przede wszystkim jest regula, ze im product starszy tym wiecej ma histaminy, Wiec wszystko powinno byc swieze. Wino I kapusta kiszona maja duzo histaminy bo fermentowane.


I am grateful to Dr. Judy Tsafrir for calling my attention to this important aspect of food sensitivities.  I recently wrote a series of blog posts documenting in (some would say horrifying) detail my personal attempt at an extreme ketogenic diet. Given that I have an extraordinary number of food sensitivities, that experiment was even more challenging than it would have been for a normal person…

You see, for the past few years I have gravitated towards a mostly-meat diet–usually fresh or frozen poultry and fish supplemented with small amounts of the plant foods that bother me least–cucumbers, lettuce, etc.  However, the ketogenic diet put strict limits on how much protein I could eat, so I found myself turning to some foods that are unusual for me, such as pork and beef, which tend to have more fat and less protein than poultry and fish.  While travelling, I sometimes had to resort to smoked, cured, or other processed meats.  I have known for a long time that these do not agree with me, which is why I prefer to eat fresh meats whenever possible.  So there I was, having all kinds of difficulty tolerating these foods, and driving my readers crazy.

Then one day, Dr. Tsafrir commented beneath one of my posts that I might have histamine intolerance.  She had removed foods high in histamine from her own diet and written on her own site about the many benefits she’d experienced.  So, I decided to learn more about the science behind this topic in hopes of better understanding my own bizarre food reactions, as well as helping those of you out there who may be struggling with similar issues.

Histamine is found lurking primarily in aged, cured, fermented, cultured, and spoiled foods. Reactions to histamine described in the literature vary from subjective reports of a wide variety of variable symptoms to full-blown toxicity.  We will dive in to the details soon enough, but first:  what is histamine?

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Say Hello to Histamine

Histamine is a tiny messaging molecule that some cells use to communicate with each other.  It is naturally found in all kinds of plants and animals.  Histamine is best known for its role in the body’s allergic response.  If you are allergic to peanuts and you sink your chompers into a yummy peanut butter cup, your immune cells will flood your system with histamine, wreaking all kinds of havoc–from hives to low blood pressure to difficulty breathing.  But this is histamine in crisis mode.  Under normal circumstances, tiny amounts of histamine are quietly conducting the daily business of the body.  It is not typically cruising recklessly through your bloodstream in large quantities, the way it is during an allergic emergency (anaphylactic shock).

Histamine is versatile–it helps to regulate body functions as diverse as digestion, sleep, sexual function, blood pressure, and brain function.  How does this one molecule do so many different things?  The secret to histamine’s multi-faceted nature lies in which type of cell and which type of receptor it binds to.  For example, when histamine binds to special cells in the stomach called parietal cells, they respond by producing stomach acid.  When histamine binds to receptors on the surface of blood vessel cells, blood vessels dilate, dropping blood pressure. Small vessels called capillaries become leaky and fluids ooze out of them, which can lead to runny nose, watery eyes, and puffy skin/fluid retention.  In the brain, histamine acts as a neurotransmitter, carrying chemical messages between nerve cells.

Histamine is promiscuous, lives fast and dies young.  As soon as it delivers its special chemical message to its target cell it is then instantly destroyed to keep it under control.  No respect–but that’s what it gets for being the cad that it is. So, if histamine doesn’t hang around in plants and animals, why should we worry?

We all get old…but we do not rot. As long as oxygen and blood are flowing, we stay fresh as a daisy.  Meat used to be alive, but it’s not anymore.  As soon as it stops being alive, bacteria start eating it–decomposing it—fermenting it–breaking its proteins down into ever-smaller, stranger, and often smellier compounds.  Many of these by-products are biogenic amines. Histamine is just one example of a biogenic amine.  Unlike in living tissues, the histamine that is produced during meat fermentation is not instantly destroyed—so it accumulates.  The longer meat is left out, the higher the biogenic amine content.  Histamine itself has no flavor and is odorless, so you can’t use the smell test to detect its presence.

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What are Biogenic Amines?

A biogenic amine is a potent signaling molecule made from an amino acid.  Histamine, for example, is made from the common amino acid histidine (amino acids are what proteins are made of).  Meat and fish are rich in protein, so they are chock full of amino acids.  [For more information about amino acids, see my protein page].

Here is a list of the most common biogenic amines and the amino acids they are made from.  You’ll notice that a couple of them have ghastly names, worthy of a Vincent Price voiceover:  putrescine and the perfectly ghoulish cadaverine—mwaaah ah ah…

Parent amino acids are in green and their biogenic amine products are in red:

  • Arginine—Agmatine, Putrescine, Spermine, Spermidine
  • Histidine—Histamine
  • Lysine—Cadaverine
  • Ornithine—Putrescine, Spermine, Spermidine
  • Phenylalanine—Phenylethylamine
  • Tryptophan—Tryptamine, Serotonin
  • Tyrosine–Tyramine

To turn a garden variety amino acid into a powerful biogenic amine, you need to remove its carboxyl group. To accomplish this you need a special enzyme called a decarboxylase (fancy word for “enzyme that chops off carboxyl groups”).

Many species of bacteria and yeast contain the enzyme histidine decarboxylase (HDC), which turns histidine into histamine. So, when meat (or fish) is not immediately consumed or frozen, bacteria get straight to work breaking down the amino acids within it, and one of the by-products is histamine.

So, take-home lesson:  eat your meat/fish either very fresh or confirm that it was frozen quickly.  Seems simple enough, right?  But wait, there’s more.  We silly humans actually go out of our way to ferment foods on purpose.  People like to play with food—we add bacteria to milk to make cheese and yogurt.  We add yeast to grapes to make wine. We add bacteria to meat to make salami.  In the process, these fresh foods—milk, grapes, and meat—which in their fresh forms are essentially histamine-free, become very high in histamine and other biogenic amines.