HISTAMINE IN FOOD LISTS
Before I share with you the food lists I referred to in the beginning stages of my journey I really need you to know a few things.
In my experience and in that of hundreds to thousands of people I have spoken to in my online groups and in person, eliminating foods for a few weeks might help symptoms, but in the long run it may cause people to become reactive to an increasing number of foods. Possible reasons why this occurs: increased consumption of other foods that may cause reaction in large amounts (oxalic acid, salicylic acid, fructose as examples), limiting the number of foods eaten often means less rotation so the body may become sensitised to foods consumed regularly (research food rotation diets for allergy) and removing too many healthy foods from diet could slowly starve the body of needed nutrients that could help resolve inflammation in the long run (see Dr. Fuhrman’s quote on this below).
Please know that the histamine in food lists you find on the internet have been created by referencing medical studies that show there’s histamine in a particular food or that it may trigger histamine release from mast cells. They are often conducted in test tubes or on animals and do not take into account individual human physiology or your current dietary intake. For example: a recent report by the World Health Organisation determined that the histamine safety margin in fish may not be high enough for healthy people because it doesn’t take into consideration that they may be drinking wine with the fish or eating a generally high histamine diet. For references and more information please read more about that in this post.
Lists can cause people to become confused, believing their issue isn’t histamine because they react to other foods also, or because they still react to low histamine foods. Read all about why the histamine bucket is less important than the inflammation bucket here and why you may be reacting to everything you eat here.
An increasing number of doctors I have spoken with believe that strangling the supply of dietary histamine may cause the body to release more to make up for the shortfall. Why? Because histamine is an integral part of the immune system response, helps wake us up in the morning, gets digestion going, plays a role in our metabolism and is a neurotransmitter affecting serotonin, dopamine and GABA (and therefore our mood) . You can read about histamine’s role in depression here and in schizophrenia here. I initially stopped taking antihistamines because of the rebound effect. Please note, I am not anti-meds, I just chose to stop taking them because I have been on daily/monthly meds since childhood and want to give my body a little break. Please do not stop taking any medication unless your doctor tells you to.
Just because you react to a food today, doesn’t mean you will tomorrow, next week or forever. One of the biggest mistakes I made was not constantly challenging my body to accept a healthy food back into the rotation. In cases of moderate to severe reactions it is essential to work with a medical practitioner in doing so. Things change, the body heals and the inflammation bucket empties. Conversely, tolerating a food now is not guarantee you won’t react if you eat double the amount, or eat it later that day, next week or next year. As outlined in the aforementioned WHO report, histamine reactions are dose dependent, so if you’re dealing with pre-existing inflammation caused by prior histamine food ingestion you may have a reaction one day, but not on another when you have not been consuming high histamine foods or dealing with excess inflammation.
There are many histamine/mast cell triggers other than food. Stress hormones can cause mast cells to release histamine thereby causing reactions. You can read more on that in my interview with mast cell specialist Dr. Castells and also in my post on how meditation fights inflammation and here on how hypnosis may prevent histamine release. Hormones, pesticides, medications, chemicals and even changes in temperature, pressure and altitude can cause mast cells to release histamine. All of this is covered on my blog with extensive references.
Foods can have opposing properties. For example raspberries are considered high histamine but have quercetin in them which is an antihistamine . This accounts for some of the confusion as a person googling antihistamine foods might come across raspberries because of the quercetin content, while a person googling high histamine foods would also find raspberries on the list. To further confuse things, the leaves and stem of a food/fruit may also have differing properties. In the case of raspberry again, the leaves have a high ellagic acid level  which has antihistamine properties and prevents allergy induced triggering of mast cells, thereby preventing them from releasing histamine into the blood stream .
So, how to proceed?
It is uncommon for doctors or nutritionists to advocate long term elimination of highly nutritious food groups for much longer than the initial four week elimination period. I found that for every food eliminated, one “safe” food should be added in to the diet, otherwise you could soon be heading down the scary path of orthorexia – a type of anorexia based on the demonisation of certain foods .
Please remember: I’ve found that rather than eliminating histamine foods, eating a balanced diet high in antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods, is helping me heal at an incredible speed. Sure, the research I have done into the antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods is also based on medical research conducted in test tubes or on animals – but as with the high histamine food lists, I use them as a starting place. And I can now eat high histamine foods whenever I want, though I always choose high nutrient healing foods, and I don’t eat them at every meal.
Most importantly, a bit of advice from New York Times bestselling author many times over Dr. Fuhrman, in a quote he gave me to share with readers of my blog:
“You can’t put this problem in a vacuum. Such as avoiding histamine containing foods, on a standard deficient and toxic diet. The body works in conjunction with thousands of complicated chemical reactions, and only with superior nutrition can the histamine sensitivity be better controlled. So exposure to thousands of phytochemicals and even to a low dose of histamine in their diet is good, not bad and can offer hope of getting better over the years to come.”
HISTAMINE IN FOODS LISTS
DR. JANICE JONEJA’S HISTAMINE FOODS LIST
My interview with Dr. Joneja covers all the high histamine foods as well as a ton of other information uncovered by one of the field’s pioneering researchers.
I’ve based the foods in my books on a combination of Dr. Joneja’s and the following list.
THE SWISS GROUP HISTAMINE INTEREST (SIGHI) HISTAMINE FOODS LIST
It has been interesting to note that this list is updated fairly regularly as new information becomes available. I have over the years taken issue with some of the foods appearing as high histamine, only to find them revised thereafter.
I have referred to this histamine foods list over the years.
THE SPANISH DAO SOCIETY HISTAMINE FOODS LIST
Now to an interesting list that is used by the Spanish Diamine Oxidase Society
DAO is one of two histamine degrading enzymes in our gut that we know of, HNMT is the other. As far as I can tell this society is some kind of lobby or research group created to support the creation and sales of a diamine oxidase supplement in Spain.
The list was sent to me by Adriana Duelo, a nutritionist in Barcelona with a background in histamine intolerance and affiliation with the aforementioned society. Her approach is very different to mine and relies heavily on the DAO supplement.
The list interested me because it’s the only one I have seen that provides some levels of histamine in foods, something I have been attempting unsuccessfully to find a lab to test for me. I’ve spoken to many over the years who told me it’s not possible to properly determine histamine levels in fruits and vegetables as modern testing is geared to testing high amounts in spoiled foods. Australian researchers are promising to release a handheld histamine in food measuring device for use by the general public, but repeated calls to their media department have yielded no further updates.
ND means not determined, which is confusing because there is a value. I took it to mean an average value.
Interestingly, as I had thought, fruits and vegetables are way down at the bottom of the histamine level chart, but this was the first list I saw confirming that.
THE ROYAL PRINCE ALFRED HOSPITAL HISTAMINE FOODS LIST
This food intolerance list is by far the strictest. It’s often referred to as the “failsafe diet” and covers all amines. It’s not my favourite because it creates a very negative mindset but it will be useful to some. When I started out I was reacting to ALL foods, so I really drove myself nuts trying to follow this list. Thankfully over time I understood that when reactive, all foods bothered me, regardless of which list they were on. That spurred me into just generally getting healthy and letting the body figure out the details.
THE DO EAT LISTS
Because diet is so individual it’s also impossible to give anyone a definitive list of DO eats. What we can do is make our own list of high nutrient foods that agree with us.
Please speak with your doctor before adding any new foods into your diet.
THE LOW OXALATE LOW HISTAMINE LIST
I had a complete nervous breakdown when I determined that oxalic acid, found in plants, was a big issue for me. As with other things that cause inflammation, oxalic acid can increase the effects of histamine on the body. So I checked out the lists on the internet and made myself a list of DO rather than DON’T eats. It’s been pretty much the way I operate since realising how important a high nutrient diet is.
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