What are Histamines?
Histamines are compounds that our body's make in response to a perceived attack on the immune system. Think of them as nightclub door staff! They help your body to throw out something that is irritating you.
The frustrating thing about this part of your body's natural defence system is that when histamines step into action, they can make your eyes stream, your skin itch, you sneeze, you cough, you wheeze. If you struggle with allergies, even pet hair, pollen or dust can trigger this response in your body. Your immune system sees these things as a threat and responds accordingly. Whilst this reaction is intended to keep you safe, it can create lots of frustrating symptoms.
If you struggle with two or more of the following, you might like to consider a low histamine diet to see if histamines are playing a role in your health issues;
- headaches or migraines
- nasal and sinus issues
- lethargy or fatigue
- hives and rashes
- digestive problems
- irregular periods
Food and Histamines
If you have a food allergy, histamines jump in to respond to that too. When you eat or drink something your body doesn't like, they'll work in your gut to trigger an allergic reaction. Some foods are particularly high in histamines, so if you think you might have a high histamine response, these should be avoided. Similarly, some foods are considered powerful antihistamines, so including more of these in your diet might be beneficial.
You might look at some of the foods I recommend you include here and some I suggest steering clear of and think - this information conflicts with recommendations I share in my book. Remember, these suggestions are not to limit your skin healing diet further, they are just suggestions if you think histamines might be an issue for you.
High Histamine Foods
- dairy products
- dried fruits
- processed or smoked meat
- fermented or pickled foods
Low Histamine Foods
- non-citrus fruits
- gluten-free grains like quinoa, millet or rice
- milk alternatives like coconut or almond
- fresh veg (except tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and aubergine)
- olive oil
- leafy herbs particularly tarragon, parsley and mint
- herbal teas
These foods are low in histamines but can trigger the release of histamine and create problems for people with histamine intolerance:
- Citrus fruits (kiwi, lemon, lime)
Diamine Oxidase (DAO) Blockers
These foods block DAO - the enzyme that controls histamine and should be avoided:
- Energy drinks
- Teas (black & green)
Natural Histamine Fighters
Whilst antihistamine tablets are often prescribed for an allergic reaction, prevention is always better than cure. So if you are able to establish some of your food triggers and focus on an antihistamine diet, you might be successful in controlling your allergies naturally.
If you find airborne pollutants, pet hair or pollen a trigger for your skin, you might like to consider my Skin Soothing Spray, which contains a natural blend of blackcurrant, ballon and sunflower oils, designed to protect the skin against airborne allergens.
Found in abundance in pineapple, bromelain is great at treating respiratory inflammation. If you find yourself wheezing, or if asthma is a problem for you, including pineapple in your diet or taking a bromelain supplement might be useful. This 2012 study concludes that bromelain offers a wide range of therapeutic benefits. The highest concentration of bromelain sits in the tough core part of the pineapple, so include this in your fruit salads and juices.
Taking a good quality Multi Strain Biotic like this one, seems to be the latest 'cure-all' solution when it comes to vitamin supplements these days! The fact is, we're learning so much about the vital importance of gut health these days, that the benefits of probiotics are highlighted more and more. Our body is home to trillions of bacteria, which are all involved in some form or another with every single function, from immune health to our mood and energy. Some health experts believe that gut bacteria might not only be a contributor to histamine symptoms, but they may in fact be the main underlying cause of histamine intolerance itself.
Not all probiotics are created equal. It's important to ensure yours contains the specific strains of bacteria thought to be particularly beneficial when it comes to lowering histamine response. My Skin Clear Complex Probiotic is designed specifically to support skin health. Dairy and gluten free, it also contains the following important strains.
- Bifidobacterium breve
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Bifidobacterium infantis
- Bifidobacterium lactis (histamine neutral according to studies)
- Saccharomyces-Boulardii (low histamine helps digestive issues)
- Lactobacillus acidophilus (histamine neutral reduces inflammation and improves gut health)
Vitamin C works brilliantly as a natural antihistamine by reducing the levels of histamine your body produces in response to an allergen. Taking a vitamin C supplement or eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C can help to reduce symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose. This 2018 study concludes that vitamin C works so well in treating allergies because it's a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Broccoli, cantaloupe melon, cauliflower, kale and papaya are fantastic, skin-friendly foods crammed full of vitamin C. If your diet is rich in lots of fruits and vegetables, there's no need to take a vitamin C supplement.
Researchers have found that levels of vitamin B6 in those with histamine intolerance are typically quite low. This in itself can have further implications on the liver's ability to breakdown histamines. If you've previously looked into histamine allergies, you might have read about something called DAO (diamine oxidase). DAO is the enzyme that is primarily responsible for breaking down histamine. The two vitamins B6 and C work closely together with this enzyme to help breakdown histamine in the body. If we are vit C and vit B6 deficient, our histamine levels can rise accordingly. Good vegan sources of B6 are oats, bananas and wheat germ, although if you're following a plant based diet, you might prefer to take a supplement to ensure you're getting adequate amounts.
Magnesium is also needed to make the enzyme, DAO, which mops up histamine when it's been released. Furthermore, a study in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology tells us that magnesium deficiency has been linked to increased mast cells in the small intestine, kidney and bone marrow. It's these mast cells that are responsible for releasing histamine and other chemicals into the bloodstream. Histamine then causes the blood vessels expand and subsequently the surrounding skin turns itchy and swollen. Beans, peas and lentils are excellent plant based sources of magnesium. As are nuts and seeds in particular almonds and cashews.
Antihistamine Juice Recipe
- 1/4 pineapple (include the tough centre) OR 2 large apples
- 3 florets broccoli
- Small thumbnail chunk of ginger
- Small palmful of parsley or mint
- Half a cucumber
Juice all the ingredients and pour over ice to serve
This juice should NOT be consumed if you're pregnant, as pineapple and parsley can induce miscarriage in large, concentrated quantities.