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Tiredness, headaches, abdominal grumbling, reddening of the skin, palpitations and dizziness, often in combination: symptoms which many sufferers cannot explain. Allergy tests and other examinations do not always provide the correct findings as the reason for these symptoms may be histamine intolerance.

What is histamine?

Histamine is a natural messenger substance, it is produced by the body itself and is found throughout the organism.

Biochemically, histamine belongs to the biogenic amines. This is the name given to chemical compounds that are formed from ammonia; for example, also the amino acids from which proteins are built.

In the human organism, histamine is involved in many different bodily functions. For example, it plays an active role in immune defence. If a part of the body swells due to an injury, this is due to the effect of histamine. Histamine is also involved in the development of itching and pain - and in many allergic reactions

And what is histamine intolerance?

Why do some people not tolerate histamine? For example, due to a deficiency, malfunction or activity disorder of the body's own enzyme DiAminOxidase (DAO), the body can no longer sufficiently break down histamine from food. In this case, the symptoms can be both temporary and permanent.

Fish poisoning, histamine-rich food, stress or strong physical strain can temporarily cause an excess of histamine in the organism. If the body then does not have a sufficient amount of DAO, various complaints can arise.

Alcohol or drugs - also in small quantities - can also temporarily block DAO in its work. Such a temporary enzyme deficiency can affect anyone and trigger complaints.

The formation or activity of the DAO enzyme can also be impaired hereditarily or as a result of chronic inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease. In this case, there is a permanent enzyme deficiency. 

Histamine intolerance: recognising symptoms

When the body is sensitive to histamine, everyone experiences it in different ways. Common reactions include gastrointestinal discomfort, headaches, skin rashes or breathing difficulties. The severity of the symptoms can vary - from a temporary runny nose to severe migraine attacks. In the worst cases, allergic shock and thus life-threatening conditions can occur.

A clear distinction must be made between a food allergy and intolerance to histamine. In the case of histamine intolerance, it "only" occurs in connection with a histamine-rich diet.

    • Headache 
    • Complaints of the gastrointestinal tract
    • Rash
    • Breathing problems
    • Compliants of the cardiovascular system 

Determine histamine intolerance

Many people often search a long time for the cause of their complaints. This is because the symptoms of histamine intolerance are non-specific. This means that they can also have many other causes. Since the histamine content in food often fluctuates, it is not easy to detect. Ask yourself in advance whether you...

    • Sometimes suffer from unexplained digestive problems or skin rash?
    • Are often tired, especially after eating, although you have have slept sufficiently?
    • Sometimes have the feeling of "being drunk", although you have not drunk any alcohol?
    • Foods such as meat, fresh fish, cheese and red wine are sometimes less well tolerated?

Ways to recognize a histamine intolerance

Symptom and nutrition diary A good option is a symptom or food diary. In it, affected persons should note very precisely which foods and how much of them they have eaten during the day and which complaints occurred and when
Rule out other causes At the same time, the physician should rule out other causes for the complaints. In particular, relevant skin and blood tests should rule out an allergic reaction.
DAO activity measurement Intolerance can also be detected by measuring the activity of DAO in the blood - although not necessarily reliably. What you should know: The DAO level in the blood fluctuates, for example, due to stress and other strains.

Is there a histamine allergy?

To rule out any misunderstandings from the outset: there is no such thing as a histamine allergy. Although the symptoms of histamine intolerance are similar to those of an allergy, they have completely different causes.

In an allergy, the immune system treats harmless substances as if they were pathogens: it forms so-called antibodies to the supposed intruders. These antibodies "remember" their "face", so to speak, and immediately sound the alarm as soon as the substance in question enters the organism. As a result, the immune system fires its guns and an allergic reaction occurs.

So why do many allergy sufferers take an antihistamine? Quite simply, histamine is a messenger substance that plays a major role in an allergic reaction. Antihistamines stop the "messenger" and thus weaken the symptoms of the allergy

Who is particularly susceptible to histamine intolerance?

The complaints become particularly noticeable with menopause. That is why some doctors suspect a connection between histamine and hormones. This assumption is also supported by menstrual cramps, which are part of the long list of symptoms.

During pregnancy, the annoying complaints triggered by histamine miraculously stop in most cases. This is due to the increased production of DAO. The level of this protective enzyme triples during pregnancy. This presumably serves to protect the embryo from histamine. After birth, the DAO level drops again - and the intolerance may return.

Groaning after feeding, flatulence or skin rashes feed the suspicion in many mothers that their baby cannot break down histamine sufficiently - especially if they have to live with it themselves. In most cases, there are other causes behind baby's complaints that can be easily clarified and treated.

It is currently not known how many children and adolescents are sensitive to histamine. According to the current state of research, physicians assume that problems and symptoms of histamine intolerance often develop in the course of life.

Histamine intolerance: What can be done?

Avoiding foods containing histamine is the first way. A complete renunciation of histamine in the diet is hardly possible with a balanced diet, since foods without histamine are rather rare.

Foods that contain a high proportion of other natural amines or that irritate the body to release histamine should also be largely eliminated from the menu. The good news for sufferers is that a histamine diet is not the only option. You can also supplement with the DAO enzyme topically. DAO can help break down histamine from food so that symptoms could subside.

The histamine diet is not only suitable for people who suffer from histamine intolerance. Those who reduce their intake of histamine-rich foods can certainly lose a few kilos.