Histamines in Food

A bit of background:

An allergen is something that triggers an allergy. When a person with allergic rhinitis breathes in an allergen such as pollen or dust, the body releases chemicals, including histamine. 

Histamine [...] causes dilatation of the blood vessels (flushing, rash, itching) and increased mucus production (runny nose, productive cough), and bronchoconstriction (wheezing, cough). Because histamine is contained in almost all body tissues, [...] it is able to cause a wide variety of symptoms.

So, allergies release histamines, and histamines causes the actual symptoms.

Well, I knew that it’s possible to be allergic to food.  I even knew that if you’re allergic to sulfites you should avoid wine.  But somehow I’d missed that some foods naturally contain … histamine.

There are many foods that contain histamine or cause the body to release histamine when ingested. These types of reactions are food intolerances, and are different from food allergy in that the immune system is not involved in the reaction. The symptoms, however, can be the same as a food allergy.

This also includes beer, wine and liquor.

The basic takeaway seems to be:  IF you have allergies, and your allergies are getting on your case? You might want to avoid food and drink with natural histamines.  There’s a long list here.  A couple studies linking wine (in particular) with more symptoms in allergy sufferers were discussed here.

(Those who do not have allergies are welcome to pour a glass of wine and rejoice in the comments.  Those with allergies, feel free to share other coping methods.)

4 thoughts on “Histamines in Food

  1. Huh! For years Mr. Twistie has told me he’s deathly allergic to all shellfish because he ate shrimp once and broke out in hives. I know that shellfish allergies usually result in anaphylactic shock rather than hives, so I always wondered what was in that fried rice that caused the hives… especially since he has on more than one occasion fished (pun only partially intended!) shrimps out of fried rice and given them to me, going on to eat the dish with no consequences.

    But now I see that shellfish is on the list of histamine-releasing foods and histamine overload can cause hives. Maybe that’s what caused the reaction.

    You learn something new every day, and this clears up a niggling mystery for me. Thanks for pointing this out!

    • I broke out in full body hives the last time I took penicillin. The possibility exists that I was actually reacting to a filler in the pill, but I don’t want to risk it. (Note: some pills contain gluten in the fillers. A lot of celiac patients and doctors don’t know this.)

      • I broke out in full body hives the last time I took penicillin and also the last time I took Tylenol. The latter was undoubtedly a filler or coating, since I have taken NyQuil without consequences since then (without looking, good job, me) and it has acetaminophen in it, but I haven’t taken PCN since then for the same reason.

        But I mostly wanted to point out that a lot of pills use lactose for a filler as well, and if you are lactose intolerant, this might be uncomfortable.

  2. When I got checked for Celiac, my doctor mentioned something called Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Basically your throat becomes inflamed from an allergic reaction to food. I’ve experienced this in the past, but never knew what it was. I discovered that some of the foods I seem to react to (like camomile tea) are related to plants I am allergic too.

    Thought I’d pass this along for anyone else who may need the info.

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