Are fermented foods high in histamine? The answer is complicated, and we can look at sauerkraut histamine levels as an example.
Are Fermented Foods High in Histamine: A Look at Vegan Fermented Vegetables
Fermented vegetables that do not contain animal-sourced and/or high protein ingredients do not contain relevant or detectable levels of histamine and are generally safe from biogenic amine concerns.
Also, histamine isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It gets a bad rep, but histamine is necessary for the human body’s function. Histidine is an essential amino acid, and histamine is vital to the proper function of the immune system.
Ordinary, healthy people have no problem when consuming moderate amounts of histamine in foods. Good gut microorganisms normally degrade histamine in the gut, and the enzyme DAO (Diamine Oxidase) in the gut also degrades histamine.
Are Fermented Foods High in Histamine
So, for instance, fish sauce averages HIGH histamine levels of around 575 mg/kg. According to the FDA, levels above 200 mg/kg (ppm) have been associated with human illness (histamine poisoning). So the “safe” limit the FDA sets is under 200 mg/kg of histamine.
The ingredients included in fermented vegetables, the fermentation method, the salt concentration, the fermentation temperature, and the amount of time it was fermented all influence the levels of biogenic amines in fermented foods.
That said, many fermentation recipes incorporate animal products into things like sauerkraut and kimchi. People even make sauerkraut with added whey, which can greatly increase the biogenic amine (histamine) levels.
The only reason some kimchi contains relevant histamine levels is that many kimchi recipes include fish paste. Animal ingredients add the amino acid histidine to fermented foods; thus, they can add histamine.
Are Fermented Foods High in Histamine: A Look at Animal Ingredients in Fermentation
Fermented vegetables that contain animal ingredients, such as fish paste or whey from dairy, will be high in histamine.
Fermented dairy yogurt may have histamine, cultured meats, and cheese have histamine, and some cultured soy products may have histamine.
This is because the high protein ingredients in the foods contain the amino acid histidine that microbes can convert to histamine using the enzyme histidine decarboxylase.
Fermented vegetables made with only vegetables, salt, water, and spices cannot physically contain relevant levels of histamine… this is because the precursor amino acid histidine is not present in relevant amounts in the ingredients, so there’s little to no histidine for microbial enzymes to decarboxylate into histamine.
Also, the Lactobacillus spp. in fermented vegetables are able to break down any histamine created with more enzymes.
Microbes in Fermented Vegetables Break Down Histamine
Certain species of Lactobacillus found in fermented vegetables can also break down histamine. These species of Lactobacillus can reduce the overall biogenic amine content in all types of fermented vegetables.
This is why it is important to ferment your vegetables for a long enough time (21-28 days usually; some vegetables are good at 14 days).
Are Fermented Foods High in Histamine? Specifically Sauerkraut?
Very few vegetables contain relevant levels of histamine, and any relevant levels are usually a result of spoilage microorganisms. (This does not apply to beans, legumes, and starchy vegetables which have varying amino acid content).
Sauekraut made with only cabbage, salt, and water cannot physically contain relevant levels of histamine. Now if you have a diagnosed histamine intolerance, fermented cabbage might still be a concern for you because of other compounds.
People with diagnosed histamine intolerance
Certain green leafy vegetables are high in other biogenic amines like putrescine, cadaverine, and tyramine. These biogenic amines are competing substrates for an enzyme called DAO. DAO breaks down histamine in the human body.
Most people with histamine intolerance have inadequate DAO, so eating foods with competing substrates is not the best idea. For this reason, people on low histamine diets are told to avoid spinach, kale, eggplant, tomatoes, and avocado.
People with histamine intolerance should avoid old, aged, and preserved foods, especially foods with ingredients high in the amino acid histidine. This includes canned fish, aged meats, cured meats, beans, smoked fish, and high-protein leftovers.
It should be noted that histamine intolerance can be reversed by reestablishing a healthy gut microbiome.
Obviously, if you have a diagnosed histamine intolerance, follow any recommendations provided by your doctor.
More Blogs to Read
- The Complete Guide to Salt Fermentation
- The Perfect Lacto Fermentation Salt Ratio for Fermenting Vegetables
- What Makes Sourdough Healthier and Easy to Digest?
Frias, Juana & Martinez-Villaluenga, Cristina & Peñas, Elena. (2016). Fermented Foods in Health and Disease Prevention.