Low-Histamine Recipes

Monitor your histamine intake with these simple, healthy dishes that pack plenty of palate-pleasing flavor.

Photo by Getty Images/rez-art

Cooking with dietary restrictions isn’t always easy, but it doesn’t have to be boring! As knowledge about histamine-related symptoms increases, more people are looking for healthy ways to monitor their histamine intake without sacrificing flavor. With a little creativity and planning, you can craft flavorful, low-histamine dishes that don’t skimp on satisfaction.

The Histamine Response: Finding Balance

Histamine is a chemical that our bodies naturally produce, but it’s also present in many of the foods we eat on a regular basis. It serves several important functions in the body, but is most commonly known for its role in the immune system’s natural inflammatory response to allergens and injury.

Normal levels of histamine are well-tolerated by most people, but it’s possible to develop what’s known as “histamine intolerance,” which occurs when there’s a buildup of the chemical in your system. This can be caused by a deficiency of the histamine-degrading enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO). Bacterial overgrowth, histamine-rich foods, and allergies are all possible causes as well. As the chemical travels through your body, it can affect your gut, sinuses, lungs, brain, skin, and cardiovascular system, creating a wide range of symptoms, including headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, sinus issues, hives, digestive issues, asthma, tissue swelling, allergies, fatigue, and abdominal cramping. Histamine intolerance can be difficult to identify and needs to be professionally diagnosed by a doctor; it often mimics other conditions, and tolerance levels, symptoms, and severity of reactions can vary from person to person.  

Over-the-counter antihistamine drugs inhibit some of the physiological effects of histamine, but they don’t remove histamine from your body. This means you’re not truly “curing” your intolerance by regularly taking an antihistamine, but only gaining temporary relief from some of the symptoms. The better alternative for long-term health is to manage your histamine levels by monitoring what you eat.

A Low-Histamine Diet

A diet rich in low-histamine and anti-inflammatory foods can lessen — and possibly eliminate — your symptoms without the use of prescription medications. Consult with a nutritionist to build a temporary low-histamine diet and discuss long-term options for minimizing histamine reactions. To start, eating an eliminatory low-histamine diet for 30 days can help you discover which foods might be triggering your reactions. (It’s important to note that going on an extremely restrictive diet for more than 30 days isn’t recommended unless advised by a doctor.) First, try avoiding histamine-rich foods for 30 days. Once the 30 days have passed, gradually reintroduce one suspected histamine-rich food back into your diet every four days thereafter, until you determine which foods are triggering your body’s histamine response. Consider removing DAO-blocking foods from your diet as well, such as alcohol, energy drinks, black tea, maté tea, and green tea.

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