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Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health?

Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health?

All This Talk of Histamine

There has been a lot of talk about histamine in the circles I run in lately. Could it be that Spring is in the air? In the Spring, it is not uncommon for people to have the sniffles or sneezes as the immune system responds to allergens in our environment by releasing histamine. Histamine in the diet can really become an issue this time of the year as we exceed our threshold for tolerance of histamine.

Histamine is really a rather complicated issue. Everyone has a threshold for the amount of histamine their body will tolerate, and this tolerance is determined by many factors. Our mast cells release histamine during allergic or inflammatory reactions. There is histamine released in response to our environment. There are foods that release histamine from mast cells, and then there are foods with actual histamine content. Chocolate, cheese, vinegars, wine and beer, mushrooms, tomatoes, bananas, strawberries, citrus fruits, fermented foods, and bone broths are just some examples of foods that provoke a histamine reaction. Additionally, temperature changes, sunlight, stress, some medications and other factors can affect our histamine load.

Histamine can be an issue with any diet. I often see histamine issues with people on grain-free diets such as the Paleo Diet, Specific Carbohydrate Diet and GAPS. A diet higher in meats and certain vegetables and lower in grains could by default be higher in histamine. When we eliminate the lower histamine grains and rely on more nuts to replicate SAD (Standard American Diet) baked goods like breads, cakes and cookies, we do increase our histamine load. When we add some of the staples in traditional diets, such as bone broths and fermented foods such as yogurt and sauerkraut we can really increase the histamine load. But I suspect that the connection between the grain-free diet and the histamine issue has less to do with the diet itself and more to do with underlying issues in those that are attracted to a grain-free diet in the first place, as I will explain in this article.

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance:

  • headaches
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • hiccups, heartburn and acid reflux
  • other digestive issues such as stomach cramping and diarrhea
  • skin conditions such as eczema, itching, hives
  • allergy and cold symptoms like congestion, sneezing, runny nose and coughing
  • irritation or itching of the eyes
  • joint pain
  • frequent urination
  • hypotension
  • tightening of the chest and anxiety or panic attacks
  • tachycardia
  • fatigue
  • hyperactivity
  • mood issues, such as irritability and aggression
  • compulsive behaviors
  • perfectionism
  • high libido

and more!

So What’s The Deal With Histamine?

Everyone has a different tolerance for histamine. Some have serious mast cell disorders and need to be extremely vigilant about histamine in the diet. Some people need to restrict histamine in their diet to avoid migraines and terrible insomnia. Others just need to watch their histamine load to avoid crossing their threshold and feeling a little cranky or noticing a decline in their digestion. Whatever your tolerance, you may find your tolerance change as Spring rolls around each year.

Two mechanisms are often talked about with respect to the histamine problem. The first is a lack of the enzyme DAO, or Diamine Oxidase, which can be supplemented by purchasing Histame or similar products. These enzymes are expensive and while they do seem to help many people they don’t seem to get at the root of the problem for most. Another mechanism often discussed is a lack of function by the enzyme histamine N-methyl transferase, which since it requires a methyl group, could be lacking in those of us with methylation cycle polymorphisms such as MTHFR, or a toxic load that interferes with methylation. It has been said (and although it is really an oversimplification) that “undermethylators” run higher in histamine. I suspect this is the root of the issue for many people, but it takes time and effort to correct this situation. Quercetin is a supplement often recommended for histamine reactions as it stabilizes mast cells and can therefore reduce histamine release, but perhaps the main reason quercetin is effective is the fact that it is a methyl donor. Another approach used by Dr. Amy Yasko is the supplement SAM-e, which is the universal methyl donor in the body. Both of these supplements are methyl donors and can therefore provoke detox, particularly in those that are deficient and they are also contraindicated for some people so discuss these options with your doctor.

Chris Kresser wrote a great article on this topic rather recently in which he talked about the role of gut bacteria in histamine intolerance. A fabulous clue to histamine issues that he shared in his article is that “reacting to fermented foods is a classic sign of histamine intolerance, especially if probiotic supplements are well tolerated”. I do think gut bacteria imbalances are a huge factor in histamine issues as it is known that some bacteria produce histamine and other bacteria degrade it.

The Missing Piece?

One aspect of histamine intolerance that is not being discussed and inspired me to write this blog post is the connection between histamine and amylase. You may be familiar with amylase as an enzyme that breaks down starch. Well, it has another role. It is released by the body in response to histamine because it has a role in anti-inflammatory reactions. It is possible that running high histamine over time, we can deplete our amylase, and then don’t digest starch well. Does that explain why there is so much talk of histamine in the grain-free world lately? Could that explain some of the improvements people experience when they go grain-free? Histamine can affect the digestive system in many ways, but can it be that those that have found their way to a grain-free diet may be those very people that have depleted their amylase as a result of an underlying histamine issue? Allerase is a product that contains amylase and is designed to be taken on an empty stomach to balance out the high histamine/low amylase seasonal issues. You can discuss this option with your doctor as well.

Final Thoughts

I always caution people not to get too far out of balance when implementing a special diet for themselves or their children. Usually I recommend adhering to a traditional diet, as it is time-tested, rather than, for example, relying too much on nut flour and coconut flour to replicate baked goods on a grain-free diet. But in the case of histamine, you may find that even certain traditional foods are not your friends. For some people, and I suspect this is more common than understood, too much bone broth and too many fermented foods can actually cause digestive issues! Too often people are encouraged to push through reactions as if they are just “healing crises”, or the temporary effects of “die-off” or detox. But sometimes you just need to listen to your body. In our modern world, toxins in the environment affect the function of enzymes in our bodies and prevent them from working ideally. This does not mean that healing is hopeless, but that we have to be patient and work with our bodies as we may heal at a slower pace than desired.

I hope this article gives you something to think about and discuss with your doctor, and while you are addressing the underlying issue perhaps your doctor will feel that Allerase or Histame can help. I hope this information helps you Peel Back another Onion Layer toward vibrant health!


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This post was featured in Real Food Foragerโ€™s Sunday Snippets, Family Table Tuesday at The Polivka Family, and Nourishing Joy’s Thank Goodness It’s Monday.



  1. Lauren says:

    Great post! I’ve been struggling for eczema on and off for years, and this has been the first thing to come along in a long time that tells me something I didn’t already know. I’m super excited to check out some of the products you mentioned too! Thank you so much!

  2. Very interesting. I know about histamine being an allergy sufferer. I didn’t realize diet could contribute, too.

    Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking article at Motivation Monday.

  3. Amber says:

    Great post! Loved reading it. I always enjoy these educational posts. I’ve sent this to my husband to read. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Be Well,

  4. Becca says:

    Thanks for all the research and for sharing at A Humble Bumble, Dawn!

  5. Really helpful article! I was especially interested to read the part about the MTHFR connection as myself and my children deal with this.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks so much, Paige! Yes, we have MTHFR here too. It is not uncommon but in our increasingly toxic world it is really starting to play a role in overall health.

  6. Linda says:

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing it at Gluten-Free Wednesdays. Looks like you forgot to leave a link back. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Linda! Thanks for visiting and for hosting! I promise I did not forget…I am going to update the page tonight! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Lisa Lynn says:

    Found you on Frugal Days and would love to have you join us on Wildcrafting Wednesday today!

  8. Amanda says:

    Visiting from the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop. One of my daughters was just diagnosed with oral allergy syndrome. She is allergic to birch pollen from apples and tree nuts. Connection?? Very intersting article. Thanks for sharing! Stop by and visit me at

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks for visiting, Amanda! Yes, that cross-reactivity can occur. There are a number of foods that can cross-react with birch pollen, unfortunately!

  9. My secret ingredient that is natural and an anti-histamine: QUERCETIN!!! Seriously LOVEEEEE quercetin! It’s kept me allergy free ever since I discovered it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      That is so fabulous! It truly works wonders for so many. I am so glad it works for you and that you stopped by and shared that info here for others to benefit from your experience!

  10. I love learning new things! Thank you for sharing at the Thursday Favorite Things hop xo

  11. Really interesting article. As someone with tons of food issues related to hay fever (= major histamine responses) I know from personal experience that food can certainly trigger a histamine response, so it’s good to consider another facet of it!

    Thanks for sharing this on Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, I’ve pinned it ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. […] Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health? from Peeling Back the Onion Layers. This is a really interesting post that suggests a novel mechanism in histamine intolerance. […]

  13. Diane says:

    Really great information. Thanks for sharing at The Gathering Spot ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Absolutely fascinating. This makes complete sense and I am now going to look into histamine intolerance. This might explain many things!

  15. […] 3. Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestion? @ Peeling Back the Onion Layers […]

  16. Great information! Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! ๐Ÿ™‚

    We have a Gluten Free gift basket giveaway this week! One lucky winner will score an awesome basket, just in time for Mothers Day!

    Cindy from

  17. Jenny says:

    Great info! Thank you for sharing this post on the HomeAcre Hop! Look forward to seeing you again tomorrow:

  18. Hannah says:

    Very interesting. I can see I am going to need to do some studying. We eat a fairly grai free diet. Thanks for sharing your post with us! I hope you join us again today (yeah I know it’s a day late… linky issues) at Eco-Kids Tuesday!!

  19. Excellent post. I came here through Wildcrafting Wednesday.
    I love writing like this that actually has some scientific support behind the writing. Since my dd is on the GAPS diet right now this is of some pertinence; not sure that she has histamine issues but I will be more observant for those.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks for the compliment, Jennifer! I would not worry about histamines if you don’t see any of the symptoms. It is a big issue for some and a non-issue for others. Just something to keep on our radars!

  20. Thanks for sharing this post on Wildcrafting Wednesday!

  21. […] Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestion? from Peeling Back the Onion […]

  22. Becky says:

    Interesting read! Thanks for sharing on Tuesday Greens!

  23. G.J. says:

    Very interesting article!
    Came upon it because I was wondering why I ALWAYS develop a bad rash on my stomach every time I take probiotics or eat any type of yogurt.
    Since I can’t tolerate probiotics, could this still be a histamine problem as I read on Chris Kessler’s blog about histamine intolerant people CAnN usually tolerate the probiotics but not the fermented veges.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Great question! Some people with histamine intolerance DO have issues with probiotics. Particularly certain strains of bacteria. Some strains of bacteria produce histamine, while others degrade it or are neutral.

  24. […] You can learn about how histamines affect sleep, migraines, OCD, the gut and more in my article Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health. Some of you may already know that you carry the MTHFR A1298C allele. MTHFR is receiving much […]

  25. My 15 year old dd is on the GAPS diet and seems to be unable to tolerate any probiotic foods or drinks. She has back off of them completely and is only taking a simple probiotic pill. If she is careful about how much high histamine fruits she eats she seems to be in pretty good shape. I found this article helpful. I am wondering if you think she will eventually heal enough to be able to tolerate the fermented foods and such.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Jennifer, I think it is very possible to correct a histamine issue, as long as you solve the underlying problem.

  26. Monica says:

    Hi…thanks so much for this info.

    I did, at your recommendation, try allerase…it works really well…but I already eat a very hard-core low histamine diet and now I feel hooked on allerase…

    do you know if it can backfire? I don’t like taking any supplements all the time especially when I can feel it change my whole way of being when I take it…feels so druggy…

    can you give me any insight into why it’s such an intense change and if I can expect it to help me heal or if I will stay dependent on it…

    You say we are low in amylase…will this help be get back to where I don’t need it or the opposite?

    maybe you don’t know…I just like to understand what supplements are doing in my body.

    thank you very much.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Monica!

      The supplements I share on my website are for discussion with your doctor so I hope you are working with your doctor on this! Those are really good questions and I hope your doctor will have answers for you!

  27. Monica says:

    ha…if only there were such doctors to be found…they are like needles in a haystack and I imagine you know that is true.

    do you have any links you could direct me to? I’m on my own…and it’s not by choice it’s reality for most people I know who are serious about getting healthy.

    I’d appreciate any our your source materials…I am not holding anyone but myself responsible for my choices.

    thank you.

  28. […] foods are high in histamine. In my article Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health?, I explained how histamine overload can have a negative impact on the gut as well as the rest of […]

  29. Kristie says:

    I was wondering if you knew about certain foods: Yesterday I ate okra, peas, and beef broth and last night I was bloated (majorly), had heartburn, insomnia, buzzing in feet, and legs. I also react to fermented foods. I am wondering how to go about this. I am already gluten and dairy free. Also, is the quercitin something that helps if you have ingested too much histamine?

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Kristie, both food and supplements can cause histamine reactions. Some do benefit from quercetin but it is a methyl donor and something you should discuss with your doctor.

  30. Kristie says:

    Also, I started taking DGL (licorice). I wonder if it is high in histamines.

  31. Angel says:

    This is very interesting information. I actually just ordered some digestive enzymes last night. I hadn’t really thought about some of the points you mentioned. Thanks for sharing! ๐Ÿ™‚

  32. […] need methyl groups to deactive histamine as I explained in Could Histamine Be Sabotaging Your Digestive Health? […]

  33. Ruth says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It helps me put together a cluster of issues I’ve been struggling with: MTHFR, gluten issues, grain issues, and now digestive upset. The question is, will proper methylation supplementation fix the problem? If not, what, exactly, are we supposed to eat?

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Ruth! It depends on where the histamine is coming from. Dietary needs are very individual – one man’s food is another man’s poison!

  34. quianna says:

    Thanks for this article. My son is on day 20 of the gaps intro for eczema and digestion issues caused by leaky gut. We haven’t introduced dairy (except ghee) or any nuts. This long on the diet and we haven’t seen any improvements but he actually seems worse. His eczema hasn’t taken a break and is more itchy and his stools are still loose. He seemed to always be “healing”. I was thinking it could be a histamine issue but let it slide until two days ago when he started getting hives. By the next morning he was covered head to toe and things still aren’t normal yet. I started cooking broths for shorter periods of time and freezing everything. No leftovers. Does this sound familiar to you? Our gaps practitioner seems to think he is just healing but now I’m worried that if I just let it go he could develop something serious like a mast cell disorder. Thanks again for this article. It makes me think twice again.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      I think there are many possibilities to explore here with your doctor. Histamine is one of them, but it could be something else, like sulfites. I wrote an article on this topic too. I am not a fan of the idea of pushing through if your mama gut is telling you otherwise. I hope you get to the bottom of this soon!

  35. Thanks for Linking Up at Wellness Wednesdays! I’m so happy to see more of this information about the dangers of a high histamine diet. I come across too many people suffering from Mast Cell Disorders. With all the high ammonia and high histamine diets these days it comes as no surprise! Thanks again!

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      It is crazy how skewed we can get with “healing” diets. I see it everyday with my clients that are working so hard to heal, and making themselves sicker. Thanks for getting the message out, Jeannie! Your blog is a fabulous resource!

  36. shari1971 says:

    “For some people, and I suspect this is more common than understood, too much bone broth and too many fermented foods can actually cause digestive issues! Too often people are encouraged to push through reactions as if they are just โ€œhealing crisesโ€, or the temporary effects of โ€œdie-offโ€ or detox. But sometimes you just need to listen to your body.”
    YES YES YES a million times! 3 months ago I went autoimmune paleo to heal my psoriasis, over the course of a week, ate bone broth almost everyday. By day 4-5, I was getting severe brain fog and nausea within 5 minutes. Discovered the histamine link, stopped it, figured that would be the end of it. Continued eating other “healthy” high histamine foods (which I’ve never, ever had a problem with before), culminating in making homemade sauerkraut a month later. Again, after the 2nd day, instant severe brain fog for hours. Stopped that, but now I was starting to react to high histamine foods in general with dizziness/brain fog (leftovers especially). To complicate things, I seem to react to supplements now (DAO, Quercetin, Vit C) with a psoriasis flare and worsening symptoms (had supplements in past no problem). An accidental exposure to MSG in a restaurant sent me into a brain fog/dizziness episode that is still continuing to this day (2 weeks later). That’s when it got serious. Two weeks ago I instituted, on top of autoimmune paleo, extremely strict low histamine. Freezing meats immediately, only eating meats from freezer or fresh only, not eating any foods on histamine lists, never eating in restaurants. I have never felt so unwell in my life. Brain fog from when I wake up until about 6 pm at night (often more). Dizziness, digestion issues, diarrhea, headaches, psoriasis worse. Desperately searching for answers. SO SO SO frustrated that I cannot tolerate foods I have eaten all my life!! I don’t even have ‘regular’ type allergies complicating this. Just wish I could turn back time and never have touched bone broth. Don’t feel like I am even getting significantly better after a good 2 weeks low histamine. And the supplements actually set me back. I have to get better if I continue this and stay away from high histamine foods, right? Antihistamines do help, not completely, but I worry that they will harm in the long run. I am beyond at my wits end and worried about the future. I can’t live like this in a fog all the time.

  37. This is a really interesting post that suggests a novel mechanism in histamine intolerance.

  38. Kelly says:

    Wow, amazing article! I just stumbled across it and it really brings some pieces of my puzzle together. I have chronic fatigue and MTHFR mutation and definitely think I have problems with histamines. I have almost all the symptoms listed.
    For instance, I can eat bone broth if it is fairly fresh, but if I leave it sitting for too long I have problems digesting it and it causes reflux. I also have problems with digesting grains as you say.

    I’m interested in your statement about Quercetin. I am currently taking it and do find it helps. In particular ‘the main reason quercetin is effective is the fact that it is a methyl donor’, could you explain a bit further what this means? I’m assuming this is a good thing for an undermethylator?

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hi Kelly! In short, there is a connection between undermethylation and running high in histamine. I suspect some people benefit from the methyl donors.

  39. Hannah says:

    Is this real? that sauerkraut can really increase the histamine load. I never thought about it that’s why I’m taking a supplement to treating allergies by stopping the release of histamines in the body that trigger common allergy symptoms such as runny nose, watery eyes, hives and swelling. Anyway, it’s very timely because I have read how to prepare sauerkraut though it seems “easy said than done”. However, I’ll give it a try though.

  40. Syed says:

    This is a superb article. I was diagnosed of having Oral Allergy Syndrome and the main culprit could be Vegetables/ Fruit from Mugwort family. Can I link OAS allergen causing allergy that triggers histamine is the main cause of my stomach disorder that I’m having for many years now?

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