Tag archive for "mastocytosis"

Research & News

Wondering why you react to EVERYTHING you eat?

4 Comments 04 April 2014

Did you know that the act of digestion itself causes histamine release [1]? No, not many people do. I get so many emails from people who are convinced they have multiple amine, food intolerance or allergy issues because they react to everything they ingest. They explore salicylate, amine, oxalate, yeast and other issues obsessively, convinced that once they hit upon the right combination, food will magically be tolerable again.

While some may be right, the simple fact is that if you have a histamine disorder (histamine intolerance, histaminosis, mast cell activation, mastocytosis), the very act of digestion requires histamine. So, the chain is: food in, histamine release, gastric acid rushed to the stomach to begin digestion. Then histamine release again from the food. If you’re on antihistamines, some of it will be blocked from attaching to the H1 or H2 receptor, so you’ll be having less respiratory or gastric symptoms. I’m always surprised that people seem to think that antihistamines somehow magically flush the histamine out from your body – that’s simply not the case. They just stop the histamine from binding to those receptors only, leaving it free to run around in your body causing inflammation and damage to your internal organs [2].

Unfortunately, the receptors commonly not addressed with meds, H3 and H4, are the ones responsible for (among other things) modulating pain [3] and our mast cells/immune system [4], respectively, which explains why many people with histamine issues and mastocytosis still suffer from debilitating bone pain, depression, immune system dysfunction and others, in part (in my opinion) because they are not lowering their overall histamine burden – they’re relying on antihistamines to do the job for them. But of course antihistamines open the appetite [5], leading to more histamine roaming the body causing damage, except a little less damage to the H1 and H2 receptor areas. So you feel less respiratory and gastric issues (maybe) and are encouraged to eat “normally”, use cosmetic products like nail polish that are mast cell degranulation/histamine triggers [6], but continuing with life as you know it, learning to live with the fall out of flooding your H3 and H4 receptor controlled areas (pain and immune system), which then leads to more dysfunction and pain!

Ok, I’m off the soapbox. Here’s the truly shocking bit.

Just THINKING of food is enough to trigger histamine release!

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Research & News

Histamine’s role in fibrocystic breast disease

No Comments 26 December 2012

Suffering from breast lumps? Histamine plays an important role in Fibrocystic Breast Disease.

One of my many health scares, before my histaminosis/histamine intolerance diagnosis, was breast cancer, finally ruled out by lumpectomy. I had another cancer scare a few years later – doctors insisted on another lumpectomy, which I refused. It took me another seven years of persistent cancer fears to find the answer in a number of studies. One of the tell tale signs (that my docs should have paid attention to) was that the lumps were small, there were quite a few of them and they would completely disappear at times.

“Two mechanisms are proposed which could lead to mast cell degranulation in breast tissue. First, low progesterone levels lead to decreased intracellular cAMP levels in mast cells which enhance mast cell degranulation. Second, low progesterone levels lead to increased solubilization of breast collagen during tissue turnover. Susceptible individuals may undergo an allergic reaction to soluble collagen resulting in further mast cell degranulation. The degranulation products histamine and heparin may stimulate increased stromal proliferation and vascularization respectively. We provide evidence for the occurrence of histamine release by demonstrating an increased incidence of allergic symptoms in white women with fibrocystic breast changes.” Read the full study here.

I find it a little amusing that one of my most accurate histamine level barometers is my chest. Though I’m sure to lose your respect at this point (I promise to work hard to regain it), I must quote Lindsay Lohan’s masterpiece, ‘Mean Girls’:

Karen: Well… I’m kinda psychic. I have a fifth sense.
Cady: What do you mean?
Karen: It’s like I have ESPN or something. My breasts can always tell when it’s going to rain.
Cady: Really? That’s amazing.
Karen: Well… they can tell when it’s raining.

As soon as I feel those little lumps I know I’ve seriously fallen off the wagon and it’s high time I clamber back on up.

This doesn’t give you a get out clause from monthly self exams. I know it’s boring, so why not ask your better half to do it for you?

mean girls

Karen: There’s a 30 percent chance it’s already raining.


Research & News

These probiotic strains help fight allergies (rather than causing them)

No Comments 09 December 2012

Baby bacteria lowers histamine levels

Baby bacteria lowers histamine levels

I’ve been exploring the catch-22 of probiotic supplementation for some time now. The dilemma? Probiotics are necessary for proper intestinal function – the histamine lowering enzymes diamine oxidase and monoamine oxidase live there, so fixing up our poop tube seems like a good idea right?

Not so simple.

Probiotic supplements are fermented (a no go for histamine intolerance/histamine related disorders) and some strains actually raise histamine and tyramine in the body. The good news is that strains commonly found in babies can actually lower histamine, helping us fight allergies and lower our overall histamine burden.

Lactobacillus casei (TISTR 389) andLactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (TISTR 895) were found to produce BA (biogenic amines). The highest levels of histamine (1820.9 ± 3.5 mg L−1) and tyramine (5486.99 ± 47.6 mg L−1) formation were observed for the TISTR 389 strain, while TISTR 895 produced only histamine (459.1 ± 0.63 mg L−1) in the decarboxylase broth. Biogenic amine potential was not observed for the Lactobacillus acidophilus,Lactobacillus lactis subsp. lactisLactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, and Lactobacillus plantarum strains studied. This study confirmed that BA formation is strain dependent and not related to the species. Read the full study here.

English translation…


Lactobacillus casei was shown to produce histamine and tyramine, while Lactobacillus Bulgaricus increased histamine alone.

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Tips & Tricks

The Histamine Survival Series – Restaurants

No Comments 06 December 2012

‘Tis the season to head to warmer climes and enjoy a little dining…but eating out is no picnic when you have histamine intolerance/histaminosis/mast cell activation/mastocytosis. And yet this has never stopped me from trying (and succeeding).

 My top tip for surviving restaurants is PREPARE!

1. I have a couple of restaurants who have my allergies/preferences in the system or know me by now. That’s where I take my clients so I don’t have to get into it with them! I’ve never had anyone be rude or dismissive. Restaurants nowadays take these things very seriously because they don’t want a lawsuit on their hands. I’m also always super nice and leave a big tip so they remember me.

2. If I have no control over where I’m going, I’ll peruse the menu online and call ahead and make my order. If I can’t find anything on the menu, I’ll just explain that I have a number of allergies, that I need to come in for a business meeting, and I ask if they would be so kind as to prepare me an omelette (even if it’s not on the menu). They ALWAYS oblige.

3. ALWAYS order dressing/sauce on the side. This is where most restaurants slip up.

4. Tell them outright, you MUST have the freshest food on the menu, so ask for their help in choosing it. I’m always very tactful on this one. Restaurants never admit their food was not cooked from scratch daily and yet (having worked with a number of restaurants over the years) I know this is not the case. Very few restaurants in the world are from scratch, daily.You could copy and paste this text into a word doc, then add your foods, (don’t forget nuts!), and either laminate (my choice) or print it off and keep in your wallet. I suggest multiple copies as these will inevitably be lost along the way…

5. I have the text below printed on a two sided card to be presented upon arrival.



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FAQ, Tips & Tricks

The Low Histamine Diet Foods FAQ

No Comments 03 December 2012


That depends on which list you follow. Histamine in foods varies depending on: the country grown in, whether pesticides were used, climate, transportation, ripeness when picked, how long on the supermarket shelf, bacterial contamination. In particular the level varies in flesh. The reason for which is that bacteria release histamine (and other amines) as the flesh decomposes. The freezing and thawing and re-freezing in particular that occurs in the typical farm to supermarket cycle leads to high histamine levels in food. For fish: how long since it was fished, how it was handled, if it was frozen and then thawed at any point, if it’s contaminated etc. Beef is generally hung for at least two weeks to tenderize the meat. This accounts for the high levels of histamine in the flesh. Some methods of slaughter, including halal (Muslim), do not involve long hanging times, and as such may be fresher.

The Spanish DAO Society has this list.

I have a list I was given by my practitioner (now retired). For legal reasons I am not allowed to share it, but all my recipe books are based on this list.

And finally – your reaction to a food may vary from day to day depending on how high your histamine is that day. Some days just adding a smidge of histamine into an almost overflowing bucket can tip you over the edge.



Research & News

Ayurvedic remedy helps fight flab, fix your thyroid and lower histamine levels!

No Comments 26 November 2012

I’m taking a number of steps to help my body recover from any inadvertent histamine hiccups (ahem, cupcake incidents) I may subject it to. One of them is the food-coaching course I’m taking with my nutritional hero Dr. Fuhrman, and an intensive immersion into herbalism, which I’m sure to expand upon in coming years. I’m currently devouring the modern herbalism bible I’ve seen the Whole Foods naturopathic gurus toting when in deep consult with customers. I naturally started in the immune system chapter where I came across yet another ayurvedic miracle herb.

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Research & News, Tips & Tricks

Playing histamine detective is easy – here’s how I do it.

No Comments 24 November 2012

playing histamine detective

Update: nowadays I wish I hadn’t tried so hard to play histamine detective. In the end I believe it became counter productive, causing my amygdala to become hypersensitised and give me a fear of food. Read all about that here.

My decade (plus) as a journalist for CNN and the BBC definitely prepared me to deal with a pesky nuisance like my histamine disorder (be it histamine intolerance or whatever). When faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem – I just take a step back and figure out how the hell to make it work. There is no “can’t” in my vocabulary. Be it chartering private helicopters to airlift equipment, bribing ship captains to let us stow away, or finagleling team visas to Libya on two hours notice (in the Gaddafi years!) – I’ve done it all. So there’s no way I’m letting something like food (or illness) rule my life. I’ve outlined my approach to  histamine/inflammation detoxing in my ebook the Anti-Detox – usually employing it before a big client presentation (this histamine chef thing is a side project for me) or when having to fly out to hot climates like Kenya, Morocco, and Egypt, all this last year.

Heat, as you may know, causes mast cells to degranulate, releasing their precious histamine cargo right into your bloodstream. There’s nothing like quite like turning beet red and blowing up into the Michelin man the minute you step off a plane to make you appreciate a good low histamine detox before traveling.

Now I’m going to cover what I believe to be one of the key secrets of successful low histamine living. It sounds so very basic that you may initially laugh: you need to know what food or cosmetic is causing which reaction. Simple right? But I can’t tell you how many emails I receive asking for diet analysis. I don’t mind doing it, but it must be so frustrating living a life where every little thing could be causing distress and there’s no way to figure out what’s what. I’m greatly indebted to Dr Fuhrman’s teachings on this one, as I figured out what was wrong with me initially after going on a three-day water fast. For crystal clear clarity there’s nothing quite like starting with as clean a slate as possible. Nowadays, I don’t do water fasts as any kind of stress can cause mast cells to release histamine – and I‘ve learned the hard way that kicking your body into survival mode definitely isn’t relaxing.  The next best thing is the overnight semi fast (sleep!)…

The Test

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Optimum Nutrition

Tasty antihistamine hot beverages.

No Comments 15 November 2012

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my top hot beverages…

As you can see from my picture here, the detox is going great! Ok, busted, that’s not me in the picture! But as you can see from plenty others on the site – I’m not looking too shabby!

My natural antihistamine beverages…

Valerian root

Valerian extracts may have direct inhibitory effects on the contractility of the human uterus and this justifies the traditional use of this plant in the treatment of uterine cramping associated with dysmenorrhoea….Valerian extract reduced the maximal contractile response induced by acetylcholine, phenylephrine and histamine [1].

When I was high histamine it was literally impossible to sleep. I would be up for days at a time. Very handy when I was a journalist working in war zones, but not so great when I have a 9am meeting to go through someone’s digital strategy. Generally when people tell me they’re very low histamine I ask how their sleep is. It’s a great indicator of how you’re doing diet-wise. I’m not discounting stress, but we know that also causes mast cell degranulation too!

Now while the studies I read on valerian took great pains to stress that it’s not a hypnotic which knocks you into sleep, it’s an anxiolytic that reduces stress, helping you drop off. Ever wondered why antihistamines make you sleepy? There are a number of reasons – among them is that histamine controls your cicadian rythm/wakefulness hormones, so taking an anti-histamine would naturally make you fall asleep. Given that we know antihistamines make us fat and can cause toxicity syndrome, exploring natural antihistamine herbs could help lull you to sleep.

Please do remember that many of us with histamine issues don’t do great with herbs and that they thin the blood, but I still find these herbs a great substitute for my once ubiquitous nightly glass of red wine. I find that the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to not eat too late.

Olive Leaf tea

Yet another traditional ayurvedic treatment. Olive leaf tea has been shown to exhibit “significant mast stabilizing activity”.

“According to Ayurveda, Olea europea is used in treatment of leprosy, dysentery, vaginal and uterine complaints, inflammation,burning sensation, fatigue, asthma, leucoderma etc. In the present study the histamine induced dose dependent contraction of goat tracheal chain and guinea pig ileum preparation was significantly inhibited (p< 0.01) by the aqueous extract of leaves of Olea europea (800 ug/ml and 100 ug/ml). Olea europea at the doses of 100and 200 mg/kg,i.p.,exhibited significant (p< 0.01) mast cell stabilizing activity against clonidine induced peritoneal mast cell degranulation in rats. Thus the present study revealed that the extract of olives of Olea europea has significant antihistaminic (H1 receptor antagonist) activity.” [2]

Green/White tea

I was told I could drink up to two green teas daily, because they would help lower my histamine level. Thing is, too much caffeine can aggravate symptoms, as can pretty much any dried herb. So I just dunk the bag a couple of times and then toss it.

The bioactive compound epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a major component of green tea, has been shown to target histamine-producing cells producing great alterations in their behavior, with relevant effects on their proliferative potential, as well as their adhesion, migration, and invasion potentials. In fact, EGCG has been shown to have potent anti-inflammatory, anti-tumoral, and anti-angiogenic effects and to be a potent inhibitor of the histamine-producing enzyme, histidine decarboxylase [3].

I have actually found that I do better with white tea, which is basically the same, just unfermented, but I have now cut all caffeine out of my diet (I just don’t need it anymore).

Guava leaf tea

I’m really loving this stuff. Not for the taste really, but because guava leaf tea has been proven to inhibit mast cell degranulation (histamine release) in rats. I seem to tolerate it much better than the fruit itself.

Holy Basil tea

I’m not a big fan of aniseed/licorice. But this tea rocks my world! As I mentioned in my post “Holy basil! Anti-inflammatory and antihistamine superstar” – holy basil is as effective as Zantac/Rantidine at treating gastrointestinal upset. You can also find green tea/holy basil blends.

You’ll find a collection of all liquid high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes for days when my histamine bucket overflowed in the new Anti-Detox book

The Anti-cookbook, while it doesn’t treat any conditions, due to its high nutrient, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredients, has been instrumental in helping me feed myself on a limited diet. It features a six page list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods. It comes in regular and Paleo. 

The Low Oxalate Cookbook features antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes. 

Don’t miss the Low Histamine Beauty Survival Guide for non-toxic beauty tips, the skinny on histamine releasing (mast cell degranulating) beauty ingredients, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory beauty alternatives and the top brands natural brands I’ve found.

Take a peek at my other low histamine and antihistamine cookbooks for more high nutrient recipes.

If you’ve found this information useful I’d appreciate your support (at no extra cost to you!) – please check out my online store for your health foods, supplements, kitchen items and beauty product purchases. Affiliate sales through my online store go towards maintaining the website, funding travel to interviews and purchasing all the lovely foods for my free online recipes. You’ll find these items in the “Shop with us” drop down menu on my homepage.  

Please don’t forget antihistamine, pain killing foods can still hurt us, so please always check with your doctor before adding new foods to your diet. 


[1] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19178774

[2] http://jpronline.info/index.php/jpr/article/download/223/187

[3] http://www.springerlink.com/content/18480505ht4q2228/

[4] http://www.springerlink.com/content/n1426040742tn4r8/


The Histamine Detox

2 Comments 14 November 2012

As you may have read in my “3 days off diet = 3 weeks recovery“, I ditched the histamine intolerance diet for a few days. It didn’t agree with me, so now I’m back on the horsey. Giddyup I say! I then realised this is the perfect time to share some of my tips and tricks for bringing down my histamine level in a hurry. Now I’m a natural healing kind of gal and as such I don’t rely on herbs or any other such 21st century malarcky. Ok, so not true, but I’m not a doctor. So we’re down to the bare bones – which is really how I do it most of the time.



I’ve just had my blood work done. Not only will your test results tell you it’s safe to embark on a high nutrient low histamine diet, checking in with your doc is a must before changing something as crucial as your diet. Lay out your plans for the next few weeks and ask for his blessing. When you bring back your test results to him, he’ll have to eat a number of his words. I usually like to squeeze an “well if you manage to do that through diet I’ll eat your test results.”

It has happened.


Not that they actually went through with it, but for them eating their words is just as hard.


I’m blessed to live with a man who is as healthy an eater as I am. More so even. Luckily he loves my tasty low histamine food – when I’m whipping up new recipes for the low histamine recipes books or blog anyways. Otherwise I’ll sometimes just skip real food and brew up whatever’s in the fridge, zap it in the blender and call it soup! Here’s the thing. I wasn’t always able to live with marmalade or gingerbread cookies lurking in the cupboard. The idea of Ben and Jerry’s languishing in the freezer, unattended, forlorn, made it impossible for me to sleep without a midnight skulk into the kitchen for “one last” spoon, till not a scraping was to be had.

At that point I just said “Stop the insanity.” Yes, I watched a lot of 80s informercials and lusted after Susan Powter’s incredible charisma! But that’s what I did. I cleared out EVERYTHING that was on the high histamine lists. Nothing remained but a pack of rye crackers, two measly carrots and a shaker of himalayan sea salt.


The supermarket was my next challenge. I found myself lingering in the naughty aisles, having nervous breakdowns over whether I should take home a box of chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. After all, they were the first brand in over a year (compulsive label reader right here) that didn’t have soy (which I’m allergic to). But I was in TOTAL denial. Really, the minute amount of  soy lecithin in those cookies was the least of my worries. For despite being organic, sugar was the first ingredient on the list (meaning it’s the main ingredient), and white sugar makes me degranulate faster than a bag of demerara being attacked by cannabinoid receptor testing rodents.

The answer was simple. Yes I could have the cookies as long as I was prepared to spend the next few days in a histamine induced coma, hugging the toilet like my long lost war buddy. Eventually I was not ok with that. So now I order my groceries online. I have a regular low histamine shopping list and I run out for fresh foods or get an organic seasonal box delivered right to my door. I do still love going to the supermarket, and occasionally bad stuff still does happen, but now my poison is usually dried mango, olive oil rice crackers, or other such tasty treats. It’s funny how taste buds adapt so quickly…


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Research & News

Got allergies? You need this natural antihistamine in your medicine cabinet

No Comments 08 November 2012

yellow berried nightshade

yellow berried nightshade

Here’s an interesting headline for you: nightshade flower as effective a mast cell stabiliser as commonly prescribed sodium cromoglycate. This definitely brought a smile to my face, given that most of us in the allergic world only have to hear the word nightshade to run a mile in the opposite direction. It also confirmed that some foods we’re told are bad for histamine related conditions, may have benefits that far outweigh the modest amount of histamine they release. Unless you’re allergic to them!


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