Starting A Low Histamine Diet
Before we learned about MCAD (Mast Cell Activation Disorder), I think it’s safe to say we both felt like we were literally going crazy. Our throats might feel extremely itchy one day and it would be fine the next. Certain meals would cause our heart rates to skyrocket & the blood pressure to tank (worse than usual). We would feel exhausted, headachy and everything in-between, but couldn’t figure out a successful pattern and pinpoint the culprit. We tried going on & off certain food groups, cutting out dairy, gluten and anything else we could think of. It got to a point where we felt like the symptoms were in our heads & this uncertain relationship with food was something we had created.
Luckily, our cardiologist is very knowledgeable about POTS and explained that there seems to be a strong correlation between people with pots and people who have something called Mast Cell Activation Disorder (LINK TO MCAD INTRO POST). In order to improve the symptoms we were experiencing, he suggested a “Low Histamine Diet”. A couple things initially came to mind. 1) What is histamine? 2) Which foods are low histamine? 3) I’ll eat/not eat anything if I can feel better!
And then the doctor showed us a list of high histamine foods/ histamine causing foods, which begged the question... ‘um what on earth am I supposed to eat? What’s left?’
I know it seems daunting at first, and for us, the more googling we did, the more confused we became in trying to figure out what qualifies as “low histamine”. Every website seemed to contradict the other. A food would be “okay” on one website and “banned” on another. When dealing with a low histamine diet, we found the easiest way to start is to focus on what you CAN eat rather than what you cannot, and go from there.
So we both started extremely simple the first few weeks, sticking to a few foods at a time and slowly reintroduce certain foods back into our diet. Once a lot of histamine was cut out of what we were ingesting, it was much easier to see what foods were giving us a reaction. And from there, we slowly started to incorporate more foods back into our diet.
I am not exaggerating when I say that 24 hours after starting this diet, I felt major relief. Of course, it improved as time went on and as I got more of the foods and drinks that were aggravating me out of my system.
The important thing to understand with low histamine diets is: Everything has histamine. You can not cut it completely out of your diet. Even if you only ate white rice, you would still raise your histamine levels in other ways, such as sun exposure or working out. It is very easy to feel you are playing a hand you can not win, so don’t try to cut out all of the the histamine. Instead, every day think of an empty cup that fills with histamine from what we eat/what we do, and we are just trying to make sure the cup doesn't overflow.
It’s a much more comforting mindset, and helps remind us that there’s nothing we can’t eat if we love it, we just have to be careful to balance out the rest of the day. If we know we are going out and want to have a drink, we know we might not feel great afterwards, but now we also know how to get right back on track and balance it out again by avoiding our trigger foods most of the time.
Kate and I have different reactions to different foods. It’s not like a standard allergic reaction across the board, you have to slowly see what foods aggravate you in particular. For example, I am fine with cherries where they pose more of a problem for Kate.