I’ve been exploring histamine intolerance (a mainly European issue; little seems to have done on the topic in North America), and did a short experiment with it last week. The premise is that histamine – what you take an antihistamine for if you have allergies to pollen, for example – is released/increased/natural dampers weakened by certain foods and medications. From the purely dietary side of the equation, many of the foods that are high in histamines or release histamines into the system are foods I already try to avoid due to food ALLERGIES, or acid reflux/acidic stomach issues.
Foods to avoid include: citrus, yogurt and tomato (bad for my acid issues), fermented soya products, and certain spices (e.g. cinnamon, nutmeg, curry) to which I am allergic. While tea and chocolate (chocolate, especially in combo with other triggers can cause one type of migraine for me) are mentioned specifically, caffeine and coffee are not – YEAH! And, since alcohol a) can be a migraine trigger, even if I stick to “safe” white wines, or alright hard ciders and b) is not a good mix with my meds, often putting me to sleep after one glass of wine, leaving it off the menu for awhile isn’t always a bad idea. (Alcohol, spending money, and food binging – all issues of control/versus out of control will be the topic of a future blog)
There is some debate as to how long the list of foods to avoid should be. Some ban bananas, and nix nuts, while others suggest these are okay in moderation. Some proponents stress avoiding medications; others focus on food only. The medication side of thing is what makes it more difficult and also very interesting. Most of my medications AREN’T on the avoidance list (and one that is on the list I stopped taking because it didn’t seem to be helping with my digestive issues), but 3 which I do rely on, especially for my facial, dental, and neck pains are: NSAIDs, morphine (I use a very low dose) and the key active ingredient in Voltragen gel.
While Lyrica helps with my atypical chronic facial pain, it doesn’t work as well on my constant dental pains. For that, I take prescription strength naproxen, and some times a generic pain medication which contains ASA, caffeine, and a muscle relaxant. My morning, afternoon and evening routines are marked by my application of Voltragen gel (a prescription only product in the US) to my neck, and often to areas of facial pain (including the relatively new jaw/dental computer usage pain). I rub it on my forehead for headaches. For body aches and pains, I use lidoderm patches.
I will go back to using Neuragen as I had some luck with it before. One of the main reasons I stopped was my husband’s sensitivity to certain smells, and Neuragen has a strong herbal aroma. A friend would remark that I smelled like a master chef’s home kitchen might.
My rosacea has been more troublesome lately, partly due to flushing caused by one of my medications. Flushing is also a symptom of histamine intolerance. Quite a few of my health issues appear on histamine intolerance list of symptoms including headaches, rhinitis, abdominal pain and nausea. One site suggested that depression, anxiety and panic attacks could be linked to a histamine intolerance.
The other interesting feature of histamine intolerance is that each individual has a unique histamine level. In other words, I could eat a histamine rich food like fish, and have no immediate reaction. However, if I later consumed yogurt and an orange, I might react. Again, this is an intolerance, not an Ige related allergic reaction. That I am also allergic to many of the histamine rich or histamine releasing foods adds to the case for me to try, one more time, an elimination diet.
There is also debate as to whether supplements can help deal with histamine intolerance. For example, some tout taking Diamine Oxidase (DAO) as this digestive enzyme is key in dealing with histamine rich foods. I also read of increasing your intake of B6. Most sites do advocate for elimination diet, with some also suggesting the use of an antihistamine such as Benadryl if symptoms appear.
Today is day 2 of my elimination diet. This time around I am just focusing on the histamine intolerant trigger foods. Genny Mastermen, in her book, What Hit Me? Living with Histamine Intolerance: A guide to diagnosis and management of HIT – A Patient’s point of viewsuggests that if you are histamine intolerant, you probably have at least one other intolerance. In her case, the second intolerance was fructose. For more on Genny, see her Amazon.com home page.
So, for the next 2 to 4 weeks, I will be avoiding some of my favourite foods such as yeasted bread, cheese, berries of all sorts, ham and other processed meat, eggs, and vinegar. I have my Benadryl handy, a food log printed off, and my fingers crossed that this time around the deprivation leads to a breakthrough. I will keep an eye on the fructose level (I still suspect that the “oses” aren’t the best for my system), and the other common intolerance foods. Wish me luck!