Histamine Intolerance SIBO

Histamine Intolerance - SIBO

Histamine Intolerance is a condition where your body builds up too much Histamine and begins reacting to this imbalance negatively. In recent years it has been strongly linked to SIBO. In our last post, we talked about SIBO and its effects, which ultimately create a poorly functioning gut that is damaged, deficient in digestive secretions, and abundant in inflammation. This is the breeding ground for histamine intolerance to occur. Let’s look first at what Histamine does in the body, and then at how you develop an intolerance to it.

What is Histamine?

Histamines are chemicals released by MAST cells in our immune system in response to injury, infection or anything else perceived as an outside invader that could cause harm. This reaction creates a cascade of inflammation, which does have the positive effect of increasing white blood cells to the area of infection or problem. This is usually a good thing, as the invader can be quickly dealt with and the problem overcome; however, this is not always the case.

In addition to this, some foods naturally contain histamines. When you consume these foods, it can add to the histamine overload. This list of foods is generally accepted as being high in histamines:

  • All Fermented foods
  • Vinegar and foods containing vinegar
  • Tinned and canned foods
  • Matured cheeses
  • Smoked meats and shellfish
  • Some nuts and beans including chickpeas, peanuts, soybeans, walnuts and cashews
  • Chocolate and cacao products
  • Ready-made meals
  • Salty snacks
  • Pre-packaged products with artificial colours, flavours and additives


Histamine is naturally in foods, so you can never have a completely Histamine free diet. Each individual also has a different threshold as to how much Histamine they can tolerate in their food. If you do suspect that you may have a histamine issue, it’s best to speak to a professional healthcare provider who is experienced in dealing with histamine intolerance.

Your Immune system and Histamine

In an optimally functioning immune system, Histamine is indeed helpful at protecting the body. However, when our immune system becomes dysregulated, we can have an overabundance of histamines to a benign substance such as cat hair, pollen or food. Our MAST cells break down too quickly and release too much Histamine, resulting in symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, itchy skin rashes or hives, swelling and breathing difficulties.

How does Histamine intolerance develop?

When our body is functioning optimally, Histamine is broken down by an enzyme called diamine oxidase (doa) in our digestive tract. The activity of this enzyme can be downregulated by certain medications, gastrointestinal inflammation, leaky gut, SIBO, foods containing Histamine like compounds such as those mentioned above, and genetics in some people.

When this happens and Histamine isn’t broken down properly, a build-up occurs in the bloodstream. Because it travels via the bloodstream, it can travel anywhere in the body and affect any organ it reaches. This fact makes histamine intolerance very difficult to pinpoint, as the symptoms vary significantly from person to person depending on which organs or body systems are most heavily affected. Some of the more common symptoms of histamine intolerance include:


  • Migraines/headaches
  • Vertigo
  • Hypertension or arrhythmia
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Fatigue
  • Hives
  • Other tissue swelling

You can see from this shortlist how varied the symptoms are, which is why doctors and specialists may often miss diagnose a histamine intolerance as something else entirely. It can go undiagnosed for years.

The SIBO-Histamine intolerance connection.

Not surprisingly, the health of our digestive tract has a large part to play in whether or not we develop histamine issues. As we discussed in our last post, SIBO causes an increase in food sensitivities via its degradation of the gut lining, and this also includes a sensitivity to Histamine. When the single-celled gut wall is inflamed, it can become leaky, causing reactions to otherwise benign foods and substances. In this case, specifically, foods high in Histamine set off a cascade of symptoms like the ones mentioned above.

In SIBO, the bacterial overgrowth can also contain certain species of bacteria that produce Histamine, adding further insult to injury. This plays a role in the severity of histamine intolerance, and can even be one of the major causes. When you have leaky gut, Histamine producing bacteria in your small intestine and an abundance of Histamine containing foods are in the diet; well you’ve got the perfect storm for histamine intolerance to develop.

What to do next?

Whena SIBO overgrowth is the cause of histamine intolerance. The most important thing to do is address the SIBO imbalance and work on healing the gut. Clearing out a SIBO infection requires specialist help from a Naturopath, Nutritionist or holistic healthcare provider. Your practitioner of choice will ensure that the root cause of the SIBO is addressed and will also give you the guidance you need in regards to diet and lifestyle practices that will help restore your gut and overall health.

In closing, its good to remember that foods high in Histamine definitely do aggravate someone with histamine intolerance, but they aren’t the root of the problem. When your treatment is focused on healing the digestive tract, you will find relief from histamine intolerance, and other food intolerances too.

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