Histamine is a natural substance produced by basophils and mast cells. There is an unproven concept that a variety of symptoms result from excessive histamine due to a deficiency of histamine degradation enzymes such as diamine oxidase and histamine N-methyl transferase. The contention is that this condition results in allergic like symptoms such as abdominal complaints, rhinitis, itching, urticaria, dizziness, migraine headaches and hypotension. The source of histamine is said to be from both endogenous production and absorption from histamine in foods. A review in the medical literature may be of interest to you and a quote from this article summarizes the situation, “…a lot more is alleged and stated than is substantiated by scientific evidence.” (Schwelberger) The tests that are most often suggested are quantification of histamine N-methyl transferase or diamine oxidase, red wine ingestion with assessment of symptoms or plasma histamine concentration (Wantke, Maintz). Diamine oxidase is felt to be more important for GI metabolism of ingested histamine. Histamine challenge, either orally or intravenously, has been suggested as a strategy to identify histamine intolerance. However, the nature of the symptoms are variable and double-blind challenge data do not confirm the existence of the syndrome (Komericki).
In summary, there is insufficient information to validate the concept of histamine intolerance. Tests that are suggested include histamine infusion, histamine oral ingestion, red wine provocation; plasma histamine quantification; and measurement of the enzymes involved in the degradation of histamine. None of these can be recommended due to lack of information proving the predictive value of the tests.
1. Schwelberger, H. G. "Histamine intolerance: a metabolic disease?."Inflammation Research 59.2 (2010): 219-221.
2. Komericki, Peter, et al. "Histamine intolerance: lack of reproducibility of single symptoms by oral provocation with histamine: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study." Wiener Klinische Wochenschrift 123.1-2 (2011): 15-20.
3. Maintz, Laura, et al. "Evidence for a reduced histamine degradation capacity in a subgroup of patients with atopic eczema." Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 117.5 (2006): 1106-1112.
4. Wantke, Felix, Manfred Götz, and Reinhart Jarisch. "The red wine provocation test: intolerance to histamine as a model for food intolerance."Allergy and Asthma Proceedings. Vol. 15. No. 1. OceanSide Publications, Inc, 1994.
5. Wöhrl, Stefan, et al. "Histamine intolerance-like symptoms in healthy volunteers after oral provocation with liquid histamine." Allergy and Asthma Proceedings. Vol. 25. No. 5. OceanSide Publications, Inc, 2004.
I hope this information is of help to you and your patient.
All my best.
Dennis K. Ledford, MD, FAAAAI