Food and Histamine: What's the Connection?

food-and-histamine

Hay fever. I have it. Do you? Did you know that what you eat could be making your hay fever worse? In my previous post I shared about oral allergy syndrome. Today I’m talking about food and histamine.

All human bodies contain histamine. And most of us, most of the time, aren’t bothered by it one bit. However, our bodies have a threshold for histamine. And when the level of histamine in our bodies goes above that threshold, we experience symptoms. They are the symptoms that us hay fever sufferers know all too well – itchy eyes, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, etc.

Histamine in the Body

Where do the histamines in our bodies come from? They are released as a part of the allergic response. In the case of hay fever, they are released in response to breathing in that pollen. That’s why hay fever medications are called anti-histamines. Our gut bacteria also naturally produce histamine.

A number of foods contain histamine. When we eat these foods, the histamine enters our bodies.

The trick to getting rid of the symptoms of high histamine (i.e. hay fever symptoms) is to get the level of histamine in our body back below our threshold. Trees and grasses will produce pollen for as long as they are programmed by nature to do so – there’s nothing you can do about that. Even healthy gut bacteria produce histamine so there’s nothing that you can do about that.

Which leaves you with one factor that you have the ability to change – how much histamine-containing foods you eat. Let me be clear, this isn’t like a food allergy where you need to remove 100% of histamine from food. You don’t need to avoid all of these foods. But you can reduce the amount of these foods that you eat when your hay fever is acting up.

Food and Histamine

These foods contain histamine:

  • Alcohol and non-alcohol versions of alcoholic drinks (e.g. near-beer)
  • Coffee and tea
  • Vinegar and foods made with vinegar (e.g. pickles)
  • Chocolate, cocoa, cola
  • Fermented vegetables and soy (e.g. sauerkraut, soy sauce)
  • Cheese
  • Processed meats/ charcuterie
  • Fish and shellfish – unless you cook them immediately after catching/harvesting them
  • Red beans
  • Soy beans
  • Eggplant
  • Spinach
  • Pumpkin/ squash
  • Avocado
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Citrus fruit
  • Apricots
  • Cherries
  • Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, cranberries
  • Pineapple
  • Many dried fruits such as dates, raisins, prunes
  • Some spices such as cinnamon, chili powder, nutmeg

Photo credit: Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

Food Allergy and Hay Fever. Oral Allergy Syndrome

food-allergy-hay-fever

Yay, Spring is finally here! Full of all sorts of good things, like more daylight and cherry blossoms. But, if you’re like me, there is a downside to Spring’s arrival: hay fever. Did you know that there are foods that can make hay fever worse? There are two main ways that food allergy happens in hay fever sufferers: Oral Allergy Syndrome and histamine-containing foods. In this post I’ll share all about Oral allergy Syndrome. In my next post I’ll cover histamine foods.

Note: The advice that I’m about to share is intended for information purposes. Food allergies and sensitivities aren’t something to casually play around with. If an Allergist (allergy specialist doctor) has given you individual advice, follow their advice. I’m also happy to work one-on-one with you to create an individual plan.

In Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS), you feel a tingling in your mouth when you eat these foods. Some people will get swelling of their lips and tongue. Some people even break out into blisters in their mouth. You will experience the reaction within minutes of eating the food – up to 30 minutes later. So, it’s an immediate reaction, localized to your mouth/throat. You may notice this sensation any time of the year. Or you may only get it during the time of year when you’re breathing in the pollen from the plants/ trees to which you are allergic.

What’s happening in your body during hay fever is that you are breathing in the pollen from the plant. Your immune system is reacting to the proteins in that pollen to stimulate the symptoms that all we hay fever suffers know well – itchy watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, even hives and skin rash.

In OAS, the foods happen to contain proteins that are similar in shape to those pollen proteins. So your body confuses the two and reacts to the foods’ proteins. OAS is really a cross-reaction.

The good news is that it seems to be eating just the raw foods that cause OAS. When we cook food it changes the shape of the proteins and there is no more cross-reaction.

So, what foods cross-react? It depends on the plant/tree to which you are allergic.


Hay fever to birch trees, mugwort (a weed), grass, or Timothy grass? Avoid these foods (raw):

  • Apple
  • Apricot
  • Cherry
  • Kiwi
  • Melon
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum
  • Prune
  • Watermelon
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Peanut
  • Peas
  • Soy
  • Rye
  • Almond
  • Chestnut
  • Hazelnut
  • Walnut
  • Caraway seed
  • Poppy seed
  • Sesame seed
  • Sunflower seed
  • Anise (fennel)
  • Asparagus
  • Cabbage
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Cilantro (coriander)
  • Cumin
  • Dill
  • Green pepper
  • Parsley
  • Potato
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini

Hay fever to ragweed? Avoid these foods (raw):

  • Banana
  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Melon
  • Peach
  • Watermelon
  • Cucumber
  • Zucchini

Note that you should only avoid the foods that cause a reaction in you. Just because a food is on the list, does not guarantee that you will have a reaction to it. If you don’t have a reaction to a food that’s on the list, lucky you! Feel free to continue eating it.

Not sure which food is causing you symptoms? Contact me to work one-on-one. Let's create an individual food allergy plan for you.

Photo credit: Chloe Ridgway on Unsplash