5 Foods that May Be Causing Your Allergy Symptoms

Those of us who suffer from allergies—whether to pollen, animals, or certain foods—are likely familiar with the term “antihistamine.” Found on the labels of numerous over-the-counter medications, we may rely on them to combat our runny noses, headaches, itching, and hives. However, despite the prominence in our local pharmacy, many of us underestimate the role of histamines in our health.

First, what are histamines? For one, they help carry signals between nerves. Another vital role is fighting allergens that enter the body. When a foreign pathogen, like pollen or dander, enters the body, histamines rush to the site of contact and begin a series of reactions to help rid the body of the allergen.

The result of this internal sequence of events is familiar to anyone with allergies and includes inflammation, a rash, runny nose, and watery eyes. All due to histamines dilating our capillaries to allow white blood cells to easily remove the foreign invaders. In small amounts, histamines are essential components of a healthy, well-functioning body.

Problems don’t arise until the body becomes intolerant to histamines, or it receives an excess of histamines from external sources.

While the body can generally process the amount of histamines it produces, some people may have lower levels of an important enzyme that helps break down histamines, causing issues in the body. Histamines can also enter the body through the foods we eat. Certain foods have high levels of histamines, and eating too many or too much of these foods can cause health problems in certain people.

Histamine intolerance is marked by a variety of allergy-like symptoms, including flushing, headaches, a runny nose, rashes, nausea, acid reflux, and dizziness.  Unfortunately, a histamine tolerance is often difficult to diagnose, as symptoms are often attributed to a food or environmental allergy instead of an inability to process histamine in the body. As a result, histamine intolerance often goes undiagnosed—currently, only 1% of the population has been diagnosed with histamine intolerance with 80% of those diagnosed being middle-aged people.

If you suspect you have a histamine intolerance, there are easy changes you can make to your diet to reduce your symptoms and the burden of histamines in your body. Experts analyzed the histamine levels in various foods and discovered the following foods have the potential for high levels of histamines:

  1. Cheese
  2. Canned, cured, and processed meats, like tuna, sardines, fermented sausage or salami
  3. Fermented or pickled vegetables, like sauerkraut
  4. Vegetables including spinach, eggplant, and tomato products (e.g., ketchup)
  5. Any alcohol

The freshness of food is a very important indicator of the level of histamines found in the food. As you can see from the list above, foods that are aged in some form tend to be much higher in histamines than their fresh form.

To ensure you are minimizing your histamine load, try to eat as many fresh foods as possible. Visit your local farmers’ market for local fruits and vegetables. Purchase or make your own fresh juices and smoothies instead of the bottled, sugar-heavy alternatives that line the shelves of the grocery store. If you eat meat, purchase from local suppliers and refrain from eating leftovers. If you eat dairy, replace aged cheeses with mozzarella, goat cheese, ricotta, and other fresh cheese options.

Minimizing your intake of histamine-heavy foods is a simple way to reduce your symptoms and lower the burden of histamines in your body.





  1. Kathleen Heatley

    Thank you so much for this important post. I have had rashes for some time and since I thought I was eating high quality foods (organic and vegan, fresh veggies, baked sweet potatoes, fresh greens, coconut products frozen or yogurt and the like) I did not know about histamines in Fermented or pickled vegetables, like sauerkraut. I have been eating these foods thinking that I was blessing my body and doing the right thing. I could not figure out why I was getting flare ups of rashes on specific places like ankles and one knuckle in particular. No more aged foods of me. I am 70 and this started about 2 years ago. Thank you for this new understanding.

  2. Judy

    I also find bone broth an issue which causes me to itch. I have avoided it while I heal my gut.

  3. Kelly

    So, are nightshades in general high in histamine?

  4. Misty

    I have a hard time accepting that vegetables like spinach could be a culprit for causing allergies. I hear nonstop how eating leafy greens and other vegetables help our bodies get the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Can you clarify?

  5. Ronnie

    Your list items #s 1, 3, & 5 are true to the foods that cause arrhythmia for my partner. He doesn’t eat #2, but does eat and love peppers without trouble, which are also nightshade #4. He eats so much broccoli, he doesn’t have room for spinach #4, which he eats occasionally without trouble. We never eat ketchup, even fruit sweetened, and eat tomatoes infrequently. His only alcohol intake is in tinctures. He takes digestive enzymes everyday, and HCl with meals.

    Typically, it’s bloating that causes the arrhythmia, but not always. It lasts for 12 hours usually. I came to think maybe the casein in cheese (excito-toxin) caused arrhythmia as it can in an epileptic, although it’s acting on a different organ. He very rarely eats cheese. Since supplementing with iodine, the arrhythmia is rare now, once every three months vs. every 10 days. Do you think histamines could cause arrhythmia?

  6. Ronnie

    Thank you so much for the article. I searched “genetic polymorphisms of enzymes in histamine metabolism”, and yes, arrhythmia is a reaction. I have his raw genetic data, and I’ll see if this is the root of his problem. I’d never have guessed.

    BTW, I signed up for the Heart Webinar a few days ago, and I was pleased to see your name! I am very appreciative of the information you share. Thanks again.

  7. Ulrike Meyer

    Great to highten the awareness of histamine intolerance which gets inherited. My best friend , who also is a physician has a lack of the enzyme dealing with histamine. Her brother had an acute allergic reaction with angliederst of his face after dring wheat beer. He got tested and the enzyme dysfunction detected. My friend experienced joint pain and tooth ache. Her daughters have migraine headaches and skin rashes. I could give you the name of a Canadian dietician who wrote a guide and cook book for people with histamine intolerance.

  8. Hannah

    Thanks Deanna, this is an interesting article. I suppose fermented foods would apply to the drink Kombucha? I drink this on a regular basis and have started to develop a loud humming in my head – could they be related? Thank you

  9. Val Flint

    I get a runny nose every time I go shopping at the local mall & have put it down to going from the open air to the air conditioning in the mall. Could I be right? It is most frustrating!

  10. Isabelle

    Interesting article, what is the relation between gut bacteria and histamines? Since they play also an important role in the immune-system, responsible for allergic reactions in the first place

  11. forex

    I really like your writing style, superb info, regards for posting :D. “Faith is a continuation of reason.” by William Adams.

  12. Mary

    It looks like we all need more info. My now deceased allergist said I had the largest reaction to histamine that he’d ever seen in his 40+ yrs. I didn’t know about needing to avoid some foods. This list can’t be complete, so please let me know what other foods can do this. I’m allergic to milk (all dairy), so can’t be cheese; I hate fermented foods, so avoid them; I have never drank alcohol and am even allergic (can’t take naturopathic liquids–even 1 drop–since they’re in alcohol); no processed meats–had tuna over a yr. ago last time; and veggie list, only have tomatoes, which I haven’t had since Summer–so 4 mo. ago. Yet, I have a new rash, flushing, headaches, a runny nose, and horrible reflux for the last 2-3 mo. If there is something I need to avoid, I need to know what it is (in addition to the 12 foods I am allergic to). What’s one more? Thanks for any info you can give!

    • dminich

      Hi Mary, it’s difficult to say what you might be sensitive/allergic to without having further testing by a trained professional. There are a variety of methods that a practitioner can use to determine whether you are allergic to foods. This blog is not meant to be a comprehensive list or personalized to the reader, but some clues as to what might be triggers for many people. I wish you all the best in finding out which foods may be problematic for you!


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