Is coffee high in histamine? Unfortunately, that’s a complicated question to answer. While coffee is definitely not an antihistamine, the topic of coffee and histamine intolerance is riddled with misinformation on all sides. This is due in no small part to the fact that histamine intolerance is still a relatively unknown ailment.
This article is based on my own rather extensive research and personal experience with coffee and histamine intolerance. As always, consult a doctor before making any large dietary changes, even as small as adding (back in) a cup of coffee.
Is Coffee High Histamine?
The answer: not exactly. To understand the histamine content of coffee, it’s important to understand that few foods naturally contain really high levels of histamine. Most foods which contains high levels of histamine are fermented foods, like kimchi and beer, but most coffee isn’t fermented for long. This is because coffee is usually fermented for the sole purpose of more easily removing the skin of the fruit surrounding the beans.
The seeds of the coffee fruits (called coffee cherries when on the tree) are more often called coffee beans, but they start off as little red fruits on trees grown around the equator. When the seeds are fermented, this can build up histamine levels within the beans, which persist once they’re processed, roasted, ground, and brewed into your morning cuppa. Fermentation isn’t the only consideration with coffee and histamine intolerance, however. There’s also the matter of caffeine.
Coffee + Histamine Intolerance (Caffeine!!)
Caffeine is the bitter molecule in coffee which wakes people up, and can be quite addictive. It’s theorized that it blocks the effects of diamine oxidase (DAO), an important histamine degrading enzyme. This basically means that it blocks the “cleaning up” of histamines from the system. So even if you’re drinking an unfermented coffee, if you consume any coffee alongside foods which do contain or “free” histamines in your food, then you may just be worsening your system’s response
So is decaf coffee okay? No. Decaf coffee may actually be even worse for you if you have histamine issues, due to the way decaf coffee is processed in order to get rid of the caffeine. Each of these processes involves either a large amount of chemicals or a large degradation in the flavor of the beans. Either way, decaf coffee isn’t the best choice, and you’ll never find a coffee without histamine at all.
The difference with coffee & histamines will be thanks to time.
Can I Drink Coffee on a Low Histamine Diet?
You can eventually drink coffee on a low histamine diet; of that I am living proof. But don’t add coffee back into your diet until after your system has calmed down, at least a month into your elimination diet, or else you could undo all of your good work. I waited more than 2 months before trying a cup of coffee, and even then I bought the “safest” coffee I could find.
When you’re adding in coffee again, start with a few sips on the first day, then half a cup the next day, and if you continue to by reaction-free, enjoy a whole cup. Even today I don’t have more than one cup a day because I don’t like to push my luck (or my DAO levels too low), but be your own judge. Your coffee-histamine relationship could be much better than mine, especially if you can handle smaller flares of high histamine levels, which coffee consumption may cause.
Unfortunately, some people may just not be able to tolerate coffee at all. If your body can’t handle it the first time you try to add it back in (when my body can’t handle something, I get an almost immediate stomachache), give it another two or three months and then try again. I KNOW! That sounds like a very long time, but hide the moka pot and all will be well. I promise. For those who can handle coffee, there are now plenty of low histamine coffees on the market, and most of them ship!
Low Histamine Coffee Brands
While some coffee is high histamine (in practical terms) and should be avoided, these days there are some options out there. Here are a select few of the low histamine coffee brands out there, all certified organic and mold free. Bags of beans usually come in 12oz. packages, and if you’re not used to drinking “fancy” coffee, this may cause some sticker shock. But hopefully this list helps you continue to enjoy our favorite beverage (in moderation).
Purity Coffee: This is the brand I drink every day. As
hesitant scared as I was to add coffee back into my diet considering how acidic people always say it is, I was surprised by how little my system seems to react to Purity. The brand was originally started by a husband in search of answers to his wife’s own health ailments. Purity’s organic green coffee is rigorously tested for mold, pesticides, and Ochratoxin A (which may cause kidney damage), and then roasted & shipped within 48 hours of each order.
Bulletproof Coffee: Bulletproof has built up a strong reputation with the keto crowd for their smooth, chocolatey beans. Sourced from high-altitude estates in Guatemala, each harvest is processed in a way to minimize mold & toxin exposure, but not certified. It’s not certified organic, either, but that’s an expensive and lengthy process to put on often poor farmers, so I don’t hold that against them. Despite the lack of thorough testing, they’re on this list because they have a great reputation for quality.
Clean Coffee: Many coffees hit the stomach like a lemonade, hard and acidic. But Clean’s beans are low acid, and independently tested for mold, mycotoxins (ochratoxin A, aflatoxin), acrylamide, heavy metals, and more than 300 pesticides. This will be the next brand I order online, once my Purity runs out, especially because they use only Colombian coffee beans. Overall, it seems like a great coffee for histamine intolerance, considering most of our root causes.
Tips For Drinking Coffee With Histamine Intolerance
1. Buy organic, mold-free beans like the ones above, and go for a regular brew rather than decaf. Darker roast beans will actually have lower levels of caffeine, which is slowly degraded during the roasting process, so if you’re grabbing coffee while out & about, go for the dark roast.
2. When you’re getting takeaway coffee, only order organic coffees prepared fresh, on-site, otherwise you’re just begging for a histamine reaction. Order your coffee black or with a small amount of milk alternative, and NO sugar.
3. Sugar is not your friend— to sweeten your coffee, stick to histamine-friendly sweeteners, like stevia or monk fruit extract. After a few weeks of morning coffee and no reaction, I switched from a pinch of monk fruit extract to a dash of my own sugar blend, which is coconut sugar & monk fruit extract. Figure out which low GI sweetener works best for you, but just stay away from sugar alcohols, which can mess up your stomach even more.
4. Keep your coffee frozen. Buy coffee in whole bean form and invest in a coffee grinder to grind your beans yourself, little by little. I grind three or four days worth of coffee at a time and keep the ground coffee in a small container in the freezer, right above where I keep the whole beans. This allows for some convenience and limited histamine build up.
5. Remember that dairy is not histamine-friendly. Personally, I can’t tolerate it, and I’ve found lots of workarounds in the form of milk alternatives and high-quality oils. If you’re early in your HIT Journey but it’s been long enough that you’re trying coffee again, consider adding in a milk alternative and a pinch of monk fruit extract for a low histamine latte. Powdered milk alternatives can make for a great low histamine coffee creamer.
6. Studies have shown that adding fat to your cup of coffee (I like coconut milk powder) can stop it from staining your teeth. This is because the tannins in coffee which would otherwise bind to your teeth, then bind to the fat instead, inhibiting its staining ability. Even if you normally drink your coffee black, adding in a teaspoon of coconut oil can stop the coffee from staining your teeth.
7. Drink up! Consume your coffee within a half hour of making it, because just like all other foods, the longer you leave it out, the longer your coffee can build up histamines.
Unless you’ve been scarfing down moldy coffee for many year, drinking coffee has probably not caused your histamine intolerance. But it can play a role in helping you heal, or continuing your suffering.
It’s really the potential mold exposure & the caffeine in coffee that should be considered here. Caffeine may block the effects of diamine oxidase (DAO), an important histamine degrading enzyme, while mold can cause your body’s immune system to go wild. A generic coffee, nonorganic and not mold-free, and of unknown origins, will probably not go down well if you have histamine intolerance. In the end, coffee does affect histamine levels, because caffeine can keep histamine levels high while mold can cause it to continue rising.
Coffee beans themselves are low in histamine, but the presence of caffeine in the beans can prevent your body from clearing histamines from your system. This makes coffee low in histamine, but high in histamine-increasing potential. And this is for an organic, mold-free brand like Purity!