What is Histamine?
Chances are you have heard of the term histamine, especially if you are one of the 4.1 million Australians who suffer from allergies; but what is histamine and how does it affect your skin?
Histamine is a chemical produced within the body by various immune, nerve and endocrine cells and performs a number of important functions such as supporting wakefulness, digestion and immune defence1.
As a potent mediator of inflammation, histamine is released in response to an antigen or ‘trigger’, which can include anything from an insect bite to bacterial infection. Histamine’s primary goal is to dilate blood vessels and allow easy access for other immune cells to enter the affected area and start the repair work. This produces the characteristic symptoms of redness, swelling and itch that chronic skin disease sufferers are all too familiar with.
How can you reduce your histamine levels?
Histamine becomes elevated in the body when it is produced excessively (eg. in an allergic response), not efficiently cleared from the body (low Diamine Oxidase enzyme function) or is consumed in large amounts through foods (eg. scombroid poisoning).
Whilst anti-histamine medications block the action of histamine on the body’s tissues, they do not reduce the amount of histamine in the body. In other words, they are mopping up the puddles with the tap still running!
Avoiding the triggers which stimulate the release of histamine is the most effective way of reducing histamine within the body. Whilst in some cases this is not always entirely possible (eg. weather changes, stressful events) you can reduce histamine through a low histamine diet.
Reducing histamine through diet:
There are 3 main types of dietary influences on dietary histamine:
- Foods, Beverages and Additives that contain histamine
- Foods, beverages and additives that release histamine
- Foods, beverages and additives that inhibit the enzyme that metabolises histamine (DAO)2
Some foods/beverages, such as alcohol, tick all 3 boxes and have been linked to the direct cause or exacerbation of several skin conditions3. These foods are best avoided all together. Other high histamine foods such as hard cheeses, deli meats, strawberries and yeast are best kept to a bare minimum, particularly during a skin flare. If you would like to know more about which foods could be triggering or exacerbating your skin condition, speak to your friendly Psoriasis Eczema Clinic practitioner today.
- Laura Maintz, Natalija Novak; Histamine and histamine intolerance–, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 85, Issue 5, 1 May 2007, Pages 1185–1196, https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185
- Kazakevich N, Moody MN, Landau JM, Goldberg LH; Alcohol and skin disorders: with a focus on psoriasis: Skin Therapy Lett. 2011 Apr;16(4):5-6.