lately I have received quite a few negative news from various friends stating that they had caught a Histamine Intolerance. This led them to hardly being able to eat anything anymore, losing strands of hair, losing weight big time (no, I do NOT recommend this as a diet!) – in the sum of it losing all life energy. So I got curious and started to research, thinking if already more than one of my friends have it, how many people will be out there suffering and probably not even knowing what they are suffering from? Those my friends are people, who are very self-aware, very conscious about what they are eating and drinking. So what happens to people, who are less aware of these things? How do they cope?
In order to raise some awareness regarding this issue, which unfortunately is another “sign o' time” I gathered a few facts for you.
How does a histamine intolerance develop?
Bacteria in the bowel can change through intake of antibiotics for example, so excess histamine cannot be digested properly and you start to show allergic symptoms. There are other medications, who can disturb the functioning of DAO, the enzyme system, which breaks down the histamine. Disease, various abnormal physiological conditions, hormone changes, especially in women at various stages in the menstrual cycle (close to the onset of menstruation) and at menopause, can also reduce the tolerance threshold of any individual.
What is Histamine?
As an important bio-active chemical it is indispensable in the efficient functioning of many body systems. It is a neurotransmitter and is involved in the regulation of stomach acid, the permeability of blood vessels, muscle contraction, and brain function. Histamine defends the body against invasion by potentially disease-causing agents such as bacteria, viruses and other foreign bodies.
It is made and stored within white blood cells. When the immune system is activated in response to foreign material entering the body, histamine is the first "defense chemical". Histamine is always present when inflammation occurs, and excess histamine will result in symptoms that resemble inflammation. In addition to its role in controlling vital body processes and defending against foreign invaders, histamine is a key mediator in the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Since allergy is essentially an inflammatory reaction, histamine, together with other protective inflammatory mediators is released in response to the allergen. Allergens are components of living cells that in themselves are harmless, such as plant pollen, animal dander, mould spores, dust particles, dust mites, and foods. An allergic reaction to these "foreign but harmless" substances occurs when the immune system mistakes these innocuous materials for a potential threat.
An excess of histamine in the body, which cannot be broken down by the gastric enzymes, can include all kind of allergic reactions like:
-runny, congested nose
-drop in blood pressure
and many more.
If your reaction to certain food occurs immediately, you do not suffer from histamine, but from a certain food intolerance. Be careful to distinguish the two.
Histamine is raised by protein, which enter your bowels. For example allergies to seafood are caused like this. Cheese of all types, alcoholic beverages, vinegar, fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, fermented soy products such as soy sauce, and above all many processed foods all contain substantial levels of histamine.
I myself often develop an intolerance to alcohol, wine in particular. Imagine an evening with fish AND wine. From my and my friends' experience you are especially prone to reactions when you are already weekend by other conditions. Unfortunately, if you have to go on an anti-histamine diet in order to control and eliminate your intolerance, there are also certain fruits and vegetables to avoid, in particular citrus fruits, berries such as strawberry and raspberry, tomatoes, several types of tree fruits such as apricot, cherry and plums, and some vegetables, particularly aubergine, and pumpkin. As the research regarding Histamine Intolerance is still in its initial phase, it is not sure how and why many food additives such as preservatives trigger the release of histamine in the body.
The important thing is to recognize your intolerance and to treat it with an anti-histamine diet. Mostly, you can heal yourself and slowly go back to normal eating as a dear friend of mine did, but be patient – it can take several month or even a year to get your body back to normal reactions. If you are experiencing other allergic conditions at the same time, it will be nearly impossible for your body to overcome the intolerance purely by a thorough diet. In that case anti-histamine medications will have to be used.
Your body through diet has to be brought to a level of histamine, which is lower than your usual tolerance.
For a quite detailed food list please view this link: http://www.histamineintolerance.org.uk/about/the-food-diary/the-food-list
“Low histamine level” here does not mean, that you can eat these foods in excess. Be conscious about a versatile diet. To remain with the example of fish: if you get it freshly caught from your dealer or fish, which has been frozen right on the spot so to say, you will have no problems. The histamine levels rise though the longer the fish is “resting” somewhere before consumption or freezing. During the diet you will experience, what works for you and what does not.