How is Food Intolerance Related to Histamine in Foods?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 29 October 2018
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An aversion to certain foods is commonplace among much of the world’s population. For many, however, the aversion is not the result of mere taste but the manifestation of a medical condition. Food intolerance can create a number of uncomfortable symptoms. In some cases, this intolerance is related to the food’s content. For example, excessive histamine in foods facilitates digestive problems for some individuals.

Histamine is a biological component found in many processed or manufactured foods. It is made from nitrogen and created by amino acids. When the histamine in foods enters the body, it can bind to various tissue — particularly digestive tissue — and lead to subsequent abnormal body responses. A substance known as diamine oxidase in the digestive system breaks down histamine so that it may be utilized properly. When this break-down process is blocked, histamine levels increase and problems arise. Certain drugs may impact the process, as can an influx of histamines into the digestive system courtesy of foods high in histamine content.

Expiration dates on purchased foods play an important role in discovering possible histamine intolerance. Food that is stored for a long time will usually have higher histamine levels. For example, while fresh meats generally have no histamine content, aged meat will accumulate histamines.


Certain manufacturing processes can also enhance histamine in foods. Salting, marinating, and smoking meat can all raise histamine content. Alcohol and its creation processes presents another common container of high histamine. Potential histamine-triggering foods include the following: canned vegetables, cheese, condiments, chocolate, coffee, nuts, and yeast bread. Select fruits like strawberries, bananas, grapefruits, and pineapples could hold increased histamine levels as well.

For an individual suffering from issues related to histamine in foods, eating can quickly move from pleasurable to painful. Abdominal pain and cramps are common, as is diarrhea or constipation. Even non-digestive system symptoms can occur, including headaches or skin rashes.

Histamine imbalances adversely affect the digestive system’s ability to properly absorb food and convert its nutrients into usable forms for the human body. This emphasis on digestive function makes a histamine-related food intolerance different from a food allergy. In the latter case, the immune system’s negative reaction to a particular food causes symptoms.

An individual who suspects any type of food allergy or intolerance should consult with a medical professional. If the intolerance is due to histamine in foods, the physician may prescribe a histamine-blocking drug called an antihistamine. A diet low on histamine-heavy foods may also be likely recommended.



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