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  • Writer's picturefranceswalker@thefoodinto

Are Amines the same as Histamines?

Updated: Apr 8

If you are sensitive to foods such as pork, slow cooked meats, peanut taste, tomato based meals, fermented foods such as kombucha, many alcohols, and some cheeses, you may be reacting to the amines in these foods- or is it the histamines?

Even if you have worked out which foods are triggering your symptoms, it can be really confusing when you come across different terms that may explain your sensitivity. Is it amine sensitivity, histamine sensitivity, mast cell disorder- or are they somehow all related?

Finding information in this area is a minefield. Read on to see how these terms may have a potential connection.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY: BRAND NEW Dietitian led Facebook group: Amines, Salicylates and Glutamates: The Food Intolerance Dietitian for great information and community support.

Does it matter: Amine versus Histamine Intolerance?

What really matters is knowing your food triggers. What it is called should not matter, but hearing these different terms can be quite confusing.

Knowing what a sensitivity is called makes it easier to sift through the internet looking for helpful information. Having a term to reference does, in this context, become quite important.

Let's look at how 'amines' and 'histamines' relate to each other, and also where they are different.

Note- this is an evolving area, so this blog will be updated as more information comes to light.

What are Amines?

It is always useful to start with a good old word definition.

According to Britannica online, amines are defined as:

" any member of a family of nitrogen-containing organic compounds that is derived, either in principle or in practice, from ammonia. "

While that explanation feels very unsatisfactory (unless you have a degree in chemistry), the upshot is that amines are a group of chemicals based on the structure of ammonia.

Interesting (maybe)- but not helpful!

More useful, is knowing that there are different types of amines, which occur naturally in the body as well as being present in many protein rich foods.

These proteins can break down to amines and unfortunately some people are known to react to these amines with a range of symptoms, from face flushing and urticaria (hives), to mood issues such as anxiety, to issues such as irritable bowel type of symptoms.

What are Histamines?

Again, looking at well respected definitions, Britannica online defines histamines as the following:

" Histamine is chemically classified as an amine, an organic molecule based on the structure of ammonia. It is formed by the decarboxylation (the removal of a carboxyl group) of the amino acid histidine."

Did you spot the relationship with amines? Yes- histamines are a type of AMINE!

Histamines are a type of Amine found in Foods

Technically, amines refer to a GROUP of different chemical structures based on the structure of ammonia.

These amines can be in the environment (think of chloramines in swimming pools that are chlorinated) or in some medications (such as melatonin or ALL probiotics) and also in foods.

Most foods containing amines will contain a combination of different amines.

The main amines found in foods are (based on the number of amino acids in their structure), according to the CSIRO (1):

  • Histamine and tryptamine: also called Heterocyclic Amines

  • Tyramine (the main amines found in cheese) and phenylethylamine (the main amine in chocolate): also called Aromatic Amines)

  • Putrescine and cadaverine (some ofthe amines associated with fish or scromboid poisoning): also called Diamines

  • Spermine and spermidine: also called Polyamides

In summary, histamines are only one of many different amines we find naturally occurring in different foods. Protein foods tend to be a mixture of amines.

While it does not really matter, use of the word 'histamine' instead of 'amine' does tend to create confusion.

So that is how we get amines or histamines from food but we also get a amines/histamines from other sources.

Histamine is also produced in the body .

Histamines are also made and released in the body regardless of histamines we may get from some foods.

Histamine function: histamine is released when you have an allergy or food intolerance reaction

Histamine is released in our bodies when we react to foods, either from an allergy or a food intolerance.

When you have an allergy reaction, a message is sent to your mast cells which says 'release histamine'. Histamine is part of your body's defence mechanism that can often develop symptoms designed to purge you of the trigger-for example, by vomiting it up, sneezing it out or expelling it quickly via diarrhoea.

Mast cells exist in every part of your body: your skin, gut, blood, nose, lungs etc. The mast cells releasing histamine results in inflammation which allows your body to get on with the other processes designed to protect you from the allergen. Of course we know, this is a case of mistaken identity, as allergens in food such as dairy protein is meant to be harmless.

Not only does this process of histamine being released from mast cells with allergies occur, but histamine is also released from mast cells with food intolerances, where a normal food such as an amine rich food may result in release of histamine from mast cells, which causes a further cascade of chemical reactions and ultimately, some unpleasant symptoms that can appear very 'allergy like'.

That is why taking ANTI-HISTAMINES is useful- to neutralise or cancel out the effect of the histamine released in the body.

Histamine exists naturally in our bodies

Histamine is also produced in the body and has other functions; for example in the brain, histamine functions as a neurotransmitter, and it is involved in the sense of appetite, the state of wakefulness/sleepiness, and memory (2).

These are normal processes , and while they may be exacerbated (potentially), by a histamine/amine reaction, they are essential for normal bodily processes.

Amines and Histamines: summary

In summary: amine sensitivity is a reaction to the amines we find in some foods, and one of the amines is called histamine.

Histamine is a confusing term as histamine is also a chemical that is produced in our bodies for the regulation of many normal processes. Histamine is also released when we have an allergy or food intolerance symptom.

The multiple roles histamine can be very confusing when we are talking about amine sensitivity and when interpreting histamine food lists.

It can be quite useful (and technically correct) to think of amine sensitivity in this way: amines in foods (and the environment) cause mast cells in your body to release histamine. This results in the symptoms you experience such as hives, rashes, poor sleep, 'brain fog' and gut symptoms.

Amines in Foods

There are a lack of dependable charts which clearly show the different amines in the different foods. In truth, most foods are a combination of different amines.

People who are amine sensitive may have more sensitivity to some types of amines than other ones.

In the absence of dependable food charts, general amine charts are the best we have.

I tend to use the Royal Prince Alfred (RPAH) Elimination Diet food charts for a number of reasons:

  1. There have been used by many amine sufferers for decades (in fact were originally set up in the 1970's due to amine issues causing urticaria/hives) so have had a lot of credibility over a long period of time with helping poele with amine/histamine

  2. Where there is an amine sensitivity, there is often a glutamate sensitivity, a fact overlooked by many 'histamine lists'

  3. Where there is an amine sensitivity, there maybe a salicylate sensitivity, a fact overlooked by many 'histamine lists'

  4. How to manage amines for example meat is as important as how to choose low amine foods which are not adequate described in histamine lists (this area is usually very important)

  5. Some 'histamine' lists include 'histamine liberators' which is a bit of a grey area

  6. Some of the more useful histamine lists align very well the RPAH amine list

The RPAH elimination charts are best implemented with a Specialist Food Intolerance Dietitian, as amine sensitivity can often be seen with other dietary issues such as salicylates, glutamates and whole foods such as dairy or wheat.

Doing this on your own is needlessly hard, and usually the diet will end up being unsustainable and nutritionally inadequate, which can make food sensitivities worse.

Now you know all there is to know about histamine vs amines

Now you know the difference between the words 'histamine" and 'amine' and how they relate to each other, you are in a better place to understand your own food intolerances, and how to interpret information you may come across on the internet.

If you are interested in the amine charts in information provided by the RPAH allergy unit: link into:

These lists will give you a well documented and usable lists of foods containing amines (denoted with an A) and work in with a dietitian specialising in food intolerances to help apply this to your diet, to see if you can better manage for food symptoms.

Updated 18/3/24


(1) Biogenic amines in meat meal - (no date). Available at: (Accessed: January 30, 2023).

(2) Givanoudi S, Heyndrickx M, Depuydt T, Khorshid M, Robbens J, Wagner P. A Review on Bio- and Chemosensors for the Detection of Biogenic Amines in Food Safety Applications: The Status in 2022. Sensors (Basel). 2023 Jan 5;23(2):613. doi: 10.3390/s23020613. PMID: 36679407; PMCID: PMC9860941.


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