Histamine is one of the mast cells in your body, a piece of your immune system. Your body creates histamine naturally and releases it into the blood stream when that mast cell is triggered. .
Many natural, fresh foods contain moderate to high levels of histamine or histamine triggering substances. Sometimes both. Spinach, chocolate, oranges, and fish to name a few.
Histamine levels build up in fermented foods, preserved foods both canned and frozen, AND in your leftovers. Foods with high levels of preservatives that you consume at fast food and restaurants that do not cook with fresh products will also contain high levels of histamine. Cooking methods can also increase histamine to intolerable levels for some people. Fried food or pan sautéed in oil for example.
A low histamine diet takes an anti-inflammatory approach to eating healthy but with a holistic perspective, We are not just talking about nutrients and calories. Sensitive bodies need more attention than that and many anti-inflammatory diets for autoimmune disorders still include High histamine foods and histamine releasing foods. Furthermore, rheumatologists often do not explain the lifestyle changes needed to bring down inflammation in enough detail for patients to follow.
Why is that a big deal?
Women’s Health has been severely understudied and neglected. Our complex immune systems, designed to be able to shelter and grow foreign DNA for a 9-month period, is highly sensitive. Inflammation in the body easily aggravates the immune system and over time lead to persistent consequences. These issues may range from heightened allergies, headaches and joint pain to more serious Mast Cell reactivity and autoimmune conditions. Most autoimmune conditions occur in women, most mast cell conditions occur in women, and women present the majority of individuals with developed or inherited connective tissue disorders.
The most frequently occurring symptoms of mast cell dysfunction (even those mild enough to not register positive with the sensitivity of current tests) are: headaches, joint pain, skin rashes and breakouts, poorly healing skin, intense seasonal allergies, migraines, brain fog, chronic fatigue, reflux, gastrointestinal problems including IBS which may occur with diarrhea, constipation or both, tachycardia and palpitations, dizziness and fainting or near fainting episodes, intermittent and chronic anxiety, and intermittent and chronic depression.
In many women, and even children and infants, the body’s natural system for metabolizing excess histamine is impaired or becomes impaired: The Kidneys. Your kidneys produce an enzyme called Diamine Oxidase, or DAO. In Mast Cell conditions, Histamine Intolerance, and chronic conditions that cause one or both of these issues – such as autoimmune disorders and connective tissue disorders and diseases – the kidneys simply cannot produce enough DAO to keep your body from suffering. The inflammatory cascade of the excess histamine and other immunoglobulins that are triggered is too much to bear.
Finally, getting proper testing, diagnosis and treatment is an uphill battle for most. Women are far more likely than men to be diagnosed with a psychological condition rather than a mast cell disorder, and then their anxiety and depression are treated as the primary problem by every physician to follow. Most of the drugs for these conditions exacerbate mast cell disorders and mask the reactions that the body is having to Stress and Anxiety. Yes, stress and anxiety increase mast cell degranulation: that is histamine and MORE. Creating a vicious cycle that seems endless and impossible to navigate. Like rolling the dice every time you eat, visit a home or a store with strong scents, try to exercise, and simply live life. Imagine how much harder it gets once a full-blown autoimmune condition kicks in…
Education is Key:
To make a long story short, low histamine guided lifestyle changes can be implemented safely and without the dire consequences of many drug trials.
First, healthy approaches to low histamine eating follow a philosophy of replacement NOT restriction of foods. Second, the quantity of low allergen products on the market today make it just that much easier. Finally, when you are able to get thorough screening, diagnosis and treatment from an immunologist, the control of a low histamine lifestyle supports those treatments, keeping drug doses low and flare control high.
So why not start making healthy changes that could help clear your mind and lower inflammation and pain so that you are better able to handle the expected stresses and anxieties of seeking a complex health diagnosis?
Here is a straightforward PDF that explains low histamine diet along with the suggested dairy-free and gluten-free lifestyle for decreased inflammation and stress on the gut. I’ve also created an example of what a low histamine menu might look like, as well as a few of our favorite household recipes for low histamine cookies, pasta sauce and much more. Whether you want to go cold turkey or begin slowly and take baby steps, the tools to do so are out there.
Scientifically developed histamine resource guide to foods, ingredients, additives and more by the Swiss Histamine Intolerance Interest Group
Sources for this post include Ehlers-Danlos Society summits on Mast Cell Activation Syndromes and Connective Tissue Disorders, and articles published by its numerous presenters available online at the society website. Additional sources include personal interviews with Dr. Rory Kelly (pediatric gastroenterology), Dr. Heather Gladue (rheumatology specialist in Lupus, Arthritis and Osteoporosis), Dr. Mildred Kwan (immunology), Dr. Alan Spanos (Internal Medicine, EDS specialist), and resources from Disjointed: a guide for hEDS & HSD, Hypermobility MD Dr. Linda Bleustein, Mast Cell Disease Society, and Zebra Enthusiast MD.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site and the supporting attachments provided by Rachel Lee Patient Advocacy Consulting are for educational purposes only. Although we have performed extensive research regarding medical conditions, treatments, diagnoses, protocols and medical research, the staff of Rachel Lee Patient Advocacy Consulting are not licensed members of the North Carolina Medical Board or any clinical affiliates including but not limited to the NC Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, the NC board of Licensed Professional Counselors, or the NC board of Dietetics/Nutrition. Information provided by members of Rachel Lee Patient Advocacy Consulting should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a licensed medical doctor, counselor, therapist or other licensed clinical practitioner in handling your medical affairs.