Low Histamine Foods That Nourish The Gut
One of the challenges faced by people with histamine intolerance is the removal of high histamine ferments, but fortunately, a wide range of low histamine foods nourish the gut. You do not need to eat sauerkraut to have a good gut biome.
In the scientific literature, it is a well established that there is a bi-directional relationship between blood sugar control and histamine.
Unstable blood sugar can increase histamine levels, and histamine levels can add to unstable blood sugar, and its really common in my client base.
What’s more, a 2015 study found a person’s microbiome precisely explained not only these variances in blood glucose levels but also food tolerance in a group of 800 people.¹
These findings suggest that food tolerance may reside in our microbial genes, and their interaction with our genes, not in our human genes themselves.
Indeed, it is my experience, that the diet required to stabilize blood sugar, varies enormously from one person to the next – anywhere on a spectrum from a vegetarian, to a mixed, to a ketogenic diet, and vary over time, rather than being set by our genes.
It’s About Diversity
Differences in long-term diet have a major impact on the gut microbiome. It’s about a consistent day in and day out effort to feed the biome.
The American Gut Project, and the Twins UK project, found that building diversity had a comparable effect to taking medication, and low diversity to disease. It’s that important.
Personally, I have been using Ubiome®, it’s an affordable, easy, do at home test, that helps track the diversity in your biome. However, I intend to switch to Viome® as soon as its available in Australia.
I have been tracking the improvements in my gut biome, using the principles outlined in this post, every 90 days. And I have also been testing my mouth biome too!
The Missing Ingredient: Polyphenols
A 2012 study, provided the mechanism, for understanding how to stabilize blood sugar, using low histamine foods, whilst nourishing our gut biome.
The study found that dietary polyphenols (often identified by the bright color in foods and includes quercetin and luteolin) were the missing ingredient.
Polyphenols when combined with complex carbohydrates for fiber, not only stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria (including lactobacilli and bifidobacteria), but inhibit pathogenic bacteria, increase species diversity, and improve blood sugar control. Fortunately, they are abundant in many low histamine foods.
A recent review of the literature even found polyphenols as helpful for chronic fatigue syndrome.³
Other Gut Nourishing Foods
Polyphenols join other foods that have been shown to selectively nourish the gut including fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides (GOS), colonic foods, and resistant starch, providing a wide range of foods that nourish your gut. 4
Nourishing Your Gut On A Low Histamine Diet
Based on this research, my approach to rebuilding an antibiotic decimated gut biome is to eat:
- A whole food, minimally processed diet, rich in fiber,
- Emphasizing polyphenols rich foods (the darker the color the better!)
- With moderate fat (focusing on polyphenol-rich olive oil),
- Moderate protein (more as a condiment than the major component of the meal), and
- Rich in variety (I try to aim for up to 40 different whole foods a week).
and it is working.
Over 50 Low Histamine Foods That Nourish Your Gut
Don’t know where to start? Here is a list of low histamine foods to get you started:
Low Histamine Foods Rich In Polyphenols
- Black elderberries
- Black or red mulberries
- Red apples
- Pomegranate juice
- Purple, red, or orange carrots
- Purple or orange fleshed potatoes
- Red cabbage
- Red onions
- Red lettuce
- Curly Endive
- Flaxseed meal
- Black or red rice (if not gluten cross-reactive)
- Whole grain rye bread (if not gluten cross-reactive)
- Olive oil
- Lemon verbena
- Capers (in salt)
Low Histamine Foods Rich in FOS
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Globe artichokes
Low Histamine Foods Rich in GOS
- Rutabaga (Swede)
- Red Cabbage
- Fresh beans
- Rye sourdough (moderate, if gluten tolerated),
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- LSA mix
Low Histamine Prebiotic Foods
- Brown Rice
- Raw Cacao Powder (1 tablespoon – if on a moderate threshold)
Low Histamine Resistant Starch
- Sweet Potato (preferably purple or orange)
- Cashew Nuts
- Green Banana Flour (uncooked – if cooked it’s just starch!)
- Potatoes (cooked and cooled)
- Legumes (preferably purple, red, or orange).
Restrictive diets are not supportive of a diverse microbiome. The number one rule of rebuilding a microbiome is to eat a wide variety of foods especially those with polyphenols.
From an evolutionary perspective, we have evolved to eat everything, and our ancestors ate up to 800 types of foods. As omnivores, we had a distinct advantage over other species, that ensured our survival. We could eat more types of foods.
More specifically, our gut microbiome had evolved to allow us to eat more foods, that enhanced our survival.
Some bacteria feeds on protein including meat, some bacteria feed on carbohydrates, some bacteria feed on fats, and some bacteria feeds on our biofilm through intermittent fasting.
It is harnessing calories from a huge variety of food sources that have enabled us to survive and prosper.
Despite the need for diversity, in my opinion, elimination diets have their place. My approach is to limit foods only to the extent necessary to prevent an adaptive immune response of which histamine is a key component.
A two-week elimination diet, with a threshold challenge, is still a way to truly identify histamine intolerance. Another alternative that I am increasingly using is ART (kinesiology testing) which does not require the removal of foods. I hope to provide more information on this soon.
Some of the common mistakes I have made myself and see repeatedly are:
- Threshold. Remaining on a strict ‘low’ histamine elimination diet after the two week period and not identifying a threshold. The aim is to keep as much variety as possible in the diet even if it means eating foods in small amounts. This is not a black and white list but a threshold issue. The common mistake is eating a whole serve of moderate of high histamine foods and assessing reactivity accordingly rather than an overall threshold. The list above includes all but “very high” histamine foods which are rarely tolerated. It does include some moderate histamine foods consistent with the concept of a threshold.
- Comparisons. There are a large number of histamine elimination diets and one of the common mistakes I see is the erosion of foods through comparing food lists and eliminating all foods other than foods that are “safe” leaving only a handful of foods. This is unhelpful.
- Combining Elimination Diets. One of the reasons I developed my histamine intolerance list was that the RPA Allergy List (on which my list is based) combines salicylates, glutamates, and histamines. In my view, this is overly restrictive as in my experience the number of people that have histamine intolerance far outweighs those that have all three.
- Ruling out Histamine Intolerance. An elimination diet is supposed to rule in or out histamine intolerance. If a histamine intolerance elimination diet does not resolve symptoms then it is important to be open to it not being histamine intolerance. So often I see clients who come to me have tried and failed a low histamine diet. Instead of stopping the low histamine diet, they have layered in successive elimination diet restrictions, without relief.
- Identifying The Root Cause. With the exception of food allergies, in my experience, the majority of food intolerances have a root cause. Fix the underlying stressor and creating a healing environment resolves histamine intolerance. This is especially true of histamine intolerance where histamine is part of the adaptive immune response.
- Reintroducing Foods. Regardless of where you are on this healing journey, it is really important to attempt to increase the diversity of foods eaten and to constantly retest the threshold. If my clients eat a wide range of food groups then I simply encourage them to introduce one new food a week, building their diversity of foods over time. For clients who do not have a wide range of food groups in their diet, it is really important to work slowly with a dietician to introduce new foods. In highly sensitive people, with few foods in their diet, this might be at a snail’s pace of 1/4 teaspoon a week. In which case I often suggest slipping this into a smoothie, or salad and building the amount by a 1/4 teaspoon a week from there. If foods are not able to be introduced, and the microbiome altered through food, then continuing to address stressors, and then re-evaluating the threshold in a few months is helpful.
Getting help for histamine intolerance is difficult because it has not been widely recognized by mainstream medicine.
It is natural to focus on what we can do to help ourselves. Once we know better we can do better.
Speaking personally, I was formally diagnosed with histamine intolerance over 10 years ago and managed my histamine intolerance through a restricted diet for more than half of that time.
This was very helpful and brought me much relief.
Around 6 years ago, a professor of immunology, told me that I would need to learn how to keep myself well without medication which I could not tolerate.
At that time I realized that I really did not know how to keep myself well without medication. The bridge between food and health for me was self-education.
I moved to Byron Bay (a healing center) in Australia and set about identifying mentors. Mentors from all walks of life from alternative doctors, conferences, functional medicine courses, organic farmers, to anyone with knowledge.
What I have learned is that if you identify what is blocking the body (and causing histamine to be released as a helpful part of adaptive immunity) that the histamine threshold drops.
I am now able to eat just about anything. I choose, however, not to eat very high histamine foods like vinegar, saurkraut, and champagne, because I don’t need to.
Twelve months ago I had to have emergency surgery. I was put on intravenous antibiotics for 14 days. It devastated my microbiome which dropped to the low 5% diversity. Yikes.
Since then I have religiously built up my diversity using these principles. You can too.
Coman, Maria Magdalena, et al. “Polyphenol content and in vitro evaluation of antioxidant, antimicrobial and prebiotic properties of red fruit extracts.” European Food Research and Technology(2017): 1-11.
Hawrelak, J. A. “Prebiotics, Synbiotics and Colonic Foods.” (2013).