Histamine, as we all know, is a protective, inflammatory mediator that is released in response to an allergen. However, some people are very sensitive to histamine and have a low tolerance for it. Excessive histamine in the body exacerbates allergy-like symptoms. Such people are often deficient in an enzyme that breaks down the histamine known as diamine oxidase or (DAO). I asked about the popularity of anti-histamine products and Dr. Joneja explained that in laymen’s terms, anti-histamines are just running interference in the body, but they don’t solve the problem of excessive histamine production. The most effective approach for curbing histamine production turns out to be, not surprisingly, a change in diet—a big change.
Many common foods produce histamine, and Dr. Joneja provides an extensive list of those foods in her booklet “Dietary Management of Histamine Intolerance.” As mentioned, milk and milk products are definitely excluded, as are fermented products like soy sauce or miso. No beer, wine or alcoholic beverages of any type, of course, nor chocolate or cola drinks. No sugary fruits like raisins, apricots or pineapple allowed either. No processed meats like bacon and sausage. I was very surprised, however, to see tomatoes, tomato sauce and spinach on the “do not eat” list.
Food additives can also be responsible for excess histamine production, which did not come as a surprise. In particular are tartrazine and artificial food colorings, as well as preservatives like benzoates and sulphites. (There goes the wine! No wonder I would wake up puffy after drinking wine.) In addition, common seasonings can also cause a reaction, including cinnamon, chili powder and curry power. Who knew?
This program was starting to remind me of the Candida diet I went on last year. However, grains and yeasted bread products are not restricted in this histamine diet as they are on the Candida diet. When I asked Dr. Joneja about this she indicated that very likely I experienced relief from my symptoms by eliminating histamine producing foods, such as dairy and fermented products. This was very intriguing information and it put a different spin on things for me. Perhaps it was histamine intolerance all along that was causing my symptoms rather than a yeast overgrowth. Either way, there will be no milkshakes for me; however, I can have a piece of toast!