Amine Sensitivity

Amine Sensitivity

Amines are naturally occurring chemicals caused by the breakdown of proteins especially in meats, fish and dairy, as well as in the fermentation of other foods such as vegetables, wines, beers, ciders, vinegars, and soy sauces. They are highest in concentration in the aging and curing of meats such as in salamis, prosciuttos, hams, etc.; when meats are cooked or grilled and in the production of cheeses. Amines enhance the flavour of food – think of the difference in flavour between a raw steak and a grilled one.  Proteins are necessary for survival, so the best way to ensure a minimal input of amines is to eat meats and other amine containing foods in their freshest possible state, as aging (such as with beef and pork packaging in supermarkets) will cause increased amine production even if the food hasn’t “gone off”. It has been noted that even freezing wont stop amine production, so the rule of strictly fresh is best to follow.

wnchslmi-jpgAmines also exist in other foods such as chocolate and wine; and in fruits when they are very ripe and go soft such as bananas and avocados. They are also components of other chemical compounds, some of which are hormones produced by the body – such as adrenalin, serotonin and dopamine and they are often present in medication in high levels. Many tribal societies have found that plants with high naturally occurring levels of a particular amine called di-methyl-triptamine (DMT) can, when combined with ceremonial fasting and combinations with other enzyme-inhibiting plant concoctions cause psychedelic experiences and so are used by shamans for rituals and medicine.


Amines therefore can have wide ranging and powerful effects on the body, particularly in their hormonal capacity to affect energy levels, body temperature, mental clarity and concentration as well as mood. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) is a class of enzymes that are produced by the body to break down amines, which they do fairly quickly. Because serotonin and dopamine are two brain hormones that control mood (among other things); MAO inhibitors are often prescribed by medical doctors as antidepressants. Inhibiting this enzyme means that the breakdown of amines generally is inhibited, so foods rich in amines can cause a build up of several dietary amines in the system (especially tyrosine) which can cause diarrhoea, headaches, skin rashes and heart palpitations and has even been known to cause heart failure and death. This phenomenon has been described as the “cheese effect”. It is also now being increasingly observed that some people have a lower enzyme production that may be genetic in origin, leading to amine sensitivity at levels that other people would not.


Medications such as antibiotics can also inhibit MAO enzyme activity, as well as contribute increased levels of amines to the body. 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.


 Effects of Amine sensitivity

The most common symptoms experienced by those sensitive to amines, or who have higher build up of amines in their body are recurrent eczema and hives, headaches or migraines, sinus trouble, mouth ulcers, fatigue (frequently feeling rundown and tired for no apparent reason), nausea, stomach pains, joint pain that is undiagnosed and digestive issues. Children can become irritable, restless and exhibit symptoms related to ADHD and/or aggressive behaviour, or what psychologists refer to as “oppositional defiance”. Stubborn resistance and a propensity to hitting parents, siblings and others at the slightest provocation is characteristic of this behaviour. Breast fed babies can exhibit colic, diaper rash, loose stools, and eczema through the milk if the mother is taking in excessive amounts of amines.

If you know that you have reactions to wine, aged cheeses or chocolate, there’s a good chance you may also be reacting to other foods high in amines. Take them out of your diet completely for a few weeks and see how you feel. If you do have sensitivity to amines, you’ll want to limit the amount you eat every day, and determine what your own personal tolerance is to these highly reactive chemicals.


Foods and their Amine contents:




Negligible – Low Moderate- High
Apples Avocado
Apricots Dates
Peaches Bananas
Pears Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, mandarin)
Strawberries Grapes
Cherries Pineapple
Blackcurrants plums



Vegetables and grains:


Negligible – Low Moderate- High
Most vegetables except those to the right: Broccoli
 Pasta Egg plant
 Bread Cauliflower
 Rice Mushrooms
Pickles of all kinds- including sauerkraut




Negligible – Low Moderate- High
Very fresh and minimally cooked white meats and eggs (e.g. steamed). Eat only small amounts All red meats esp. when grilled, cured or processed (sausaged, tinned etc)
Fried, tinned or processed fish
Eggs: esp when fried or cooked


Condiments and Stocks


Negligible – Low Moderate- High
Herbs Stocks, including Asian sauces
Pepper Soy sauce
Spices Vegemite
Worcestershire sauce





Negligible – Low Moderate – High
Coffee Hot chocolate, cocoa
Lemonade Beer, ale etc.
Milk Wine: red, white & Sparkling
Soy milk Port, sherry
Vodka, Whisky & other distilled alcohols





Negligible – Low Moderate – High
Carob Chocolate
Caramel Cocoa
Golden & Maple syrups




Dairy & Tofu


Negligible – Low Moderate – High
Cottage & Ricotta cheese Hard cheese (e.g. cheddar, Parmesan, provolone, tasty)
Yoghurt (plain) Camembert, Brie & other soft cheeses
Milk, Soy milk Blue cheese (e.g. Danish, Roquefort)
Tofu Miso soup



Recipes low in Amines:




























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