Letzte Aktualisierung am 8. December 2023 von Dr. Michael Zechmann-Khreis
Histamine is a so-called biogenic amine and serves as an important messenger substance in the body. Our organism independently produces histamine, which is involved in various processes in the body. Histamine plays an important role in the production of gastric juice, the regulation of blood pressure and the sleep-wake rhythm or is involved in appetite control. However, histamine is also “to blame” for itchy wheals after a mosquito bite or a runny nose. These are just a few examples of how histamine is involved in hundreds of processes in our body in a variety of ways. Since histamine plays such an important role, our body produces histamine in stock and stores it in the so-called mast cells, among other places. The histamine is then released when required. Our body also breaks down histamine via enzymes, creating a histamine balance, so to speak.
Histamine in food
However, the biogenic amine histamine can also be ingested through food, in which case this system can become unbalanced. This happens, for example, when we eat spoiled fish and have fish poisoning. In people with histamine intolerance, this balance is upset more quickly or by less histamine being supplied, or it could be that the enzymes are not functioning properly or that too little of them are present.
Where does histamine occur?
Histamine, like many other biogenic amines, is not only found in our bodies, but also in all other animals and plants. When we burn ourselves on stinging nettles, the itching is triggered on the one hand by our own histamine, but also by histamine that has been injected into our skin by the nettle. As stinging nettle contains a lot of histamine, stinging nettle tea, for example, is not tolerated by histamine intolerant people. Only a few fresh foods contain so much histamine that histamine intolerance causes problems. In addition to stinging nettle, these include tomatoes and eggplants (melanzani), for example. You can find a database of compatible and incompatible foods on the nmidb.de website.
The question “Histamine – what is it?” is therefore not so easy to answer. The topic is quite complex. Histamine is also formed by microbiological degradation, i.e. there are certain bacteria (not all!) that produce histamine. The amino acid histidine, which is also found in all biological organisms, is broken down into histamine. This means that foods that come into contact with such histamine-producing microorganisms, e.g. ripening cheese, contain significantly more histamine (and other biogenic amines). Unfortunately, there are many foods that are not compatible with histamine intolerance.
1) Jarisch R., “Histaminintoleranz – Histamin und Seekrankheit”, 3rd edition 2013, Thieme Verlag
2) Körner U., Schareina A., “Food allergies and intolerances”, 2010, Haug Verlag
3) Guideline “Procedure for suspected intolerance to oral ingested histamine”, German Society for Allergology and clinical immunology e.V. (DGAKI), 3.2017; DOI: 10.1007/s40629-017-0011-5