February 17, 2021

Histamine in Food

by Andrea Richardson

Most of us have taken antihistamine medication at some point to relieve the symptoms of hay fever or itchy skin like hives.  

Histamine is a chemical created by our immune system to help protect us, by helping to remove unwanted allergens. 

Histamine creates inflammation and results in:

  • Increased mucous secretions
  • Increased blood flow
  • Contraction of smooth muscles (in the lungs, uterus, gut etc)
  • Attracts white blood cells to the affected site  

This process allows the body to flush out allergens and repair any damage.  

When it's no longer needed, our body removes histamine mainly via the liver, kidney and gut, so these organs must be functioning well to perform this task.  Occationally the body is unable to remove it fast enough and histamine levels remain high causing infalmmation and damage.

Excess histamine can cause:

  • Nasal congestion / weepy eyes
  • Itchy skin/ rashes / eczema/ acne
  • Asthma 
  • Headaches, similar to migraine
  • Digestive symptoms (gas, diarrhea, stomach ache, colic, IBS, feeling of fullness) 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Fatigue 
  • Rapid heartbeat 
  • Anaphylaxis 
  • Arrhythmias 
  • Painful periods 
  • Low muscle tone 
  • It's also linked to diseases such as Crohn disease, ulcerative colitis, food allergy and abnormal cell growth in colon. (1) (3)

Histamine also enters our body though our diet.  

In healthy people this poses no problem, as the enzyme in our gut (diamine oxidase) easily removes it.

However, when the gut is damaged (leaky gut), the body can't make the enzyme to remove it and high levels of histamine remain, causing inflammation and symptoms. (4) This is referred to as a histamine intolerance.  

Therefore, in the early stages of healing, some people will benefit from avoiding higher histamine foods such as:

  • Fermented foods like sauerkraut, cheese, kefir, tempeh, miso, meat (salami/sausage)
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant
  • Tomatoes and ketchup
  • Canned and frozen fish - sardines and tuna
  • Alcohol
  • Beans and pulses

Some foods and medications, cause histamine to be released from cells and also reduce the body's ability to remove it.  Consequently, this causes a rise in histamine, inflammation and symptoms. These include:

  • Citrus foods
  • Strawberries
  • Chocolate
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Nuts /peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Pork
  • Vinegar
  • Antibiotics, Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, heart medication, pain medications (1) (3)

Natural Antihistamines

There's lots of things to consider when dealing with histamine, so it's best to manage it with the support of your doctor. 

Having a strong, healthy digestive system and other organs that produces sufficient enzymes is at the core of restoring an optimal histamine level.  

Here are some ways to help lower histamine levels:

  • Reduce intake of high histamine foods
  • Reduce intake of foods that release histamine from the cells (histamine liberators)
  • Heal the gut lining (leaky gut), so optimal levels of enzymes are produced 
  • Support optimal liver and kidneys function, as these are the two main enzyme producing organs to break down histamine 
  • Reduce medications that inhibit enzyme production. Never change medication without talking with your doctor.
  • Add foods, herbs and supplements that help remove histamine

Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle (Urtica Dioica) is a natural, safe and effective antihistamine that has been traditionally used for generations.  Research is also starting to back up what traditional herbalists have known for a long time. (2)


Quercetin is a flavonoid that has been shown to have an antihistamine effect. Capers are the richest known natural source of quercetin. (5) 

Vitamin C and B6

Research suggests vitamin C and vitamin B6 leads to an increase in enzyme activity, so a diet rich in these may be helpful. (1)

Some good sources of B6 are cauliflower, sweet potato, potato, broccoli, bananas, kale, corn, rye, quinoa, buckwheat, cabbage, boy choi, capsicum/bell peppers. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamin C.


This common root has been used for medicine for 1000's of years. It is safter than pharmaceutical antihistamines with less side effects especially drowsiness, fatigue, dizziness and constipation.

Studies have identified it as a good alternative to medication. (6)

Anti-Inflammatory Program

If you are wanting to know more about how to eat a healing diet, take a look at my anti-inflammatory program, which makes healing simple and takes out the guesswork. Check it out here. 

Don't know where to start?

Grab Your Free Copy Of The First Chapter of My Program, Healing Naturally

About the author

I was diagnosed with a painful auto-immune disease when I was 35 years old and I found a way to reverse the disease and become drug free. Now I teach others how to do the same.  When I don't have my head buried in a text book I enjoy, camping, spending time with family.

Andrea Richardson


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