Melbourne Functional Medicine
Vicki van der Meer
Medically reviewed by:
Histamine sensitivity (also known as histamine intolerance) may not be something you've heard of before, but it's a surprisingly common factor in a myriad of health issues we see people present with within our clinic.
Histamine sensitivity may not be immediately apparent and often requires some deep investigation to pinpoint. If you think you might have an issue with histamine, this article gives an overview of what it is, some common symptoms, and causes, and the first steps to take to resolve histamine sensitivity.
Histamine is an amine found in foods, though is also something our body produces. It's known for its role in allergic responses, including hay fever, but histamine also has many other functions. For example, histamine works as a neurotransmitter, meaning it helps to relay messages between nerve cells in the brain.
It's also a precursor to stomach acid, which helps to break down food in the digestive process. Additionally, histamine is an inflammatory mediator, meaning it plays a role in the body's immune response to infection and injury.
Finally, histamine receptors are found all over the body, so histamine's effects can be wide-ranging and varied.
Histamine intolerance is a non-allergic food sensitivity, due to the reduced ability at the intestinal wall to metabolise histamine. Histamine metabolism in the digestive system is dependent on the enzyme DAO (diamine oxidase), and those with histamine intolerance may have DAO deficiency, which can lead to increased circulating levels of histamine.
People experiencing symptoms of histamine intolerance could experience any number or combination of the following:
Histamine levels can be affected by hormone levels, so at different life stages, women in particular may experience the onset or worsening of histamine intolerance. Women going through perimenopause are particularly vulnerable to this, and may experience increased histamine sensitivity due to fluctuating hormonal levels.
Histamine intolerance can develop by consuming histamine-containing foods in amounts that exceed the body's ability to metabolise histamine. If your body doesn’t make enough of the DAO enzyme that can also lead to histamine intolerance. Certain medications can also contribute to the development of histamine intolerance due to their effect on DAO.
Another cause of histamine intolerance can be dysbiosis, with certain gut microbes like staphylococcus, proteus, enterobacteriaceae, and clostridium having the potential to release histamine, leading to increased levels of histamine in circulation.
Here are five steps you can take to reduce histamine levels:
Once you've identified histamine intolerance as contributing to your symptoms, by addressing the histamine sensitivity through supporting DAO production, improving gut health, and minimising histamine intake, you can experience lasting relief.