Navigating Dietary Histamine in Migraine Management: Practical Tips

Navigating Dietary Histamine in Migraine Management: Practical Tips

Introduction to Dietary Histamine

Dietary histamine plays a significant role in triggering migraine attacks for individuals with histamine intolerance. Histamine is a neurotransmitter and an immune system mediator naturally produced by our bodies. It has multiple functions, including regulating sleep, digestion, and immune responses. However, excessive levels of histamine or an inability to process it properly can lead to histamine intolerance, which can exacerbate migraine attacks.

Understanding Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance refers to the body’s inability to break down histamine efficiently, leading to an accumulation of histamine in the system. For individuals with migraine attacks, histamine intolerance can trigger or worsen migraine attacks. Common symptoms of histamine intolerance include headaches, migraine attacks, flushing, nasal congestion, hives, and digestive issues.

Identifying Histamine-Rich Foods

It’s crucial to be aware of histamine-rich foods and avoid or limit their consumption to manage migraine attacks effectively. Some foods high in histamine include:

  • Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha
  • Aged cheese, including blue cheese, cheddar, and parmesan
  • Processed meats, like salami, bacon, and hot dogs
  • Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits
  • Certain vegetables and nuts, including tomatoes, spinach, and walnuts

These foods contain high levels of histamine or promote histamine release in the body. Another group of compounds called biogenic amines, including tyramine and phenylethylamine, can also trigger migraine attacks in individuals with histamine intolerance.

Keeping a Food Diary

Keeping a food diary is a valuable tool in understanding your individual triggers and managing histamine levels in your diet. It allows you to identify patterns between your food intake and migraine attacks. To keep a food diary:

  • Record the foods you eat: Write down everything you consume, including ingredients and preparation methods.
  • Noting any symptoms or migraine attacks: Document any symptoms, including the severity and duration of migraine attacks.
  • Monitoring the time when symptoms occur: Pay attention to the time frame between consuming certain foods and experiencing migraine attacks.

Regularly reviewing your food diary can help you pinpoint specific triggers and take necessary steps to avoid or reduce their consumption.

Elimination Diet for Histamine Intolerance

An elimination diet is an effective approach to identify and manage histamine intolerance. The process involves removing high histamine foods from your diet for a period of time, typically 4-6 weeks, and then gradually reintroducing them to assess your tolerance. Tips for starting an elimination diet include:

  • Planning meals and snacks: Research recipes and meal ideas that avoid high histamine foods.
  • Reading food labels for histamine content: Look for ingredients that may indicate high histamine levels or hidden sources, such as food additives.
  • Seeking support from a healthcare professional: Consult a registered dietitian or healthcare provider specialized in histamine intolerance to guide you through the process.

Alternative Approaches to Managing Histamine

In addition to dietary changes, there are alternative approaches that can help manage histamine levels and alleviate migraine attacks:

  • Supplementation with DAO enzyme: Diamine oxidase (DAO) is an enzyme that helps break down histamine. Taking DAO enzyme supplements before meals can support histamine metabolism.
  • Probiotics for histamine metabolism: Certain probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacterium infantis, may assist in improving histamine metabolism and reducing symptoms of histamine intolerance.
  • Quercetin as a natural antihistamine: Quercetin, a plant flavonoid, has antihistamine properties and can help reduce histamine release in the body. It is found in foods like apples, onions, and berries or can be taken as a supplement.
  • Seeking guidance from a healthcare professional: As each individual’s needs and tolerances may vary, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional to determine the best approach for managing histamine intolerance.

Managing Histamine Triggers in Daily Life

Aside from dietary modifications, certain strategies can help reduce histamine intake and minimize the risk of migraine triggers:

Strategies for reducing histamine intake:

  • Using fresh ingredients: Opt for fresh foods rather than processed or canned options, as they often contain higher levels of histamine.
  • Cooking methods that lower histamine levels: Choose cooking methods like boiling, steaming, or poaching, which can help reduce histamine content in food compared to grilling or frying.
  • Avoiding food additives and preservatives: Processed and packaged foods often contain additives and preservatives that can trigger migraine attacks. Read labels carefully and opt for fresh, whole foods whenever possible.
  • Being mindful of cross-contamination: Avoid cross-contamination between histamine-rich foods and other ingredients during food preparation to minimize histamine exposure.

Lifestyle practices to reduce histamine build-up:

  • Managing stress levels: Stress can contribute to histamine release in the body. Incorporate stress management techniques like exercise, meditation, or deep breathing to help regulate histamine levels.
  • Getting regular exercise: Physical activity can potentially reduce inflammation and help improve histamine metabolism.
  • Ensuring quality sleep: Adequate sleep is essential for overall health and maintaining healthy histamine levels. Establish a consistent sleep routine and create a conducive sleep environment.


When managing migraine attacks, taking steps to navigate dietary histamine can be a practical approach to reduce triggers and alleviate symptoms. Understanding histamine intolerance, identifying histamine-rich foods, keeping a food diary, trying an elimination diet, exploring alternative approaches, and adopting strategies in daily life can contribute to improved migraine management. It’s important to remember that individual tolerances may vary, so seeking guidance from healthcare professionals specialized in histamine intolerance is crucial for personalized advice.

Jenny from Migraine Buddy

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