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You Ask, I Answer: Low Histamine Diets for Skin Issues?

Atopic_dermatitis_childI have some autoimmune issues, namely atopic dermatitis, which flares up for mostly unknown reasons. Some of it has to do with having an immune system that over reacts to environment (certain materials, chemicals in soaps) and food.

I’ve read that eating a diet of low histamine foods can really help.  Your posts about food and medical issues really inspired me and I thought you might have some helpful thoughts.

– Ella (Last name withheld)
Brooklyn, NY

While histamines can’t be singled out as the cause of conditions like atopic dermatitis, eczema, and rosacea, a good percentage of people who struggle with those conditions are highly sensitive to histamines in food, and should, in my opinion, try out a histamine-free (or at least very low-histamine) diet for a few weeks to see if this alleviates symptoms.

Histamine is a compound that, among other roles, plays an important role in allergic reactions.  It is released by the body as part of the immune response, and is derived from histidine, an amino acid.

Histamine is found in high quantities in a variety of foods, mainly processed meats, fermented/pickled/cultured foods (such as tempeh, alcohol, and vinegar), dairy, soy, peanuts (especially when roasted), eggplant, and spinach.

There are also compounds in certain foods that can cause the body to release histamine.  These compounds are found in high quantities in most grains (wheat, oats, spelt, barley, etc.; rye appears to be an exception), seafood, some nuts, and all citrus fruits (this includes tomatoes!).

Although histidine — from which histamine is derived — is produced by our bodies, it can help to not contribute to additional amounts by limiting foods high in that amino acid.  These foods include soybeans, eggs, cheese, and chicken.

There are reports of histamine-sensitive individuals also being sensitive to MSG.  Keep in mind that MSG can be listed under a variety of names, ranging from autolized yeast extract to modified cornstarch to “natural flavoring”.  Another culprit often involved in histamine release?  Food dyes!

In summary, the best things you can do are:

  • Avoids foods known to be high in histamine/histidine
  • Eat as minimally processed a diet as possible (to lower your chances of consuming MSG and/or dyes)
  • Try to get most of your protein from plant sources (barring, of course, problematic foods like tempeh, tofu, wheat, etc.)

One Comment

  1. Tita Barbosa said on January 23rd, 2011

    Gracias Andy, esta si que no la tenìa, tantos años luchando con la rosacea y nunca pero nunca ninguno de los tantos dermatologos a los que consultè me hablo de estos factores. Voy a ponerlo en pràctica.

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