What Causes Histamine Intolerance?

If you’ve been suffering from histamine intolerance, and reacting to foods with outbreaks of symptoms such as hives, skin rashes and digestive symptoms, you’re probably wondering how you got here and what causes histamine intolerance in the first place.

Addressing the topic of what causes histamine intolerance is a big one, so I’m going to make this as clear and succinct as possible to maximize your understanding.

So What Is A Histamine Intolerance Anyway…..

Overall, histamine intolerance comes down to an imbalance in your internal histamine levels. Histamine levels in the body are simply higher than they should be and, much like during an allergic reaction, these high levels of histamine are causing a response which you’re experiencing as your symptoms.

Although many factors contribute to determining internal histamine levels, there are 4 major factors involved in the underlying cause of histamine intolerance.

What Causes Histamine Intolerance? Four Major Factors:

  1. Level of Histamine Consumption –  histamine is consumed mainly through food, but also through environmental and plant exposures.
  2. Amount of Bacterial Production of Histamine – Bacteria produce histamine by converting the amino acid histidine into histamine
  3. The Amount of Histamine Released from Mast Cells – Histamine is typically released from mast cells in response to allergens, however if mast cells are unstable, histamine can be released at higher-than-normal levels.
  4. The Rate of Enzymatic Degradation – Histamine is degraded by specialized histamine degrading enzymes such as diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT). Low levels of these enzymes due to genetic or other factors can result in a slower-than-normal rate of histamine degradation.

In a perfect digestive system, the levels of histamine consumption, production and release will balance with the levels of histamine degradation. However, in a compromised digestive system, such as that of people with IBS or gut issues, factors such as bacterial imbalances and enzyme insufficiencies can throw off this balance, resulting in extremely high levels of histamine.

These high histamine levels can cause inflammation that can impact the bowel, therefore producing or exacerbating digestive issues and creating food sensitivities. Additionally, a histamine intolerance may be behind seemingly unrelated symptoms such as skin rashes, headaches, fatigue, respiratory symptoms or even symptoms that mimic allergic responses like hives and congestion.

Getting Your Symptoms Under Control

Although the list of what causes histamine intolerance can be a seemingly scary one, the good news is that histamine intolerance symptoms can actually be pretty easy to get under control.

By simply eliminating high histamine foods and focusing on a diet primarily composed of low histamine foods, you significantly reduce a major source of incoming histamine, therefore helping to balance total histamine levels in your body. To see a full list of what foods are restricted and allowed on a low histamine diet, click here.

The other good (or should I say great) news is that following a low histamine diet has shown to work very quickly to alleviate symptoms, regardless of what is causing your histamine intolerance in particular.

Several studies have shown that histamine intolerant individuals will begin experiencing reductions in symptoms within 1-2 weeks of starting a low histamine diet.

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  • by Anita Tee, Msc
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  • June 19, 2017

Anita Tee, Msc

Anita Tee is a highly qualified and published nutritional scientist, carrying a Master of Science in Personalized Nutrition and a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology, specializing in Genetic & Molecular Biology.

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