A low-histamine diet is a diet that restricts the consumption of high-histamine foods for a couple of weeks to check for histamine intolerance in them
Histamine is a very important compound that contributes to immune responses. It acts as a neurotransmitter for the brain, regulating physiological functions. It plays a vital role in mediating itching and causing an inflammatory response. When your body detects any allergen or pollen as a threat, it releases histamine chemical to counteract the trigger. But its overreaction cause symptoms of allergy and this is why antihistamine medications are being given. But what is the low-histamine diet? It is advised to people who show symptoms of histamine intolerance. This diet helps in identifying the tolerance level and histamine levels in the body. If you experience allergic symptoms often, you must try this 2-week diet to find if you are histamine intolerant. Get detailed information in this article.
What is histamine intolerance?
People who suffer from allergies have little knowledge about histamine as they are given antihistamine medicines to combat the inflammatory response triggered by the allergens. But do you know that the body produces histamine naturally? Our body has a certain amount of histamines that are sufficient to combat pollens, dust mites and other allergens. However, some foods and beverages also have histamine in them. When you consume them, it increases histamine levels in the body. Too much histamine in the body can lead to histamine intolerance. There is an enzyme named diamine oxidase whose ill-functioning or reduced activity causes a poor breakdown of histamine in the body. A person with disabled DAO functions is highly likely to suffer from histamine intolerance particularly if their diet has high-histamine foods. However, only a few people get histamine intolerance and by assessing the symptoms, it is possible to control the condition. The noticeable signs and symptoms of histamine intolerance are:
- Itchy skin
- Headaches or migraines
The symptoms are similar to that of an allergic reaction and this is why antihistamine medicines are being given to reducing them. If a person experiences the symptoms without an allergy, he/she must try the low-histamine diet to know if they are intolerant.
What is a low-histamine diet?
As per Nutritionist Ms. Manisha Chopra, a low-histamine diet is a short-term diet plan to stay away from high-histamine foods for one or two weeks. By following this diet, people would come to know if they are allergic to histamine or not. After the said period, start adding the foods slowly and check for the symptoms of allergy such as itchiness, hives, heat, etc. This is treated as a trial diet to know about probable histamine intolerance. This is not an easy diet as a lot of foods contain histamine and limiting or restricting them can be tough. One should consult a dietitian or nutritionist before starting with this diet.
Who can try low-histamine diet?
This diet is advised only for people who show symptoms of histamine intolerance. Constant headaches, hives, skin irritations, sinus issues, nausea, fluctuating blood pressure, irregular body temperature, tissue swelling, digestive distress, anxiety, etc. In most cases, people who are intolerant to histamine are also intolerant to lactose or fructose. They experience similar symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Let us start with foods that need to be limited or restricted in this diet. These are foods that have high-histamine content.
High-Histamine Foods To Avoid
Here is the list of foods that need to be eliminated from the diet for a couple of weeks. Limiting these would reduce histamine levels in the body and then you will be able to find if you have histamine intolerance. Before listing out the foods, we would also like to mention that fresh foods have lower histamine content. The longer a food is kept, the higher histamine content it would develop. Meat is supposed to be cooked fresh. Also, boiling is better than grilling or frying food from histamine level perspective.
Foods to avoid:
- Fermented foods- yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, tempeh, miso, sauerkraut, etc.
- Cured meat- salami, bacon, deli meats, pepperoni, hot dog, etc.
- Nuts- cashews, peanuts, walnuts
- Some fishes- tune, mackerel, sardines, smoked fish, anchovies
- All kinds of vinegar
- Aged cheese
- All citrus fruits
- Dried fruits
Along with these foods, you are also supposed to stop the consumption of mate tea, black tea and alcohol as they are found to block DAO activity that is the prime cause of histamine intolerance.
Foods to Eat in Low-Histamine Diet
In order to maintain the diet, people are allowed to have foods that have low-histamine content. Anti-inflammatory foods with high omega-3 fatty acids are preferred in this diet. Foods with quercetin are also included in this diet as this compound inhibits the release of histamine in the body.
Foods that are allowed to be consumed in this diet are:
- Dark leafy greens excluding spinach
- Herbal teas and herbs
- Gluten-free grains
- Only salmon fish
- Cooked eggs
- Non-dairy milk
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
Low-Histamine Diet: Pros and Cons
While the main aim of this diet is to find out if a person is intolerant to histamine, there are several other advantages and disadvantages too. Read these pointers to understand the good and bad of this diet.
- The main benefit of the low-histamine diet is that it helps in diagnosing histamine allergy in people.
- Person who follows this diet plan for two weeks can know about the tolerance level of their body and whether they are allergic or not.
- There is no proof that continuing this diet for longer periods would provide any benefit in terms of improving the quality of life. One should consult a dietitian to understand the possibility of extending the diet period from two weeks.
- Low-Histamine diet is highly restrictive as it eliminates a large part of foods from your diet. Not only this is extremely difficult to follow but it can also lead to malnutrition.
- After two weeks, you are supposed to add back eliminated foods one by one. This helps in evaluating which food triggers allergic symptoms in your body.
Some Important Tips
Other than following this diet, you must also exercise the below-mentioned points to reduce histamine content in your food:
- Cook your meals and it is better if you consume only fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. These are low in histamine.
- Try to consume foods in their raw form.
- If you are following low-histamine diet, do not continue for more than 4 weeks.
- Maintain a food diary and jot down all the foods that you eat including their contents. Also, note down the time of consumption also.
Talk to your nutritionist or dietitian to check if you need any additional vitamins or minerals supplement. Tell them if you notice any unusual symptoms after consuming a food.
Low-Histamine diet is specifically for people who have histamine intolerance and they exhibit symptoms of allergy. Only one in 100 people have histamine intolerance which is very rare. Also, this diet is highly restrictive and challenging. If you are unable to continue with this diet, stop immediately. Putting unnecessary pressure on the body can lead to malnutrition as in order to restrict histamine, you are also blocking other essential nutrients from foods that are meant to be avoided. Therefore, always follow this diet under the guidance of a certified dietitian only.
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