If you’ve ever dealt with seasonal allergies, or you happen to have a serious food allergy, then you’ve likely heard the term “histamine” in one context or another. While histamine is directly related to allergic reactions, it’s technically a chemical in your immune system which cause an immediate inflammatory response after coming in contact with any food or drink item that your body deems a potential health threat.
It works a bit like this: imagine a peanut allergy. When you eat a peanut, histamine automatically inflames your blood vessels. This lets your body know it needs to send as many white blood cells – the kinds that attack infection – to the affected areas as possible. However, too much histamine sent at once can obviously cause a severe allergic reaction that, if not treated quickly, can cause anaphylaxis.
However, it’s also possible to have too much histamine present in your immune system – even if you’re not allergic to any food or don’t have seasonal allergies. It’s also possible to have too little histamine. Regardless of your need (more or less histamine) let’s look at ten different foods that are either high or low in histamine. This list should help you make better dietary choices, leading to a greater overall systemic health.
High – Fermented alcohol
If you enjoy a drink every now and then, it’s unlikely fermented alcohol – such as wine, champagne, and beer – will have an effect one way or another on your histamine level. However, if you consume the aforementioned beverages on a regular basis and find yourself suffering from histamine intolerance (the symptoms of which closely mimic regular allergies) then you’ll have to look into reducing your intake of fermented alcoholic products.
High – Cured meat
Bacon may feed the soul, but aside from being outrageously high in fat and sugar, cured bacon is also high in histamine. The same goes for any cured meat – that is, it’s set to “marinade” in usually sugary or savory solution before being packaged and shipped to your local grocery store – such as salami, pepperoni, lunch meats, and even hot dogs.
Red meat, such as steak or hamburger, is a better choice if you can’t live without meat but need to decrease your histamine intake.
High – Citrus
Grapefruit, oranges, lemons, and limes are all high in histamine. They’re also high in citric acid which is especially harmful for the health of your tooth enamel. While that may not seem like a big deal on the surface, if your teeth become weakened due to excessive contact with citric acid, and you develop a histamine intolerance and have too much in your body, you could end up with some serious health problems. It’s worth your time to cut out your citrus intake, for both your histamine level and your teeth.
High – Vegetables
Finally! It’s the excuse you’ve been waiting for to get you out of the nightly serving of vegetables inevitably heaped on your plate.
Well, don’t get too excited right off the bat. Not all vegetables are high in histamine. The ones that are high in histamine are avocados, eggplant, spinach, and tomatoes. Avocado and tomatoes are easily the most popular in that list – and therefore the most difficult to avoid. However, a bit of planning and research for alternate recipes (spaghetti sauce made with non-cured meat, for example) can help you get around the issue of not being able to indulge in a great seven-layer dip or your mom’s homemade salsa.
High – Fish
If you’re a big fish fan but have too much histamine in your diet, you’ll likely need to cut back. Most smoked fish is high in histamine, in addition to mackerel, mahi-mahi, tuna, anchovies, and sardines. For most people, finding fish substitutes for mahi-mahi and tuna will be difficult. However, halibut and salmon are both viable options, in addition to cod or wild-caught trout. Regardless, you don’t want to have your fish smoked. Smoking fish subjects them to a very similar treatment as we see with cured meats, which are also on the high histamine list – the list to avoid if you have any histamine problems at all.
Low – Eggs
Your breakfast of bacon and eggs isn’t quite lost! You’ll just have to cut out the bacon. Eggs are a great low-histamine food, so if you’re transitioning from a high-histamine to a low-histamine diet, you’ll be set for any of your favorite omelets or other egg-based dishes. While you need to watch what you put in your omelets – avoid the diced ham, bacon, etc. – bell peppers, cheese, and steak are viable and low-histamine additions to help spruce up your morning meal.
Low – Pure peanut butter
The peanut butter and jelly sandwich may be the most iconic sandwich ever made, and for good reason – they’re oddly satisfying. This is great news for any peanut butter lovers out there, as the pure peanut butter (nothing but crushed peanuts and a bit of sugar or oil) is a low-histamine food that some would argue tastes better than the processed version. Of course, that’s a call you’ll have to make on your own.
Low – Fresh fruit
You can still have plenty of different fruit if you need more low-histamine food in your diet. Fruits such as mangoes, pears, watermelon, kiwi, and grapes are a low-histamine go-to. This also helps balance out any lost nutrition you may have lost from cutting a bit of your vegetable intake as mentioned above.
Low – Tea
If you’re a big tea fan, you can keep on drinking! Leafy and herbal teas are low-histamine and provide some of the same antioxidants and immune-boosting effects vegetables do – without the added histamine.
Low – Fresh meat
Finally, make sure that if you’re eating meat it’s fresh, and that your poultry is as fresh as possible.
This list is intended to be a jumping-off point in your quest to improve your health and balance your histamine level. If you have further questions about histamine and how it may or may not be affecting you, contact your doctor.