Guide to this page (a five minute read)

The Purpose

The Science

The Anecdotes

The Questions

The Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to gather scientific and anecdotal information pertaining to food related histamine intolerance and histamine-multiple sclerosis research.   The goal is to encourage the merging of these two research areas.

The Science

Histamine is a common compound involved in many aspects of human physiology and circulates in our blood and plasma.   Histamine is stored in nervous system cells, digestive tract cells and in two types of blood cells, mast cells and basophils.  Additionally, because of its wide presence across both the plant and animal kingdoms, histamine is found in many foods.  Depending on the type, freshness and sanitation of food, food can contain more or less histamine which results from the breakdown of the common amino acid histidine.

Histamine circulates throughout the body and is stored within the cells mentioned previously as granules.  When needed the histamine is released to aid with allergic reactions, blood pressure control, digestion, neural messaging, smooth muscle contraction, wound formation and more.

Part of histamine’s wide use within the body stems from its ability to bind with proteins.  This binding potential makes things happen!  So far scientists have categorized histamine into four types based on its ability to bind with proteins and they are referred to as H1, H2, H3 and H4.

Histamine has two protagonists in humans, diamine oxidase and methyltransferase.  These are enzymes that break down histamine for reuse or excretion. The former works primarily in the digestive tract while the latter works primarily in the central nervous system.

Too much ingested histamine can make anyone ill.  The most common occurrence of this is eating fish that is too old or that has been mishandled.  But some people are intolerant of more moderate intakes of histamine.  Research indicates that this intolerance is often caused by inadequate amounts of the enzymes mentioned above, a problem that is felt to be genetically based.

For a scientific overview of histamine intolerance and its symptoms, visit https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/85/5/1185/4633007 .


In 2010 Elservier published an article titled Histamine and Histamine Receptors in Pathogenesis and Treatment of Multiple Sclerosis in the journal Neurophamacology about histamine receptors and their role in multiple sclerosis.  (Neuropharmacology 59 (2010) 180-189).  The research was conducted and submitted by Drs. Farhad Jadidi-Niaragh and Abbas Mirshafiey.  At that time these two researchers were with the Department of Immunology, School of Public Health, Tehran University of Medical Sciences in Iran.   Their conclusion was that Histamine Receptors H1 and H4 seem to worsen MS while Histamine Receptors H2 and H3 may help lessen the effects of MS.

A dietary look at histamine largely through the research of Dr. Janice V. Joneja follows.  Dr. Joneja is a researcher, educator, author and clinical counselor in the field of biochemical and immunological reactions involved in food allergy and intolerances.  The following information is taken from three publications that she has authored:

Digestion, Diet, and Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Gastrointestinal Function. 2004. Janice M. Vickerstaff Joneja.  Rutgers University Press.

Dealing with Food Allergies.  2003.  Janice Vickerstaff Joneja.  Bull Publishing Company.

The Beginner’s Guide to Histamine Intolerance.  2017.  Vickerstaff Health Services.

  • “Sensitivity to histamine is thought to be caused by low levels of the enzymes histamine N-methyltransferase and diamine oxidase, which normally break down excess histamine to imidazole compounds that are excreted in urine.” (First reference above, page 181)
  • Azo dye, also known as tartrazine and Yellow Dye #5 and the preservative benzoate which is often found in processed foods such as sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate cause the release of histamine from mast cells. (First reference above, page 182)
  • “The immune system and the nervous system form a coordinated defense network in the body. In disease, dysregulation in one system may result in effects in the other.” (Marshall and Waserman 1995)”
  • Diamine oxidase is found primarily in the lining of the digestive tract but also in the placenta, kidney and thymus gland.
  • Methyltransferase occurs primarily in the brain, but also in the stomach, lung, spleen, kidney and thymus.

There have been multiple studies linking both sodium benzoate and one of its metabolites, cinnamon, to an improvement in the standard animal model for multiple sclerosis.  For a look at one such study visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17579047 .

The Anecdotes

  1. My story: I began having a change in my vision when I was 10 years old. When I was tired, light would look different, either “sharp” when the sun was setting, or a general gray pallor in artificial light.  Sometime after that began I got incredibly dizzy and fell over in school.  A stay in Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia yielded no conclusion.  This annoyance went away when I was a teenager yet resurfaced when I was 27.  At the same time, I had a numbness over one shoulder blade.  Then I got dizzy for a few hours, things sounded brassy and the abnormality to my vision became permanent.  Still age 27 I had a spinal tap.  I was to call for the results.  When I did the doctor said my test result was not normal, that I had a disease.  When I asked what disease, the doctor said he would tell me in person at my upcoming appointment (in two weeks).  At that appointment he said he could never diagnose someone who looked as good as me.

I went to the library and started reading the Merck Manual of Disease.  It was apparent to me that I had multiple sclerosis.  Now I am 70 years old and still doing okay… although I have small issues that many people with MS experience.  When my local hospital started offering a patient portal and I signed up… there was Multiple Sclerosis in my diagnosis column although these many years later none of my current doctors feel I have it because I seem too well.

I became captivated with the idea that there was some quirk of my physiology that was keeping me well… it had to be the only explanation.  I had been keeping a food journal for some time to help me manage IBS.  Since the common preservative benzoate was by far my worst trigger Dr. Janice V. Joneja’s work with allergies and food intolerances led me to histamine intolerance.

Then I read the study mentioned above by Drs. Jadidi-Niaragh and Mirshafiey about Histamine 2&3 possibly offering some protection against the effects of MS.

  1. I receive a histamine intolerance newsletter published in Europe, so I asked the editor to run a short article asking anyone with histamine intolerance who also had MS to contact me. One person, a woman as old as I responded.  She has a definite MS diagnosis which she had received when she was 58.  She lost her ability to walk at age 7 and again at age 21 yet these issues resolved, and her diagnosis was postponed.  She is still doing relatively very well.  She feels she may be histamine intolerant.
  2. In my general reading of MS and of histamine intolerance, it has been anecdotally reported that women with MS tend to feel and do better when they are pregnant. Likewise, women with histamine intolerance tend to feel and do better when they are pregnant.

The Questions

It is time for the histamine/MS research and the histamine/food intolerance research to more thoroughly combine.

  1. Is the hereditary part of MS linked to the level of diamine oxidase and or methyltransferase production?
  2. Are the geographic and/or ethnic quirks of MS linked to ethnic consumption of histamine rich foods?
  3. What commonalities do patients with benign MS share? Could it be low levels of diamine oxidase?
  4. Can a more benign or severe course of MS be predicted by diamine oxidase levels?
  5. It has been established that there is no overlap between MS and gout. Is there a relationship between uric acid production, gout and either of the enzymes mentioned above?