Histamine

 

In my first post, titled “My Story – Allergic to food” I explained that I may have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome – MCAS (or sometimes called Mast Cell Activation Disorder – MCAD);  In very simple terms, my mast cells, which release histamine, are overactive.  My triggers for this are preservatives, especially sulfites, and also foods with naturally occurring sulfites, and foods that are high in histamine.

In this post, I’d like to list the foods that are high in histamine.  I initially eliminated or at least cut back on many of these foods.  But after a month or so of settling my system to the point that I was no longer having daily allergic reactions, I started slowly adding them back in, testing each for my tolerance.

Each of our tolerances is different so you will have to test each on your own.  Sometimes it is the amount of total histamine in a meal or over a day that matters more than the histamine in a single food.  For example, at this point in my recovery, I can eat an egg, I can eat tomato, and I can eat cheese. But I’ve tried eating them together in an omelet, and had the “stuffy ear” reaction, and did not feel well overall for a couple days. As the Low Histamine Chef would say, “I overloaded my histamine bucket”. (See this website for great information all about Histamine intolerance: http://thelowhistaminechef.com/.)

Also, the link below contains a GREAT chart listing the degree of tolerance of certain foods, but again, please remember that everyone is different and experiment on your own with your own tolerances; it would be a shame to give up a high nutrient food that you like based on a chart alone:

http://www.food-intolerance-network.com/food-intolerances/histamine-intolerance/histamine-intolerance-hit-tolerated-foods-list.html.

Don’t despair about eliminating foods…an elimination diet is only TEMPORARY, and only do it if it is needed to settle your system’s allergic reactions down.  Eliminate the foods that you are reacting to for about 2 weeks to a month and then try adding them back one at a time, and taking good notes on your reactions.

High Histamine Foods: 

Fermented foods:  Any food or beverage that undergoes fermentation contains high levels of histamine, notes the International Chronic Urticaria Society. Examples include cheese–except cottage cheese and ricotta cheese–beer, wine, vinegar, pickles, sauerkraut, and fermented soy products like tempeh, miso and soy sauce.  Sour cream and yogurt may be a problem for some.

Processed foods:  processed meats, smoked meats, canned meats and canned fish. Commercially prepared ketchup and mustard.  I am able to eat “uncured” (no nitrates) bacon and ham from a local farmer.

Other natural high histamine foods:  foods naturally high in histamine include spinach, eggplant, fish,  eggs, chocolate, tomatoes, pumpkin, citrus fruits, berries, raisins, dates, apricots, cherries, peaches and prunes.   Soy beans, fava beans and other red beans, including kidney beans.

Pineapple, bananas, kiwi, avocados, potatoes, chocolate, tree nuts, and honey may be a problem for some people.  (I was able to add these back in fairly quickly without a problem.)

Avoid the spices cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, anise, nutmeg, curry powder and paprika. Do not drink soda (some all natural ones with cane sugar may be ok) or black tea. Coffee may be a problem for some people (it was for me when I was at my worst, but I can drink it now).  Yeast may be a problem for some.

Other Foods to Avoid (permanently, if able):  Stay away from foods and beverages with artificial colorings/dyes, flavorings or preservatives; they contain chemicals that can trigger histamine production. Examples of preservatives include benzoates, sulfites, BHA and BHT.  Avoid foods made with bleached flour.  Avoid artificial sweeteners.

Note that in order to stop my allergic reactions, I’ve had to switch to all organic foods.  So many of the foods on this list may cause problems for some due to preservatives rather than just being high in histamine.  For example, dried fruit is highly preserved with sulfites, and may give a double whammy reaction.  At the time I got sick I was eating granola bars or “healthy” trail mixes every day.  If these type of foods are not organic, they are very high in both sulfites and histamines.  If they are organic, you need only worry about the histamines.

Avoid eating leftovers, especially meats from the refrigerator:  Eat only freshly cooked meats and poultry; do not eat leftovers from the refrigerator, as histamines build up in foods and cooking does not break it down. (I freeze leftovers right away in individual portions, freezing does stop the production of histamines.)

I am currently taking Claritin daily each morning (an H1 blocker), but have stopped taking Pepcid (an H2 blocker).  I hope to at some point be able to stop taking the Claritin as well, as I get healthier and better at managing my total histamine load.

I would love to hear your comments if you are having similar difficulties and have tips that can be shared here to help others.