Are your antihistamine meds making you fat?

antihistamine medsAntihistamine meds and weight gain

Here’s another good reason to treat Histamine Intolerance with diet rather than with drugs: Many antihistamine meds can increase your appetite and cause unwanted weight gain.

In fact, an antihistamine medication called cyproheptadine is actually prescribed by doctors as an appetite stimulant.

Other antihistamines, such as fexofenadine and cetirizine can also stimulate the appetite. These drugs are prescribed for allergies, but one of their side effects can be weight gain.

“Histamine-1 (H1) receptor blockers commonly used to alleviate allergy symptoms are known to report weight gain as a possible side effect,” according to a report from the Obesity Society. [1]

H1 blockers (also known as H1 antagonists), are a class of medications that block the action of histamine at the body’s H1 receptor. This provides relief from allergic reactions such as hayfever, insect bites, allergic conjunctivitis and contact dermatitis.

Antihistamines are useful medications, and you should follow your doctor’s advice. However, many “allergic reactions” are exacerbated by Histamine Intolerance , a condition that can be treated naturally with diet instead of drugs.

Some common H1 blocker antihistamine meds and their brand names include:

  • Cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • Loratadine (Claritin)
  • Acrivastine (Benadryl Allergy Relief (UK), Semprex (US)
  • Terfenadine (Seldane (US), Triludan (UK), and Teldane (Australia))
  • Fexofenadine (Allegra)

If you suffer from allergic reactions and depend on antihistamine meds for relief, consider following the Strictly Low Histamine Diet to lower your histamine levels.



[1] Ratliff, J. C., Barber, J. A., Palmese, L. B., Reutenauer, E. L. and Tek, C. (2010), Association of Prescription H1 Antihistamine Use With Obesity: Results From the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Obesity, 18: 2398–2400. doi:10.1038/oby.2010.176

Apples and Onions

Apples & Onions

… with natural antihistamines?

Quercetin, a compound found in many plants, is a flavonoid and an antioxidant with many valuable properties. It’s readily available in natural foods, especially apples and onions.

  • Quercetin is an antioxidant, and may promote good health by decreasing or even helping to prevent some of the damage free radicals do to our bodies.
  • It may help guard against heart disease and cancer.
  • It is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • In addition, quercetin may have an antihistamine effect by aiding in the stabilization of histamine-releasing cells in our bodies.

In laboratory tests, quercetin stops immune cells from releasing histamine. If this mechanism also works in living humans, then quercetin would be a valuable aid in reducing symptoms of allergies such as –

  • itchy skin
  • runny nose
  • watery eyes
  • hives
  • sneezing
  • wheezing, shortness of breath

Quercetin can be bought in the form of a dietary supplement (capsules, pills etc.).  In the form of supplements it is generally considered safe, however the University of Maryland cautions people against taking more than the recommended dose. It is possible to harm your health by overdosing on quercetin supplements, but it’s unlikely you could eat enough apples or onions to cause any problems!

You can eat apples and onions raw or cooked – you’ll still get the benefits of quercetin. Cooking can change the levels of quercetin in foods, but not enough to worry about. For example, in a study on onions,  “Baking and sautéing produced a 7–25% gain in quercetin concentration, while boiling produced an 18% decrease in quercetin concentration.”

So grab an apple now, or slice up an onion for a salad, and enjoy crunching on a nutritious fruit or vegetable that may help reduce your histamine intolerance symptoms!


[Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, Volume 18, Issue 6, September 2005, Pages 571–581 Quercetin in onion (Allium cepa L.) after heat-treatment simulating home preparation. Kevin Lombard, Ellen Peffley, Emanuel Geoffriau, Leslie Thompson, Andy Herring.]






Are Your Medications Sabotaging Your Low-Histamine Diet?

medicationsMedications and Histamine

Many common over-the-counter and prescription medications can increase the levels of histamine in our bodies.  Recently we received the following email from a reader of “Is Food Making You Sick?”. The writer has given us permission to publish the letter on this website, as it contains information that may be helpful to others.

“Like many other people I have been suffering (for a long time) from a range of symptoms that caused me great distress and seemed to have no real medical answer. Eczema so bad that the skin on my hands was literally falling off, in spite of daily application of moisturizers, urea creams and cortisone creams. Night-time gastric reflux so bad that I would wake in distress with acid crawling up from my stomach into my throat, burning all the way, eroding my teeth and esophagus and setting the stage for future  health problems that could be even more serious. Early morning stomach cramps so agonizing I felt like screaming. General fatigue to the point of chronic exhaustion.

“Shortly  before these symptoms appeared, I started taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety meds to help me cope with a traumatic event that had occurred in my family. I was also on ibuprofen, alternating with celecoxib, (NSAIDs) for back pain and knee problems.

“The gastroenterologist I consulted about the acid reflux gave me an upper gastrointestinal (UGI) endoscopy and then put me on ‘proton pump inhibitors’, which I was told I would have to remain on for the rest of my life. 

“I was on the PPIs for years. Then I found out that the side-effects of taking PPIs long-term include increased susceptibility to intestinal infection and increased risk of bone fractures. That’s bone fractures of any part of the body – legs, arms, hips, spine…  We all know that as people age, if they break a bone it can mean the beginning of the end…   My future looked bleak, and to top it off, the PPIs were not having much effect on the gastric reflux. I was still suffering nightly stomach pain, though it was not quite as bad.

“Thank goodness for the Internet. In my desperation to find healing, I was searching health forums high and low and I found out about histamine intolerance. I immediately started following the low-histamine diet as described in “Is Food Making You Sick?”. I would do anything to get better, so it was worth a try. I managed to stop drinking alcohol every night (I had been self-medicating with it). The desire to escape nightly pain is what drove me and gave me the strength.

“I have to admit, I did not pay full attention to the list of histamine-provoking medications in the book. I concentrated mainly on the diet and supplements.

“Also, under my GP’s supervision, I came off the anti-depressants. It had dawned on me that they could mess with my histamine levels, so I substituted mediation and counseling for the drugs (it took several tries to find a counselor who actually gave me coping strategies instead of just nodding and saying, ‘and how did you feel about that?’, but that’s another story).  I kept taking the benzodiazepine anti-anxiety pills, however.

“The first thing I noticed after starting the low-histamine diet was that my eczema, which I’d had for almost 10 years, started to disappear within days. This was great! However I still had the painful nightly reflux. Determined to get off PPIs I started taking antihistamines instead. I took Zantac, whose generic name is ranitidine. I took one every night before bed and was pain free all night, and able to ditch the PPIs. Hooray! I thought, I am off PPIs forever!  – until I read on the Zantac packet that you are not supposed to take it for more than 14 days.

“I now knew that antihistamines could banish my acid reflux. Since I was on the low-histamine diet, I decided to ditch the Zantac. Bad move. The acid and pain returned. But WHY?

“Back to Doctor Google…. I looked up the side-effects of ranitidine… and found out that if you take it long-term, it has a rebound effect when you stop. So I thought, okay, I will counteract the rebound effect of ranitidine with Mylanta, Rennies and every other antacid known to man until the effect wears off. So I tried that and it didn’t work… Finally it dawned on me (duh!) – what if some of the other meds I am using are messing with my histamine levels and bringing on acid reflux?

“I had come off my histamine-raising anti-depressant, anti-reflux and antihistamine (ironic isn’t it?) meds, but I was still on NSAIDs and benzodiazepine anti-anxiety pills. (Anti anti anti!) Could these be causing the histamine-driven reflux?

“The list of histamine-raising meds in the book is long but not exhaustive, so I just typed the name of a medication into Google, followed by the word ‘histamine’, then looked at the first few references that appeared on reputable websites.  And it turns out that my meds COULD and WERE causing me problems.

“To get off the anti-inflammatory NSAIDs I used ice packs on my knee. I consulted a physiotherapist and followed the stretching and exercise regime he gave me to improve my back pain. And eventually I got off the NSAIDs. 🙂

“The final barrier was the benzodiazepines – Oxazepam Temazepam, ‘Pams’ by any other name or Xanax (I have used them all). Every night I looked forward to sinking into the relaxed bliss of those pills. But the bliss was counteracted by the reflux pain, and I was determined not to go back to taking those bone-breaking PPIs any more.

“So I went off benzodiazepines (gradually… that wasn’t easy either…).

“And bingo.

“No more night-time acid reflux. And I’m sleeping well at last, and it’s all such an enormous relief that I actually feel HAPPY. Happy! Remember that?

“I am now staying ON the low-histamine diet and OFF the meds that were raising my histamine levels.

“These are the meds I no longer use, which all used to raise my histamine levels either instantly or as a rebound effect:

  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Paracetamol
  • Anti-histamines
  • Anti-depressants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs

“I am now (after a long period of struggle) drug-free, less tired, almost pain free (I still have some back pain) and eczema free. If the skin on the OUTSIDE of my body has healed, surely the skin INSIDE is healing too? Meaning the digestive tract?

“I don’t want to be on  the low-histamine diet forever, but thank goodness it exists. And it is much easier to follow that some other diets I’ve resorted to, such as the candida diet! Nonetheless, I want to cheat on the low-histamine diet as much as I can if I can get away with it. ONLY if I can get away with it and not suffer! I do not want to pay the pain-price.  So here’s hoping that if I stay on the diet long enough i will properly heal on the inside and produce more DAO and then be able to eat and drink all those high histamine foods/drinks from time to time while still remaining healthy and pain-free.

“Without the book, I never would have known about the diet or the fact that my meds were sabotaging my health.

“My advice to anyone who thinks they might have histamine intolerance is this: go on the diet but make sure you check ALL your meds to make sure they are not sabotaging you. It’s REALLY worth it. “


Editor’s Note:

Every body is different and not all cases of acid reflux and GERD will respond to a low histamine regime. If you do not find relief with the low histamine regime, you could try the low FODMAP diet, the VLC (very low carbohydrate) diet, the SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) or the GAPS diet.

Health and medical information disclaimer:

The information provided on this website is intended only to aid you in making informed decisions about your health. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice and treatment prescribed by a registered dietitian, nutritionist or doctor. The content of this website may not be used as a basis or means for any form of self-diagnosis. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, we urge you to seek the help of a medical practitioner.

Antihistamine medications

Antihistamine medications

If your histamine intolerance symptoms are severe, you might consider taking antihistamines as a temporary, emergency measure.

This is only a short-term solution. Doctors recommend that you do not take antihistamines over long periods, because –

  • Taking these medications daily for long periods of time may result in your body becoming tolerant to their effects, meaning that you may need to take larger doses to obtain the same relief.
  • They may cause weight gain by increasing your appetite – especially H1 blockers.
  • Prolonged use can adversely affect your liver.
  • H2 blockers can have a ‘rebound effect’ when you stop taking them, causing over-production of stomach acids, called “hypersecretion”.

Make an informed decision about taking antihistamines.

It can take many weeks to get your ‘histamine bucket’ down to a level at which you are symptom-free. Remember that any drug takes time to really affect your system. Everyone reacts differently but cetirizine, for example, can take 2-4 weeks to give full benefit.

What are Antihistamines?

‘Antihistamine’ is the common term for ‘histamine antagonist’. These drugs serve to reduce or eliminate effects mediated by histamine. They are of two types: histamine H1-receptor antagonists and histamine H2-receptor antagonists. Antagonists of the histamine H1-receptor are used to treat allergic reactions, particularly in the nose, as well as motion sickness, or vertigo. Antagonists of the histamine H2-receptor are used to treat gastric acid conditions. People suffering from histamine intolerance can take both an H1 and H2 antagonist.

* Ranitadine:  Initially, take 150mg ranitadine twice daily, before decreasing to the recommended daily dosage. Ranitadine is used to decrease stomach acid. It is an H2 antagonist.
Trade names include Zantac.

* Cetirizine: Cetirizine is used for allergies. Initially, take 10mg cetirizine twice daily before decreasing to the recommended daily dosage. This is an H1 antagonist. In your body, the H1 histamine receptor is  responsible for itching skin, skin rashes etc.
Trade names include Zirtec, Zyrtec, Reactine.

* Fexofenadine: If you suffer from GERD, GORD, heartburn or gastric reflux, taking cetirizine may make it worse. If that is the case, substitute fexofenadine for cetirizine.  Fexofenadine is another H1 antagonist used to control allergies.
Trade names  include Allegra, Fexidine, Telfast, Fastofen, Tilfur, Vifas, Telfexo, Allerfexo.

* Pheniramine maleate: This H1 antagonist is used to treat “allergic conditions such as hayfever, runny nose, itching skin and skin rashes. It is also used in the prevention and treatment of inner ear disorders (eg Meniere’s disease) and travel sickness”. You must not take it if you are taking an antidepressant medicine known as a MAO Inhibitor, or if you are male and you have an enlarged prostate. There are also other contraindications – ask your doctor or read the consumer information.
Trade names include Avil.

Is Food Making You Sick?What is the Alternative to taking Antihistamine Drugs?

Evidence suggests that if you stick strictly to a low histamine diet regime it is possible to completely rid yourself of all symptoms without resorting to drugs. Some people manage it in as little as 4 weeks while others may take up to 20 months.


Health and medical information disclaimer:

The information provided on this website is intended only to aid you in making informed decisions about your health. It is not intended to be a substitute for advice and treatment prescribed by a registered dietitian, nutritionist or doctor. The content of this website may not be used as a basis or means for any form of self-diagnosis. If you suspect that you have a medical problem, we urge you to seek the help of a medical practitioner.