Histamine Intolerance And Acid Reflux

Histamine intolerance causes acid reflux, heartburn and a whole bunch of other symptoms. Certain foods raise histamine levels in your blood. You need to avoid them. 

Functions Of Histamine

Histamine is a useful substance, with different functions throughout your body. 


Most of your histamine is safely locked up in special cells, mast cells. These are only activated in case of infection.  Most mast cells are found at sites of potential injury; your nose and mouth, your skin, your internal body surfaces and blood vessels. 

A human body under attack releases histamine. It opens blood vessels so that your white blood cells can pass quickly to combat any intruders.

A mosquito bite is a good example. When a mosquito pokes its proboscis through your skin to suck your blood, it leaves some of its saliva behind.  Your immune system attacks the saliva with a histamine release. It causes a swollen, red and itchy skin on that spot. 

Stomach Acid

Histamine stimulates stomach acid production by binding with histamine receptors, the H2 receptors, during digestion.  A certain type of acid reflux medication, called H2 blockers, blocks these receptors to stop heartburn.

Sleep And Sex

Sleep-wake regulation: histamine acts with neurons inside you brain that increase wakefulness and prevent sleep.

Erection and sexual function: Once you hit the bedroom and things heat up, histamine is there to open the proper blood vessels.

Histamine In Foods

Fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, wine, chocolate and bread contain a variable amount of histamine. Freezing or cooking doesn't destroy it, so with every meal, you ingest some.  A healthy body handles the ingested histamine with an enzyme called Diamine Oxidase (DAO).  Ingested histamine doesn't influence your stomach if you have enough diamine oxidase to break it down.  

Histamine Intolerance

Some people don't have enough diamine oxidase to break down the histamine that they consume during meals. This condition is called Histamine Intolerance or Histaminosis. 

Allergy-Like Symptoms

Eating fermented cheese, pork or fish makes histamine blood levels rise quickly if you can't break it down.   Histamine intolerance causes allergy-like symptoms: a runny nose, watery eyes, red and itchy eyelids, eczema or skin rash.

Histamine And Acid Reflux

Histamine intolerance causes gastrointestinal troubles:  acid reflux, heartburn and irritabel bowel syndrome.

It is often difficult to recognize which foods cause heartburn.   It takes several hours before histamine from your pizza gets absorbed into your blood stream.  Due to this slow absorption time, you can have  acid reflux at night from your the pizza you ate at noun.

How Histamine Causes Acid Reflux

Histamine Intolerance causes too much stomach acid, stomach inflammation and it stimulates your intestines: 

  • Raised levels of histamine overstimulate the H2 receptors in your stomach to produce more acid than needed.
  • Histamine activates mast cells and causes inflammation of your stomach and esophagus.

Histamine Intolerance Diet

No-Histamine Diet?

Too much foods contain a certain amount of histamine (or other histamine-like biogenic amines like tyramine, putrescine or cadaverine).  A No-Histamine Diet is therefore impossible to achieve.  The trick is to avoid large quantities of histamine per meal.

How Much Histamine Can You Have?

More Intake Than Breakdown

Everybody has its own level of tolerance.  Acid reflux appears if you consume more histamine than you can eliminate.  Some people have heartburn and skin irritations after one glass of wine. Others can tolerate several glasses of wine before having acid reflux. 

Individual Treshold

How much histamine can you have before you reach your own, unique histamine treshold? It depends on food intake, bacterial activity and allergies:

  • Food Intake: Some foods contain much more histamine than other foods. An apple is histamine friendly, while an orange contains a high amount of histamine
  • Bacterial Activity: Bacteria in your small intestine produce histamine.  Too much bacteria (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) will make you reach your threshold quickly.
  • Allergies: Allergies (hay fever, mite allergy) activate your mast cells to release histamine. Allergies combined with low DAO-leves require only a small amount of histamine-rich foods to cause acid reflux.
  • Drugs: opioids, muscle relaxants and x-ray contrast media
  • Stress: Your body activates mast cells to release histamine as a reaction on stress. Histamine prepares your metabolism to fight, flight or get hurt. People who suffer from histamine intolerance can't break it down fast enough. 

Low Histamine Diet

If your acid reflux is caused by  histamine intolerance, you need to avoid foods that contain a lot of histamine and foods that trigger your body to release histamine:

histamine rich foods

Foods that contain high concentrations of histamine:

  • fruit: kiwi, banana, citrus fruit
  • vegetables: eggplant, tomato, spinach
  • patatos (chips and french fries)
  • nuts and seeds
  • fish
  • meat: pork meat, dried meat
  • fermented foods:  sauerkraut, yoghurt, vinegar ( ketchup, mayonaise, chili sauce, pickles, 
  • yeast: bread, donuts, waffles, pancakes, beer, wine

histamine releasers

Foods that trigger your body to release histamine:

  • Alcohol: alcohol inhibits diamine oxidase activity and slows down histamine breakdown.
  • Fruit: bananas, chocolate, strawberries, tomatoes
  • Food additives
  • Egg white
  • Fish
  • Unspecific triggers: heat, wind, smoke, fragrances, skin reactions on woolen clothes. A hypersensitive body doesn't need much to release histamine. 
  • Candy: all food additives, colorants and preservatives.

Histamine And Acid Reflux: The Diet

The list of forbidden products is long. It is impossible to avoid all histamine ingestion. The best thing you can do is avoiding meals that combine several high-histamine foods.

For example: a spaghetti bolognese with a glass of red wine. That is tomato, pork, cheese and wine. All high histamine products that cause trouble. 

  • Young cheese instead of old, ripe cheese
  • Milk instead of Yoghurt  
  • Herbal Tea instead of Tea and Coffee
  • Steak or chicken instead of pork
  • Carrot instead of tomato
  • Apple instead of Kiwi

To know all food triggers click here. A Swiss Interest Group Of Histamine Intolerance has made a complete list to understand the food to avoid and to understand which triggers are the most harmful. 



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