Histamines occur in food as a result of microbial enzymes converting the amino acid histidine, which is found in all proteins, into Histamine. Pretty much all foods that are subject to that kind of microbial fermentation as they’re made contain histamine, so this would include all:
- Fermented soy products,
- All other fermented foods, like kimchi and sauerkraut,
- Alcoholic beverages and vinegars.
There’s some overlap, between histamine and tyramine foods, so in addition to the list of tyramines (mentioned above), you also want to restrict or eliminate for a period of time things like cinnamon, cloves, cocoa, certain vegetables like tomatoes, spinach, eggplant, and avocado, fruits like strawberries, banana, papaya, some tropical fruits like pineapple and mango, and then tangerines and grapefruit. (You can find lists of all of these foods if you just search for high-tyramine foods or high-histamine foods). We’re also talking about balsamic vinegar, peanuts and cashews and walnuts, and mustard and ketchup.
So, what’s happening here with histamines is that people with histamine intolerance — and a lot of migraine sufferers seem to have that — have low levels of either or both of two enzymes: diamine oxidase (DAO), and histamine N-methyltransferase, (HNMT). These enzymes bind to and metabolize histamine, so if you have inadequate levels of these enzymes, you’re going to have excess levels of histamine in your body. So, in addition to lowering your intake of histamines in the diet, another thing that you can do is take an enzyme, take diamine oxidase. You can actually take it as a supplement, and that can improve histamine tolerance and reduce your symptoms. It doesn’t mean you should eat a whole bunch of histamine foods and just gobble a lot of DAO capsules, because that’s not going to work very well, but those capsules in conjunction with a lower-histamine diet can make it more effective, and for some people, they can slightly increase histamine tolerance so that you can eat some of the foods that tend to have higher histamine levels in them without suffering.