Biogenic Amines and Histamine Intolerance

Posted by: Maff


When thinking about how food sensitivities and/or intolerances may be affecting our health, something that is often overlooked is the role that biogenic amines may be playing.


What are Biogenic Amines? 

Biogenic amines are a group of chemicals derived from amino acids (and therefore protein-containing foods) that have a number of functions and effects within the body, some desirable, and some not. The most well known biogenic amines are the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, and histamine, best known for its role in allergies. Others, which are less well known, include tyramine, tryptamine, and phenylethylamine.

These biogenic amines may act as neurotransmitters, be involved in local immune responses (such as the inflammation produced by histamine release), or regulate functions of the gut.

The classic neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline are all essential to proper brain function. Imbalances causes problems such as depression and anxiety.

In relation to food intolerances however, we are more concerned with the biogenic amines contained in foods and beverages that can cause local symptoms in the gut includig nausea, diarrhoea, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as triggering symptoms elsewhere in the body, such as migraines, asthma, and hives.


Dietary Sources of Biogenic Amines 

Biogenic amines are present in both plant and animal foods. They are produced when certain bacteria metabolise specific amino acids in food and beverages. For example, bacteria of the enterobacteriaceae group (e.g. E.coli, klebsiella, proteus, salmonella) breakdown the amino acid histidine, to form histamine.

Major sources of biogenic amines in the diet include:

- Aged Cheese
- Fermented/Pickled Foods (sauerkraut, soy sauce, fish sauce, miso, tofu)
- Processed, Cured and Pickled Meats
- Red Wine

Other foods and drinks that either contain biogenic amines or increase levels in the gut include:

- Fruits (avocado, citrus fruit, grapes, papaya, pineapples, plums, strawberries)
- Vegetables (aubergine/eggplant, spinach)
- Nuts (peanuts, coconuts, Brazil nuts)
- Dried Fruit (raisins, figs)
- Fish (particularly tuna and mackerel)
- Drinks (beer, chianti, vermouth)  
- Chocolate


Health Problems Associated with Biogenic Amines

The dietary biogenic amines that appear to trigger symptoms in some people are histamine, tyramine, and phenylethylamine.

Histamine - It is now estimated that up to 5% of the adult population suffer from hitamine intolerance (HIT), making it a major cause of food intolerance. HIT can cause digestive upsets including chronic diarrhoea or constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, and nausea. It may also causes systemic symptoms such as migraines, low blood pressure (hypotension), and palpitations. Finally, as you may expect, HIT can trigger allergic conditions including hayfever, eczema, asthma, and hives.

Tyramine - Has a strong association with migraine, high blood pressure (hypertension), depression, and Parkinson's disease. Tyramine is a major problem for people taking MAOI antidepressant drugs as they block its breakdown which can result in dangerously high blood pressure.

Phenylethylamine - Connected to migraine headaches, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and schizophrenia.

Dirk Budka, an expert on biogenic amine intolerances, believes that 40% of those suffering from IBS can be helped by addressing such intolerances. He also states that they are an important underlying factor in allergic conditions such as hayfever, eczema, and asthma, but are not considered by many healthcare practitioners (both from conventional and alternative/complementary medicine backgrounds).

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About: Matthew Hogg ("Maff")
Diagnosed with M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome aged only 11 years old and subsequently associated illnesses including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). Despite his own struggles he has constantly sought to educate and support others suffering from such "invisible illnesses" through his website, The Environmental Illness Resource. He fully recovered from MCS using his own approach and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutritional Health.



Comments (4)Add Comment
written by k Patterson, December 10, 2010
If you don't want to waste your money and be cheated, then avoid Dirk Budka. He is a charlaton and has no qualifications to practice. He is not a doctor, a biomedical scientist (he's been banned by the Health Professions Council from using this title) or a nutritionist. He's just a scam artist. If you want to get proper tests go to Biolab.
written by Matthew Hogg, December 11, 2010
Thanks for your comment. I can't argue with the recommendation of Biolab. Their tests are always supported by published, peer-reviewed papers (many authored by members of their staff). For UK visitors I would also recommend Acumen, a new pioneering lab led by Dr John McLaren-Howard, co-founder and former lab director of Biolab. Acumen are most notable for their use of 'DNA Adducts' to determine damage from heavy metals and other environmental toxins.
written by SaraNinguem, September 19, 2011
I couldn't disagree more with the first comment. Dr. Budka has helped me and several other patients that I know of who are deeply grateful for his diagonses and recommendations. He is the only doctor out there who has found something that WORKS for me. I have been a patient of his for two years, and I thank my lucky stars to have found him, as I think I would have spent the rest of my life bouncing between allergists, dermatologists, psychiatrists, naturopaths, healing gurus and whatnot in desperation to find a treatment.
written by Michelle F, September 23, 2011
I found that I have troubles with many foods. I have a wicked allergy to amines. So it's nice to see your site - it reminds me that there's other people out there with the same (or similarly baffling) problems as me.

I wanted to let you know about the low amine recipe blog I've started ( I'm hoping it will become an important tool for people with amine problems. I'm hoping that it, like your site, will become a helpful resource for people with amine problems.

It's baffling to me that amines can cause such a wide variety of problems. Because of this, I'm certain that amine sites need to link to each other and become a nurturing community of resources. The final stamp on that was that when I got diagnosed, I couldn't find any resources that were helpful to me. I'm hoping with a bit of blogging and networking, that won't happen to other people that discover they have this problem.

Hope all is well with you, and I hope my recipes help! There are only a few up so far, but subscribe - I'll be adding more daily.

-Michelle Ferris

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