While diets are usually followed solely for weight loss, a low histamine diet can combat a range of health issues. The diet works by avoiding foods with high levels of histamine, and others that contain compounds that make histamine from other ingredients when ingested. And according to experts, it is particularly beneficial for women going through menopause, as well as those with “unexplained” allergies or weight concerns.
Histamine is a chemical produced by the body and is present in certain foods that can trigger allergic and inflammatory reactions in some people.
A low-histamine diet typically excludes certain foods to minimise internal chemical levels and alleviate common symptoms linked to eating histamine-rich produce.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Becky Graham, a nutritionist at Get More Vits said: “Histamine is involved in the everyday functioning of our gut, brain, nervous and immune systems, however, the amount we produce varies and whether we can balance histamine in our body depends on our genetics and gut health.
“We produce enzymes such as Diamine Oxidase (DAO) which is responsible for breaking down histamine in our diet. If we are unable to break down histamine effectively, we can end up having too much in circulation, causing a histamine intolerance.”
While some people experience typical allergy symptoms like hay fever, a histamine intolerance presents differently.
Becky explained: “Symptoms often mimic allergic reactions such as rashes, hives, itching, flushing, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, breathlessness, palpitations, migraines, dizziness, anxiety/panic, joint aches and nasal congestion. However, most people will not experience all of these at once.”
Currently, histamine issues are thought to affect about one in every 100 people, however, as this condition is so rarely correctly identified, it may be far more common. And one group that is more prone to developing an intolerance are females – particularly those in mid-life or experiencing menopause.
This is because hormones and histamine have a very close link, especially in relation to oestrogen. According to Dr Sarah Ball and Dr Louise Newson of the Balance Menopause app, oestrogen peaks in women early in their life when their menstrual cycle first begins, and at the point of perimenopause when levels “can become erratic and very high”.
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What foods are excluded from a low histamine diet?
Becky said: “The first intervention to manage a histamine intolerance is by following a low histamine diet for four weeks while keeping a food diary and monitoring symptoms.
“Foods containing the highest levels of histamine include alcohol, dairy products and fermented foods, while those at the lower end include leafy greens, most vegetables, non-citrus fruit like apples, pears and grapes, freshly cooked meats and fish (rather than pre-cooked which contain more histamine).
Salty snacks, wheat products, black and green tea, coffee, and energy drinks should also be avoided.
Becky added: “However, it is not intuitive, there are many healthy foods which are high in histamines such as avocados, tomatoes, aubergine and spinach.
“As you can see, this diet is not viable long term so the key area to focus on is improving gut health and tolerance of histamine rather than having to eliminate it entirely.
“There are certain foods and supplements that can form part of a gut healing programme but be wary of going straight for probiotics as they can aggravate symptoms for those particularly sensitive to histamine. The best thing to do is work with a nutritionist or dietician who can offer personalised recommendations.”
While anyone can try a low histamine diet, the nutritionist noted that those with allergies, menopause symptoms and weight issues can benefit from the results when done properly.
She said: “Histamine may be at play for those who have seemingly unexplainable allergies, as the symptoms are much the same.”
When it comes to reducing histamine to remedy menopause, she explained that lowering internal histamine production prevents over-production.
Without doing this, the ovaries produce even more oestrogen which can also affect the ability of the enzyme DAO to break it down. Becky added: “Therefore, following a low histamine diet during the menopause may help to reduce common symptoms such as hot flushes, low mood, anxiety, joint aches and palpitations. If you suspect a histamine intolerance and are considering HRT, make sure you discuss this with your GP as it may worsen symptoms.”
A low histamine diet can be a natural weight loss aid by excluding salty snacks and alcohol, but the benefits also go beyond this. Becky said: “Histamine has an impact on other hormones such as thyroid, hunger and satiety hormones, which can all influence our ability to lose weight.
“An intolerance can also contribute to inflammation in the body, driving stress hormones which may influence weight gain.”
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