Histamine intolerance - foods to eat, and foods to avoid

We’ve been looking at histamine intolerance - what it is, and how to recognise the symptoms. This naturally occurring substance is made in the cells of the human body. It also occurs in many foods. When you’re caught in the throes of histamine intolerance, it’s important to know which foods will make it worse - and which can help.

Which Foods Contain Histamine?

A quick Google search will deliver a seemingly endless list of foods to avoid if you have developed histamine intolerance. Here is an abbreviated version:

  • Alcoholic beverages, especially beer and wine.
  • Anchovies
  • Avocados
  • Cheeses, especially aged or fermented cheese, such as parmesan, blue and Roquefort
  • Cider and homemade root beer.
  • Dried fruits such as apricots, dates, prunes, figs, and raisins
  • Eggplant
  • Fermented foods, such as pickled or smoked meats, sauerkraut
  • Mackerel
  • Mushrooms
  • Processed meats - sausage, hot dogs, salami, etc.
  • Sardines
  • Smoked fish - herring, sardines, etc.
  • Sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt - especially if not fresh.
  • Soured breads, such as pumpernickel, coffee cakes and other foods made with large amounts of yeast.
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Vinegar or vinegar-containing foods, such as mayonnaise, salad dressing, ketchup, chili sauce, pickles, pickled beets, relishes, olives.
  • Yogurt

In addition to foods that contain histamine, there are a number of foods that release histamine, too. This list includes:

  • Alcohol
  • Bananas
  • Chocolate
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Milk
  • Papayas
  • Pineapple
  • Shellfish
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes

With such a long list of foods to avoid, it can be difficult to work out what’s left on the menu. Let’s take a look at some options.

Low Histamine Foods

  • Freshly cooked meat, poultry (frozen or fresh)
  • Freshly caught fish
  • Eggs
  • Gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa
  • Pure peanut butter*
  • Fresh fruits such as mango*, pear, watermelon, apple, kiwi, cantaloupe, and grapes
  • Fresh vegetables (except tomatoes, spinach, avocado, and eggplant)
  • Dairy substitutes: coconut milk*, rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk *
  • Cooking oils: olive oil, coconut oil*
  • Leafy herbs
  • Herbal teas

Detox and Elimination - The Affordable Allergy Test

Allergy tests can be very expensive - especially if your body reacts to less common allergens. There is also some debate in the medical community about just how reliable these tests are.

A more reliable- and much more affordable - way to identify your body’s particular allergens is a simple detox/elimination diet. For a two-week period, simply avoid all the foods on the high histamine and histamine trigger lists above. It sounds challenging - and it is - but you’ll soon feel so much better that it becomes worth the effort. Salads, steamed vegetables, and freshly prepared meat are healthy and invigorating alternatives to the standard highly processed diets we’ve all become used to.

After two weeks, you can start reintroducing each food on the list - slowly. Have a small amount of any ONE food, then watch your body over the next two to three days of any symptoms. After three days, try the next food. It can be very helpful to keep a food diary as you run the experiment, so that you can record any symptoms that may be related to one of the foods you’re testing.

Remember too, that symptoms of histamine intolerance aren't always that obvious. Refer to our previous article on the symptoms of histamine intolerance for a list of what to be on the lookout for.

Plan Your Healing

Once you've challenged all the foods on the list, make an appointment with your holistic health practitioner to review your findings. Together, you can asses the nature and extent of your histamine intolerance, if you have one, and construct a strategy for improving your health.

*Peanuts, nuts, and coconut can be highly allergenic for some people. If you are struggling with allergy-like symptoms, include these on your list of foods to avoid during the elimination challenge. Reintroduce these foods with care, as the allergic reactions can be severe.

Dr Alain Sanua focuses on balancing gut health in order to balance the overall health of his patients. He specialises in understanding the unique challenges facing each of his patients, finding a solution tailored to their needs. Call Dr Sanua on 011 463 1614 or email him on to find out if histamine intolerance is at the root of your troubles - and how to fix it.


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