Amines and other food triggers for skin and respiratory problems

amines blog image

Do you suffer from asthma, breathing difficulties, sensitive skin, eczema or allergic-type reactions such as hives?  There can be many triggers for respiratory and skin sensitivities and whilst often overlooked, food can be one of them.  Treatment for problems such as asthma, eczema and hives includes minimising the triggers, which should therefore also mean eliminating some foods.  Even if certain foods are not the only cause, changing the foods you eat can decrease the occurrence of hives, skin inflammation or asthmatic attacks.  How? Because eliminating certain foods will (at the very least) decrease the amount of ‘natural’ histamine you eat and decreasing the amount of associated triggers.  In this blog I’ll share some of the common food triggers for skin sensitivities and asthma.  Let’s start by getting a bit science-y and look at what causes respiratory and skin reactions on a physiological level…

Triggers for respiratory and skin problems

For those with skin sensitivities or respiratory problems, the triggers can be

  • allergens – which causes your body’s immune system to kick in; or
  • irritants – which make your symptoms worse.

When a trigger causes your immune system to kick in and create an allergic-type reaction, your body will often respond by releasing histamines (a type of protein). Histamines can have an inflammatory response and cause blood plasma to leak out of your blood vessels into your skin, creating hives or skin sensitivities. Histamines can also cause muscular constrictions (such as those in your airways) illiciting responses such as asthma.

Now foods can be triggers because they are either

  • creating an allergic reaction (food allergens) or
  • contain elements to which some are sensitive (food sensitivities/intolerances) or
  • can exacerbate an allergic problem (irritants).

Food Allergens

Common food allergens include dairy, eggs, nuts, soy and wheat and it’s usually the protein in these foods that causes the body to have an abnormal immune response, leading to the release of histamines (e.g.: dairy – casein, wheat – gluten).

Food Sensitivities/Intolerances

Histamines are part of the ‘amines’ family.  Amines are formed when proteins in foods are broken down.  Some foods naturally contain amines, and some people are sensitive or intolerant to these amines in foods.   This occurs when the enzymes in our body that are supposed to break them down either don’t work for us or aren’t there, leading to a build up of amines and symptoms such as migraines, headaches, depression, aggression, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema and skin issues.

Food Irritants

Some people may not be sensitive to naturally occurring amines, but if suffering from allergic reactions to other triggers, your body is already releasing histamines. Eating foods containing naturally occurring histamines will therefore increase the overall amount of histamines in your body, causing a greater reaction or irritation to symptoms caused by other triggers.

Now we know how foods can create skin or respiratory problems, let’s investigate which foods are the main culprits…

Foods That Trigger Skin & Respiratory Problems


Foods containing amines are common triggers for skin and respiratory issues.

Foods that are high in sources of amines include:

  • cheese
  • wine
  • meats  – especially bacon or any meat not eaten immediately (NB: fresh meat cooked and eaten straight away is best because frozen or uncooked meat is high in amines)
  • fish
  • bananas
  • avocados
  • mushrooms
  • fermented foods – soy sauce, vegemite, sauerkraut, etc.

Basically, any food containing protein, contains amines.  For a list of foods containing amines (and how much), click here.  You can also purchase my mini ebook with this list to download as an easily accessible pdf onto your personal device by clicking here.

It’s important to note here that there is plenty of conflicting information about amine levels in food.  For example some say fermented foods are high in amines, including yoghurt.  Others say yoghurt is fine.  The bottom line is, it’s not an exact science – we are complex beings! The easiest solution to this problem is to listen to your body – if you’re reacting to it, it’s not good for you, no matter what the list says 🙂

Amines increase in foods with age, ripeness, storage and certain cooking methods.  So the easiest way to avoid them is to remember the fresher, the better.


Another common trigger for skin and respiratory issues is salicylates.  I’ve already blogged on these naturally occurring elements in food, so for the lowdown on salicylates, click here.  You can also get my mini ebook on salicylates which includes a list of foods containing them by clicking here.


Glutamates are naturally occurring amino acids found in foods containing proteins, but are also found in many processed foods disguised as flavour enhancers.  Because they are found in protein foods, there is a lot of overlap between foods containing amines and those containing glutamates.  For more information on glutamates, click here.  For a downloadable mini ebook containing a list of foods containing glutamates, click here.


Food additives can also trigger reactions such as skin issues and asthma.  Additives such as preservatives (especially benzoates), artificial colourings and glutamates in the form of flavour enhancers are especially important to avoid if suffering from skin sensitivities or asthma.

I have a couple of mini ebooks containing everything you need to know about additives and specific books outlining exactly which food additives to avoid if you have skin issues or asthma.  They are all easily downloadable to read on your personal device and are available for purchase for $2.50 each.

For more information on food additives and their effects, click here.

For a full list of food additives to avoid for those with skin issues, click here.

For a full list of food additives to avoid for those with asthma, click here.

PS: Although today’s blog is all about food triggers, irritants such as cleaning products and health and beauty products can also exacerbate your respiratory or skin sensitivity symptoms and are best avoided (such products often contain irritable chemicals and artificial salicylates). For more information on avoiding chemical triggers in non-food products, check out my blogs on Spring Cleaning The Chemical Free Way.

What Next?

Ok, so you now have a head full of info on food triggers for skin and respiratory issues, but what do you do with all this info?  Making a change in the way you eat is a good place to start eliminating triggers and feeling better.  But with so many foods linked to these issues, it can be hard to know where to start.   If you’re feeling overwhelmed about making a change, you are not alone!  Here are a few tips to help get you started…

A Cumulative Effect

It’s important to note that food sensitivities are cumulative.  This means exposure to only a few food triggers (whether natural elements such as amines or artificial additives) may go unnoticed, but they will build up over time and start to have effects later than when originally eaten (days or weeks later in some cases).  With many foods containing both amines, glutamates and salicylates, this cumulative effect can build up quickly and it can be easy to get confused about which is a trigger.

Start small

Unless suffering from serious life threatening allergic or anaphylactic responses, I recommend starting small**.  When overwhelmed by change, I have found most clients can cope with making small changes over time.  Change is hard, but it is well worth it and it gets easier if the process is taken on board willingly and with support.  I’ve dedicated many blogs to this topic as it’s the cornerstone of The Food Werewolf!

For information on accepting the process of change and taking some steps forward, start by entering the word ‘change’ into the search bar at the top of this page and have a read of some of the blogs on this very important topic :-).  You may like to start with planning how you will go about making the change by following my 10 Steps to Successful Change.  You can also contact me here for more individual advice. 

Because of their direct link to histamines, I suggest you start by eliminating foods with high levels of amines and only eat foods with moderate-low amine levels occasionally to avoid a build up.  Keep it simple – stick to fresh whole foods as opposed to processed foods and above all else, recognise what feels right or wrong.  Remember, this is a very individual process.  Fresh homemade yoghurt may be ok for you, but not for others.  Listen to your body and have some patience – change takes time and commitment! But remember it’s worth it when it means you feel happy and healthy!

Loren x

**Please note, it is most important to seek appropriate help from a healthcare practitioner for any allergic-type reaction or food intolerance.  The information provided in this blog is to help you manage the change in the way you eat to minimise the triggers associated with skin and respiratory allergies and is not a replacement for medical advice**