What Is Histamine?

Histamine is a naturally occurring chemical in the human body that serves several important roles. It is a molecule that plays an integral part in the body's reaction to injury and inflammation, regulates the immune system, and functions as a neurotransmitter in the brain.

Sources of Histamine

Foods containing histamine

Many foods, especially those aged or fermented, contain histamine. The following are examples of foods that are high in histamine −

  • Cheese, yogurt, and other forms of fermented dairy

  • veggies that have been fermented, such as sauerkraut and kimchi

  • Maturated meats, such as salami and pepperoni

  • Cured and smoked meats and seafood

  • wine and beer, among other alcoholic drinks

Histamine in the body

Mast cells and basophils, both white blood cells, are responsible for the production and storage of histamine. Histamine is released by these cells into the surrounding tissues upon activation. Several species of intestinal bacteria can also synthesize histamine.

Functions of Histamine

Role in Allergic Reactions

Histamine is most recognized for its role in allergic responses, which is also one of its activities. Histamine is released by mast cells and basophils of the immune system when a person is exposed to an allergen like pollen or pet dander. Allergy symptoms such as itching, hives, and swelling result from this. The histamine-blocking actions of antihistamines make them a go-to for treating these symptoms.

Influence on the Immune System

The immunological response relies heavily on histamine as well. It is an intermediary in coordinating the immune system's response to pathogens. Histamine draws immune cells to the site of infection or injury, where they may eliminate pathogens and repair tissue damage. Histamine also aids in activating other immune cells, including T and B cells, which are responsible for identifying and eliminating specific invaders.

Controlling the Production of Gastric Acid

Histamine is also involved in controlling the production of acid in the stomach. The cells that line the stomach secrete this chemical, which functions as a neurotransmitter to trigger the production of hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is essential for digestion because it aids in protein breakdown and activates enzymes that assist in nutrient absorption. Nevertheless, peptic ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may form when the stomach produces too much histamine.

Controlling the Wake-Sleep Cycle

The significance of histamine in controlling the body's 24-hour sleep-wake cycle is one of its less well-known functions. Neurons in the brainstem create histamine, a neurotransmitter to increase alertness. When your histamine levels are high, you feel more awake and aware. On the other hand, low amounts of histamine might make a person feel sleepy. This explains why some people report feeling sleepy after taking antihistamines.

Histamine Intolerance

Definition of histamine intolerance

Histamine intolerance is a condition in which there is an excess of the chemical in the blood because the body cannot break it down properly. Symptoms of this include but are not limited to, headaches, hives, and gastrointestinal distress.

Histamine intolerance symptoms may be somewhat diverse, however, some of the more prevalent ones are−

  • Headaches

  • Rashes, such as hives, on the skin

  • Constipation, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal distress

  • Skin reddening or flushing

  • Swings in blood pressure or heart rate

  • Nervousness or anxiety

Histamine intolerance has many potential causes, from heredity to gut dysbiosis to drug side effects. The enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) breaks histamine in the stomach. Whose levels are low in certain patients with histamine sensitivity.

Ways to Control Histamine Levels

Although the body needs histamine, too much may lead to issues, including allergic responses and inflammation. Methods for lowering histamine levels include

  • Foods that have been fermented, aged, or cured have significant amounts of histamine and should be avoided. If you want to lower your body's histamine levels, cutting out these items could assist.

  • Use antihistamines, which prevent your body from reacting to histamine. While they were developed to treat allergic reactions, antihistamines have found additional uses.

  • Try out these natural remedies for example, antihistamine-like effects have been seen with quercetin and vitamin C. They have the potential to lower inflammation and regulate histamine levels

Treatment of Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance may be treated with a low-histamine diet, one of the most common dietary recommendations. Histamine-rich diets and foods that cause an increase in histamine production should be avoided. Avoid citrus fruits, tomatoes, spinach, and any foods that have been aged or fermented.


Antihistamines and DAO supplements may help alleviate symptoms in certain people.


Histamine regulates sleep, digestion, and the immune system. Like histamine intolerance, excess histamine may cause several symptoms. People may reduce their histamine levels and improve their health by understanding the origins, consequences, symptoms, and therapies of histamine intolerance.

Histamine intolerance has several causes. If you suspect histamine intolerance, see a doctor to diagnose and treat your symptoms. Help and assistance may improve histamine intolerance and quality of life.

Updated on: 11-Apr-2023


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