Dealing with a histamine allergy can be extremely frustrating. A diet rich in histamine-reducing foods can help mitigate your symptoms and keep your body from having a reaction. And sometimes, DAO supplements can help you lessen your intolerance even further.
To keep histamine levels in check, eat a diet rich in all-natural, whole foods like fresh vegetables and fruit, gluten-free grains, egg yolks and fresh meat. Avoid salty snacks, aged dairy, packaged meats and other processed foods.
What Is Histamine?
Histamine is a chemical that occurs naturally in the body to help lessen the effects of allergic reactions. It's present in especially large amounts in the gastrointestinal tract, lungs and skin, and it's a crucial part of many of your body's natural processes.
When the body encounters a foreign substance it deems to be potentially invasive, it releases histamine to stop the substance from spreading. The affected area becomes inflamed while your body works to rid itself of whatever it has deemed to be a problem. You might start itching, sweating or sneezing — any response typically associated with an allergic reaction.
It's a process intended to keep you safe from poisonous substances, but sometimes, people are especially sensitive to histamine and experience flare-ups for seemingly no reason. When they eat certain foods, they may notice an adverse and often severe physical reaction.
Histamine intolerance can sometimes be confused with food allergies, and the cause remains somewhat of a mystery. It typically has to do with your body's higher than normal levels of histamine, sometimes due to enzyme imbalances.
If you're concerned you may have a sensitivity to histamine, talk to your doctor about how you can lessen its effects. The symptoms may be slightly different for everyone, so the treatment should be customized to match the situation.
Can DAO Supplements Help?
One potential way to deal with symptoms of histamine intolerance is to take DAO supplements regularly. DAO enzyme is a chemical that regulates the amount of histamine present in the body — so when you are deficient in DAO, you may be more likely to experience problems with excessive histamine.
According to the International Society of DAO Deficiency, symptoms of this include migraines, gastrointestinal issues, chronic fatigue and extremely dry skin. Though research on DAO enzyme deficiency is limited, it is thought to be one cause of histamine intolerance. Thus, it may be responsible for some of the allergic symptoms you're experiencing.
DAO supplements have yet to be studied in depth, so it is unclear whether they provide long-term relief from histamine-related issues. A small study of 100 people published in the February 2019 issue of the journal Clinical Nutrition found that DAO supplements reduced migraines in people with DAO deficiency, suggesting that it could have a significant overall effect.
Histamine Lowering Foods
Another way to deal with histamine intolerance is to consume a lot of histamine reducing foods. Certain dietary staples contain only low levels of histamine, which will keep you from having frequent adverse reactions. These foods are safe to eat for people with histamine imbalances.
In general, it's smart to avoid canned or overly processed foods, which typically contain higher amounts of histamine. Try to eat fresh, all-natural foods and cook at home as much as possible. The more you can stay in control of what you're eating, the better informed you can be about which foods might be causing you problems.
The Histamine Intolerance Awareness campaign recommends eating fresh fruit (except strawberries), fresh vegetables (except tomatoes), gluten-free grains, egg yolk and fresh meat. Make your own meals whenever you can, and try to avoid foods with additives or pesticides.
While this diet can help reduce your symptoms, it can also be very restrictive when followed for longer than a few weeks at a time. Before making any major changes to your diet, always talk to your health care professional about whether these restrictions can work for you.
Foods High in Histamines
As much as it's helpful to increase your intake of low-histamine foods, it's equally important to reduce your consumption of foods that contain histamines. Steer clear of alcohol, canned or pickled foods, smoked meat, salty snacks and cheese, as much as you're able. These foods are naturally high in histamines and could potentially trigger a reaction.
Some foods do not contain histamines directly, but they have a property that triggers histamine release whenever you consume them. These are called histamine liberators, and they include citrus fruits, dried fruits, tomatoes, nuts, spinach and chocolate. It's best to steer clear of these foods as well if you're looking to start a low-histamine diet.
Caffeine, a dietary staple for many people, has been shown to promote histamine release. Especially when your digestive system is just waking up, caffeine onsets activity in the histamine neurons in the body, which can be problematic for some people who are sensitive. That morning cup of coffee might not be the best thing for your health — it could be worth trying decaf to see if it helps you.
Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for dealing with a histamine intolerance. A November 2014 article in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics notes that each person's treatment approach should be unique to their situation. A registered dietitian can work with you to try different dietary restrictions and see what works.
It's not usually practical to stop eating all products containing histamines, except in the most extreme cases. You may find you react more strongly to some foods than others, in which case it will benefit you to tailor your diet to your individual needs.
Talk to your health care provider about your interest in consuming more histamine-reducing foods, and you can begin to test out this new diet to see how it affects you.
- Colorado State University VIVO Pathophysiology: "Histamine"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Histamine and Histamine Intolerance"
- International Society of DAO Deficiency: "What Is DAO Deficiency?"
- Clinical Nutrition: "Diamine Oxidase (DAO) Supplement Reduces Headache in Episodic Migraine Patients With DAO Deficiency: A Randomized Double-Blind Trial"
- Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry: "Low Serum Diamine Oxidase (DAO) Activity Levels in Patients With Migraine"
- Histamine Intolerance Awareness: "The Food List"
- American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology: "Caffeine Promotes Glutamate and Histamine Release in the Posterior Hypothalamus"
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Is There a Diet for Histamine Intolerance?"