Histamine intolerance-like symptoms in healthy volunteers after oral provocation with liquid histamine

Allergy Asthma Proc. Sep-Oct 2004;25(5):305-11.


Histamine in food at non-toxic doses has been proposed to be a major cause of food intolerance causing symptoms like diarrhea, hypotension, headache, pruritus and flush ("histamine intolerance"). Histamine-rich foods such as cheese, sausages, sauerkraut, tuna, tomatoes, and alcoholic beverages may contain histamine up to 500 mg/kg. We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study in 10 healthy females (age range 22-36 years, mean 29.1 +/- 5.4) who were hospitalized and challenged on two consecutive days with placebo (peppermint tea) or 75 mg of pure histamine (equaling 124 mg histamine dihydrochloride, dissolved in peppermint tea). Objective parameters (heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature, peak flow) as well as a total clinical symptom score using a standardized protocol were recorded at baseline, 10, 20, 40, 80 minutes, and 24 hours. The subjects received a histamine-free diet also low in allergen 24 hours before hospitalization and over the whole observation period. Blood samples were drawn at baseline, 10, 20, 40, and 80 minutes, and histamine and the histamine-degrading enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO) were determined. After histamine challenge, 5 of 10 subjects showed no reaction. One individual experienced tachycardia, mild hypotension after 20 minutes, sneezing, itching of the nose, and rhinorrhea after 60 minutes. Four subjects experienced delayed symptoms like diarrhea (4x), flatulence (3x), headache (3x), pruritus (2x) and ocular symptoms (1x) starting 3 to 24 hours after provocation. No subject reacted to placebo. No changes were observed in histamine and DAO levels within the first 80 minutes in non-reactors as well as reactors. There was no difference in challenge with histamine versus challenge with placebo. We conclude that 75 mg of pure liquid oral histamine--a dose found in normal meals--can provoke immediate as well as delayed symptoms in 50% of healthy females without a history of food intolerance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Amine Oxidase (Copper-Containing) / metabolism
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Histamine / administration & dosage
  • Histamine / adverse effects*
  • Histamine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / blood
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / enzymology
  • Hypersensitivity, Delayed / etiology*
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / blood
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / enzymology
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate / etiology*
  • Reference Values


  • Histamine
  • Amine Oxidase (Copper-Containing)