Choosing a histamine-lowering diet is for many a good way to get rid of allergy complaints. Have you ever experienced a runny nose and itchy eyes during pollen season, or can't stop sneezing when you're with a cat? Then you may suffer from allergies.
Allergies are no fun and can range from mild complaints (such as a stuffy nose) to serious health problems (such as a swollen throat). In both cases, you logically want to combat these complaints as quickly as possible. This can be done by eating the right food. That is why we have written a handy article with a histamine-lowering diet and other tips for you so that you can quickly reduce allergy symptoms such as hay fever .
What is histamine?
You may have wondered what histamine is. We are happy to explain that to you. Histamine is found in both your body and in certain foods. When it comes to food, there are products with a lot of histamines, but also histamine-lowering foods. But what does histamine do in your body?
Well, histamine is an organic compound that plays a major role in your digestive system. It also fulfills an important function in your immune system and plays a role as a neurotransmitter in your nervous system. A neurotransmitter carries nerve impulses from one cell to another.
Histamine is located in your body in places that are in contact with the outside world. Think of your lungs, skin, and mouth. The substance is contained in so-called “mast cells” that are located in your tissue. Histamine is also common in your brain because that is where the most demand for neurotransmitters is.
Histamine also plays a role in regulating your sleep rhythm and makes you feel cheerful. It is therefore not surprising that people taking antihistamine medications sometimes feel fatigued.
In most cases, histamine is not a harmful substance for our body. It helps to initiate various processes and to give our nervous system sufficient stimuli. Finally, it plays a role in our immune system, allowing the blood to thin so that enough white blood cells can travel to fight a virus.
The relationship between histamine and allergies
Research has shown that histamine intolerance can arise when the enzyme ‘diamine oxidase' is insufficiently present in the body. It is then unable to break down histamine from food or other substances.
Some people naturally produce too little diamine oxidase, while others develop a deficiency because they suffer from diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome, or because they use medication or food that negatively influences this substance.
If you have too much histamine in your body, this can lead to various symptoms or health problems. Your body then attacks harmless substances, instead of penetrating viruses and other harmful substances. Pollen, pet dander, and dust mites are well-known examples of harmless substances under attack.
The histamine then ends up in your blood, mucous membranes, and skin, causing these spots to cause the so-called “allergic reactions.” In that case, it helps to use a histamine-lowering diet. We will go into more detail about this later in this article.
Symptoms of a histamine intolerance
Do you recognize one or more of the symptoms below of histamine intolerance? Then it is good to contact a medical specialist, such as your general practitioner. Below you will find the most common histamine intolerance symptoms.
Since histamine interacts with the nerves, one of its functions is to cause itching. If you suffer from a histamine reaction, you will therefore notice that your eyes, nose, and/or skin will start to itch.
Mouth, eyes, and nose irritation
Histamine affects the mucous membranes of the body. Because your nose, mouth, and eyes are in contact with the outside air, these are the most affected by the reaction to it and will become irritated.
Affected areas may swell in response to histamine. For example, if you are allergic to apples, and your throat comes into contact with a piece of apple, this part of your body can swell. The severity of this depends on your sensitivity to histamine. Fortunately, the right histamine-lowering diet does not cause such a reaction.
The rash is also a common symptom of histamine hypersensitivity. Think red, itchy spots on your arms, legs, throat, and other affected areas. A rash is often caused by physical contact with the relevant material, such as wool. In that case, it concerns a contact allergy.
Coughing and sneezing
Since histamine affects the mucous membranes, your throat and nose will respond by coughing and/or sneezing. This is your body's response to getting rid of the substance as quickly as possible. Unlike histamine-lowering foods, histamine-rich foods can cause such reactions – for example when it comes into contact with your mucous membranes.
This is the most severe histamine reaction. When this happens, your airways can swell and you have trouble breathing. If left untreated, it can have serious health consequences.
Foods to Avoid While Focusing on Histamine Lowering Diets
Are you curious about which types of food you can best eliminate from your diet if you want to lower your histamine level? Read on, below you will find an overview of the relevant food types.
Alcohol prevents the diamine oxidase from being produced less well. When you drink a lot of this, there is a disproportionate ratio between histamine and diamine oxidase in your body. This increases the risk of an allergic reaction to histamine.
Several plants of the nightshade family
Plants such as tomatoes and aubergines fall under the nightshade family. These types do not fall under the histamine-lowering diet and can even trigger a reaction. For example, the tingling sensation on your tongue when you eat eggplant is a small-scale reaction.
There is a reason that many people are allergic to (various) nuts. After all, nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds ensure that more histamine is produced in your body. If you are hypersensitive to this, this can lead to severe allergic reactions.
Like nuts, peanuts cause your body to produce more histamines. Therefore, pay extra attention if you are sensitive to histamine and take some histamine-lowering food.
Wheat and gluten also give your body a boost in producing histamine. You therefore regularly see people with a sensitivity to gluten or wheat; especially if they also have intestinal complaints. Intestinal diseases contribute to the reduced production of diamine oxidase.
Fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha, cheese, and other dairy products can both trigger a histamine response and increase the body's production of histamine. Are you striving to add histamine-lowering foods to your diet? Ideally, avoid fermented foods.
Effective histamine-lowering food against allergies
Before radically changing your diet, it is advisable to first consult a nutritionist such as a dietitian. That person can map out your situation and adjust your diet accordingly.
1. Fresh meat and fish products
Unprocessed meat and fish products usually contain little to no histamine, so they do not contribute to increasing the histamine level in your body. It is therefore an excellent histamine-lowering food for non-vegetarians.
2. Dried Legumes
For people with a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, legumes offer a good solution against a high histamine content. Dried beans and lentils contain very little histamine and can therefore be used with meals or as a meat substitute.
3. Histamine Lowering Foods Like Eggs
Eggs are also unprocessed and contain little histamine. They are therefore an excellent addition to a standard histamine-lowering diet.
Chia seeds and quinoa are a perfect alternative to (wheat) gluten and contain hardly any histamine. They are therefore safe to eat for people with low histamine intolerance. Moreover, they are very tasty and easy to combine in a salad, for breakfast, or as a tasty snack.
5. Different fruits
Fortunately, there are plenty of fruits you can eat that contain little to no histamine. Examples include watermelon, apple, pomegranate, mango, and ginger. This histamine-lowering food is not only tasty but also very good for you.
6. Different vegetables as histamine-lowering foods
Although it is best to avoid tomatoes and eggplant, there are still plenty of histamine-lowering foods that you can eat as vegetables. Think of lettuce, for example, but onions, garlic, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, and carrots are also fine to eat. So you can still prepare a nice stir-fry.
7. Milk Substitutes
Although milk and related milk products are high in histamines, you can always use healthy alternatives – even those made from nuts. Coconut milk, soy milk, and almond milk fall under histamine-lowering foods and give your meal or drink a nice creamy texture.
8. Oils Are Histamine Lowering Foods
Since butter can contain a lot of histamines, oil is a useful example of histamine-lowering food. You can use all kinds of oils to prepare your meals, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and of course sunflower oil. These contain virtually no histamine and are therefore safe to use.
Nettle is a natural antihistamine because it inhibits the production and signaling of histamine. When you drink a cup of nettle tea, the histamine-lowering diet can reduce symptoms such as a runny nose and dry eyes. However, make sure that you do not have an allergy to nettle because then this solution has the opposite effect.
Other ways to lower an allergic reaction to histamine
Antihistamines ensure that the impact of histamine on your body is reduced. When you use this, you will therefore quickly notice that your complaints also decrease or decrease. You can think of antihistamine supplements, but there are also other remedies available. You can read it below.
In addition to healthy and tasty histamine-lowering foods, there are various antihistamine supplements and products that you can purchase at the drugstore or pharmacy. The most common means are nasal spray and pills. The nasal spray mainly works on your mucous membranes and prevents itching in the nose and throat, while the pills also help against other physical complaints. Do you have a severe allergic reaction to histamine? Then the GP can prescribe heavier drugs.
Note, however, that antihistamines reduce the overall effect of histamine. It can therefore also ensure that you get tired and receive fewer stimuli when you use these substances. Your doctor or pharmacist will also warn you about this so that you do not experience any problems in daily life.
Avoid specific products
If you know that you react strongly to one or more products, then it is important to avoid these things. If you are intolerant to gluten or milk, it is, therefore, better not to consume bread products and milk products. If you are allergic to dog and/or cat dander, it is of course advisable not to have a dog or cat as a pet.
Are you not sure what you are allergic to, or do you notice that you are increasingly experiencing a reaction to histamines, without the histamine-lowering diet affecting it? Then it is wise to get tested for possible allergies. This way you know for sure which products are best to avoid.
Vary your diet regularly
It is of course easy to eat the same thing regularly, especially if you like it. However, to keep your histamine low, it is important to regularly alternate the histamine-lowering diet. For example, your body cannot easily get used to one particular food, so that it will react less quickly.
Histamine-lowering diet summarized
Histamine is a substance that occurs in your own body as well as in certain nutrients. It helps your immune system by fighting harmful substances and it provides a good connection in your nervous system. Although it is a substance produced by the body, you can develop an intolerance for it if there is too much histamine in your body. The substance then also starts to attack safe substances. We call this an allergic reaction.
An allergic reaction can cause several symptoms, of which anaphylactic shock is the most severe. To reduce the symptoms of histamine intolerance, you can eat histamine-lowering foods. There are also several histamine-rich foods that you should avoid.
In addition to histamine-lowering foods, you can also use antihistamines to reduce the effects of histamines on your body. You can purchase this in the form of supplements, such as pills and a nasal spray. If you have a severe intolerance, you can get a doctor's prescription for heavier medication.
If you suffer from symptoms of a histamine intolerance for a long time, it may be wise to have your blood tested by a doctor for possible allergies. That way you can effectively and quickly avoid these substances from your daily life.