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Could your persisting symptoms be caused by histamine intolerance?

Written by Olfa Hafsa | Wednesday, 5 April 2023

gut health histamine intolerance naturopathy nutrition

Histamine intolerance can cause a wide range of common symptoms which are often mistaken for allergic reactions or other health conditions.

Fortunately, it is becoming a topic of interest in the scientific and clinical communities, and their findings give us valuable pointers to identify and manage histamine intolerance. We’ll explore this topic here so you can assess if it might be affecting your health and learn what you can do to address this condition.

Firstly, what is histamine intolerance?

You might have heard of it in relation to allergies and antihistamines medications. It is a chemical which plays many key roles in our body, including roles in digestion, immunity, brain function, vascular function, and muscle contraction. This means that adequate levels of histamine are essential for us to function properly and be in good health.

However, problems start to arise when histamine levels become excessive: the body gets overwhelmed and a wide range of symptoms can appear. When this is not due to obvious food poisoning, it is called histamine intolerance. Because histamine is used in so many parts and functions of our body, symptoms are very varied and can seem a bit random and unrelated, which makes it difficult to identify what is causing them.

What symptoms can be cause by histamine intolerance?

In general, histamine intolerance causes allergy-like symptoms, but it does not trigger anaphylaxis which is a life-threatening allergic reaction. Usually symptoms appear progressively, and over time they can become more intense and affect more areas of the body. You could experience one or more of the following:

  • Digestive symptoms: low appetite, nausea, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, constipation
  • Respiratory symptoms: shortness of breath, blocked nose, runny nose, sneezing
  • Cardiovascular symptoms: hypotension, heart palpitation, dizziness, vertigo
  • Nervous symptoms: headaches, nervousness, anxiety, sleep disturbance, unexplained fatigue, brain fog
  • Skin symptoms: itching, rash, flushing, sweating
  • Other symptoms: painful periods, watery eyes, swelling (including swollen eyelids)

This is just a selection of common symptoms and, in reality, the list goes on and on. Besides, each individual can experience a different combination of manifestations, so it is very useful to keep track of your own symptoms to start figuring out what is happening.

Why does histamine intolerance happen?

As we mentioned above, it is a problem of histamine excess, so let’s look at what causes this situation.

An important source of histamine is our diet, with some foods containing more histamine than others. Another source is our gut bacteria which can produce more histamine when we have poor gut health. Finally, our body produces its own histamine to cover the functions we listed earlier.

On the other hand, we have a regulating system which breaks down histamine once it has completed its task or if levels are becoming too high. So, as you can see, there are three possible mechanisms for histamine excess: high consumption, high production, insufficient breakdown (or any combination of these).

Factors increasing histamine levels include:

  • Consumption of foods high in histamine
  • Consumption of foods which trigger histamine release
  • Unhealthy gut microbiome producing more histamine
  • High stress, causing histamine release or reduced breakdown
  • Hormonal imbalances, mainly oestrogen
  • Nutrients deficiencies reducing DAO function
  • Gut damage reducing DAO function
  • Genetic predisposition reducing DAO function
  • Some pharmaceutical medicines.

What can you do to reduce your symptoms?

As there are many factors that contribute to histamine intolerance, there are also many solutions which can be implemented to reduce your symptoms. Here are a few:

  • Adjust your diet: some foods might need to be avoided temporarily until your symptoms resolve, and then reintroduced in small amounts if you can tolerate them. The most common foods involved are:
    • Spinach, avocado, tomatoes, eggplant, strawberries, and citrus
    • Fermented or pickled vegetables, like sauerkraut
    • Canned, cured, dried, or fermented meats and fish
    • Aged cheese
    • Alcohol, particularly wine and beer
    • Left-overs
  • Heal your gut: your gut health, including your gut microbiome health, is an important factor in histamine intolerance. Consider seeking help from a professional to improve your digestive function, restore your microbiome balance, and reduce gut inflammation.
  • Supplement nutrients: some nutrients such as vitamin C and vitamin B6 could increase histamine breakdown. Make sure you have a nutrient-dense diet to support this mechanism, or consider adequate supplementation if needed.
  • Reduce stress levels: engage in activities you enjoy doing, spend time with people that lift you up, schedule regular time for rest, consider mental health support if needed.

If you have been having symptoms which are not improving with the usual treatments, it may be worth investigating if histamine intolerance could be the culprit. Reach out to a nutritionist or naturopath who will be able to guide you on the journey and create a holistic treatment plan tailored to your individual circumstances.


Comas-Basté, O., Sánchez-Pérez, S., Veciana-Nogués, M. T., Latorre-Moratalla, M., & Vidal-Carou, M. D. C. (2020). Histamine intolerance: The current state of the art. Biomolecules, 10(8), 1181.

Kovacova-Hanuskova, E., Buday, T., Gavliakova, S., & Plevkova, J. (2015). Histamine, histamine intoxication and intolerance. Allergologia et Immunopathologia, 43(5), 498-506.

Maintz, L. & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1185-96.

Nakamura, Y., Ishimaru, K., Shibata, S., & Nakao, A. (2017). Regulation of plasma histamine levels by the mast cell clock and its modulation by stress. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1-12.

Perrotta, G. (2020). The clinical and psychopathological implications in the forms of hyperhistaminosis. Online Journal of Neurology and Brain Disorders, 4(3), 347-358.

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Olfa Hafsa

Olfa is a clinical Naturopath (BHSc Naturopathy, Dux) who practices in the areas of autoimmunity and mental health.

Her journey into complementary medicine started with her own experience of being diagnosed with a debilitating autoimmune condition in her 20s, and her decision to take ownership of her health. Having experienced first-hand the remarkable benefits of Naturopathy in chronic disease, she has made it her priority to support people with autoimmunity to regain control over their lives.

Besides her naturopathic qualification, she holds a Master of Food Science giving her a deep grounding in science and biochemistry, and is currently training as a Counsellor to expand her therapeutic skills in the mental health area. She offers in-person consultations from her clinic space in Brisbane, as well as online consultations (telehealth) Australia-wide. For more information on Olfa’s work and approach, visit her website at or simply get in touch at

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