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Seasonal Hay fever or is your histamine level slightly out of balance?

Wild garlic in bloom is always an exciting time of the year for me however for some this is just a sign of difficult times to come.

A runny and blocked nose, fatigue, irritability, teary eyes, itchy nose, coughing, skin hives, irregular heart beat are just a few symptoms which may occur during the Spring and Summer months. But histamine intolerance can strike with similar symptoms to that of Hay fever however the causes are different and it may be alleviated with the help of a low histamine diet.

Hay fever symptoms start when we are exposed to an allergen. The allergens can be found indoors and outdoors, however this seasonal allergy is mainly triggered by trees or grass pollen. The allergen enters our body via the nostril or mouth and triggers our immune system to release antibodies to defend the body from the foreign invaders.

Our antibodies stimulate the release of inflammatory chemicals such as histamine. The inflammation in the lining of the nose can be aggravated also by other irritants in the air which include: air pollution, wood smoke, fumes, strong odours, cigarette smoke and aerosols. If your symptoms worsen or last all year long or the prescribed allergy medication doesn’t seem to be effective, it may signify that you suffer from histamine Intolerance.

Histamine intolerance can develop when the person doesn’t produce the sufficient amount of DAO (diamine oxidase) – the primary enzyme which breaks down digested histamine. Another factor contributing to the histamine intolerance can be a decrease in the abundance of another enzyme called HNMT histamine-N-methyltransferase. This enzyme is responsible for the histamine breakdown within our cells.

If these enzymes are sufficient it means that histamine is broken down before entering the digestive tract and entering the bloodstream, however certain factors can interfere with this process and result in ‘allergy’ like symptoms.

Main interferants include: antibiotics, antidepressants, gastrointestinal medicines, nausea and gastroesophageal reflux disease, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, alcohol, liver condition or vitamin B-6, vitamin C, copper, or zinc deficiencies1. Foods high in histamine and gastrointestinal disorders such as gut permeability, IBD and bacterial infections like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial intolerance) can also affect DAO enzyme and its efficiency.

Bacterial overgrowth can also contribute to histamine intolerance. Overgrowth of various bacteria in the gut that produce histamine from undigested food can trigger the histamine overproduction which normal levels of DAO enzymes can’t break down. This may cause the reaction manifesting in symptoms such as: nasal congestion, skin rash, hives, nausea, fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain and in more severe cases even high blood pressure, dizziness or an irregular heart beat!

People exposed to prolonged stress or who suffer from adrenal fatigue and have imbalanced cortisol levels during the day are also more likely to overproduce the histamine.

This can be related to increased inflammation which stimulates the histamine secretion as a defence mechanism. Stress factors should be taken under consideration when investigating the causes of histamine intolerance.

How can we get our histamine back to normal?
Some foods are naturally high in histamine or can trigger a histamine response. People with histamine intolerance should focus on a low histamine diet. Normally it is recommended to eliminate these foods for 14-30 days before reintroducing them again and looking for a new reaction.

Low histamine diets can be helpful in treating histamine intolerance and although it can sound restrictive, it is only a temporary measure.

If, after reintroducing foods the reaction is prominent, a blood test may be recommended to identify the potential DAO deficiency. The diagnosis should be based on a suggestive history and response to dietary elimination and reintroduction.

Food and drink rich in histamines include: alcohol, pickled and fermented foods, aged cheeses, chocolate and cocoa, smoked and processed meats, tinned fish, spinach, tomatoes, bananas, green tea, citrus fruits, yeast containing foods, vinegar.

People suffering from suspected histamine reaction should also avoid products which trigger the release of histamine for example: additives, dyes, preservatives and artificial colouring (such as benzoates, sulphites, nitrates and glutamate (MSG)), beans and pulses, tomatoes and whole grain wheat. Dietary supplements and supporting nutrients like: vitamin E, vitC, Quercetin (antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties) and Bromelain can also be suggested by a practitioner to help alleviate histamine intolerance.

If you think that you may be affected by any of the conditions talked about in this article and would benefit from a consultation with Nutritional Therapist please contact: or visit: for more information.




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