Histamine Intolerance

1% of the world’s population has histamine intolerance according to an article in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, with 80% of them being middle aged. Personally I see many of my GAPS clients with a histamine intolerance with no restrictions on age.

You would be familiar with the term ‘anti-histamines’, which are typically used when someone suffers from hay fever, sinusitis or experience an acute skin reaction. Histamines are released from your mast cells due to an inflammatory response. Masts cells are part of your immune system and are regularly called upon to out the flames out of a fire that may be occurring in your body.

When histamine is released it dilates your capillaries, resulting in lowering blood pressure, it contracts smooth muscles (including your lungs), increases gastric secretions, raises heart rate and is a neurotransmitter in your brain (McAuliffe, G. 2015).

Typical symptoms of histamine intolerance:

  • rhinitis
  • sinusitis
  • asthma
  • headaches/migraines
  • nausea
  • flatulence
  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhoea
  • hives
  • flushing
  • insomnia
  • arrhythmia
  • stuttering
  • nasal congestion
  • sneezing
  • abnormal menstrual cycle/dysmenorrhea
  • mental disorders such as depression and schizophrenia

Histamine is also found in foods that we eat and fermented beverages (red wine and beer . So when someone has a histamine intolerance, they have an impaired ability to break histamine down in their digestive system and the histamine accumulates, and the person will experience symptoms similar to a hay fever sufferer. There are also foods that may not contain high histamine levels, but may influence a histamine RESPONSE. For a full list of high histamine containing foods and high histamine releasing foods click –histamine-food-list

Are you born histamine intolerant?

Yes and no. There are two enzymes that break down histamine in your digestive system. Diamine Oxidase (DAO) is the most common enzyme that people are insufficient of. To boost the productivity of this enzyme vitamin C and vitamin B6 are needed. The other enzyme that is needed to break down histamine is N-methyltransferase (HNMT). HNMT is needed mostly in the lungs to break down histamine (asthma link?), but is expressed in the kidneys and liver also. To increase HNMT activity the enzyme SAMe ( S- adenosyl-methyl-methionine) is required. You can lack either of these enzymes genetically or they can be blocked by various pharmaceutical drugs (or acquired from health ailments such as leaky gut, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth or Epstein Barr virus). Any one can experience symptoms of histamine intolerance, just by ingesting too many high histamine foods. This is referred to mostly as ‘histamine excess’.

Testing for histamine intolerance

  • Histamine blood serum
  • Genetic testing (DNA)
  • Methylation profile
  • Food allergy test

Management of histamine intolerance

  • Keep a food diary for any reactions to histamine foods
  • Check if on any medication that could block histamine enzymes or are pro-histamine releasing
  • Do you have any symptoms of histamine intolerance?
  • Eliminate histamine foods from diet, heal your gut and reintroduce slowly

If you feel that you may have a histamine intolerance, book an appointment to discuss your needs today!



Maintz, Laura and Novak, Natalija. ‘Histamine and histamine intolerance’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007, 85:1185-96

McAuliffe, George. “Histamine’, Journal of the Council on Nutrition of the American Chiropractic Association, 2015, Vol.38, No.3 30-33

Smolinska, S. Jutel, M. Crameri, R. O’Mahony, L. ‘Histamine and gut mucosal immune regulation’, 2014, 69:273-281

Vickerstaff-Joneja, Janice. & Carmona-Silva, Cabrini. ‘Outcome of a histamine restricted diet based on chart audit’, Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 2001: 11, 249-262

Leave a Reply