Histamine Intolerance, Fermented Foods and Acne

by Carla Hernandez Skin HealthComments: 31

histamine intolerance and acne

By Carla Hernandez NTP, Wise Roots Nutrition

We have known since the 1930’s that beneficial bacteria, especially Lactobacillus acidophilus found in fermented foods, can help heal intestinal permeability. This condition is better known as leaky gut. The research clearly shows that foods rich in probiotics are an essential component in maintaining clear skin and avoiding problems with acne.

But what about those with histamine intolerance?

This condition, in fact, may be an important caveat to watch out for with regard to consumption of fermented foods and those prone to skin breakouts.

Histamine Intolerance and Fermented Foods

Histamine is a chemical your body produces as a result of an allergic reaction. The release of histamine frequently can express itself on the surface of the skin through a number of symptoms, including but not limited to hives, eczema, rosacea and acne.

Interestingly, the histamine molecule along with the amino acids tyrosine and arginine all have an effect on vasculature (blood flow), and have been linked to contribute to migraine headaches. Too much tyramine in the diet can increase blood pressure, whereas too much arginine reduces blood pressure.

Fermented foods are one of the biggest sources of histamines. Those who have yet to see an improvement with other suggestions and diet changes to address their acne, may have a histamine intolerance and benefit greatly from avoiding histamine and histamine releasing foods.

The enzyme DAO (Diamine Oxidase) metabolizes histamine, and research shows that those who are sensitive to foods high in histamine may produce low levels of this enzyme. In addition, people with low levels of DAO typically have other digestive concerns too, such as intestinal permeability, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) and/ or possibly other gut related symptoms and conditions.

Although there is not direct evidence linking acne to foods high in histamine, there are studies that show improvement of Atopic Dermatitis when a low histamine diet is adopted.

Furthermore, I have personally experimented with a diet low in histamine, arginine and tyrosine and have experienced reduced irritation in the skin and minimizing of breakouts. This same improvement was noted with several of my clients with difficult to eradicate acne issues.

Acne and Possible Diet Stressors

Any form of stress causes inflammation, and eating foods promoting inflammation can certainly cause acne, even without the exposure to acne causing bacteria.

This is why traditional ways to treat acne are not always effective. When inflammation occurs, stress hormones trigger the release of histamine, which in turn can irritate the skin for those with a histamine intolerance. For some tougher acne cases, this may be the body’s way of expressing its reaction when consuming foods high in these substances.

Foods to Avoid

There are many foods containing a mixture of histamine and tyrosine, and that’s because histamine induces tyrosine production, which specifically includes foods that are aged, cured, smoked and fermented.

I’m a big proponent of self experimentation when it comes to diet and what works for an individual. A typical elimination diet would exclude the most common food suspects and sensitivities, but if you haven’t noticed an improvement with this in your skin, the following foods are worth avoiding, as they are some of the highest in histamine and histamine releasing foods:

Beverages: Teas, regular coffee, sodas, beer, wine, cider, kombucha, and milk.

Fruits: Citrus fruits, pineapple, peaches, nectarines, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, avocados, dates, raisins, plums and papaya, olives, bananas, and tomatoes.

Vegetables: Cabbage, tomatoes, eggplant, pickles, spinach, and fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut.

Dairy: Aged cheeses, such as cheddar, brie and blue cheese (think smelly cheeses), and fermented dairy such as yogurt, kefir and buttermilk.

Spices: Cinnamon, anise, curry powder, hot paprika and nutmeg.

Nuts and seeds: Peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and walnuts.

Animal Protein (mainly smoked or cured meats):, Mahi Mahi, tuna, sardines, cured meat like bacon, ham, deli meat, sausages, hot dogs, jerky, pepperoni.

Misc: Chocolate, cocoa powder or chocolate-derived ingredients, artificial additives/ flavors/ dyes, soy sauce, wheat germ, vinegars of all kind, miso, ketchups and mustards.

Because many of the foods on the list above are fermented, which can provide the good bacteria in order to strengthen gut and immunity health, a probiotic supplement is an appropriate choice for people who have a histamine intolerance or sensitivity. Click here for an article that details how to choose the best one for your situation.

Complete avoidance of these foods is difficult to do and not necessary forever. Eliminating them for at least a month should give you a good idea as to whether your body is being affected or not by histamine sensitivity.

Afterwards, you can reintroduce these foods back into your diet slowly. It’s important to note and keep in mind that some people will react more specifically to histamine, where others may be affected more or equally to tyrosine or arginine, or possibly have no reaction at all.

Be patient, listen and see how you’re body responds, as this is the ultimate test to know what will bring you the results you’re looking to achieve both in your skin and overall health.

About the Author

carla hernandezCarla Hernandez is a Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, with a Bachelors degree in Foods and Nutrition. She uses nutrition, diet and lifestyle interventions to support physiological mechanisms within the body. She is the founder of Wise Roots Nutrition, an integrative approach to skin care that focuses on internal health to address topical skin conditions.

Carla educates and empowers clients and readers to make responsible and healthful food choices that restores balance and promotes clear healthy skin starting within the body. She believes in finding the root cause of a condition, rather than just treating the symptoms. Carla works with people locally in San Francisco, as well as long distance via phone and Skype all over the country, specializing in digestive distress and skin issues such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. Visit her blog and read more about her story here.

Sources and More Information

H Zhang, et al. Risk factors for sebaceous gland diseases and their relationship to gastrointestinal dysfunction in Han adolescents. J Dermatol. 2008; 35: 555 – 561





Skin Icing: All Natural Anti-Aging Skin Technique (helps clear up skin too)

Taking Probiotics for Maximum Benefit

How Coconut Oil Can Contribute to Problems with Acne

Clear Skin Starts with a Healthy Gut

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