Histamine, a molecule present in all living creatures and in food, is a vital substance for the body. It is present in all food products but in different proportions. Thus, histamine is necessary for life. However, histamine can accumulate excessively and have negative effects.
The disproportion between the histamine ingested or released from the cells in the human body and the capacity to metabolize this excess, leads to an accumulation of histamine in the plasma and adverse effects might appear. This is known as Histamine intolerance. One of the most prominent effects of the excess of histamine is migraine caused through vessel dilatation.
And if it is present in all food products. . . Why it hurts some people and others not?
To degrade the excess of histamine the metabolism enzymes should work properly. If any of these enzymes is not functioning correctly, the histamine is not metabolized as it should be and adverse effects might come up like migraine, known for its incapacitating effects. The most prominent enzyme in the metabolism and degrading of histamine, is found in the small intestine and is called "Diamine oxidase", also known as DAO.
Main cause for the enzymatic malfunctioning
Due to genetics, some people have a low Diamine oxidase (DAO) activity which causes difficulties with the degrading of the excess of histamine. This excess can trigger migraine, among other disorders. (Until recently it was said that migraine was hereditary, when in fact the low DAO activity can be inherited.) On top of this problem there is another important factor. Migraine sufferers usually treat their migraine headache with drugs, and most anti-migraine drugs inhibit the activity of the Diamine oxidase (DAO). Whilst migraine patients are already more sensitive to the excess of histamine, the problem gets worse taking these drugs, thus creating an endless problem. Whatever you eat, if the DAO is inhibited more migraine is generated!
Adverse effects caused by the accumulation of histamine in the body (not all symptoms might appear)
• In the Central Nervous System: Migraine is the most prominent
• In the Cardiovascular System: Hypertension and arrhythmia
• In the Epithelial system: Urticaria, edema, atopic skin
• In the Respiratory System: nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing ...
• In the Digestive System: irritable colon, diarrhea, stomach pain ...
If you want fruit, better eat pear than citrus. Pear has a low histamine content. In case of meat, the fresher the better, because it contains less histamine.
1. First you need to follow a diet with a low histamine content. This is not so easy because all food contains histamine and few, or too few, include the amount of histamine on the label, but in general this should be taken into account and only food with low histamine content should be consumed.
2. Try to reduce as far as possible the use of drugs that inhibit the metabolism of histamine. Most of the "anti-migraine" drugs inhibit the activity of DAO. 3. Migraine patients with a deficit of DAO due to genetics, should re-establish the level of this enzyme taking DAO as a food supplement (supplied in capsules). This is not a drug, but just a diet supplement with the enzyme DAO and vitamin B2.
Why women during pregnancy have less migraine? Women during pregnancy tend to have less frequent and with lower intensity migraine attacks. This is usually due to two reasons: a) During pregnancy less drugs (which can inhibit the activity of DAO) are taken. b) During pregnancy the placenta produces a high level of DAO.
This way pregnant women have a special protection against an excess of histamine.