Amines? What are Amines?

Amines are naturally occurring chemicals found in many foods.  They result from the breakdown of proteins or through the fermentation process, and are responsible for giving the food its flavor.  The more intense the flavor, the higher the amine content, so the longer, say, a fruit ripens or a meat cures the more amines it will contain.

A complete list of high amine foods is available on the website, but the highest amounts can be found in aged cheeses, chocolate, wine, many alcoholic beverages, aged meats such as sausage or salami, canned or smoked fish, banana, avocado, and tomato.  Amine content increases as certain fruits ripen and as meats and fish age, so those sensitive should only consume the freshest produce, meats and fish. 

When you eat a food high in amines, the histidine it contains is metabolized by enzymes and bacteria to amines which are quickly absorbed in the gut and, in people who are sensitive, an allergy-type of response occurs.  The end result is widening of blood vessels, tissue inflammation and swelling just as our own natural histamine creates.

Tyramine vs Amine and More…
Tyramine is a type of amine, just as histamine is a type of amine.
Those on MAOI’s must reduce tyramine rich foods, but can tolerate foods high in histidine because they are broken down differently in the body by different enzymes.  Tyramine uses monoamine oxidase, while histamine uses diamine oxidase and other enzymes.
Taking diamine oxidase may help you to tolerate foods high in amines, but may not help you if you have a tyramine intolerance.  And remember, it takes two sets of enzymes to break down histamine, so the diamine oxidase will only help if it is the enzyme you’re lacking.
Salicylates are not considered amines. They are a totally separate form of food chemical.  They may stimulate histamine response, but are not considered amines themselves.

Heidi Turner, MS, RD, CD
FoodLogic, PLLC
@ The Seattle Arthritis Clinic
10330 Meridian Avenue North, Suite 250
Seattle, WA 98133

Published on August 19, 2011 at 9:56 am  Comments (29)  

29 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Wow! I had never heard of Amines before today! When I go to my new ND in September, I am going to ask her to test me for this allergy!
    While reading the first few paragraphs of your story, I thought, “sounds like she is writing this for me!”
    I am so happy I met you on LinkedIn!

    • No kidding? You think you have an amine allergy? What kind of symptoms are you displaying, and what have you already looked into? You might try going on the low amine diet (see my low amine shopping list) to see if you feel better after a couple weeks. I know that going amine free (or at least, very low in amines) really has made a huge impact in my life.

  2. My symptoms are as follows:
    Ankles feel “broken” off and on
    Frozen shoulder – 3 times in two years
    Swollen joints (Have had to use a cane on several occasions)
    Wrists and thumb joints so painful I can’t carry an empty dish
    My spine aches so bad I cannot get comfortable, no matter what I do.
    I have had these symptoms for more years than I would like to think about and all the doctors keep doing is giving me pills and sending me for physio-therapy. Nothing really helps.

    • Oh wow, you weren’t kidding! That sounds so much like what I have going on it’s not even funny. I don’t know what docs you go to (or where you live), but I have great doc referrals listed – Seattle Arthritis Clinic’s Dr. Peterson, and Heidi Turner (

      I have so many ice packs, wraps, slings, crutches, and immobilization boots in my house… My “ouch” cabinet looks like a mini-clinic. I really hope you’re able to find out a solution! For symptoms that bad, I hope it IS amines. It took me a year to figure out how to eat for amines, but it’s way easier than living with amines in my system.

      Egads, miss. Good luck!!!!!

    • My husband had weird swelling in joints with pain. Lasted for going on 7 months. Local doctors were no help. A joint specialist in Chicago said it was a reaction to food poisoning. Some people throw up some get joint pain and swelling. Thank goodness we went to a specialist.

      • Crazy! I didn’t know that could happen! I went to a few different knee/joint specialists. They were no help. The only one that was of any use was the arthritis specialist. He’d seen it before and had a suspicion…

  3. Very Interesting. You might be interested in reading about The Gerson Diet.

    Doctor Gerson had noticed that when he ate German sauerkraut, and processed meats that he got a lot of headaches. So he went to a raw food diet and they went away.

    He later starting giving his patients the same raw food diet, and their ailments went away. Including cancer.

    Online, you should be able to watch the documentary, The Beautiful Truth, about his life, work, and current research. Check it out.

    • I’ve looked into the raw foods diet before, but I’m not sure it’s something I could stick with, truth be told. I tried it with my roommate for a while a few years ago. I didn’t feel very well on it at all, even after the initial “detox” and withdrawals were finished.

  4. I am new at trying to manage a 3 year olds Salicylate and Amine free diet. We are experimenting to see if removing these from his diet helps with his foul moods and restless nights. I need some recipes for young kids and am asking if your recipes are free of both Salicylates and Amines or if you know were I can source such a thing.

    • Oh wow, Kate. I’m sorry to hear that! Sadly, if he’s sensitive to sals, my website won’t help. However, these will!

      If you have more questions, please let me know! Also, I would suggest getting the book “Dealing with Food Allergies,” by Janice Vickerstaff Joneja, PhD, RDN. It gives you a comprehensive look at the allergies and how to work around them.

  5. I found out about my amine sensitivity from doing the ‘fail-safe diet’. I was told that amines are increased the longer you cook food for. Particularly meat. I noticed that in your recipes you don’t mention this aspect at all. What do you have to say regarding amine production and length of cooking. One of your soup recipes (turkey) for instance you mention cooking your turkey for 12 hours and from everything I’ve been taught about amines that is a big ‘no-no’.

    • Yes, but you have to make exceptions somewhere, I find. I am totally able to tolerate bone/meat cooked into broths. Crock pot meats, less so. Everyone is different, and you need to figure out where your own sensitivity is.

      Also, I find that so long as you start with very fresh meat, de-skin your poultry, and cook on a LOW temperature, the amine content doesn’t rocket upward.

  6. I am yet to receive a reply to the above post.

    • Kathy, I only check this blog intermittently. Please exercise patience with me. I have a full life and a full time job. This is only a hobby as a benefit for all of you.

  7. After doing some research on Amines, I’ve decided to give this a try. I have Crohns Disease and I’m currently on no medications by choice and have been working closely on my diet. Our digestive system is not able to digest all the different types of foods and drinks we subject ourselves too. I’m on a personal mission to battle Crohns from a Non-Medicinal method. I will be trying the anime diet to see if this is one more help to keeping me in remission

    • Good luck!!! I hope it helps!

    • If you find it helps but you want to reduce the number of food restrictions, or further refine your mission, you might look at some or all of the following (they are intricately interrelated, as so much of this is :) : specific enzyme deficiencies (MAO, DAO, etc.), hystadine imbalance, Copper-Zinc imbalance, and viral load (which decreases digestive enzyme function). Low zinc (which goes w high Cu) can play a big role in amine sensitivity and IBD. On a mission myself, as you can see!

      • I take calcium, zinc, magnesium, b12, C, D, and coenzymated b complex…. My symptoms have gone down by 2/3 (thus the lack of recent posts). I’m glad to see you’re on the discovery mission, too! If you find out more, please do share!

        • One interesting thing about high (blood) histamine level is that it is a marker of low methylation status. So nutrient therapies to boost methylation can lower your histamine level. Then you don’t have to police your food intake of histamines so much…

          • That might explain why taking massive amounts of B complex and B12 help me so much. I can literally go from barely being able to walk (swollen knees and all) to being able to get up and dance within an hour of taking my B vitamins.


          • That’s amazing you can experience such a quick change. There’s a lot of detail and gray area in choosing the right supplements to support methylation. William Walsh’s book “Nutrient Power” describes profiles in detail; some of us need to avoid things like folate while increasing other Bs like B12 and B6.

          • Do you find you are ok with the B complex? Many undermethylated types don’t handle the folate or choline well. But the B12 definitely helps a lot.

          • Without my coenzymated B complex vitamins, my world crumbles to bits.

  8. thank you . no more bananas. for me!

    • I have found that I can eat bananas, if they’re VERY green (I react poorly to ripe bananas, though). However, I also have a fairly mild amine allergy these days, in comparison to other people.

  9. One interesting thing about high (blood) histamine level is that it is a marker of low methylation status. So nutrient therapies to boost methylation can lower your histamine level. Then you don’t have to police your food intake of histamines so much…

  10. Do you know if any probiotics are safe from amines?

    • I need to avoid high amine foods and find that any probiotics I take make all my symptoms return, particularly severe bone and joint pain. I have read that others have had the same problems, I recently read about a low histamine prebiotic that some have had success with. I’ve ordered it, but haven’t tried it. Would be handy to help the digestive track guys out since they produce MAO, which helps you handle more histamines.

  11. Here’s what we’ve used successfully. I’d like yo know the name of the one you’re now trying. We have Prescript Assist. Using it for about 6 weeks now. I heard about it on a histamine blog. It has multiple “traditional” species & strains otherwise found only in fermented/curried foods. We had to cut back and ramp up more slowly than we started. I have also found the following to be excellent for gut healing, but they only have a single species, specially prepared. We use it regularly for years now. It was the THE thing that got me headed out of a histamine-overload leaky gut crisis: Intelac (by Fuma Natural) and Russian Choice (by Allergy Research Group). Developed by the same doctor, They have the same probiotic and herb, but Intelac also has digestive enzymes.

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