Histamine is known for triggering allergic reactions and causing symptoms from itchy eyes, sneezing and a runny nose to more serious inflammation and asthma. A handful of nutrients and phytochemicals may help reduce the amount of histamine released into your system. If you’re sensitive to histamine, you should also avoid some foods because they’re either high in histamine or they’re capable of boosting its levels in your body.
If you have allergies, when you encounter the allergen, it triggers mast cells throughout your body to release histamine. Then histamine tightens lung muscles, relaxes muscles in blood vessels and speeds up muscle movement in the intestines. It also increases mucus production and causes inflammation. Studies to date haven’t focused on the ability of specific foods to lower histamine, but some substances found in foods may inhibit mast cells. If you're sensitive to histamine, you may need more than dietary changes; consult your health care provider.
Flavonoids Reduce Histamine
Plants produce natural antioxidant flavonoids, some of which may reduce histamine levels in your body. One type of flavonoid, quercetin, helps stop mast cells from releasing histamine, according to a report in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in 2004. The best sources of quercetin include berries, red grapes, apples, apricots, tea, onions, broccoli and kale. Green tea contains flavonoids known as catechins that also help lower histamine and relieve allergic symptoms, according to a study published in December 2007 in Cytotechnology.
Vitamin C May Lower Histamine
Vitamin C shows some promise for reducing histamine. Injections of vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, reduced blood levels of histamine in people diagnosed with allergic and infectious diseases, according to a study in the September 2013 issue of Nauny-Schmeideberg’s Archives of Pharmacology. However, more research is needed to verify its effect on histamine before you boost your intake to relieve allergy symptoms. You still need plenty of vitamin C for its antioxidant benefits and to keep your bones and connective tissue healthy. In addition to citrus fruits, you'll get vitamin C from strawberries, broccoli, spinach, red peppers and potatoes.
Avoid High-Histamine Foods
Rather than relying on foods that may lower histamine, you can also reduce levels in your system by avoiding foods with high amounts of histamine. Fermented foods, processed meats, dried fruits and vinegar-containing foods are all high in histamine, reports the Michigan Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Specialists. Other foods to avoid include eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, avocados, yogurt, anchovies, mackerel, sardines and any type of smoked fish. Sour bread, sour cream, buttermilk and aged cheeses are also high in histamine. If you’re sensitive to histamine, stay away from foods that may trigger its release, including alcohol, chocolate, bananas, eggs, fish and milk.
- Pharmacology Corner: Histamine Physiologic Effects
- Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: Mast Cells and Mast Cell Mediators as Targets of Dietary Supplements
- Linus Pauling Institute: Flavone, Flavonol, and Flavanone Content of Selected Foods
- Cytotechnology: In Vitro and In Vivo Anti-Allergic Effects of Benifuuki Green Tea Containing O-Methylated Catechin and Ginger Extract Enhancement
- Naunyn-Schmiedeberg’s Archives of Pharmacology: Intravenous Infusion of Ascorbic Acid Decreases Serum Histamine Concentrations in Patients With Allergic and Non-Allergic Diseases
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin C
- Michigan Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Specialists: Foods That Contain Histamine or Cause the Body to Release Histamine, Including Fermented Food