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Histamine Sensitivity: What You Need to Know

Could histamine sensitivity be part of your health issues? Here’s what I wish I had figured out sooner.  

I was working full-time in an office. I was doing a lot of food prep so that I could eat healthy leftovers for lunch every day.

But I got to a point where I just couldn’t bring myself to eat my lunch if it was leftovers. And if I forced myself to, I would end up with a headache, nasal congestion, and sometimes heart palpitations.

It made little sense to me because I had eaten that food two days before with no problems.

school lunch leftovers

I had been doing the Nambudripad allergy elimination technique (NAET) to reduce over 50 food sensitivities after working to heal my leaky gut. It was working for a lot of foods, but I felt like I was still reacting to tomato, spinach, eggplant, and chocolate

What made it even more bizarre is that I couldn’t find a scientific reason for these food reactions since they weren’t true food allergies. I had dealt with medical gaslighting before and knew I needed to listen to my body. 

It wasn’t until I heard a doctor talking at a health summit that I first learned about histamine sensitivity and sought out a diagnosis

It turns out that leftovers are a high-histamine food!

In this month’s post, you’ll learn exactly what histamine sensitivity is and the common symptoms and causes, so you can understand if this might be affecting you or your family. 

What Is Histamine Sensitivity? 

To put it simply, histamine sensitivity is when your body has more histamine than what it can process.

In more severe cases, this is also called histamine intolerance where you cannot handle foods with any histamine at all. 

Histamine is a good chemical in your body. It’s part of the cascade of immune response that helps you heal after an injury or allergic reaction. It’s also a neurotransmitter that affects your sleep and hormones.

However, if your body is having difficulty breaking histamine down correctly, you might be left with high levels of histamine in your body which can lead to irritating symptoms. 


Histamine Sensitivity Symptoms

Histamine sensitivity can feel really elusive because it affects people in different ways. This is because histamine can affect almost any part of your body. For some people, it feels like an allergic reaction while for others it’s a baffling immune response. I was in the latter camp. 

Can you relate to any of this? Here are some of the common categories of symptoms of histamine sensitivity by body system: 


  • Acid reflux 
  • Bloating 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Gas  
  • Gut pain
  • Heartburn 
  • Vomiting


  • Asthma 
  • Congestion  
  • Postnasal drip  
  • Runny nose 
  • Sneezing 
stuffy nose


  • Heart palpitations  
  • Low blood pressure  

Brain and Nervous System 

  • Anxiety  
  • Brain fog 
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue  
  • Headaches 
  • Insomnia
  • Migraines  
  • Nausea 

Skin symptoms 

  • Itching 
  • Hives / Urticaria 
  • Eczema 
  • Flushing 
  • Rashes 

I’m really grateful that I never dealt with skin-related symptoms, but I had multiple reactions from each of the other body systems

It is worth noting, that if you have histamine reactions in more than two of these categories, you may actually be dealing with mast cell activation syndrome. Learn more about MCAS and related conditions in this interview with Beth O’Hara, FN. 

At the time when I was struggling to eat leftovers, I was only tolerating meat from Butcher Box. You can read Katie’s review of Butcher Box here. 

Whenever I tried to buy fresh meat from the grocery store, I would end up with nausea and fatigue. What I later learned is that frozen meats are a lot lower in histamine than refrigerated ones

Butcher Box frozen meat

Here is what else you need to know about what causes histamine sensitivity

What Causes Histamine Sensitivity? 

First, I’ll cover some of the immediate factors that can cause histamine sensitivity but I’ll also address how to figure out the root cause behind that dysfunction. 

For most people, the immediate symptoms of histamine sensitivity come from consuming histamine-rich foods.

Histamine Rich Foods 

This list is by no means conclusive, but some of the foods that are highest in histamine include:

  • Aged meats and dairy products – beef, fish, jerky, sausage, salami, bacon, and aged cheeses
  • Artificial colors and dyes 
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Avocado
  • Banana
  • Canned foods – beans, fish, fruit, lentils, and veggies 
  • Cashews (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!)
  • Chocolate
  • Eggplant
  • Ferments – sauerkraut, alcohol, kimchi, yogurt, kombucha, and vanilla extract
  • Mushroom
  • Refrigerated meats 
  • Slow-cooked foods – bone broth, chili, and other crockpot meals
  • Spinach
  • Strawberry
  • Tomato
  • Walnuts (use the code STEWARDSHIP for 10% off at that site!)

Have you ever felt off after consuming any of those? Not only do some foods add histamine to your body, but others can cause your body to release histamine. 

high histamine foods

Histamine Liberating Foods 

Some foods may increase histamine levels in your body because they have factors that encourage histamine release. Doctors call these histamine liberators. The common foods that trigger this are: 

  • Citrus fruits
  • Cocoa
  • Olive oil
  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Sugar and any sugar substitutes

For example, increased blood sugar usually leads to extra histamine release

But beyond foods, it’s important to address why your body is not metabolizing and processing your foods all the way in the first place

High Stress 

Your stress hormones can also cause histamine release. In my own case, I suspect that some of the medical trauma I was sorting through was causing me to release excess stress hormones and therefore excess histamine.

If stress gives you headaches or muscle tension, I’d highly suggest Katie’s stress mastery course which you can find out more info about here.

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There are also some medications that can contribute to histamine imbalance. This is because they may block the normal functioning of the two enzymes, DAO and HNMT, that typically metabolize your histamine. 

Some of these medicines include: 

  • Airway medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Aspirin
  • Diclofenac (Voltaren)
  • Diuretics
  • Gastrointestinal Medicines
  • Heart Medications
  • Indomethacin (Indocin)
  • Malaria Drugs
  • Muscle Relaxants
  • Naproxen
  • NSAIDs
  • Tuberculosis Medications

Please do not stop or reduce any medications without talking to your doctor first. Sometimes the solution is optimizing your nutrition with something like zinc, copper, or vitamin C to optimize the compromised pathway. 


While histamine itself is not an anti-nutrient, a buildup of anti-nutrients in your diet can lead to excess histamine release.

whole grains in scoops

In my own case, a build-up of oxalates likely led to my histamine sensitivity. Learn more about what anti-nutrients are and how to best reduce them in these posts. It is imperative that you do not cut out anti-nutrients cold turkey because you could make yourself really sick. 

Toxic Burden

For example, if you have a high toxic burden or if you’ve got an aggravating allergen in your environment, it can cause the mast cells in your immune system to release a lot of histamine.

In my own case, I didn’t know that the mold that I was dealing with at the time was actually mold poisoning.

At the time when I stopped tolerating leftovers, my husband and I had been renting an apartment. I noticed that mold kept growing on the window in our bedroom.

After about a month of obsessively scrubbing it off and it kept coming back, I contacted our landlord saying that there must be a water leak somewhere. It turned out that the apartment above us had a window that was leaking and there was mold all on the backside of the drywall.

mold around window

At the time, I didn’t have any idea about how toxic mold could be. When the maintenance crew came in to replace my drywall, I had no idea that I needed to be concerned about mold contaminating my items. 

I bought one small bottle of fogging solution to fog the bedroom once afterward. I had no idea how much the mold had been impacting my toxic load. 

What’s Next? 

Have you struggled with strange reactions to food that don’t seem to follow a noticeable pattern? Can you relate to any of the symptoms? Maybe doctors haven’t been able to help you pinpoint why it’s happening. 

For over 3 years, I didn’t know what histamine was and why it was causing such bizarre food reactions for me. 

Perhaps histamine sensitivity could be part of the picture for you or your family. 

Stay tuned for next month’s post where we’ll talk about what to do about histamine sensitivity. It is very important because a low histamine diet is not sustainable long term. 

I’ll share with you what’s been effective for me to reduce my histamine sensitivity. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to the point where I can tolerate a couple of high-histamine foods each day again! 

Have you been affected by histamine sensitivity? How did you identify it? Share in the comments below. 


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