What is histamine intolerance

When I was told about the histamine intolerance I suffered from, I didn’t believe it at first, I was afraid it was some bogus disease or some well we don’t know what’s wrong, so let’s just call it so and so. Just like former diagnosis I had gotten like irritable bowel syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome.

But a histamine intolerance is a very real thing. And it’s quite clear what the cause of it is.


Histamine is an amino acid. A very small one even. One of the most well known functions of it is in the mediation of immunological responses. When harm is done to the body or intruders are noticed, histamine is released from specialized storage cells (mast cells) in the bloodstream to widen blood vessels and make their walls more permeable, so more blood and all handy things carried in the blood to fight of harm and intruders can go to the place of the disturbance.

Which is the reason a lot of the symptoms of histamine intolerance mimic allergic responses or real infections.  Mimic, since it isn’t an allergic response or a reaction to a threat at all.  Just a large amount of histamine can cause these responses.

The reason large amounts of histamine can build  up in the body

There are several reasons a large amount of histamine can come into existence in the human body and lead to annoying responses.

Histamine is not just active in the human body. It is also present in most other animal life, and even in plants. Which means that most of our foods contain histamine. So we consume histamine with almost everything we eat and drink. There are also certain substances that are able to aggravate the mast cells in which histamine is stored, so their contents get released  into the blood stream.

There are several enzymes that break down histamine. The main ones are histamine methyltransferase which mostly targets histamine within cells. And there is diamin oxidase (DAO) which is present in the walls of the bowels and within the bloodstream.

Most histamine intolerances are due to a lack of DAO. Ingested histamine is normally filtered within the walls of the bowels, so it doesn’t enter the bloodstream. And the histamine that has entered the bloodstream is filtered away with DAO as well. As the amount of DAO declines, the amount of free histamine in the body can grow rapidly, especially when foods high in histamine are eaten.

DOA can be low due to a genetic disorder. But the production of it can also be impaired when the bowels get damaged due to an infection but also different aggravations (antibiotics, crohn disease, gluten). A third reason the amount of DAO can be low is because it can be inactivated by several different substances, like certain medicines (morphine ) , but also alcohol impairs the working of it. Another reason a shortage of DAO can occur is when the components it is build out of aren’t present in large enough amounts, for example a shortage of copper and B6.

Since the levels of DAO can fluctuate with all these different reasons, the sensitivity to histamine can change depending on the circumstances. After a night of drinking I have to be much more careful with histamine rich foods. Stress can not only release histamine directly but also work against the working of DOA.

Since the response depends on the amount of histamine within the body, and this depends on it’s turn on the amount of DAO, the amount of histamine that can be taken before reactions occur is different for most people. And as most reactions only happen when a certain threshold is passed it will take a while for anyone to find out where that threshold is, and how certain things like stress affect this.

The amount of histamine in foods can also greatly vary, since the longer it is stored the more histamine is made by bacterial activity and other processes. That’s why certain foods like fish are okay if they are very fresh or never got defrosted. The same goes for any other food, like fruits and veggies.

Published in: on February 16, 2010 at 10:37 pm  Comments (23)  
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23 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] from Histamine Intolerance As said in my previous post what Histamine intolerance is, I mentioned that a histamine intolerance stems from a lack of the enzymes that break histamine […]

  2. what about amalayse or alpha amalayse for digestive enzymes? does that work?

    also what blood pressure meds are recommended – already know metoprolol is bronchoconstrictor, amlodipine aggrevates allergic response, and enalapril releases histamine! OMGoodness! how can they do this to me?

  3. Have you checked into Mast Cell Disorders? This sounds like a possible diagnosis. What kind of test is done to see if you have lack of DAO?

  4. I find the information published on this site to be very informative. It has helped to solve the mystery of the many symptoms I have experienced which have puzzeled doctors for years. Who knew I felt so poorly for so long b/c of the foods I was eating. I would like to note, however, that the number of typos and grammatical errors found within many of the published articles do have a tendency to negate the legitimacy of the information. A keener sense of accuracy will greatly impact the integrity of the site.



  5. I don’t know what DAO is, but I have been told by one dr I had allergies, seasonal and indoor, but I never told him that I used to sneeze whenever I had a BM….(sorry don’t want to be graphic), but instead of sneezing now, I just accumulate a lot of mucous in my mouth which could be post nasal…..I wonder if there is a correlation…I went in search of this, as I have been having one sided nasal problems for a little over 4 years now….

    One dr tested me and said I had no allergies…so something is clearly wrong…where do bm’s and congestion come in?

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    I stick to coffee.

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