"Welcome to Nutritionhelp - supporting health for 26 years."
Erica White DipION, FBANT, Nutritionhelp Founder

What is Histamine?

Fri 27th May, 2016 - 8:19pm by Emma Cockrell

Histamine is a natural substance produced by the body and released  during times of stress and allergy. It is also present in many foods.

When an allergen triggers the immune system, a type of white blood cell called mast cells release histamines as part of the inflammatory immune reaction. Histamines can also be absorbed from histamine-containing foods or be produced by certain bacteria in the gut.

The presence of histamines should usually be balance out by an enzyme called Diamine Oxidase (DAO) which naturally breaks down histamines. However, some people have a deficiency of DAO, allowing histamines to build up in the body, leading to varying symptoms. This build up is known as histamine intolerance and can include typical allergy-type reactions such as rashes, hives, runny nose, swelling throat and itching, and these same symptoms may be experienced by an overload of histamine. Additionally migraines, digestive upset, low blood pressure and anxiety attacks and mental health symptoms may also be experienced from a build-up of histamine.

If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms and have not seen complete benefit in your initial Nutritionhelp dietary recommendations, it may be worth considering reducing the ‘high histamine’ foods, to see if these are contributing to your current health status. As you can see from the list below, avoiding high histamine foods isn’t easy, especially if you are already on a yeast-free and sugar-free diet. A consultation with me can help firstly explore how much histamine may be adding to your symptoms, and then build a menu plan, so that you don’t miss out on vital nutrients or go hungry.


The biggest source of histamine is not from the specific high histamine foods themselves, but the bacteria that is on the food. Therefore, aged and fermented foods should particularly be avoided, and even left-over food may increase symptoms. Overripe fruit and vegetables have increased levels of histamine. Consistency varies between studies, but as a general guide:


All fish and shellfish (unless caught, gutted and cooked within 30 minutes)

A small amount in baked products may be tolerated

Such as luncheon meat, salami, pepperoni, smoked ham, cured bacon

All types of cheese, yoghurt, buttermilk and kefir.

Apricots, bananas, cranberries, cherries, citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit), currants, dates, loganberries, pineapple, prunes, raisins, raspberries, strawberries

Aubergine (eggplant), avocados, olives, pumpkin, red beans, soy and soy products, spinach, tomatoes, tomato sauces, ketchup, seasonings, anise, cinnamon, cloves, chilli powder, curry powder, nutmeg, pickles, relishes, sauerkraut and other foods containing vinegar


Tea (black/ green), chocolate, cocoa, cola, alcoholic and ‘de-alcoholised’ drinks

Colourings such as tartrazine (E102), preservatives such as sulphites, benzoates, BHA and BHT.

A second category of foods doesn’t actually contain histamine but can stimulate an increase in release from the body.

  • Citrus fruit
  • Shellfish
  • Pork
  • Chocolate
  • Raw egg white
  • Nuts

Sensitivities to these foods may vary, and many people find that only the high histamine foods need to be avoided to see benefit. Buying frozen meat is one way of ensuring that it is as fresh as possible.

The biggest source of histamines, other than food, is from bacteria within the gut. Some kinds of bacteria produce histamines while others help to break them down. If too much fermentation is occurring within the gut, histamines will be released. Therefore, working to support the balance of microbes within the digestive tract and healing the gut lining is an important aspect of reducing histamine intolerance. Increasing water intake to prevent constipation may help reduce the subsequent fermentation of food in the digestive tract as it lingers before elimination.

Certain nutritional supplements may be helpful in counteracting histamine production, while other nutrients might contribute to increasing histamine levels. a Nutritionhelp report takes into account the basic histamine status of a client, and adapts the nutritional supplement recommendations accordingly.