Food Allergy Awareness Week is an excellent time to determine whether the uncomfortable symptoms you’re experiencing after eating certain foods are due to a food allergy or to food intolerance. According to a recent population study published in JAMA Network Open, 10% of Americans are estimated to have food allergies, yet almost double that number believed they have a food allergy. It could be that the other half may be suffering from symptoms of food intolerance.
Unlike allergies, which involve an immune system reaction, food intolerances typically originate in the digestive system and occur when your body can’t breakdown a component of a food either due to an enzyme deficiency or enhanced sensitivity. Two of the most widely known food intolerances are reactions to gluten and lactose. However, there is another type of food intolerance, which is just as common yet often goes undiagnosed, called histamine intolerance.
Histamine is a chemical that is produced by the body and is also present in certain foods. It plays a crucial role with our immune system, but intolerance can develop when there is increased availability of histamine in the body or decreased activity of the enzymes, namely diamine oxidase (DAO), responsible for breaking down and removing histamine from the body.
The symptoms of histamine intolerance can be very similar to symptoms of a food allergy, such as headaches, flushing, nausea, sneezing, stuffy nose, watery eyes and digestive issues. Histamine intolerance can also cause more serious symptoms such as increased blood pressure, racing heart and anxiety.
Telling the difference between the two can be tricky, so it is important to pay close attention to how you feel after you eat, keep notes in a food diary and consult with a doctor and dietitian for help determine possible food allergies and intolerances.
If you discover your reactions are a result of histamine intolerance, the good news is, you can minimize the symptoms by avoiding high histamine foods and taking certain supplements to help your body break down histamine more effectively.
Foods to Avoid:
- Fermented foods such as bread, wine, beer, processed and smoked meat and aged cheese
- Dried fruits
- Yogurt and kefir
- Pickled vegetables
- Walnuts, cashews and peanuts
- Citrus fruits
- Bananas and strawberries
Supplements to Add:
The list of food you should avoid if you have a histamine intolerance can be overwhelming. However, if you add supplementation to assist with the breakdown of histamine in your body, you will have a buffer to help minimize embarrassing and uncomfortable reactions and improve quality of life. Here are some supplements you can add to your everyday routine to reduce symptoms of a histamine intolerance:
Adding a DAO supplement can dramatically improve your symptoms and may even allow you to eat some of the histamine-rich foods that you enjoy the most, similar to how a person with lactose intolerance can eat dairy if they take a lactase supplement first. Umbrellux DAO is the original DAO enzyme supplement available in the United States. The patented designed-release formula ensures the delivery of the DAO enzyme to the small intestine where it works with the body’s own DAO to assist in neutralizing histamine. This supplement may be taken daily to maintain long-term balance of DAO in the body. For best results, it is recommended to take a DAO supplement 15-20 minutes before consuming foods or beverages that are high in histamine. There are no adverse side effects cited with the use of Umbrellux DAO, so it’s a great way to test if your reaction may be related to histamine intolerance as most people experience immediate results.
Vitamin C and Vitamin B6
Incorporating these vitamins into your daily routine can also help symptoms of histamine intolerance brought on by a DAO deficiency. Vitamins C and B6 are nutrients that are required for DAO activity, so in theory they support the breakdown of histamine. Umbrellux DAO also contains vitamin C (ascorbic acid). This boost in DAO from vitamin C can lower histamine inflammation. Vitamin B6 is a compound in over 100 biochemical reactions that take place within your body, and a co-factor for producing DAO, so it’s beneficial to add this nutrient to your supplement program.
Certain probiotics may also help minimize histamine release and help restore the balance of bacteria in the gut, however you must be mindful when selecting a probiotic. The bacteria in some probiotics actually produce histamine so you want to steer clear of those. Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus bulgaricus are strains known to produce histamine and are present in fermented foods, so avoid these strains when you are looking for a probiotic.
It’s important to rule out food allergies with your clinician before tweaking your diet for food intolerance. Knowing if you have a food allergy versus a histamine intolerance is crucial to determining how to properly manage your health in the long-term. Histamine intolerance is not well understood in the medical world, but a diagnosis does not mean you have to be fearful of certain foods or worried that you can no longer enjoy the foods that you love. Proper supplementation can help improve your quality of life. Remember, histamine isn’t the bad guy, and it’s actually needed in the right amounts to create stomach acid to breakdown food properly in the gut.
If you want to consume a histamine-rich food or enjoy a glass or wine at dinner, using supplements like Umbrellux DAO can give you the freedom to do so while keeping your symptoms under control. Also try to limit histamine-rich foods as much as possible and do your best to incorporate anti-inflammatory foods, vitamins and probiotics daily.
Biography: Sherry Torkos, B.Sc.Phm., R.Ph., is a registered pharmacist, author, and health enthusiast with a passion for prevention. She graduated with honors from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1992. Since then, she has been practicing pharmacy using an integrative approach, combining conventional and complementary therapies to optimize health and prevent disease. Torkos has won several national pharmacy awards for providing excellence in patient care. As a leading health expert, she has delivered hundreds of lectures and is frequently interviewed by radio and TV talk shows throughout North America and abroad. Torkos has authored 18 books and booklets, including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.