Histamine is a biogenic amine found in abundance in our bodies, as well as a number of foods, most notably fermented foods like red wine and green tea. It’s inflammatory, released by the immune system’s mast cells in response to a perceived allergen but it’s not very abundance in coffee beans. So can I drink coffee on a low histamine diet?
The answer is yes, but it’s something to be careful of. You can have coffee on a low histamine diet, but it’s best to consume only after completing an elimination diet, and it’s safer to try naturally decaffeinated coffee first. This is because the main element in coffee which affects some people with histamine intolerance is the caffeine, and even though decaf isn’t totally free of caffeine, it can still affect you if you continue to have high levels of histamine in your system.
That’s because caffeine inhibits the clearing of histamine from the body, prolonging any reactions from high histamine foods without actually increasing your histamine level directly. Coffee causes increased histamine reaction thanks to caffeine impairing DAO enzyme activity in the gut.
Taking supplemental DAO (diamine oxidase) when you drink coffee may ease a reaction, but DAO shouldn’t be taken every day unless recommended by your doctor. However, caffeine level is only part of the reason you should wait to reintroduce coffee on a low histamine diet. Often when you’ve sustained high histamine levels for a prolonged period of time, the body needs time to recover from that high level of inflammation.
While coffee has many health benefits, none of those will be accessible to you if your stomach is in distress and unable to properly digest it. You may even think you’re having an allergic reaction if you have a secondary food intolerance and too quickly reintroduce something that inhibits DAO activity. Beyond that, coffee is usually on the acidic side, and has been known to agitate acid reflux and IBS, among other illnesses.
Coffee beans are also generally more prone to contamination by mold, pesticides, and other harmful substances, and once exposed to air, they can become stale within a couple weeks. This is why I always recommend that those with histamine intolerance or MCAS (mast cell activation syndrome) buy organic, mold-free coffee and store the whole beans in an air-tight container in the freezer (a place I’d otherwise not recommend for coffee).
There are a handful of companies which sell low histamine coffees, but unlike avocados and strawberries, the reality is that all coffee is low histamine— it just may not be irritant-free. And the issues come with potential irritants are multiple, which is where mold-free coffee comes in. There are three brands of coffee that are histamine-friendly, meaning that they’ll have the least negative impact upon the system of someone suffering from a histamine overload.
These three low histamine coffee brands are: Purity Coffee, Kion Coffee, and Clean Coffee. Each brand also has a decaf option for those easing back into coffee with a low bucket. Just remember to try it black first, and then add in any sweeteners or creamers you know you can tolerate. Have you ever tried re-introducing coffee after a period away?