Histamines, Fermented Foods and AcneUpdated: November 01, 2017Skin Health
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 urticaria (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 Link
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.
High Histamine 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.
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, natural soy sauce, wheat germ, vinegars of all kind, miso and other foods made by fermenting soy, 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. This article details how to choose the best probiotic 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.
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
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