One of the questions I often get asked is which fat is low histamine.
There is a lot of confusion around fats, let alone histamine intolerance, so when you add the two together, it’s easy to be confused.
I hope to make this simple.
Contrary to marketing propaganda, fat does not make you fat.
Instead, fats are essential to be healthy and vital to regulate our cell function.
What Happens When We Eat Fats
When we eat fats, this is what happens.
Fats are histamine releasors. This means that when we eat fat, histamine is released from the mast cells, as fats are pro-inflammatory.
At the same time, H4 receptors release diamine oxidase (DAO) in proportion to the histamine released from mast cells by the fat.
The more histamine is released, the more DAO is released, and the DAO then rapidly degrades the histamine in around 30 minutes.
Fat consumption does not increase our overall reserves of DAO.
So consuming fat is not ordinarily a problem.
It only becomes a problem at the tipping point when our body cannot release as much DAO as the histamines in the fat we consume.
From a histamine intolerance perspective, we need to eat fat to be healthy, but we also need to eat the least pro-inflammatory fat possible to retain as many foods as possible in our diet.
Fats as Histamine Releasors
The histamine released from mast cells after consuming fat has been extensively studied. Here are the results:
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids – Omega 6
[VERY HIGH] Arachidonic Acid is typically found in offal and causes the highest increase in histamine.
Offal is traditionally included in a healthy diet in small quantities due to its high nutritional content. Chicken eggs are also relatively high, while duck eggs are relatively low in arachidonic acid. This may explain why many low histamine people do well on duck eggs.
[HIGH] Linoleic Acid is typically found in large quantities in flax seeds, seed-based oils, and in small amounts in various foods.
Having now tested hundreds of people, few, if any, people can tolerate seed-based oils, which are inflammatory.
Dietary requirements can be obtained incidentally without using seed-based oil. It is worth noting that seed-based oils are typically low in salicylates and recommended on a low salicylate diet.
I don’t eat or recommend seed-based oils ever.
Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids – Omega 3
[MODERATE] A-Linolenic Acid is an essential fat typically found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, herbs, micro herbs, sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, avocado, onions, and butter.
It is beneficial in preventing inflammation but paradoxically also leads to moderate histamine release. Only a modest amount is converted to the EPA & DHA form of Omega 3.
I actively eat herbs, micro-herbs, and sprouts as an ingredient rather than as a garnish.
I also eat more vegetables than a vegetarian (around 6 cups a day), which are rich in a-linolenic Acid fats and a powerhouse of antioxidants, including glutathione and its precursors.
So I not only prioritize these in my diet but believe they are much lower in histamines than the ingredients I would otherwise eat.
While studies were not conducted on the histamine-releasing potential of EPA & DHA, it is widely hypothesized that these healthy fats at moderate levels prevent inflammation caused by Omega 6 consumption, brain inflammation, and depression.
The biggest challenge on a low histamine diet for me, and frustratingly the one that appears to be anti-inflammatory, was to identify a reliable source of EPA and DHA.
Wild salmon is not native to my area, and all the “flash frozen” imported salmon was too high in histamines for me. It will solve many problems if wild salmon is native to your area (or at least an overnight frozen supply). Fish consumed within 12 hours of a catch is generally well tolerated.
For me, living in sub-tropical Australia, I am limited to wild snapper and barramundi, which are both white flesh fish.
Through persistence, I have found a reputable supplier of white fish caught the night before, vacuum-packed, and delivered within 12 hours of the catch. I tolerate this fish without any problem and eat it twice a week.
Also, through persistence, I have managed to identify farmers who can supply direct to me a wide range of grass-fed protein, which has exceptionally high levels of Omega 3 fat.
If you wonder whether it has different nutritional content, I encourage you to seek a grass-fed chicken and compare it to an organic chicken fed “organic” pellets. They are entirely different colors, flavors, textures, and fat content. It converted me instantly.
Medium Chain Triglycerides
[LOW] Medium-chain Triglycerides are typically found in coconut milk, coconut oil, and mother’s milk and result in almost no increase in histamines.
They are metabolized differently from other forms of fats and are pre-digested. They are high in antioxidants.
Coconut products are a grey area for people with histamine intolerance. However, they are also high in salicylates.
Many people with histamine intolerance tolerate coconut oil and MCT oil without an issue.
Many coconut milk have additives in them. Finding an organic brand without additives has taken me some time but is worthwhile.
Monosaturated Fatty Acids
[LOW] Oleic Acid is found in olive oil, avocado, lard, and nuts like macadamias. It only slightly increases the precursor that leads to histamine release from the mast cells.
However, oleic acid dramatically increases the release of DAO into the bloodstream by up to 500%, therefore improving histamine degradation. Olive oil is one of the primary sources of oleic acid. Canola oil is too – but studies show it is also highly inflammatory, so I choose not to eat it.
I eat a lot of olive oil and macadamia oil, which are made locally and are in my diet almost daily. The macadamias are pesticide-free, locally grown (I live near the Macadamia Capital of Australia! Who knew?!), and purchased in small quantities.
Controversially, I also now eat barely ripe, local, organic avocados without issue a couple of times a week. Avocados contain (hist) amines but these increase in the fruit as the avocado ripens. In small quantities, firm, barely ripe avocados can often be tolerated.
As my health has improved, I have reintroduced this exceptionally healthy fat source into my diet. This has taken a while to do.
[ LOW] Stearic Acid is mainly found in meat, coconut, and milk products and does not result in histamine release. This fat is around 80% of the fat stored in the body’s cells for future use.
Finding ethical sources of organic grass-fed protein rather than supermarket-sourced protein has been one of the most significant differences in my histamine levels. Whilst this may cost more I personally find it worth the investment.
How I Eat Fats
The simplest way to lower your histamine load without cutting out foods is to address safe food handling practices and to choose local, in-season, just ripe, whole organic foods.
It just jumps over a lot of potential supply chain-added problems.
So my diet is first and foremost dictated by what is grown locally and is super-fresh. As I live in a semi-tropical climate in Australia, this may differ from your options, so I am sharing more concepts than lists.
Here are 30 low histamine foods I now regularly eat for their healthy fat content. I did not start with this list, but I have doggedly built the list up one bite at a time.
As with all things, trust your body, not my lists, and try to eat as wide a variety as possible.
Hypersensitivity is extremely common when introducing new foods; please consider introducing new foods in tiny, tiny amounts and building.
Fats are vital to our health and cell membrane integrity.
We can obtain the fats we need from our diet by:
Eating fresh local organic produce where possible
Avoiding industrial seed oils
Eating pasture-fed protein where possible (within 2 weeks of processing)
Eat a minimum of two (preferably four) serves of local fresh fish a week (within 12 hours of the catch)
Eating a wide variety of herbs, micro-herbs, sprouts, and vegetables
Use heat-stable oils (such as ghee and expeller pressed coconut oil) for cooking with, and
Continuing to increase and rotate the variety of quality fats consumed.
We can include supplements to support fat digestion, including digestive enzymes. Our ability to digest or not digest fats does not change our cells’ needs.
To learn more about how amines build in foods, read my post, Safe Food Handling and Histamine Intolerance.
Myung Chul Kim, Min Gyu Kim, Young Soo Jo, Ho Sun Song, Tae In Eom, Sang Soo Sim “Effects of C18 Fatty Acids on Intracellular Ca(2+) Mobilization and Histamine Release in RBL-2H3 Cells”. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2014 Jun 12;18(3):241-7.
Yong J, Yasuhisa Sakata, Xiaoming Li, Chao Zhang, Qing Yang, Min Xu, Armin Wollin, Wolfgang Langhans, and Patrick Tso, “Lymphatic diamine oxidase secretion stimulated by fat absorption is linked with histamine release,” Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. Apr 15, 2013; 304(8): G732–G740.
Wollin, Armin, Xiaolin Wang, and Patrick Tso. “Nutrients regulate diamine oxidase release from intestinal mucosa.” American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology 275.4 (1998): R969-R975.