn about histamine-rich foods

There are a variety of foods that naturally contain high levels of histamine, which can be problematic for people unable to breakdown this chemical. People with histamine intolerance should avoid wine, beer, champagne, fermented foods, dried fruit, citrus fruits, tofu, cured meats, aged cheese, nuts, smoked fish, and nightshade vegetables.

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Low-histamine foods

Looking for what might be a low-histamine food? Think "fresh." This list includes fresh meat or poultry, fresh fish, eggs, gluten-free grains, dairy substitutes, pure peanut butter (usually tolerated even if peanuts are not), fresh herbs, mango, pear, watermelon, apple, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapes, and cooking oils.

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How are histamines broken down?

Histamine is either stored or broken down by an enzyme. Histamine in the central nervous system is broken down primarily by histamine N-methyltransferase (HMT). Ingested histamine in the digestive tract is broken down primarily by diamine oxidase (DAO).

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Take note: Some medications block your body’s ability to breakdown and eliminate whatever histamines you do happen take in. The most common over-the-counter culprits are alcohol, acid-blockers, and NSAIDs.

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Know your histamine intolerance

Talk to your doctor about the possibility of histamine intolerance, and get a lab test of your DAO and histamine levels. You can also try an elimination diet and gradually remove histamine-rich foods from your diet to see how your body reacts.

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Focus on what you can eat

If you constantly focus on what you can't eat as part of a low-histamine diet, you may start to feel a little depressed and want to give up. Remember, the goal is not to completely eliminate histamine, it's just a matter of lessening the load on your body. Do focus on what you can eat, though, and you will forget you ever changed your diet.

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Journal your meals

If you don't know what you're eating, you may miss out on what could be causing a reaction in your body. To log meals, you can try the old fashioned method of documenting using pen and paper, keep a spreadsheet on your computer, or use a food journaling app on your smart phone.

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Learn to be flexible

Living with a chronic condition can be difficult, but learn that it's OK to get off course every now and again. It's best not to stress and to do the best you can.

Allison Bush
Meet Our Writer
Allison Bush

Allison Bush is a former HealthCentral editor who covered a wide range of health topics.