The histamine intolerance link and how this paleo girl went vegetarian — and back again — dysregulation demands it

histamineUpdated note: July 2014 — I was helping out a friend yesterday who has discovered histamine as an issue and I had reason to think about my early days of discovery. At the time…during the process of cleaning out my system, I ended up totally vegan for about 8 months by necessity…this was something I truly never thought could be possible given how much I needed meet prior to understanding the histamine issue. I’ve now discovered I need far less meat, but I do eat some again. Anyway…this speaks to some issues that arose in the early days and I thought it might be helpful to other folks now. I now eat a varied diet with a lot of foods I couldn’t eat early on…healing happens…but I do remember the early days and how difficult it was.

Update 2016: Histamine issues are only a piece of the vast holistic puzzle that the drug injury left me with. The histamine link serves as one possible window to access the chaos that has been my injured nervous system. It was a very helpful window for a couple of years. It’s not the window I prefer or use primarily anymore, though the information I gleaned from using this framework moved me along in my healing in significant ways. I prefer to now use more holistic understandings of body/mind/spirit. Histamine is one tiny molecule in our bodies interacting with millions of other microorganisms and chemicals in our bodies. It really doesn’t need to be given such prominence in the long run. Lately I prefer to use Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine to understand the intense complexity that is our human body . Still, the below info on histamine may be very helpful if this is what is currently resonating for you.

 

People keep asking me for updates on how the low histamine diet is going. I wrote about histamine intolerance and my discovery on how it was affecting my health and wellbeing at the beginning of January. As I predicted it resonated with many folks in the withdrawal community and many of them want to hear more. It’s still impossible to tell how many people may be affected by this particular factor.

So having discovered the histamine intolerance this (pretty much) paleo girl has now been vegan for several weeks. That was something I certainly did not expect to happen at this juncture. Although, I have to say I’ve not ever been attached to dietary ideology which is why even though I generally ate very much in keeping with paleo rules, I rarely used the word paleo. I listen to my bodies needs, not the prevailing hip dietary scene. It just so happened that paleo was working for me within the context of not knowing I had an issue with histamine. I also still strongly believe that eating that particular form of nutrient dense diet has helped me recover in spite of not being aware of my histamine intolerance and given I did not know about it paleo was totally a must while I was eating that way.

For a long time now it’s struck me that there are many ways to eat whole real food and be healthy. When people get ideological about their dietary choices it’s easy to find studies and articles arguing for whatever dietary ideology you believe in the current moment. Data has a way of being shaped to support whatever argument people want to make — especially if you neglect to ever consider conflicting data from the other camps in nutrition.

So, while it became clear to me that for a long while I needed to eat meat, I also thought that maybe there was a missing piece that would make meat less essential for me and oddly enough, or maybe not oddly at all, for me that missing link was my bodies idiosyncratic histamine intolerance. Clearly others have this issue too, but just because now my body is clearly preferring vegetarianism doesn’t mean I join the ideological veggie crowd. Nor was I ever a militant or strongly ideological paleo person.

I wish getting information about diet and nutrition wasn’t such an exercise in wading through dogma, but it is. Food as religion. Well, my body is my master here and I listen to it and then with the information it gives me I wade through the diet and nutrition mine fields and discover my own personal optimal diet.

So this is what went down for me and how I shifted my diet.

My blood sugar was dangerously high when I ate too many high histamine foods and that in turn meant I needed meat since it was the only thing that stabilized my blood sugar.  Of note I could not tolerate grains and legumes or most carbs. If I ate grains or legumes my blood sugar simply stayed too high. I was not interested in full-blown diabetes (I was pre-diabetic when I still ate grains and legumes and meat but that was corrected when I cut out grains and legumes. Meat at that point was essential.)

Now, having altered my diet to low histamine, meat actually becomes part of the problem. It was not the source of problem in that I was eating other food much higher in histamine (most notably LOTS of fermented veggies but other vegetarian sources too). So once I lowered the histamine in my diet via other sources, meat started to make a difference in that it continued to keep my histamine level too high.

So the trick to finding the histamine link was like finding a needle in a haystack…health can be anything but straight forward.

Note: not everyone who has histamine intolerance needs to eliminate meat. It really depends on the severity of the intolerance and very FRESH meat and fish can be eaten safely by many. The sooner after slaughter the better.

This was like winning the dietary lottery for me since I actually haven’t wanted to eat so much meat for a long time. It was a constant conflict for me as I don’t consider it ideal or humane to kill animals even when they’re grown in natural and humane habitats. I’ve not eaten factory farmed animal products for many years.  Since I also believe that as a living being we must learn to survive and thrive and that we have a right to be healthy that means eating meat might be a conflict I would have to live with. I would post this disclaimer when talking about my need to eat meat in previous posts:

In our society today whether people eat animal products or not is a hot issue. I would prefer not to eat meat but have found I must. I’ve also found that I’m intolerant of dairy (except for ghee) and eggs, so that leaves only meat and fish. I have found others like me in my community with similar physical ailments who have found that animal products are essential. I’ve experimented heavily with purely vegetarian methods of nourishing myself without meat since I deeply value the lives of animals and have failed. This choice does not come without pain. I’m always happy for those who find they can thrive without animal products and I certainly don’t begrudge those who can. I hope someday to regain enough health that I might be able to once again carefully tweak most if not all the meat out of my diet. I write explicitly about this issue because we are all different and people need to find what works for both their body and their spirit together. Sometimes the needs of the body and the needs of the spirit seem to conflict. Such is life. Never simple. I take comfort in the fact that all of nature eats itself and I’m blessed with a consciousness that can recognize that I am part of this web of life, complicated and lovely as it is.

I continue to stand by that statement since our needs are all so individual. There are so many possible variables that make a difference in some of our bodies.

The whole histamine thing (for me) is fascinating if also rather frustrating in many ways.

So I had to stop eating meat as meat elevates my histamine  (stopping ferments and lots of other things I was eating daily was even more important) and this is how it’s played out so far.

I was concerned about my blood sugar  because I’ve been impacted with fairly serious metabolic issues due to the psych drug history (many psych drugs cause diabetes and other serious metabolic issues)….and paleo/GAPS helped me in the past and I simply had a very strong belief that I need meat too. I have not ruled out adding back some meat and/or animal products as needed and as I might tolerate it in the future.

The fascinating thing was that at first as I added legumes out of necessity, my blood sugar did, indeed go up…higher than I would like…and I was still eating some meat…but I finally threw in the towel and stopped all animal products since it was clear they were problematic with the histamine issue  and lo and behold, within a few days my blood sugar dropped and stabilized…to WAY BETTER than when I was eating meat and paleo!

I was shocked. It now stays in a range of 75 to 95…when I was eating paleo it was about 85 – 120 and far less stable. These are the best glucose levels I’ve ever had! These are essentially ideal glucose levels.

The histamine seems to increase insulin resistance. There are studies that suggest such as well.

If you’re wondering how I know what is up with my blood sugar. Chris Kresser has a great info page on how to use a glucose meter:

I’m still in experimental mode and have lots of healing to do. That means I have no idea how this will unfold. I hope to be able eat enough animal products one day if I need to meet important nutritional requirements. But who knows, maybe my body won’t need that.  We’ll see. I’m open to being surprised.

I’m still learning what I can eat and I’m adding stuff that seems safe all the time as well. Also once I heal it’s likely I will be able to eat, at least on occasion, some higher histamine foods once again.

So I eat lots of  fresh veggies and herbs…parsley, cilantro, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bok choy, romaine lettuce, fennel, onions of all kinds, dandelion greens, mustard greens, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, sunchokes, broccoli, cauliflower…

Fruit all I’m eating right now are apples, pomegranates, blueberries and cantaloupe…that’s it at this time.

And then I eat a variety of legumes: lentils of all sorts, black beans, garbanzo beans (chick peas)…is all I’ve added so far…I’m really still in a strict elimination phase.

Oh and nuts and seeds. Hemp, pumpkin, almonds, and cashews so far.  Nuts are somewhat higher in histamine so I have to be careful with that. Seeds perhaps seem safer, but I’m still learning what my body likes best.

The most prevalent symptoms that are being effected by the change in diet are extreme autonomic disregulation sorts of symptoms — heart palps, tachycardia, pressure and pain, issues with blood pressure, light-headedness, dizziness, chronic and acute generalized pain, etc  and I’ve got a myriad of very extreme symptoms from the drug iatrogenesis. Everything, pretty much has lightened up since I cut down on the histamine. This in turn has allowed me to exercise more often. Daily walks and daily yoga have always been the goal but I would end up back in bed 2 and 3 weeks at a time with some frequency. Now I rarely miss a day. This doesn’t mean I don’t end up in bed for a few hours here and there quite often, but the fact that I’m walking and doing yoga pretty much daily means my rehabilitation has picked up considerably. I feel much stronger and healthier even while still being very limited. I still can’t go out at will into the world and I still often can’t talk on the phone or spend time with people etc, but things are changing at a much faster pace now.

I’ve cut out almost all supplements because I too am sensitive right now.

I’m reacting to ghee now too, so no more for the time being (that was the last animal product to go) I can only use small amounts of coconut oil and sesame oil right and flax-seed oil..and I eat cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds and hemp seeds so I’m getting fats that way too. Sadly from what I understand, olive oil is hit and miss for people with histamine intolerance, so I’ve put off trying it. I do okay with MCT oil for cooking too.

I’m trying to figure out a way to add some additional Omega 3 oils. I’ve tried a vegan product made by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, but it’s got tocopherols derived from soy and since I’m allergic to soy it seems problematic at this time. These are the sorts of issues I’m facing since I really need to be sure to meet nutritional requirements that animal products were meeting. Fish and fish oil is the best way to get Omega 3s if you can eat them.

I’m trying to figure out a way to add some additional Omega 3 oils. I’ve tried a vegan product made by Dr. Joel Fuhrman,  but it’s got tocopherols derived from soy and since I’m allergic to soy it seems problematic at this time. These are the sorts of issues I’m facing since I really need to be sure to meet nutritional requirements that animal products were meeting. Fish and fish oil is the best way to get Omega 3s if you can eat them.

I’m still reactive much of the time but reaction time is getting shorter and less intense…still it’s a damn pain in the ass and I’m still largely disabled by pretty much any standard. Recovery continues to move forward albeit slowly.

I could write more but I will end now. If you’re interested in talking about this issue you can visit my Facebook page where this is posted: FACEBOOK

So for more info on histamine intolerance:

My previous article is here:

Shortly after I wrote the above article Chris Kresser also published on histamine intolerance:

UPDATE And the latest post with lots more new info:  Histamine Intolerance: can be associated with folks getting psychiatric diagnosis 

(MOST RECENT UPDATE HERE: Have you considered histamine intolerance associated with psych drug use and withdrawal?)

I have found The Low Histamine Chef very helpful too. It has lots of wonderful information on natural foods that help lower histamine and those which are naturally low in histamine too.

Eating wholesome whole read food is important for body/mind/spirit health and well-being. I’ve written a lot more about my adventure with diet and healing here:  Nutrition and gut health, Mental health and diet

About Monica Cassani

Author/Editor Beyond Meds: Everything Matters