Histamine Intolerance… What the?

Apples are safe to eat if you have a histamine intolerance. Photo credit: Victoria Marcelle

After nearly 10 years of dealing with many allergy revelations – serious and minor – and purchasing all the inventory at Healthy Planet, I discovered my lingering health problems were actually a result of an intolerance to histamine.

Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction when an over-release of chemicals causes shock.

I would say I feel pretty secure knowing what having anaphylaxis entails and how to save my own life if put into a life-threatening situation. Just in case a wasp stings me, I’m armed and ready to fend off throat swelling, extremely low blood pressure and unconsciousness.

I’m one of “those people” who carry around an Epi pen in my purse, in case of a deadly allergic reaction.

The Epi pen is a shot of a life-saving drug, epinephrine.

When an individual comes in contact with a lethal allergen, someone has to remove the yellow cap on top of the Epi pen and safely administer the device into the “afflicted” individual. In simpler terms, jab the needle into the person’s outer thigh. Blue to the sky, as they say, orange to the thigh.

The epinephrine jumpstarts the heart, raises blood pressure, reverses hives and reduces swelling of the face, lips, and throat.

Not until recently did I uncover why I’ve had lingering health problems ever since the day I was stung by a wasp and ended up in the emergency room ten years ago.

Histamine intolerance.

Ok, so you’re probably thinking what on earth is histamine?

Histamine is a “biogenic amine”, a substance that is produced or bought about by living organisms and are formed by the breakdown of proteins in foods. It plays a role in regulating the human metabolism.

Histamine intolerance isn’t so much an indicator of histamine, but rather the consumption of too much of it or, perhaps the body’s inability to break it down and remove it.

My symptoms included feeling swollen after eating, as well as fatigue, anxiety, restlessness, irritability and difficulty focusing.

Some people might experience migraine headaches, nasal congestion, sinus issues, hives, digestive issues, irregular menstrual cycles, nausea and vomiting.

In more severe cases, one might experience abdominal cramping, tissue swelling, high blood pressure, irregular heart rate, anxiety, difficulty regulating body temperature and dizziness.

Solution? A low-histamine diet. This means major dietary changes.

Adjusting my diet was not fun. I’ve had to cut out many tasty items that contain high levels of histamine, such as strawberries and bananas..

I had to say goodbye to my daily strawberry, banana and spinach smoothie. I had to learn to create new meals that didn’t contain avocados, tomatoes, eggplant, citrus fruits (limes, lemons, oranges), walnuts and anything made with vinegar.

Histamine-rich foods include fermented beverages, yup that means alcohol, and dairy products (bye bye ice cream). Add to this list yogurt, sauerkraut, processed foods, smoked meats, shellfish, aged cheese and products made with refined white sugar and white flour.

I am pretty crafty with cooking so it was not too difficult to think of new meals but it was hard for me to want to make this change.

What does a meal look like when you are histamine intolerant? Baked carrots and bell peppers seasoned with Italian seasoning, and a bean salad containing olive oil, kale, onion, cucumber and chia seeds. Photo credit: Victoria Marcelle

How do I feel now? Calmer and a lot less swollen. Bloating has gone down significantly.

My energy levels are up, more consistent throughout the week and not so many crashes. I feel that my mind is clearer and I can concentrate on my work. I can handle stress more proactively and don’t experience so many mood swings.

As with anything worthwhile in life, it’s a process. But, the first step on the road to any type of success is identifying a problem and sticking to a well-thought-out problem-solving plan.