Although our bodies naturally make histamine, this substance tends to be present in many of the foods we eat. It is the consumption of these histamine-containing foods that can cause a variety of health problems, especially for those who are allergic or intolerant to histamine. When someone who is allergic or intolerant ingests histamine, antibodies are produced to combat what the body sees as an invader, causing a variety of annoying symptoms. These symptoms can include itchy and watery eyes and nose, skin rashes, stomach cramps, headaches, and more.
Histamine intolerance can also occur when a person is DAO deficient. DAO is the enzyme responsible for breaking down histamine in the body. If a person’s DAO activity is low, they may experience allergic-type symptoms after consumption of histamine-rich, or histamine-releasing, foods.
Your threshold level for histamine is going to determine how much your body can handle. Since there are varying levels of histamine in foods, it’s important to know which foods are high in histamine, which foods are low, and which foods are histamine-free.
Substitutes You Can Use in a Histamine-Free Diet
Since histamine is found in most foods, with varying levels, it’s critical for those who are experiencing any ill effects from consuming this substance to avoid eating these foods.
The following is a list of foods that contain histamine, along with a substitute that’s histamine-free:
Problem Food: Protein sources, such as seafood, chicken, eggs, and processed meats.
Substitute: Choose small cuts of lean beef, or eat a variety of legumes, which are both high in protein.
Problem Food: Fruits that are high in histamine include apricots, raisins, pineapple, dates, and berries.
Substitute: Choose these fruits instead – pears, apples, watermelon and mango.
Problem Food: Soda, fruit juices and teas.
Substitute: Drink water. Adding lemon or a sprig of mint for flavour is a good idea. Be sure to experiment with flavours so you won’t get tired of drinking the same thing all the time.
Problem Food: Alcoholic beverages, which includes wine, beer and champagne.
Substitute: Choose to drink non-alcoholic versions of the above, or a yummy cider.
Problem Food: Fermented foods like tofu and kimchi. This includes some cheeses and yoghurt, as well.
Substitute: Small amounts of cottage cheese and ricotta cheese are allowed, as well as plain yoghurt.
Problem Food: Tomatoes and tomato-based products.
Substitute: Use vegetables that are similar in taste and consistency, like squash, carrots or pumpkin.
Good to Know
It’s a really smart idea to read the labels before buying your food. Try to avoid any foods that have food additives and/or preservatives in them. A short list includes sulphites, artificial colouring and dyes, BHA, BHT and benzoates. Also, if you’ve recently found out that your body isn’t able to handle histamine, it’s a great idea to keep a food diary. This way you can record what you’re eating and any reactions your body may have to any particular food.