Sunday, 28 July 2013

AMINES Part 3 - Biogenic Amines in Food (Histamine)

1. Histamine

Biogenic amines, and in this case, histamine, naturally occurs in many types of foods. High levels of biogenic amines can lead to food intoxication. Moderate levels may cause food intolerance. Sensitive individuals may even become sick after ingesting food with histamine.

High histamine levels in food and beverages are usually a result of microbial contamination, which results in food spoilage. Fresh, clean and properly stored food have low levels of histamine.

a. Fish

A famous case of histamine poisoning would be the 'scombroid food poisoning'. Many people will not realise that they are having a case of histamine poisoning as it resembles an allergy reaction. People with scombroid food poisoning are not allergic to fish.

Histidine (an amino acid) exists in many types of fish. At temperatures above 16C with air contact, histidine is converted to the biogenic amines histamine via the enzyme called histidine decarboxylase which is produced by enteric bacterias. Histamine cannot be destroyed even at normal cooking temperatures. Thus, even properly cooked fish can be still be saturated with histamine.

Sensitive people can develope serious 'allergy-like' reactions.

Here is a list of some of the fishes which are associated with 'scombroid food poisoning' as they naturally have high levels of histidine.
  • Amberjack
  • Anchovies
  • Bluefish
  • Cape Yellowtail
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Mahi-Mahi
  • Marlin
  • Pilchards
  • Sardines
  • Tuna
  • *Salmon (Though salmon isn't high in histidine, it has been connected to scombroid food poisoning)

b. Matured & Fermented Food

Cured meat, sauerkraut, cheese, yoghurt, kefir, red wine, smoked fish, bacon, sausages are a few of the fermented/matured food that have high levels of histamine. Again histidine is converted to histamine by the fermentation process which is aided by bacterias.

Meat and poultry are best eaten freshly cooked.

c. Wine (Alcohol)

Alcoholic drinks are high in histamine, particularly champagne and red wine. Red wine is not only high in histamines BUT it also is an inhibitor of the DOA enzyme (read my previous post) which is responsible for metabolising histamine. For sensitive people, drinking wine can be life-threatening! There is a term called the 'red-wine asthma' as some individuals after ingesting red wine, develope asthma-like breathing problems.

d. Fruits

Certain fruits contain high levels of histamine. They are strawberries, kiwi, papaya, bananas, grapefruits, mangoes and strawberries.

e. Vegetables

Tomatoes, spinach, eggplants, avocado, mushrooms and canned vegetables are some of the histamine-trouble-makers.

f. Others
  • All types of vinegars
  • Fermented soy products (soy sauce, tofu)
  • Tea/Coffee
  • Flavoured drinks
  • Apple cider
  • Basically all commercially prepared food
  • Confectionaries made with yeast

Click on LINK to read more on the 'histamine' restricted diet.

Foods with Potential Histamine-Releasing Effect

Interestingly enough, even if you do not consume food with histamine, there are certain foods which can cause your body to react and to be flooded with histamine.

  • Citrus fruits (This seems to be at the top of the list for histamine-releasing effect)
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Additives
  • Licorice

Symptoms of Histamine Intolerance

* Primary Symptoms

  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhoea
  • Headache (which aggravates when moving - in contrast with tension-type headaches)
  • Heart rhythm problems (cardiac arrhythmia) 
  • Acid reflux
  • Rhinitis
  • Asthma/Chronic cough
  • Flushing
  • Pruritis
  • Tiredness
  • Dysmenorrhoea

*Secondary Symptoms 
(Some people may have delayed reactions. Or secondary symptoms after the primary symptoms have subsided)

  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia)
  • Anxiety/Panic attacks

As there are no blood tests or even tests available in the medical world today for histamine intolerance, a low-histamine diet is recommended. Before you proceed to change your diet or go on an elimination diet, it is VITAL to consult a specialist whose mind is open to such sensitivities. NEVER go on such diets on your own. It could be fatal!

Click on HISTAMINE INTOLERANCE to understand more about this sensitivity.



  1. Multiple Chemical Survivor29 July 2013 at 07:27

    So...if I change my diet or give up foods that might give me reactions, it could be fatal? Please explain.

    1. If you go on an elimination diet, there will come a point where you will reintroduce foods bit by bit into your diet again. It could trigger an anaphylaxis reaction if your a super sensitive individual (like me). Thus, it is vital to be supervised by a specialist. Maybe I didn't state that in a clearer manner. Thanks for asking.

    2. Multiplechemicalsurvivor30 July 2013 at 09:29

      Oh I see. It sounded like if I stopped eating them it could be fatal and you never know, like with drugs if you go cold turkey you can go through bad withdrawals. I've been doing an elimination diet for three weeks and just started adding foods back so that certainly got my attention! For me going to a doctor is more dangerous than anything, so I'll have to take my chances.