Many diets are available for people to try if they suffer from food intolerances, allergies, or digestive issues. Sometimes, a specific diet may work for one person and not another. For example, the keto diet focuses on eating healthy fats and meats and avoiding all carbs. However, many people cannot tolerate such a large amount of meat, and the lack of carbs can negatively affect their health.
The same can be said for a low histamine diet. Histamines are chemicals that play a role in the digestive, immune, and neurological systems. But what is a low histamine diet used for, exactly? What foods are on a low histamine diet? And who might benefit from this way of eating? Read on to learn more.
What is a low histamine diet?
Histamines are naturally produced in the body. They are also found in some foods. In a low histamine diet, foods that are high in histamines are put on the no-go list because of how they affect certain people. Foods that are low in histamines replace the vetoed foods to curb the number of histamines a person consumes. This is done to reduce or eliminate any unwanted symptoms associated with high levels of the chemical.
Why would someone need a low histamine diet?
In some cases, people may have what is known as histamine intolerance, where foods with high amounts of the chemical trigger an allergy response when consumed. While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason a person may develop histamine intolerance, there are some risk factors associated with it, such as:
- Medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease, GERD, extreme stress, and gut imbalance
- Prescription medications such as antidepressants, diuretics, and pain medications
In those with histamine intolerance, symptoms such as headaches, skin irritation, and diarrhea can occur if they consume the wrong foods. A low histamine diet can help curb these symptoms.
How does a low histamine diet work?
There are no tests to determine if a person has a histamine intolerance. Testing a low histamine diet is the best way to diagnose and treat the issue. If a histamine intolerance is suspected, a doctor will prescribe a low histamine elimination diet, which involves the removal of specific foods from your diet, one at a time, for at least four weeks.
Once a person has abstained from all the foods for that period, they slowly reintroduce them one at a time. This process allows people to gauge their body’s reaction to each food on its own to help determine if high histamine foods are setting off their symptoms.
Many foods are removed during a low histamine elimination diet. They include:
- Fermented dairy products such as aged cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and kefir
- Fermented vegetables such as kimchi and sauerkraut
- Pickles and other pickled vegetables
- Fermented or cured meats such as salami and sausages
- Alcoholic beverages such as beer and wine
- Fermented soy products such as soy sauce, miso, and tempeh
- Fermented grains such as sourdough
- Vegetables including tomatoes, eggplant, and spinach
- Condiments such as vinegar and ketchup
- Frozen or canned salted fish such as tuna and sardines
- Fruits such as dried fruits and avocados
Other foods that aren’t high in histamines may still trigger a histamine release in the body, so they should also be avoided on a low histamine diet. Some of these foods include:
- Wheat germ
- Citrus fruits
- Nuts including walnuts, cashews, and peanuts
- Foods with dyes and additives
What foods are on a low histamine diet?
Several foods can be included in a low histamine diet, including:
- Fresh meat
- Fresh fish
- Non-citrus fruits
- Gluten-free grains such as rice and quinoa
- Milk and dairy substitutes such as almond or oat milk
- Fresh vegetables, excluding those mentioned above
- Cooking oils such as extra virgin olive oil
A low histamine diet food list can be highly restrictive, which can lead to a person not getting all the nutrients they need. That is why speaking to your doctor about the diet is vital. They will give you the information you need regarding supplementation to ensure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs to function as it should.
Histamine intolerance can be challenging to cope with, and so can eliminating the plethora of foods that may set off symptoms. While a low histamine diet can be difficult, if you stick to it, you’re likely to see real results and symptom relief.
Featured image by Annemarie Grudën on Unsplash