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The many faces of histamine intolerance

I am astounded at how many of us unknowingly suffer from excess histamine. Some of us itch or sneeze while others get headaches, migraines, joint pain, or nausea – within minutes or several hours after exposure! Our “histamine bucket” fills up based on factors such as genetics, allergies, medication, diet, environment, nutritional deficiencies, intestinal damage, and UV exposure. When our body cannot break down excess histamine, we suffer with histamine intolerance and increased inflammation. When we realize what is really happening, we can better prevent and treat this misunderstood condition!

Most of us know histamines through antihistamine drugs that relieve our suffering from allergies to pollen, insect bites, and even foods. Histamine is naturally produced in our body by mast cells or white blood cells, and it performs different functions by binding with histamine receptors. Depending upon their location, histamine receptors control very different body functions:

  • Histamine H1 receptors: Smooth muscle and endothelial cells affecting skin; blood vessels (Benadryl and Claritin block activity of these receptors)
  • Histamine H2 receptors: Cells in the intestines control acid secretion, abdominal pain, and nausea; heart rate (Histamine H2 receptor antagonist drugs have been used to reduce symptoms of dyspepsia and GERD)
  • Histamine H3 receptors: Central nervous system controlling nerves, sleep, appetite and behavior
  • Histamine H4 receptors: Thymus, small intestine, spleen, colon, bone marrow and white blood cells; immune function and inflammation

Keep in mind, histamine is essential for us to properly function and fight off invading toxins. But when histamine accumulates faster than we can break it down, it triggers inflammation in dreaded patterns of histamine intolerance unique to each person and episode. Our battle with histamine can hide behind less obvious symptoms like headaches, foggy thinking, diarrhea, arrhythmia, sinus congestion, or itchy skin appearing within minutes or even several hours after exposure. Extreme histamine levels can trigger breathing difficulty and swelling called anaphylaxis. The concept of histamine intolerance is rarely discussed by doctors but clearly outlined in scientific research.

So why haven’t we heard about this?

Histamine intolerance is hugely underestimated in the population. Most people respond to symptoms of histamine intolerance with an aspirin, antacid, or other quick-fix pill that does not address the root problem. Sometimes histamine levels are raised due to allergy, but histamine intolerance is not a true allergy and it won’t show up on allergy tests.

Unlike allergy testing, confirming a serious histamine intolerance isn’t easy or profitable for doctors. An elaborate study discovered that “histamine-intolerant subjects reacted with different organs on different occasions.” Each person has a unique set of symptoms that may not always recur in the same location or intensity. The only true test for histamine intolerance requires a strict histamine-free diet followed by a double-blind food challenge. With a true diagnosis, the standard treatment is even more dismal – a low-histamine diet for life. But don’t give up yet!

What causes histamine levels to rise?

Reduced or inhibited enzymes:

One of the more common reasons we suffer from histamine intolerance is the lack of enzymes diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine-N-methyl transferase (HNMT). These enzymes break down histamine and keep it in check. DAO and HNMT levels may be genetically low in some individuals, blocked by drugs, or reduced from intestinal damage or diseases such as celiac. Though human research is lacking, caffeine inhibited DAO in animal studies. Though DAO testing has typically been limited to countries outside of the United States, Dunwoody Labs in Georgia appears to offer DAO analysis of blood tests shipped from a practitioner.

Many factors affect the body’s histamine levels, and there are ways we can help reduce the load. Our exposure to allergens, diet, drug use, temperature, hormones, and nutritional deficiencies dramatically impact our histamine levels throughout the day. Imagine your histamine as a “bucket” that fills up and only reveals symptoms after overflowing.


Large amounts of histamine are promptly released when we are exposed to our allergens, and the most common allergens include mold, dust mites, animal dander, pollen, medications, insect stings, latex, and food. Interestingly, scientists are beginning to suspect that these allergies have developed in order to protect us from environmental toxins. It is important to avoid exposure to known or suspected allergies, especially when histamine levels are a potential problem. Get tested and avoid the triggers to start emptying the bucket!

The most common food allergies include dairy, wheat, shellfish, eggs, and nuts. Contact allergies can include a wide range of substances such as rubber, nickel (in jewelry), acrylates (artificial nails), pine resin, and sunscreen or shampoo ingredients (such as benzophenone). Some people experience an early response to allergens, while others might only notice a late-phase response that can appear up to 10 hours later. Symptoms of this delayed response can last up to 24 hours.

If any type of food allergy is suspected, consult with an allergist and start carefully taking notes about diet and symptoms. can help you keep online records of your health. Blood tests for both immediate and delayed food allergies are available to doctors from Great Plains LaboratoryUS Biotek, and many others. Depending on the type of allergy exposure and related damage, a body may require days, weeks, or even months to fully recover.

Air pollution and pollen:

New research shows that air pollution contributes to cardiovascular disease by the increase in histamine and inflammation. Genetics also play a role in a person’s susceptibility to pollution.

These collective studies suggest that both short- and long-term PM inhalation can enhance thrombotic and coagulation tendencies, potentially via increases in circulating histamine and inflammatory cytokines and/or activated white cells and platelets. – Circulation, 2010

Interestingly, new research shows that some of us can experience inflammation from pollen without any specific allergy! Future studies will undoubtedly reveal how particles in our environment can affect our immune system beyond the classic allergy response.

Water pollution:

Studies have shown that common environmental contaminants trichloroethylene and tetrachloroethylene raised histamine levels in lab rats by increasing their sensitivity to allergens.

Drug interference:

Drugs can inhibit our vital histamine enzymes even more than food, possibly increasing the risk of food poisoning and other symptoms of excessive histamine. According to a research reportNSAIDs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen can cause histamine levels to rise. Opoid drugs and analgesics are the most common drugs used in hospitals, releasing histamine that results in uncomfortable itching for many patients. Excessive histamine can also result from drugs including (but not limited to) acetylcysteine, acetylsalicylic acid, alcuronium, alprenolol, ambroxol, amiloride, aminophylline, amitriptyline, cefuroxime, cefotiam, chloroquine, cimetidine, clavulanic acid, cyclophosphamide, D-tubocurarine, dihydralazine, dobutamine, isoniazid, metamizole, morphine, pancuronium, pethidine, prilocaine, propafenone, metoclopramide, pentamidin, thiopental, and verapamil.

Foods high in histamine:

Symptoms can often be prevented by avoiding foods high in histamine:

  • Fermented foods like wine, aged cheese, aged or smoked meats, fermented soy products (including tofu and soy sauce), vinegar (including pickles, ketchup and prepared mustard), and sauerkraut
  • Foods exposed to high amounts of bacteria such as fish/shellfish
  • Leftover meats can quickly accumulate microorganisms which result in histamine formation
  • Chocolate/cocoa, spinach, eggplant, nuts, pumpkin, tomato, strawberries, citrus fruits, and seasonings like cinnamon, chili powder, and cloves can stimulate the release of histamine
  • Wheat-based products
  • Beverages such as tea (herbal or regular) and soy milk are high in histamine
  • Any type of alcohol interferes with the body’s ability to break down histamine.
  • Prepackaged meals

A useful reference for foods and related allergies and intolerances can be found at

Foods high in histadine (over 1000 mg) may also be problematic, as histadine converts to histamine:

  • Game meat including buffalo, elk, moose, caribou
  • Pork including loin, chops or other cuts, ham, bacon
  • Soy protein
  • Chicken and turkey
  • Veal and beef, pastrami
  • Lamb
  • Fish including tuna, pike, cod, sunfish, perch, grouper, and others
  • Cottage cheese


Foods high in fat:

New studies show that fat absorption may dramatically increase the release of histamine and contribute to chronic inflammation.

Nutritional imbalances:

When the body is low in B vitamins, vitamin C, and copper, histamine may not break down sufficiently to overcome symptoms of intolerance. Foods high in Bs include potatoes, sunflower seeds, and soybeans. Foods high in vitamin C include bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, and kale. Researchers found that vitamin C may work by increasing the activity of the DAO enzyme.

Copper is required to form the DAO enzyme and copper deficiency associates with low DAO enzyme activity in animals. More research is necessary to confirm that copper supplementation increases DAO activity. Foods high in copper include fresh basil, cocoa powder, cashews, soybeans (mature), herbal tea, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, garbanzo beans, and lentils.

Some foods like potato are also high in oxalate which can release histamine in certain people. Keep in mind that while citrus is high in vitamin C, it releases histamine within the body and can aggravate symptoms. A food allergy to any of the above foods will also increase histamine.

Heat and UVB light:

Studies show that UVB light caused histamine release in vitro, though it was protected by ascorbic acid (vitamin C). Some people notice that rashes and skin conditions can worsen with exposure to sun and heat.


Some episodes of anaphylaxis have been triggered by moderately intense exercise, particularly in warm environments. These extreme reactions are typically related to food allergens that were consumed prior to physical activity. Strict avoidance of allergens may help prevent symptoms of histamine intolerance that occur during exercise – particularly dynamic exercises such as jogging, running, and aerobics that involve less resistance. Recent studies indicate that the amino acid L-carnosine is released during these exercises and then converted to histamine.

Hormones – including stress hormones:

Rising estrogen levels have been associated with elevated histamine, and women might notice increased sensitivity and symptoms of histamine intolerance at different times in their monthly cycle. Periods of high estrogen link to sinus sensitivity to histamine. Environmental estrogens such as pesticides, agricultural growth hormones, and PVC in plastics may also activate histamine release. Conversely, histamine appears to stimulate estrogen levels as well and exacerbate symptoms. Diamine oxidase levels are much higher in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, theoretically reducing the risk of excess histamine during that phase.

The “stress” hormone cortisol appears to increase histamine in stomach and intestines in lab studiesReducing stress can lower the amount of stimulating hormones that activate mast cells which release histamine and other factors of inflammation.

How can we manage a histamine overload?

At times we can reach a “point of no return” where our histamine levels start the cascade of inflammation and aggravating symptoms. Nausea, diarrhea, skin rashes, headaches, and mental distress are common ways our body expresses inflammation from excess histamine, though each person experiences this differently. Seek immediate medical attention for any signs of anaphylaxis!

• Avoid further triggers in diet and environment. Don’t take risks until seeking medical advice and getting tested for true allergies.

• Add a cold blast or slow warm-up. Ice packs can relieve affected skin and reduce histamine. Interestingly, cryotherapy is used to relieve pain with arthritis through the reduction of histamine. Frozen gel packs even helped relieve migraines in 50% of patients in one study – applied for 25 minutes – with benefits increasing in subsequent tests. Make it very cold and quick, because a short-term moderate decrease in temperature will likely increase any itching.

• Cortisone cream and colloidal silver are quick, simple remedies for skin reactions. Topical hydrocortisone cream relieves itching and may consequently help prevent infection. Avoid complex medications or herbal remedies that expose the skin to more allergens and harsh chemicals. Colloidal silver spray is a natural antibacterial remedy that helps prevent infection.

• Oral antihistamines do not reduce histamine, but they block histamine receptors tohelp us sleep, heal, and fight inflammation. First-generation antihistamines make us drowsy with occasional side effects of insomnia and confusion. Second-generation, newer antihistamines do not make us drowsy but may cause headache and dry mucous membranes. Long-term use of oral antihistamines is associated with weight gain, and oral antihistamines do not improve DAO enzyme activity.

Corticosteroids are used locally as in the case of nasal sprays or systemically in pill form. While corticosteroids may provide immediate relief for some allergy symptoms, their side effects can be dangerous, crippling, or fatal with prolonged use.

• Bee propolis as a powder from capsules can be applied to itchy skin to quickly reduce inflammation and histamine and relieve symptoms. This supplement can stain clothing so cover with a bandage or gauze. Individuals with asthma or an allergy to pollen or bee stings should avoid bee propolis.

Stinging nettle extract reduces allergic and inflammatory activity in vitro. Interestingly, experimental topical treatment also relieves osteoarthritic pain.

• Probiotics show promising signs for alleviating allergic disease, and we are beginning to learn how these “good” bacterial strains can benefit the body in different ways. Probiotics like L. reuteri help produce histamine in the gut that suppresses inflammationStudies also suggest that probiotic L. rhamnosus reduces activation of mast cells and H4 receptors. In this manner, probiotics can shift immune activity to a more “intracellular” Th1 response rather than the “extracellular” Th2 response that characterizes excessive histamine activity in allergy, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. In fact, taking different strains of probiotics including L. reuteri, L. rhamnosus, L. casei, and B. bifidum may work best to reduce the allergic response that can trigger excessive histamine.

• FlavonoidsNaturally occurring flavonoids fisetin, kaempferol, myricetin, quercetin, and rutin inhibited histamine release in lab studies. These antioxidant compounds are found in kale, broccoli, capers, buckwheat, onions, apples, and asparagus. Mast cell activity is also inhibited by flavonoid luteolin found in carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lettuce, pomegranate, artichoke, chocolate, rooibos tea, buckwheat sprouts, turnip, capers, and cucumber.

• EnzymesEnzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) breaks down histamine internally, and routine intake of a food supplement like DAOsin and Histame can help prevent episodes in the long-term.

What other behaviors and health conditions are related to histamine?

Food poisoning symptoms – Many outbreaks of food poisoning are actually caused by excessive histamine consumption in certain high-histamine foods. Scrombroid food poisoning results from eating spoiled fish containing toxic levels of histamine – not bacteria. Histamine poisoning resembles a food allergy and is often misdiagnosed.

MigrainesThere is much evidence to support the link between allergy and migraine, including the elevated levels of histamine in blood plasma of migraine patients. Yet typical antihistamine drugs that target histamine H1 and H2 receptors have not been effective for migraine. Future studies may target histamine H3 or H4 receptors with better results.

Atopic dermatitis – This inflammatory skin disease can be relieved with a low histamine diet in some patients who do not respond to food allergy tests.

• Motivation, appetite, and addiction - Fascinating research describes how diminished histamine in the brain may relate to feelings of apathy and increased appetite. In women this behavior may be enhanced by hormones, as histamine rises with elevated estrogen and luteinizing hormone throughout the monthly cycle. Indeed, women generally experience increased appetite in the last half of their cycle as their estrogen and histamine dropSimilarly, allergic symptoms can be more pronounced in mid-cycle.

Histamine feedback loops may also contribute to the success of very-low-calorie diets. In fact, histidine supplementation suppressed food intake and fat accumulation in ratsEven chewing plays a role in triggering the histamine release that reduces appetite. Chewing has even been effective for reducing fat in obese animals!

Too much of a good thing? Excessive histamine in the brain is linked to addiction and alcohol dependence in preliminary studies. Interestingly, females have higher levels of brain histamine and are more prone to addiction than males.

Cancer – Although we may suffer from an excess of histamine and consequential inflammation, exciting new research shows that histamine controls some types of cancer growth. Research shows that histamine and histamine receptors affect growth of cancers of the stomach, pancreas, colon, and liver in different ways. Certain cancer cells produce a form of histamine (histidine decarboxylase) that represses inflammatory cell activity. Other studies show that histamine and mast cells may both promote and inhibit cancer at different stages! In fact, melanoma skin cancer appears to be stimulated by histamine in lab tests and inhibited by a topical drug that blocks histamine called H2 antagonist. This type of drug has been used to treat acid reflux, ulcers, and indigestion.

Furthermore, histamine is being considered to prevent the damaging effects of cancer radiation therapy.

“…histamine significantly protects two of the most radiosensitive tissues, small intestine and bone marrow, from high doses of radiation. In addition, histamine has the ability to prevent functional and histological alterations of salivary glands exerted by ionizing radiation.” – Current Immunology Reviews, 2010

Parkinson’s Disease and brain degeneration – Accumulated histamine in the brain can cause damage to neurons through inflammation. Studies on patients with Parkinson’s Disease have shown abnormal, reduced ability to break down histamine in the brain and an accumulation of histamine methyltransferase. Furthermore, manganese exacerbated this altered histamine activity in lab rats.

Multiple Sclerosis – Recent studies revealed that multiple histamine receptors are involved in multiple sclerosis, with some receptors promoting the disease and others inhibiting it.

Inflammation – Histamine and its receptors are constantly engaged in a vital balancing act, preventing excessive inflammation while promoting homeostasis and healing. A variety of inflammatory diseases involve histamine activity.

Animal models indicate that mast cells, through the secretion of various vasoactive mediators, cytokines and proteinases, contribute to coronary plaque progression and destabilization, as well as to diet-induced obesity and diabetes. – Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 2011

Periodontis shows high levels of histamine in inflamed gum tissue, and topical H2 antagonist drug cimetidine dramatically improves conditions. Patients with inflammatory (rheumatoid) arthritis have pain relief from cryotherapy which has been shown to reduce histamine levels for extended periods. Certain types of histamine receptors in joint tissues are suspected to play a role in chronic conditions like arthritis.

Yet histamine may also protect us by inhibiting AGE activity which contributes to chronic inflammatory diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and brain degeneration. Researchers found that histamine and H2 receptors inhibited AGE activity that increases plaque in diabetes, proposing that stimulating H2 receptors might help prevent atherosclerosis.

Osteoporosis – Mast cells which release histamine appear important to bone health, and a deficiency or excess of them can be associated with osteoporosis. It has even been suggested that inhibiting mast cells might eventually become a treatment for osteoporosis! Estrogen deficiency (associated with calcium deficiency) may contribute to increased mast cell activity and low bone volume that leads to osteoporosis.

Dilated blood vessels – Typically histamine lowers blood pressure and dilates blood vessels which leads to low blood pressure and increased permeability. Even hemorrhoids are dilated blood vessels associated with increased mast cells and histamineAgain, histamine can switch directions and constrict and dilate arteries and cause chest pain.

Nausea and motion sickness – Histamine can play a role in symptoms like vertigo, motion sickness, and nausea, and vitamin C supplementation may provide relief. Antihistamines have also been used to reduce post-operative nausea and vomiting.

• Sleep disorders – First-generation antihistamines made us drowsy, revealing how histamine helps keep us alert. Normally, histamine H3 receptors reduce histamine activity so we can properly fall asleep or stay awake. Studies suggest that damage or deficiency of these receptors can result in permanently excessive histamine which can contribute to chronic sleep disorders.

Hypothermia – Histamine released by the hypothalamus helps control body temperature which affects various body functions. Experiments on mice showed that histamine injected in the spinal cord can even produce hypothermia. Higher histamine levels that induced hypothermia were associated with low vitamin B1 (thiamine) levels in another study.

DiverticulitisSome types of diverticulitis appear linked to allergies and histamine activity which generate massive inflammation.

• Meniere’s diseaseThis condition involves chronic dizziness, tinnitus (ringing ears), and hearing loss which are associated with histamine levels. Betahistine works to relieve symptoms in a mixed manner by inhibiting histamine H3 receptors while enhancing H1 receptors.

Vulnerability to disease – Histamine increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier which can leave us vulnerable to bacterial infections and other diseases. Disruptions of the blood-brain barrier play a role in the development of epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease, meningitis, and multiple sclerosis.

Histamine on the horizon

We can now begin to imagine how to change our diet, avoid certain drugs, and adjust our lifestyles to better regulate our histamine levels. By first identifying our allergens through thorough testing, we can reduce exposure and dramatically empty our “histamine bucket” and lower inflammation. Even if we have no allergies to avoid, we can improve our ability to breakdown non-allergic histamine with B and C vitamins. Ideally we can better prepare our bodies to handle histamine “spikes” as needed for fighting disease, increasing motivation, or simply tolerating delicious leftovers.

We desperately need a way to identify and “scan” histamine content in our food and supplements prior to purchase and consumption. Packages can differ widely based on their microscopic bacteria content – even within expiration dates. Austrian scientists have made suggestions for tolerable levels for certain foods including sausage, fish and cheese, but we need global standards for all foods and awareness of the risks surrounding fish, fermented foods, canned meats, alcohol, prepackaged meals, and other high-risk products.

Similarly, daily tracking of our own histamine metabolism would help guide our diet and lifestyle. Recognizing the triggers can help us map our journey to good health and beyond!

Update July 2013 – The Hidden Accomplices of Histamine Intolerance:

Researchers are finding that histamine and its toxicity can be affected by related substances in its family of biogenic amines including putrescine, tyramine, and cadaverine. Putrescine and cadaverine in foods can prevent the breakdown of histamine and contribute to symptoms of intolerance. Putrescine is highest in spoiled food, fruits and cheeses, while cadaverine can be high in aged meats, fish and cheese. Some migraine sufferers have noted sensitivity to tyramine-rich foods which can accumulate tyramine in bodies with reduced levels of monoamine oxidase (MAO). Tyramine builds up in foods such as aged cheese, meats, fish, red wine, and soy sauce as well as high-protein foods that have been stored over time.

A limited but useful food database was been developed that identifies polyamines in food sources. Grapefruit juice, orange juice and cooked soybeans showed higher levels of putrescine, while lentil soup and cooked soybeans showed higher levels of spermidine and spermine. Mature cheddar cheese was high in all three polyamines, demonstrating how fermentation and storage can dramatically affect levels in many products. A wide range of spices can reduce polyamine activity, though some like curcumin (turmeric) may also inhibit DAO according to animal tests. Yogurt and high fat milk showed lower levels of polyamines than other milk products, though more studies are necessary to find the relationship between fat, polyamines, and histamine burden on the body.

Like histamine, biogenic amines can be produced by bacteria in food but cannot be broken down by cooking or freezing. Substances like resveratrol (found in red grape skin) and green tea can reduce histamine production and the allergic response, and interestingly these substances are also inhibiting tumor growth. Research has associated elevated polyamines (putrescine, spermidine, and spermine) in the body with cancers of the breast, colon, lung, skin, and prostate.


119 comments to The many faces of histamine intolerance

  • Hello Mary Kay,
    Wow, congratulations on your efforts. You will certainly make progress with that determination!

    First, food allergy/intolerance testing should be very useful in case there is something overlooked in the food elimination tests. The tests will check how your blood responds to the food proteins in the lab. My family experienced huge health improvements by following the home test results from, but there have been mixed results with other folks. Before responding to food test results, my fatigue had skyrocketed and my GFR had plummeted.

    I did experience increased sensitivity to high histamine foods and certain contact allergens (mint, lavender) during my first two years going gluten, egg, and dairy free. Only after years of healing time and avoiding the most offensive ingredients (gluten and egg), I have seen major improvements in general sensitivity. I was not tolerating calcium supplements, so I had to reintroduce dairy (yogurt, kefir) to improve symptoms of calcium imbalance. I could tolerate dairy once I avoided the more serious egg and gluten foods. After going egg and gluten-free, my husband also became extremely sensitive to metal contact and suffered for years before we figured that out. It appears there has been autoimmune damage done to the thyroid, slowly revealing as allergies and sensitivities. Have you been checked for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis? There are many overlapping symptoms.

    In the first few years of my recovery I was trying many different supplements to regain health as quickly as possible. Yet I exposed myself to many ingredients that slowed my progress. In your case, iodine (in ThyroScript) is something to consider, as it can release histamines in the body and aggravate certain conditions. Fermented foods and leftover foods are definitely triggers for histamine overload. Even fish oil can lead to skin reactions in certain people. An elimination program must consider everything consumed as well as cross-allergens. For example, coffee gave me symptoms that indicated cross-reactivity with gluten. There are many cross-reactive food lists online.

    People with methylation disorders (MTHFR genes) cannot process histamine, so genetic testing can be somewhat informative. B vitamins are crucial in supporting methylation, and they should be methylated versions (methylcobalamin, folinic acid and pyridoxyl-5-phosphate). These will help with the histamine overload, though it’s still most important to find the chronic culprits.

    Yes, it’s important to look outside of food. Latex, perfumes, and metals are often overlooked. Mold is virtually invisible behind walls in bathrooms (until we remodeled last year). Toxins in our environment are affecting our glands, hormones, and ability to tolerate seemingly harmless substances. I am currently studying air pollutants as they can have the most impact with so little attention. And beyond what we breathe, how we breathe is so important and controllable. Most of us will suffer from undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea. My report discusses nasal breathing and how it gave me new energy:

    Let me know what you find – and don’t tolerate bad doctors or bad health!

    -Shari Cheves

  • Mary Kay

    I stumbled upon your site and have found it most informative. I am frustrated like many of your readers. For 9 years now, after donating a kidney I have had fatigue, weight gain, itching skin (mostly abdomen and buttocks)and now I have scaly skin in and behind my left ear (had mastoidectomy in 1963)and scaly bumps on my scalp (new this past two weeks). I have tried just about everything and been to just about every doctor in the area and had one tell me it was psychological which really upset me. I am on what I would call a very clean diet, but am wondering if it is hurting me more than helping me. I eat no grains or sugar. Rarely eat dairy and if I do it is organic. I eat no processed foods and make everything from scratch. I do eat fermented foods which I see can be a problem. I have done the paleo and leaky gut diet (chicken broth, smoothies, etc.) and still find myself extremely tired and itchy. I take probiotics (Prescript Assist), Thyro Script for thyroid (was on porcine). I am on Betaine (for “Hypochloredia”), B12, Vitamin D, Fish Oil. I have researched genetic testing, food allergy testing, etc and they all seem expensive and not sure they would give me the information I need to get a handle on this. Isn’t blood testing a snapshot of what your body is doing at that moment, versus what is happening when I am having a dull day with an itchy tummy? I am tired of being tired! It is NOT in my head and I know that it isn’t just me getting older. I have 12 grandchildren and I have a lot of things to do in life. I do push myself and pretend when I am with them, but pay for days afterward.

    Aside from guidance from above, if you do food elimination diets like I have done to try to get healthy, does it increase the histamine’s when you do eat a food your body doesn’t like? In other words, are elimination diets more harmful than good in our efforts to find a cause of our disease process? Why are we just now hearing about all of this stuff? Is it because of the increased toxins in our foods and environment?

    I very much appreciate ANY help you can give me aside from what is here. Bless you for your work!

  • Thank you for sharing your insights! It is difficult to navigate popular diets because their benefits do not always apply with allergies or intolerances. I would like to add that sometimes the time of day of consumption is important in battling histamine intolerance. Evening meals with high histamine content appear to be much more problematic in my experience, but I’d like to hear from others. If this is a common occurrence, we might want to take necessary risks before noon to add different nutrients (dairy, nuts, aged meats) and stick with safer ingredients (fresh, unprocessed, and allergy-free) after lunch. Our enzymes seem to keep limited factory hours!

    While I have touted food awareness for histamine intolerance, I have neglected to emphasize the huge impact of environmental estrogens (xenoestrogens) around us. Studies are linking these endocrine disruptors (such as BPA and phthalates) to allergy and immune dysfunction involving histamine production and inflammation. BPA is found in food and beverage containers, and phthalates are found in PVC packaging, consumer goods, construction materials, and fragrances. If you are exposed to certain packaged foods, lotions, make-up, soaps, room deodorizers, vinyl flooring, or other sources of xenoestrogens, you may have difficulty resolving symptoms without expanding your approach. I have even experienced symptoms after sitting in warm cars without proper ventilation – be aware of your “exposome” for best results.

    My battle with histamine intolerance ran parallel to undiagnosed gluten intolerance and chronic exposure to mold and dust mite allergens. After improving both diet/supplements and environment, I was able to reintroduce foods (before noon) and tolerate things that were impossible before (except gluten). I stopped using almost all body care products, and my home became free of fragrance, dust mites, mold, and plastics. The environmental changes continue to support my health in strong but subtle ways – years beyond the initial gluten-free gains. Research is helping me see that we haven’t given our environment nearly enough attention.

    Certain genes create more susceptibility among subpopulations as you have found with MTHFR. We do not yet know if our bodies respond to chronic toxic exposures by self-adjusting our hormones, perhaps to reduce risk of cancer or other life-threatening illness. We cannot assume that there is a “normal” level that each individual can or should achieve. Keep in mind that histamine has been inversely associated with some cancers, so the problem is complex and requires careful attention to chemicals absorbed or inhaled as much as consumed!

    -Shari Cheves

  • Maria C

    I’m so happy to have found this website and the great information. The purpose of my search was to find out how much p5p I should be taking to help reduce histamine reactions. DAO is expensive and I use it only when I know that I can’t control what I’m eating, and then with only moderate success. The cautionary statement with DAO is that it does not work with gluten (indeed, it doesn’t!). I’ve learned that many of my practices were making my situation worse, and I’m probably still feeling the residual effects. I started following Paleo – fermented foods, smoked and processed meats, KALE, cheeses, lots of protein and bone broth. All of these foods exacerbated my histamine intolerance, however, I didn’t know at that time that I had an issue with histamine, except for all of the symptoms that were attributed to other causes. I didn’t understand why MTHFR experts suggested that just about everything for Paleo be avoided.

    In January, ’14, I was diagnosed as being “allergic” to just about every food that I had been eating. Initially, I didn’t believe the results, but after 3 weeks of denying the results, I removed all but bread from my diet. At 4 weeks, I decided to remove that as well. My research indicated that I should still be able to eat cream cheese and sour cream, and that was enough to keep me happy – until I couldn’t tolerate them. I must say that I dearly miss bread, bacon cheese burgers, and eggs (it makes it even harder since we raise chickens for their delicious eggs).

    I’ve experienced great amounts of stress over the past seven years, as well as a lifetime of stress related to my mother’s chronic health issues – whenever an ambulance siren was within earshot I assumed it was for my mother. In my family we have RA, MS, chronic heart conditions, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and Alzheimer’s, to name a few.

    I knew I reacted to beef, particularly after the mad cow scare, when after 3 years of avoiding it and then returning to it, I would experience immediate evacuation (unfortunately, at that time it didn’t register that I should keep avoiding it).

    I’ve always had some type of intestinal trouble, and had chronic post-nasal and sinus congestion with no relief from anti-inflammatory meds, which I continued to take, and blood results that indicated that I had inflammations somewhere in my body and no one could figure out where or why. I had severe, 3-4 times a week, migraines. I’ve had atypical ductal hyperplasia, resulting in breast deforming lumpectomies; hypothyroid; h-pylori; NO estradiol and estriol; low b12; and adrenal fatigue. Because of the ATD, I was warned never to take hormones, so I suffered with hot flashes and night sweats. Prior to the results for “food allergies” I had started complaining about not feeling well after I ate: crepes – made with flour, milk, eggs (double the amount to increase protein) and a good dose of vanilla), sourkraut, kielbasa, pierogis,and mustard to name just a few.

    My physician understand breast cancer and estrogen related problems – we’ve raised my estrogen levels to just under what would be normal for my age, which relieved my symptoms and 3-5 am wake-up. She doesn’t understand histamine intolerance, MTHFR and FUT2 mutations, even though she ordered these and other genetic testing, so I’ve been left to discover connections myself (functional medicine practitioners in my area are not taking new patients). Every time I plan web search, I learn more, not just about the immediate search, but secondary information that is just as much an eye-opener. Like today, when I learned that Dunwoody Labs does DAO testing!

    I’ve learned that there are probiotics that increase DAO enzymes, but there don’t seem to be any on the market. I learned that the probiotics I was taking contained some good strains, but also a great deal of friendly strains that do absolutely nothing. I found that “Peals” contains the greatest number of histamine inhibiting probiotics, but I still have a question as to how many pearls I should be taking, because each only contains 1 billion, unlike many of the other brands that contain 10+ billion. Does anyone know?

    This is a very long post, and I apologize for this, but I’ve learned that there are many people just like me searching for answers and especially support, and it would be greedy of me to only take in information without sharing what little I know.

    Again, thank you for this wonderful, informative information!

  • Dear Susie,
    We may not experience itching with histamine intolerance. Some people may express histamine intolerance in their skin while others may suffer from nausea or migraines. Everyone has different signs that might even change over time or with different allergic substances. Depending on the allergen, exposure/absorption, location of activated mast cells, and where the skin barrier is more compromised, itching might stay local or spread over large areas. It is very complicated.

    While some histamine may be helpful (possibly involved in cancer prevention), histamine can also break down our skin barrier and contribute to chronic allergic disease. Identifying triggers and reducing exposure to allergens or inflammatory agents is important to naturally reducing excessive histamine. Relying on antihistamines may not be the best solution if we continue to expose ourselves to allergens or other substances that promote inflammation and histamine production.

    In a very recent study, symptoms of atopic dermatitis increased in children after exposure to indoor air pollutants such as toluene (in fresh paints, coatings, and gasoline). We might assume here that children are not allergic to pollution, but their allergic condition is worsened as a result of breathing poor indoor air. I have seen cases of atopic dermatitis flare up after extended exposure to fumes or air particles (as in heated plastics or pottery-making). Be sure to use a HEPA filter in indoor areas of concern, and recirculate/air condition indoor vehicle air while driving on busy roads. Track your symptoms with journals or online charts like for best results!


  • Susie Q

    I have been doing some research on Histamine intolerance. If you itch is it in one part of the body or allover?

  • Thank you for your story. The swelling in your tissues could be a sign of more systemic allergy and can also relate to thyroid function. If the concentration of swelling is in the face, I suspect inhaled allergy or skin contact in that area. I’ve seen lips swell from mint allergy in toothpaste and face rashes from bodycare products and metal in eyeglasses. Something sticking in the sinuses is even more insidious. Do you use a nasal rinse daily? I recommend the NeilMed sinus rinse kit to eliminate trapped particles regularly.

    While lowering dietary histamine is probably easiest (though not fun), it is very important to address airborne allergens such as dust mites, mold, and pollen. Is it possible you have mold in the house or workplace? Dust mites in upholstered furniture, drapery, bedding? Are you using a HEPA filtered vacuum cleaner and washing linens in hot soapy water to reduce dust mites?

    I gained 25 pounds over two years when I was most allergic, so I believe there is a connection there. While my main culprit was gluten, I realize now that I was exposed to a lot of dust and mold for years before and during the worst of my symptoms. Since then, I have even seen others experience a variety of physical and mental problems after unknowingly being exposed to mold. I often wonder if airborne allergy precedes other allergies and we cannot dive deep enough with dietary changes.

    During my worst allergy times, I had a severe reaction to Pregnenolone cream, so I hope that works better for you. Each person has a unique formula of health, and “normal” is just an ever-changing term with attached social pressure. As I have slowly recovered from the extreme allergic state, my progress has amazingly corresponded with cleaning up my air and living space! Thank you for bringing this to light.


  • Sandra

    The information in this website has been very helpful. I started suffering from food allergies about 4 years ago. First it was lactose intolerance then a number of other things like yeast, oatmeal, and sugar although the sugar was not listed in the very lengthy food allergies test results. But it seems that every time I eat or drink anything loaded with sugar I break out with what seems like a skin irritation around my face. The complications have been so many I turned to a functional medicine doctor who has me on a number of supplements, including a probiotic and Ultra Inflam X to address leaky gut issues.

    However, despite the supplements, I am still having to take an antihistamine for allergies. Most recently I realized that my reaction to wine (swollen eyelids) which I thought was related to sugar, was really my inability to metabolize it. I am uncomfortable all the time. Either suffering from what feels like an allergic reaction concentrated around my face (looks like eczema) and swollen eyelids, bloating, swollen legs and feet. In addition, I have gained a lot of weight in the past 2 years, despite the fact that my diet is very restricted. My hormone levels did come back abnormally low and my doctor tells me I’m premenopause so she also put me on Pregnenolone. I can’t enjoy normal foods anymore, drink wine, and I can’t lose any weight!

    I have to mention that I just came across the histamine intolerance information today so I am not sure if I suffer from it however, I ordered Histame in hopes it will help me. I am wondering if any of you have experienced anything similar to what I have shared?

  • Ellen

    This is an exceptionally good website.
    This is for Lorena.
    My sympathies to anyone suffering from extreme itching. The only product that has helped me is Histame. I take 1 or 2 caps with a meal. It may take a while (as much as several weeks) for Histame to control the extremes of discomfort, but of course it is worth it. The only problem is that the enzyme, diamine oxidase, in Histame is not inexpensive like other enzymes, for some reason. (About $21 for 30 caps, from Amazon, or Histame: 800-899-4499) I tried DAOsin (Swanson’s), but it was very weak (by their own admission) and ineffective in my case.
    A product that alleviates localized itching is Borage Therapy: dry ski lotion, put out by ShiKai. It was recommended to me by a psoriasis victim. It really works! It takes the edge off intractable itching, especially in the middle of the night. Get it at a healthfood store–or possibly Swanson’s.
    Good luck, Lorena. I am about to try pycnogenol.

  • Naturopaths, curious nutritionists, and some chiropractors may have experience with histamine as it relates to functional and integrative medicine. It is only fair to call and inquire about expertise before paying a visit. Allergists usually help identify common allergens that will elevate histamine, even if they cannot explain how your body may be reacting to higher levels. Yet doctors have their limits, and we often need to become our own sleuths to figure out allergy triggers. Keep a daily detailed journal of every symptom and exposure (diet, environment, activities) – that is the best way to determine the source of the problem. We can even react to things that were previously safe such as cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, soaps, and fabrics. Indoor environments can hide mold, dust, formaldehyde, and other chemicals that can make us more sensitive. Don’t give up!

  • Meghan

    Hello! I’ve been struggling with histamine issues for two years now, and my symptoms are worsening. What kind of doctor would you recommend I go see to help me with this? I went to an allergist and had a very unhelpful experience (was told it was “just stress” and to take a Zyrtec and meditate). Is there a type of medical practitioner that has helped you more than others?

  • Katie

    Personally, I got into a lot of trouble with L. casei as a probiotic. I was taking it in high doses with other bacteria and prebiotics to improve my gut health. After a few weeks I had major histamine issues. Prior to that they were minor and were easily managed with a low histamine diet. It seems like it depends upon the strain that you use. Currently my ‘gut fix’ mix has no L. casei or L lactis and my symptoms are resolving. L. casei is a common bacteria in many cultured dairy products and commercial probiotics. It may be worthwhile to do some research on which probiotics degrade histamine and which increase it before starting a commercial probiotic. Here’s an article that provides more details. (Note – I am not promoting the probitic mentioned in the article.) Best to do your own research as there are many blends and we are all unique.

  • Guyla

    I have a recurring rash all around my face and neck and smaller areas on my extremities due to histamine intolerance. I have found that if I take one 50 mg Pycnogenol (Pine Bark Extract) prior to eating, I have less of an issue. Since Pycnogenol is a histamine inhibitor rather than an antihistamine, it also doesn’t have the negative antihistamine issues. If the rash starts to flare, I take another one between meals but rarely need to take more than two in a day. I hope this is helpful for someone else suffering with these issues.

  • Lorena Luz

    Sandra I feel your pain. I have hives for years every day of my life and it is miserable what we go through. I took the Xolair shots for eight months, I stop seven months ago but they did not work for me. Up to this date I still don’t know what is causing my rash, the only thing I am doing is documenting myself and trying to understand what is going on with my immune system. I had several blood work that showed everything to be “normal” even though I cannot eat anything without going though endless hours of pain and itching. I am starting to believe my histamine level is exceptionally high, but the question remains, why? something is causing the imbalance but I have not found a Dr. that can help me figure out what is going on.
    I am taking DAOsin, hoping this product will help me treat food/histamine intolerance. Unfortunately it contains corn starch, which more than likely comes from GM corn, which I am highly allergic to, but I guess I have few choices. Stay in touch Sandra, I would like to exchange knowledge with you and see what we can do about the hives we suffer. I am not sure if there is private way to exchange email addresses?


  • Good write-up. I certainly love this site.
    Continue the good work!

  • Do you have a list of ingredients from the colon cleanser? For example, one popular cleanser contains acacia gum, which is cross-reacts with other common legumes such as soy, peanuts, and peas. Have you been allergy-tested for any of the ingredients in the original cleanser? It is really important to get tested for allergies that you can avoid without relying on a drug to mask symptoms. Medications have serious side effects that can be just as bad or worse than the allergy!


  • sandra gibbs

    Hello, I have been suffering with severe hives for almost 2 years. It started with taking a natural colon cleanser which I only took twice and the hives started. After being on anti-histamines and steroids I was put on Xolair about a year ago which did not start to work until after 6 months. For a few months I took the Xolar shot every 2 weeks then every 3 weeks. It finally started to work about 7 months in and then for some reason I have had a major breakout for the last month and they are so severe I had to get back on the steroids. I am miserable and I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I have considered doing a Master Cleanse but cannot have lemons (any acid) because of histamine issues. Is there anything I can do to get my system back to where it was prior to taking the colon cleaner? Any help guidance would be appreciated. Sandra G.

  • Thank you for sharing your case. Let’s look at deeper connections between skin, histamine, and cancer. A few papers are starting to connect the dots. So far, we find that histamine (or the ability to generate it) may actually restrict some cancers, and the use of anti-histamine associates with the increase of some cancers. In fact, men with asthma (which features elevated histamine) are actually less likely to develop lethal prostate cancer.

    The prickly hot flashes may not reflect histamine overload. Miliaria is a condition that simulates the “pricklies” – the sweat glands may be plugged and causing the discomfort, though rashes are often present. People with miliaria may also have an excess of certain harmless Staph epidermidis bacteria in the skin (not an infection). Based on immune health, genetics, and nutrition, the skin is somehow not able to overcome the bacteria, particularly in hot humid environments. In fact, there is a risk of cancer with prostatitis which appears driven by long-term, underlying bacterial overgrowth of this sort!

    How Staph epidermidis blocks pores:

    Bacteria overgrowth found in prostate cancer cases:

    Recent investigation of prostatic stones indicates the “infection-inflammation-cancer” connection:,+inflammation,+cancer%3A+The+dark+side+of+prostatic+stones

    Here is one online reference for treating miliaria:

    Boosting immunity and preventing skin bacterial overgrowth is even more important. My son needed to improve his whole immune health to eliminate the 2-year staph rash on his nose. Even with antibiotics, he did not recover until we severely limited the sugar and “yeasty” foods in his diet. More specifically, you might benefit from improving skin health with nutrition, avoidance of all contact allergens, environmental toxins, and hypoallergenic fabrics.

    Keep in mind that supplements can be dangerous based on your existing vitamin and mineral levels.

    A great comprehensive paper on how diet can influence prevention and treatment of prostate cancer is listed here:

    Early life risk factors for prostate cancer are also explored in this insightful paper:

    Clearly your skin is your “red flag” and everything is connected. Please keep me posted on your discoveries in this complex puzzle!


  • Jim Austin

    In 2009 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and have since had my prostate removed. Prior to this diagnosis I was taking phentermine for weight loss. Approximately 4 months later I stopped sweating and started getting what I called the pricklies, which felt like being struck by cactus. I went to several dermatologists and they advised it was idiopathic. Eventually after surgery it all went away and has been gone. Now 5 years later I starting to get them back, I am wondering if there is some sort of link to histimine and cancer. I have had a 0 PSA after 5 years but now I am afraid they’re might be a link between the two since I am getting the pricklies again. What do you think, I also get hot flashes.

    Jim Austin

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