Why do I react to histamine, sulphites and salicylate?

We are all different. We have thousands of genes, the blueprints that tell us how to make proteins, such as muscle, enzymes and hormones. We can expect some of our genes to cause us to make inefficient enzymes so that we have problems that other people don’t. But they in turn will also have problems, that we don’t.


We were designed to live as hunter-gatherers in an unpolluted world, eating vegetables, meat, shellfish, nuts and insects. We can’t live like that anymore. We live on a densely populated island and are exposed to traffic fumes, waste processing plants, factories, wifi, microwaves, mercury-containing fillings in teeth, preservatives in vaccinations, and drugs. The detoxification system we had in the Stone Age, isn’t enough for some of us today.

Detoxification by sulphate

One very important part of detoxification in the body is carried out by sulphate. Sulphate attaches to chemicals called phenols and amines. Salicylate is a phenol and histamine is an amine, but there are others. 

In order for detoxification to take place, our bodies have to make sulphate. So we start the process with protein and convert it to sulphite - a nasty chemical in coal smoke, and some industrially made foods and drinks. Then we convert the sulphite to sulphate. In order to do so, we need the following minerals: molybdenum, magnesium and zinc. Plus the Omega 3 fatty acids in fish and flax, and vitamins B1, B2, B5 and B6. 

We possess enzymes that transport the sulphate to where we need it to go. In order to do this, we attach this sulphate to phenols and amines, so that they can no longer harm us. Although fruits and vegetables contain many healthy nutrients, they do slow down this transportation. Orange, spinach and radish are particularly insufficient carriers in the extent to which they slow down sulphate transport. If we aren’t very efficient at making sulphate, we can bath in Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate) as the sulphate passes through the skin.

People who are inefficient at making or transporting sulphate may react to salicylates in food, aspirin, paracetamol, histamine in foods, histamine made by the immune system, tyramine in mature cheese and phenylethylamine in chocolate. They may develop depression, migraine, autism, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, auto-immune diseases or cancer, all because of poor detoxification.

To make sulphate and transport it, we run the risk of losing the capacity to carry out this task, if there are a lot of phenols and amines to deal with. For phenols, there is a fall-back system: we add glucuronide to them, which also makes them safe. This system has a lot of capacity but isn’t as efficient and some may have a problem maintaining this.

A liver function lab test may show if a person's bilirubin is high, and so may possess a harmless condition called Gilbert’s. The only trouble is that, if you have poor sulphate production or transport, and you also have Gilbert’s, the two together make you especially poor at dealing with phenols. Calcium D-glucarate can help with this.

How to process amines

As well as adding sulphate, you can detoxify histamine with an enzyme called histaminase, sometimes called diamine oxidase (DAO). This enzyme needs copper. You may have a genetic problem with making this enzyme, or you may lack enough copper. Either way, this enzyme will be inefficient.

Another method for processing amines is to add chemicals called methyl groups to them. This process involves having enough magnesium, zinc, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and B12 and folate, as well as enough methyl groups. For those who like beetroot, that is a good source of methyl groups. Others can take dimethylglycine (DMG) or trimethylglycine (TMG) or choline as supplements.

Reactions to histamine and salicylate

If you have a problem with histamine or salicylate, it isn’t enough to minimise your intake of these. You need to minimise your intake of amines and phenols in general. This includes resveratrol in red wine, tyramine in mature cheese, and phenylethylamine in chocolate. Green tea should be avoided because of the quercetin in it. Avoid tablets of quercetin and take vitamin C without bioflavonoids, which are phenols. Compounds that suit one person don’t suit another.

It’s important to note that boron, a mineral found in tablets, tomatoes, chilli and peppers, soya and peanuts, broccoli and parsnips causes excretion of vitamin B2, thus damaging your ability to make sulphate, to produce energy, to carry out methylation, and to make enzymes and hormones. Vitamin B2 also recycles a very protective substance called glutathione. Avoid any supplements containing boron.

If you have salicylate or histamine intolerance, you can eat a broad diet, with vegetables, fruits, meat, fish, nuts, lentils, grains and fats. You just have to eat the right ones. Epsom salt baths, adding the right supplements, and avoiding the wrong ones can reduce your sensitivity, making life much more pleasant.

To find out more, send me a message via my profile.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Stockport, Cheshire, SK4 3NP
Written by Margaret Moss, MA UCTD DipION MBANT CBiol MRSB
Stockport, Cheshire, SK4 3NP

Margaret Moss.

Nutrition and Allergy Clinic
11, Mauldeth Close


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