Could your health issues be caused by histamine intolerance?
You've been reading for years how real foods like bone broth, dairy kefir, and sauerkraut are so healthy. You even know now that bacon is good for you if it's from pigs raised out on pasture, the way God intended.
But do these and many other healthy foods actually make you sick?!
A reader contacted me the other day feeling totally overwhelmed and desperate for help, so I got digging. I also put it up on my Facebook page to ask many of you, my smart, faithful reader friends. 🙂
I found a lot to share, so I'm going to put everything here in one spot and give you a good reference point to refer back to when you need more information…
***Before we do that though, here's a video on this very topic:
(*You'll need to wait a few seconds for the ad to finish; and you may need to click the sound icon to turn the sound on.)
***Here are the probiotics discussed in that video. Use the code KOP for a discount.
First, my reader friend who got the ball rolling…
I just read yet another great article about the importance of fermented foods for a healthy gut. I could not agree more. HOWEVER, as my husband continued to get sick we went the holistic route and through many blood tests found out that one of his issues was his body had a very high level of histamine, and to correct this, he had to eat a low histamine diet… which is almost exactly opposite of GAPS, WAPF, or Nourishing Traditions! Ultimately, I think those are extremely healthy ways to eat, but while my husband's current health issues are going on, those foods are actually worse for him. Several of those are high histamine foods which just shocks me, and there are other concerns, like you can't let your meat sit and you can't slow cook your meat. So many different types of food preparation creates histamine, he also should not have leftovers which blows my mind! Thankfully this would not be a long-term diet, but for now it's what we have to do.
When I looked into this I realized how many people have to follow a low-histamine diet because of severe and acute reactions both physically and mentally. I feel like I'm starting at square one and it's OVERWHELMING — it took me forever to do my homework and learn this whole new way to eat and now I have to learn something almost completely opposite, all while trying to feed a very large family. Any help, tips, resources or advice would be appreciated!”
What might CAUSE histamine intolerance?
Here's what I found out in this article:
About two years ago I started to break out in hives, and my face became red and puffy, mostly after I ate in restaurants. Now I am often itchy, and break out in hives for no reason. Sometimes I get hives and a swollen face after eating; sometimes I wake up in the morning with my eyes swollen and my whole body itches. I seem to have heart palpitations, even when I am not particularly active. My heart races and I feel hot and clammy as if I might have a heart attack, or perhaps I’m having a panic attack. I also seem to have headaches more often than before. I thought I was allergic to food so I went for allergy testing, but everything came back negative. I have never had allergies, but I wonder what is happening? – and why now when I am 37 years old and have always been healthy except for a bad infection I had about 3 years ago.”
This was my answer: The symptoms you describe, and the type of pattern of onset, seems to suggest that you are dealing with histamine excess. Excessive histamine, from a variety of different sources, will result in symptoms often indistinguishable from allergy. This is not surprising since the early symptoms of an allergic reaction are mediated by the histamine released during the progress of the allergic response. The question is, of course, why are you experiencing symptoms of histamine excess now?
The key to your problem is possibly the “bad infection” you had about three years ago. I assume you had at least one course of antibiotics, although you do not give details of the infective micro-organism and the treatment you received. It is possible that the infective organism, and/or any antibiotics you may have taken at the time, caused a change in the bacteria that inhabit your large bowel. The bacteria now in your intestines may be the types that make histamine from incompletely digested food materials that pass into the bowel. This can result in more histamine entering your body than previously, and augmenting both your natural histamine (that we require for a various functions in the brain and digestive tract as well as processes in the immune system), and histamine in your diet.
Of course, there may be a number of other reasons why you are suddenly faced with excessive histamine in your body – a situation that we sometimes refer to as “histamine intolerance”. It is a complex process, and we are only just beginning to understand the various aspects of the problem, but I’ll explain what we know so far, and what you can do to help your symptoms.”
- ***Click here for the rest of the article where the author goes on to answer these questions: What is histamine, how much is too much, possible causes, symptoms, histamine and specific health conditions, how to distinguish it from other food allergies, and more.
Which foods are high in histamine?
- Seafood: shellfish or fin fish, fresh, frozen, smoked or canned
- Processed, cured, smoked and fermented meats such as lunch meat, bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni
- Leftover meat (After meat is cooked, the histamine levels increase due to microbial action as the meat sits)
- All fermented milk products, including most cheeses
- Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir
- Citrus fruits – eg. oranges, grapefruit, lemons, lime
- Most berries
- Dried fruit
- Fermented foods: sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, relishes, fermented soy products, etc.
- Tomatoes- including ketchup, tomato sauces
- Artificial food colors and preservatives
- Spices: cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, anise, nutmeg, curry powder, cayenne
- Beverages: Tea (herbal or regular), alcohol
- Chocolate, cocoa
- Vinegar and foods containing vinegar such as pickles, relishes, ketchup, and prepared mustard
(Source: Chris Kresser)
Are there any probiotics you can take when you have a histamine intolerance to work on healing your gut, since you can't eat fermented foods?
Here's more about this probiotic:
- Read the post from the other day: Is My Probiotic Really Helping or am I Wasting Money? 5 Ways to Know For Sure.
- Another great healing testimonial: This Mom Will Make You Cry: How One Small Change Brought Help and Hope for Her Autistic Son
Next, here's the Facebook thread I told you about:
Me: “Hey guys, a reader desperately needs your HELP!
I went on to share what she wrote me above. Here were some of the helpful responses that came in…
The hardest time is right at the beginning when it seems like you can't eat anything. I freaked myself out about FODMAPs at one point early on and stopped eating those too! And then I was worried about having a sensitivity to the few things that I was eating, like chicken and carrots. It might sound crazy to someone else, but if you're trying to heal a life threatening condition, it can seem very serious! The #1 most important thing I can recommend is to keep a detailed food chart. It seems like a lot of work, but I would have saved myself a lot of time if I had done it from the beginning. I had to go back to square one at one point because I had not done it. Get a giant desk calendar and hang it on the wall in your kitchen, that way it's super easy to write everything down. Write down every new food and every single symptom, and the times when you are symptom free. This way, you'll know exactly what point to go back to if you start doing worse again, and it will save you from having to go back to the beginning. Histamine intolerance is one of the things that can get better! Chris Kresser wrote a great article about it. I recommend looking that up. And don't think that you have to do any one protocol to heal – your body is unique, and we all need to cherry pick whatever will be helpful to us individually. That's another reason why the food chart is so important. I did a combination of GAPS/paleo/autoimmune elimination diet, and now eat primal/raw whenever I can, but not always. Good luck! Things will get easier if you're diligent.
Work on his liver. Histamine is not just broken down in the gut. It is also cleared through the liver. Look into biotherapeutic drainage. My son also did horribly on GAPS and fermented foods, bone broth, etc. Homeopathy and biotherapeutic drainage helped when I though there was no answers. Good luck!
Yogurt and kefir both have acidophilus. Too much of one probiotic will mess your digestive system up and brain (gives you racing thoughts). I'm currently not taking and supplements or fermented foods right now.
Please join the Facebook group …… The Low Histamine Chef by Yasmina Ykelenstam. She recovered from serious mast cell/histamine issues and her website is brilliant.
We knew a little girl with allergies to all the standards plus anything she ate too frequently, i.e. potatoes & chicken. Her allergies manifested as eczema that would keep her up at night itching. They finally found a doc who tested her for systemic bacterial/fungal infections. She had both and was on strong antifungals/antibiotics for several months. Her mom had done EVERYTHING she could to little avail. She had tried to avoid antibiotics to not risk what little gut flora she had left. The treatments worked and her eczema is very controlled and she can even eat fruits and nightshades. She will still break out from too much sugar even from fruit, but her life has improved drastically. She was always petition and had thin hair and now her hair is thick and her body is fuller. I can find out which doctor she saw if there's interest.
Get tested for MTHFR asap.
(The original reader then commented…)
That is my comment above. And he has the double mutation of MTHFR Gene! Someone asked, “Why did you automatically assume MTHFR was associated with it?”
We found this out through the holistic testing. They did genetic testing as well. But also I have compound heterozygous mthfr. I have very high histamine issues that are greatly exasperated with taking methylated B's.
With MTHFR gene, avoid synthetic folic acid and the foods and products containing it. Take a methylated folate supplement. See Ben Lynch's site for more on this.
There is no one thing that's good for every body. Trust your response. Fermented foods cannot be metabolized by everyone. Elimination diets are great except if you have sensitivities to the allowed foods.
Try Dr. Coca's Pulse Testing to identify foods that you are reacting to (there are posts and YouTube videos on how to do it). Find a muscle tester who can go further. When you have a chronic condition, avoid gluten. It promotes the release of zonulin in the gut which loosens the “tight junctions” and allows oversized particles entry to the bloodstream, which are tagged (forever) like a virus.
Drs. Tom O'Bryan and William Davis wrote books on the dangers of consuming wheat with chronic symptoms. It is only proteins that you might remain sensitive to. As you heal, inflammation reduces, sensitivities calm down and foods can be reintroduced.
Tons of great info, right? I love you all, thanks for jumping in to help when someone needs it!
- Histamine Driven Anxiety Attacks Reversed
- Chris Kresser on histamine intolerance
- One more on fermented foods
- Struggling with eczema? The Eczema Diet is a really helpful book.