September 14

Is Coffee High in Histamine? What You Need to Know


Over 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed across the world every day but is coffee high in histamine? With the average adult in the US drinking two cups daily we should probably find out. There are many purported health benefits of drinking coffee, such as a lower risk of cancer, heart failure, and Type 2 diabetes. However, some people with histamine intolerance have reported adverse reactions to coffee.

So is coffee high in histamine? The simple answer to this question is "yes". Caffeine is high in histamine, and coffee (unless you're drinking decaf) contains plenty of caffeine. The link between histamine and caffeine, and how the two affect each other, is a little more complicated!

How Caffeine and Histamine Interact

Not only is caffeine high in histamine, but histamine can affect the body's ability to process and tolerate caffeine. This can create a vicious cycle of symptoms for people with histamine intolerance or caffeine intolerance!

Studies carried out on rats have shown that histamine can increase the effects of caffeine. Caffeine itself also stimulates the body's cells to release glutamate, which activates the histamine receptors. Caffeine can also block the release of diamine oxidase (or DAO), an enzyme that breaks down histamine.

Histamine and caffeine have something of a symbiotic relationship. Both increase each other's effects, while histamine both lowers tolerance to caffeine and increases cravings for it!

is coffee high in histamine

Symptoms of Caffeine Intolerance

The way that histamine triggers allergy symptoms is not quite the same as other chemicals that you may be allergic to. Histamine is the body's way of fighting allergens—it is not the allergy itself.

Allergic reactions to coffee are not necessarily a result of histamine intolerance. If you are allergic to caffeine, the increase in histamine is merely the body doing its job properly and releasing histamine to fight the symptoms of your caffeine allergy!

Many of the symptoms of caffeine allergy and histamine intolerance overlap, so it can be difficult to tell which of the two you are suffering from. The specifics of your reaction may give some clues.

For most adults, caffeine is a relatively mild stimulant with noticeable but not overwhelming effects. Most experts estimate a healthy daily amount of caffeine for adults as up to 200 milligrams, or about two large cups of coffee. If you drink this amount or less but find yourself sensitive to the effects, you likely have a form of caffeine intolerance, whether it is merely a sensitivity or a full-blown allergy.

Symptoms of caffeine sensitivity include a racing heartbeat, jitters, anxiety, restlessness, headaches, and insomnia. These symptoms usually dissipate on their own after a few hours. While many people have a caffeine sensitivity, not as many are allergic to the drug. Caffeine allergy symptoms are more dangerous, including itching of the skin, breaking out in hives, swelling of the tongue or throat, and even difficulty breathing. In severe cases, the life-threatening reaction anaphylaxis can occur.

Symptoms of Coffee Intolerance

In rare cases, people can be allergic to coffee itself rather than caffeine. It is difficult to find the culprit in these cases, as caffeine is only one of over 1000 chemical compounds found in coffee!

Whether you believe you may be suffering from histamine intolerance, caffeine allergy, or an allergy to any other compound in coffee, if you suffer from any of the following symptoms after drinking coffee, it may be best to cut down or stop drinking it entirely.

Is Coffee High in Histamine itchy skin
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Jitters
  • Mouth ulcers
  • High heart rate or palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Congestion
  • Sweating
  • Rashes
  • Hives or Acne
  • Numbness of the extremities
  • Anaphylaxis

Ways to Reduce Your Caffeine Intake

Reducing your caffeine intake is vital if you have a full-blown caffeine allergy, and most likely very beneficial if you have a caffeine sensitivity or histamine intolerance. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that you can reduce your caffeine intake.

If you consume caffeine very regularly, such as daily, it may be best for you to gradually cut down rather than stop instantly! While caffeine is safe for most people and used in offices and kitchens worldwide, it is still an addictive substance. When the body becomes used to caffeine and then is deprived of it suddenly, you may suffer withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine withdrawal can be harmful in more extreme cases, but for most people will result in irritating symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, and trouble concentrating.

Cutting down by one daily cup at first may be easier to cope with than going "cold turkey." If coffee is an integral part of your daily routine, why not try gradually replacing it with decaf coffee, or just making weaker coffees? Black tea or green tea can also be effective alternatives if you love a hot drink: a cup of average black tea contains only 60mg of caffeine compared to coffee's 100-200mg, and green tea is even lower at around 40mg. However, if you reduce your caffeine intake due to histamine intolerance, it is worth noting that tea is also relatively high in histamine.

Other things to consider include soda and chocolate—these can also contain a significant amount of caffeine. You may have to consider your diet in general, not just how much coffee you drink!

Low Histamine Coffee Alternatives

If you want to avoid coffee due to histamine intolerance, some alternatives still offer some of its benefits.

While chocolate, and therefore cocoa, is high in histamine, an alternative is raw cacao. While it isn't free of histamine (although it is believed to be lower in histamine than cocoa), it is believed to have various health benefits. Cacao also provides a milder but longer-lasting stimulant effect than caffeine and is gaining popularity as a healthier alternative.

Other coffee alternatives, such as Matcha and Yerba Mate, are also becoming increasingly popular. Like green tea, Matcha contains only low amounts of caffeine, yet can be somewhat high in histamine. While made from naturally-caffeinated leaves, Yerba Mate is much less acidic than coffee, and therefore less likely to trigger a histamine reaction.

A huge variety of coffee substitutes, including brands like Cafix and Pero, are also available. Most are derived from grain or barley, are lower in—or have an absence of—caffeine, and have lower acidity.
Of course, regular decaf coffee is also an option! When replacing coffee, an important thing to remember is to drink plenty of water—staying hydrated throughout the day is vital for energy levels and overall health.

Is coffee high in histamine and what could you do?

If you have a histamine intolerance but really can't bear to part with your beloved coffee, you can reduce the negative reactions in a few ways. Organic coffee is lower in histamine than non-organic coffee, and freshly-brewed coffee is lower in histamine than coffee from machines or capsules. Drinking your coffee as soon as it is cool enough is also best, as coffee left lying around can accumulate more histamine-liberating bacteria.

The science behind coffee and histamine is pretty complex, and everyone's reactions are different. However, it is generally best to reduce your consumption if you suffer from histamine intolerance and are trying to follow a low histamine diet. Consulting a doctor or dietician is always the best course of action if you are unsure of any aspect of your diet!


Is coffee an antihistamine?

Coffee is not an antihistamine—in fact, it is actually high in histamine content due to the caffeine.

Is coffee OK on a low histamine diet?

If you are trying to entirely cut out histamine from your diet (which would be difficult, if not impossible!), coffee is best avoided. However, if you are just trying to lower the amount of histamine in your diet, you may be able to drink coffee in moderation or switch to decaf coffee.

What drinks are high in histamine?

Any drinks containing caffeine (e.g., soda and energy drinks) are likely to be high in histamine. Other beverages typically high in histamine levels include green tea, cocoa, citrus fruit juices, and alcoholic drinks.


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