Reflux, Anxiety, Itchiness? The Histamine Link

May 18, 2022

Next week is Natural Medicine Week - woot! Are you taking part? Head over to this page to see all the amazing events, articles and recipes that accredited natural therapists (including moi!) from across Australia are putting on.

My blog post this week, which is all about HISTAMINE, was originally written for Natural Medicine Week. But I also wanted to share with our community too, as this is an all too undiagnosed condition that we pick up on in our clinic time and time again. 

Oh, and I’m also running a free Live Webinar all about Histamine (including taking you through how to use a low-histamine diet as therapy) NEXT WEEK - you can register here.


So what does reflux, anxiety and itchy eyes/skin have in common? They are all common signs of histamine intolerance. 

Histamine is a substance that is made inside the body, as well as in certain foods. It’s normal and natural, and if your body is balanced you can easily excrete any excess histamine. If, however, you have imbalances in your body that are increasing your histamine load, you can develop histamine intolerance symptoms.

Other symptoms include allergy-like symptoms, like runny nose, sneezing, hives, asthma, chronic cough, as well as gut issues, headaches, joint pain, fatigue, and insomnia. 


Where Is Histamine Made In The Body?

Histamine is found in almost all tissues of the body. It is stored in the granules in mast cells, as well as in white blood cells. Mast cells are especially high in areas of the body that are more at risk of injuries, such as the nose, mouth, feet, gut lining, and blood vessels. 

Histamines act like soldiers in your immune system. They stand guard and fight against harmful substances. These could be allergen foods, dust, pet hair, pollens, and harmful toxins. When you are exposed to these allergens, histamines release to fight against the inflammatory substances.

Histamines also play a role in the day-to-day functioning of your body. It controls your heart rate, gastric acid production, and even your appetite. 

Histamines are not bad. They are natural and normal and help us to thrive. However, when they reach a high level in the body, you can develop what is called histamine intolerance.


What Are The Root Causes Of Histamine Intolerance?

There are a few key factors that can lead to an excessive build up of histamine:

  • Dysbiois - some pathogenic bacterial and yeast species in the gut produce histamine during fermentation. When there is an overgrowth of these species, it increases your overall histamine load.
  • Enzyme deficiencies - there are specific digestive enzymes in the gut lining that help to breakdown histamines, especially in the food you eat. If these enzymes become damaged, which is common when there is inflammation in the gut, you can struggle to break down foods high in histamine.
  • Nutrient deficiencies - Vitamin C, B2, B6, and copper are all important nutrients to help breakdown and clear excess histamines. Deficiencies could occur due to poor diet, gut issues, genetic mutations or inflammation.
  • Oestrogen dominance - oestradial can increase histamine, and vice versa! If you have oestrogen dominance (often caused by poor detoxification), this could cause histamine buildup. 
  • Stress - when you’re under psychological and physical stress, histamines can be released. Chronic stress, then, can cause histamine excess.


Is Eating Foods High In Histamine Bad?

You might’ve noticed I didn’t mention foods high in histamine as being a root cause. That’s because I believe a healthy body should be able to eat all healthy foods (including foods high in histamine) without any issues. So no, eating foods high in histamine is not “bad”.

However, if you have histamine intolerance, you will do better on a low-histamine diet for a short time, to reduce your load, while underlying root causes are addressed. In my practice, I’ve seen histamine symptoms reduce dramatically within a week or two. I’ve had clients who were experiencing asthma and reflux and anxiety and headaches, see a complete disappearance of symptoms.


How To Use A Low Histamine Diet For Therapy

If you suspect you have histamine intolerance, I usually advise trialling a low-histamine diet for 2-4-weeks, to see if it improves symptoms.

During this phase, you will want to avoid the following high histamine foods:

  • Seafood, pork, eggs, aged meats
  • Dairy products 
  • Capsicum, eggplant, olives, spinach, tomato
  • Fermented foods and drinks
  • Bananas, dried fruit, citrus fruits - lemon, orange, tangerine, avocado, kiwi, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, papaya.
  • Gluten-containing grain
  • Soy, green peas, red beans, sugar snap beans, and sweet peas.
  • All nuts and seeds (except macadamias and coconut)
  • Alcohol and caffeinated drinks
  • Chocolate, cacao, sugar, maple syrup, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners
  • Pepper, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon
  • Nut and seed oils, soybean oil, palm oil.
  • Bone broths and slow-cooked meals cooked longer than 2-hours

It might sound bland-looking at all the ‘avoid’ foods, but with a bit of creativity, you will find lots of yummy things you can eat during this elimination phase. I have heaps of low-histamine recipes in our online portal available to clients in our Ending Body Burnout membership. To get a sneak peak, check out my Low-Histamine Zucchini Bread recipe on the Natural Medicine Week webpage.

If after the 2-4-week elimination, you don’t feel any improvement, you likely do not have a histamine intolerance. Bring back all foods, and see how you feel. If, however, you feel an improvement in symptoms - or your symptoms flare up when you bring back foods - this is a strong sign that you have histamine issues. I would encourage you to work with an accredited Clinical Nutritionist, to address underlying causes, and help you to reintroduce high histamine foods safely and effectively. 

And don’t worry, most people are able to bring back most (if not all) histamine foods, without ongoing reactions, after root causes have been addressed. You will be able to eat avocados and nuts and cacao again!


Register for my Live Webinar on The Histamine Link

If you found this blog post interesting, and you’d like to learn more about histamine intolerance, register for my free Live Webinar all about Histamine NEXT WEEK. You can register here.


Filipa Bellette is Co-Founder of Chris & Filly Functional Medicine. She is an accredited Clinical Nutritionist & Functional Medicine Practitioner. She is also a Ph.D. thought-leader, award-winning writer, and regularly published as a guest blogger & in the media. Together with her husband Chris Bellette, Filipa has worked with over 2,000+ busy, burnout clients in the last 10+ years, and specialises in producing healthy, balanced, and happy Mums & Dads...or as she calls it, a Power Parent! Filipa’s own passion for producing high-performance Power Parents came from her own personal experience of Mummy Burnout, after having babies and juggling the demands of business, family, and her failing health.

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