The surprising link between allergies and migraines.

woman with head on fire

I suffered daily migraines for many years. At some point I finally came to the conclusion that my headaches, which made me bang my head against the wall on occasion, had something to do with my diet. I was vindicated by the person who diagnosed me with histamine intolerance in London, and now by the growing number of studies clearly spelling out the allergy/histamine migraine link.

I cannot even begin to properly thank my lucky stars for curing me of this blight. I was about six weeks into the low histamine diet when I was able to trash the 600mg ibuprofen that I had been scarfing daily by the handful for most of my adult life. Not to mention the migraine injections. Youch! You truly haven’t experienced hell till you’ve had a constant migraine for six months.


Interestingly, in Spain (and France), it’s commonly acknowledged that migraines are caused by a lack of the histamine-lowering enzyme diamine oxidase (DAO). Seems that the US and UK are way behind the curve on this one.

But histamine can also cause migraine in “healthy” people:

Headache can be induced dose-dependently by histamine in healthy persons as well as in patients with migraine (5361). Histamine-induced headache is a vascular headache caused mainly by nitrate monoxide (62). Histamine releases endothelial nitrate monoxide upon stimulation of H1R, which is also expressed in the large intracranial arteries (63). In migraine patients, plasma histamine concentrations have been shown to be elevated both during headache attacks and during symptom-free periods. An increase in the number of brain mast cells is associated with pathologic conditions such as migraine, cluster headache, and multiple sclerosis (64). Many migraine patients have histamine intolerance evidenced by reduced DAO activity, triggering of headache by food rich in histamine (eg, long-ripened cheese or wine), and the alleviation of headache (ie, disappearance of symptoms) under a histamine-free diet (5765) and therapy with antihistamines (66). Maintz and Novak.

Meanwhile, for those of us presenting with histamine intolerance, histaminosis, mastocytosis or mast cell disorders…

This study colludes that: “Thus, the avoidance of allergic conditions in migraine patients may be a simple, helpful way for prophylaxis or their treatment.”

Although migraine affects about 15% of population and many studies have been performed to find the mechanism and a successful management, the physiopathology of migraine is still largely unknown. The possibility of an immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated allergic mechanism and the role of histamine remain controversial. The aim of the present study was to evaluate serum total IgE and histamine levels in migraine patients and the influence of allergy on them. Seventy patients (18-58 years) with migraine without aura were divided into two groups according to their history of allergy (60% with and 40% without allergy). Serum samples were collected during fasting without allowing any premedication during the two periods of attack and remission. There was a control group containing 45 healthy volunteers. Serum total IgE and histamine levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and fluorimetric methods, respectively. Mean and standard errors of serum histamine (ng/ml) and total IgE (IU/ml) levels were found in the control group to be 48.16 +/- 2.70 and 38.31 +/- 3.20, in the migraine with allergy group 159.11 +/- 4.60 and 303.30 +/- 42.50 and in the migraine without allergy group 105.01 +/- 8.50 and 79.07 +/- 2.70, respectively. Total IgE levels in migraine with allergy group were found to be significantly (P < 0.0001) above that in the control and another group, suggesting an influence of an IgE-mediated mechanism on migraine. Although the plasma histamine levels, which were significantly elevated (P < 0.0001) in patients with migraine, both during headache and symptom-free periods, when compared with the control group, indicate that there is an increased susceptibility to histamine in allergic conditions, this molecule has also an unrelated role in migraine. The relationship between allergy and migraine can be based, in part, on an IgE-mediated mechanism, and histamine release plays an important role. Thus, the avoidance of allergic conditions in migraine patients may be a simple, helpful way for prophylaxis or their treatment.

Has a low histamine or tyramine diet helped your migraines? As always, I’d love to hear from you and don’t forget to check out my diamine oxidase boosting recipes.

You’ll find a collection of all liquid high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes for days when my histamine bucket overflowed in the new Anti-Detox book

The Anti-cookbook, while it doesn’t treat any conditions, due to its high nutrient, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredients, has been instrumental in helping me feed myself on a limited diet. It features a six page list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods. It comes in regular and Paleo. 

The Low Oxalate Cookbook features antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes. 

Don’t miss the Low Histamine Beauty Survival Guide for non-toxic beauty tips, the skinny on histamine releasing (mast cell degranulating) beauty ingredients, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory beauty alternatives and the top brands natural brands I’ve found.

Take a peek at my other low histamine and antihistamine cookbooks for more high nutrient recipes.

If you’ve found this information useful I’d appreciate your support (at no extra cost to you!) – please check out my online store for your health foods, supplements, kitchen items and beauty product purchases. Affiliate sales through my online store go towards maintaining the website, funding travel to interviews and purchasing all the lovely foods for my free online recipes. You’ll find these items in the “Shop with us” drop down menu on my homepage.  

Please don’t forget antihistamine, pain killing foods can still hurt us, so please always check with your doctor before adding new foods to your diet. 


Check out these other Healing Histamine blog posts


Yasmina was an award-winning broadcast journalist with a decade of experience covering war zones for CNN and the BBC. She devoted her journalism skills to researching and writing about histamine. Click here to learn about her. Each post is carefully and fully referenced with the latest scientific research. Not sure where to start? Here’s a four week meal plan and overall Histamine Reset.

4 Week Histamine Reset

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