Low Histamine Seafood

Histamine's Levels & Your Health

High histamine levels in meat and seafood can have adverse effects on people with histamine intolerance.  Histamine is a biogenic amine with a wide range of biological effects on various types of cells.[1]  It's easy to confuse a food allergy with food intolerance (a much more common and less serious condition) because they have similar symptoms. Food allergy affects an estimated 8% of children under age 5 and up to 4% of adults. [2]  If someone with a food allergy ingests even a tiny portion of the allergen, it can result in anaphylaxis. Histamine intolerance is not life-threatening and it won’t necessarily cause symptoms every time you eat certain foods.  This is because the level of histamine varies even in the same type or brand of food, depending on factors like how the food was harvested, processed, and stored.[3]  

Common conditions that can cause symptoms mistaken for a food allergy (Mayo Clinic)

Absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food. You may not have adequate amounts of some enzymes needed
to digest certain foods. Insufficient quantities of the enzyme lactase reduce your ability to digest lactose. Lactose
intolerance can cause bloating, cramping, diarrhea and excess gas.
Food poisoning. Sometimes food poisoning can mimic an allergic reaction.
Sensitivity to food additives. Some people have digestive reactions and other symptoms after eating certain food
additives. For example, sulfites used to preserve dried fruit, canned goods and wine can trigger asthma attacks in
people with sensitivity to food additives.
Histamine toxicity. Certain fish, such as tuna or mackerel, that are not refrigerated properly and that contain high
amounts of bacteria may also contain high levels of histamine that trigger symptoms similar to those of food allergy.
Celiac disease. While celiac disease is sometimes referred to as a gluten allergy, it does not result in anaphylaxis. Like a
food allergy, celiac disease does involve an immune system response, but it's a unique reaction that's more complex
than a simple food allergy.

Certain medical conditions may increase the potential for histamine intolerance, including gastrointestinal disorders or injuries, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), liver conditions, and chronic or extreme stress.[4]

What is histamine intolerance?

When your body accumulates more histamine than it can process, the result is histamine intolerance.  In healthy people, histamine is degraded and eliminated with the participation of intestinal diamine oxidases (DAOs).  If your body can’t process histamine appropriately because If DAO activity is impaired, lowering the capacity for histamine degradation, then histamine can accumulate in plasma and adverse effects appear.[5]  DAO enzyme levels could be affected by any of the following:[6]

  • medications that block DAO functions or prevent production
  • gastrointestinal disorders, such as leaky gut syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease
  • histamine-rich foods that cause DAO enzymes to function improperly
  • foods that block DAO enzymes or trigger histamine release

Histamines are stored in most tissues and play many roles in your body:  act as a neurotransmitter helping your brain and body communicate, help break down food in your stomach acid, and help promote inflammation if you’re injured to help you heal.[7]  Symptoms of histamine intolerance are non-specific and may be due to many things.  Histamine intolerance is a hot research topic and histamine’s relationship to many health conditions is being explored.[8] Common symptoms of histamine intolerance include the following:[9]

  • Abdominal cramping, bloating, and other gastrointestinal distress
  • Skin problems line rashes, hives, or eczema
  • Headaches or dizziness, possibly migraines
  • Racing heart
  • Itchy eyes, runny nose, congestion, or sneezing

While there are no diagnostic tests for histamine intolerance, you can try to pinpoint what foods trigger symptoms by eliminating those that have affected you in the past and eating fresh foods instead of canned foods.  You can try eliminating specific foods for two weeks or a month and bring them back into your diet slowly to see if you have a reaction.  It helps to know which foods are high and low in histamines and which foods can trigger a histamine response.  Histamine levels in food can be affected by how you cook it - frying and grilling tend to increase histamine levels, while boiling tends to maintain or decrease levels.[10]

High histamine foods

Histamine and Food Safety

Some foods are histamine rich:  alcohol, fermented foods, vinegar, dried fruits, avocados, eggplant, spinach, processed or smoked meat, shellfish, aged cheese.  Other foods trigger a histamine release in the body:  alcohol, bananas, tomatoes, wheat germ, beans, papaya, chocolate, citrus fruits, some nuts (walnuts, cashews, and peanuts) and some food dyes and other additives.  According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, some types of spoiled fish are more prone than others to causing histamine toxicity (tuna, mackerel, mahi-mahi, anchovy, herring, bluefish, amberjack, and marlin).  Further, some foods block DAO production:  alcohol, black tea, mate tea, green tea, and some energy drinks.[11]

Histamine levels in meat (animal proteins) can be high because bacteria, many strains of which are histamine-producing, can grow quickly on meat.[12]  Food handling and preparation are factors you can control in your own kitchen as illustrated in the Food Safety Training and Certification exhibit below.[13]

Low histamine seafood

Some foods low in histamine include fresh meat and freshly caught fish, non-citrus fruits, eggs, gluten-free grains, such as quinoa and rice, dairy substitutes, such as coconut milk and almond milk, fresh vegetables except tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and eggplant, and cooking oils, such as olive oil.  Low-histamine seafood options include salmon (especially king salmon, sockeye), cod, sole, mahi mahi, haddock, Chilean sea bass, scallops, lobster, and albacore tuna.[14]

Importance of knowing your source

This makes it doubly important to know where your seafood is coming from and how it has been handled.  If you buy your seafood from a grocery store seafood counter, you may not get much information about what you’re buying. It is not uncommon for unfrozen meat and fish to sit for a week or more either in the butcher’s case or the refrigerators unless you’re shopping at a high end market.  That’s where Sizzlefish comes in - we are in the sourcing and processing business and our fish is frozen as soon as possible after processing.  This is how we can offer you a variety of the best fish in a state of freshest flavor.[15] 

Please Note: 

Generally, a low-histamine diet isn’t a long-term treatment plan for the general population. It’s helpful in the diagnosis process and can help you rule out other food intolerances. Any information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.

[1]  Shulpekova, Y. O., Nechaev, V. M., Popova, I. R., Deeva, T. A., Kopylov, A. T., Malsagova, K. A., Kaysheva, A. L., & Ivashkin, V. T. (2021). Food Intolerance: The Role of Histamine. Nutrients, 13(9), 3207. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13093207

[2]  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20355095

[3]  Brady, K. (2018). Is your food allergy really a histamine intolerance? Self, July 27, 2018. https://www.self.com/story/food-allergy-or-histamine-intolerance

[4]  https://www.healthline.com/health/low-histamine-diet

[5] Comas-Basté, O., Sánchez-Pérez, S., Veciana-Nogués, M. T., Latorre-Moratalla, M., & Vidal-Carou, M. (2020). Histamine Intolerance: The Current State of the Art. Biomolecules, 10(8), 1181. https://doi.org/10.3390/biom10081181

[6]  Anthony, K. (2019). What is histamine intolerance?  Healthline.com. Medically reviewed by Murrell, D. https://www.healthline.com/health/histamine-intolerance

[7]  Brady, K. (2018). Is your food allergy really a histamine intolerance? Self, July 27, 2018. https://www.self.com/story/food-allergy-or-histamine-intolerance

[8]  Burkhart, A. Histamine Intolerance:  Symptoms, Diet & Treatment.  TheCeliacMD.com.  https://theceliacmd.com/histamine-intolerance-symptoms-diet-treatment/

[9]  Brady, K. (2018). Is your food allergy really a histamine intolerance? Self, July 27, 2018. https://www.self.com/story/food-allergy-or-histamine-intolerance

[10]   https://www.verywellhealth.com/high-histamine-foods-5223261

[11]   Anthony, K. (2019). What is histamine intolerance?  Healthline.com. Medically reviewed by Murrell, D. https://www.healthline.com/health/histamine-intolerance

[12]  https://mastcell360.com/the-best-low-histamine-meat-and-seafood-options-info-for-those-with-mast-cell-activation-syndrome-and-histamine-intolerance/

[13]  https://foodsafetytrainingcertification.com/food-safety-news/fat-tom-and-food-safety/

[14]  https://mastcell360.com/the-best-low-histamine-meat-and-seafood-options-info-for-those-with-mast-cell-activation-syndrome-and-histamine-intolerance/

[15]  https://www.sizzlefish.com/pages/faq

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