UPDATE 15 OCTOBER 2016: This page has obviously been shared on social media and has recently received a lot of visitors. I just wanted to say that the original post was written 2 years ago and in that time a lot has changed, so I have now updated the content to reflect my current knowledge. In particular I’ve discovered that no fruit and hardly any veg has been tested for its histamine content, so I now feel very differently about eating them. Please see the Low Histamine Food Info menu at the top of the site for more up to date information on histamine in foods, in particular the ‘Histamine & Food: the Evidence’ tab.
Following on from my last blog post, I thought I’d share with you some of my struggles with Allowed and Excluded foods on a low histamine diet. As I’ve already pointed out in various articles on my blog, there is no consensus on histamine containing/liberating foods, as the research simply hasn’t been done yet. That doesn’t stop some people posting on my blog that this list or that list is the definitive low histamine food list, or that this app or that app tells me all I need to know about histamine in foods, though they never have the research to back these claims up. The whole area is such a mine field, and when I first began to delve in to the world of histamine the stress and conflicting opinions gave me a whopping headache!
In the end, I decided to just have a go at a (supposedly) low histamine diet I thought I could stick to and see what happened. I ditched foods that I used to eat a lot of, like strawberries, Cheddar cheese, aubergienes, items containing vinegar (particularly sauces and dressings), tomatoes, tinned tuna fish, chocolate, yeast (how I missed proper bread!), orange and pineapple juice and yoghurt. Through trial and error I discovered I also react to bananas and cashew nuts, though am currently tolerating macadamia nuts (similar to cashews) ok.
Three years down the line and having throughly research histamine in foods I’ve now re-introduced several items I originally excluded,such as baker’s yeast and berries, and am doing fine on a less restricted diet. The following are items I eat regularly, the inclusion of which on a low histamine diet causes confusion for some people who read my blog:
Most low histamine lists exclude berries, particularly strawberries, as they are supposed to be histamine liberators. There is no such thing as a histamine liberator – it is impossible to measure liberation of histamine from mast cells after food consumption and, even if it were, no-one has done it as far as I’m aware. I’ve no idea where the myth of ‘histamine liberating foods’ has come from but it’s not based on any kind of fact. Blueberries and blackberries are high flavonoid foods, and flavanoids contain Quercetin. Quercetin is a mast cell stabilizer so I eat blueberries and blackberries (picked straight from the bush in my garden).
2. Pomegranates & other fruits
Again, many low histamine lists exclude pomegranates as being a histamine liberating food (of which there is no such thing). This study from 2009 shows that pomegranate extract may inhibit mast cell activation due to its role as an anti-inflammatory. Ergo, I eat pomegranates and drink POM juice (although with all juices, even those I juice myself, I dilute with water or milk so as not to have a massive sugar rush which puts strain on insulin levels in the body). There has been no research done on the histamine content of fruit as far as I can find, so I eat most fruits as they are so good for you, with the exception of dried fruit (there is evidence to suggest aged foods are high in histamine). I also react to bananas (for reasons unknown) and apples (as a cross reaction to my birch pollen allergy, nothing to do with histamine!) so they’re now also off my list.
3. Citrus fruits
All low histamine diets advocate excluding citrus fruits as they are touted to be histamine liberators, however as mentioned above there is no such thing as a “histamine liberating food” so I include small amounts of lemon juice in my recipes because without lemon juice most sauces and jams would be un-makeable and I personally just can’t live on a dry diet.
4. Quorn & Mushrooms
As I stated in my previous blog post, the fungi family are a bone of contention on a low histamine diet. Some lists say they’re high histamine, though I haven’t yet found the research to back this up (please share if you have!). The only research I could find on mushrooms was by Barcelona-based nutritionist Adriana Duelo whose work is regularly submitted to the SPANISH SOCIETY OF DAO DEFICIENCY , however there was no information on how the research was carried out or the testing methods used. Her figures showed that mushrooms contain from zero to 1.8mg/kg of histamine which is less than that of swiss chard or rice, however I’ve no idea how accurate this data is. I include mushrooms in my diet because they are incredibly versatile, quick, easy, I love them and have never reacted to them.
I include Quorn in my diet because it’s a useful, extremely versatile, high protein vegetarian food that I happen to really like. And without tinned tuna, yoghurt and hard cheeses, which I used to eat daily, I do worry that I’m not eating enough easily digestible proteins, bearing in mind I have M.E. and without going into technical details my muscles are faulty and I strive to eat protein as a way of helping my muscles to function. I don’t seem to react to either mushrooms or Quorn, so in my world that = Happy Days 🙂 . As I say over and over again, however, if you react to mushrooms don’t use them – there are other veg you can use instead, for example leaks, courgette, squash.
I haven’t put any salmon recipes on my blog, simply because it would cause no end of grief from some people and I would constantly be told that fish is high in histamine. However, if fish is gutted and eaten (or gutted and frozen) soon after capture it’s histamine content is actually very low so I choose to eat Tesco’s wild, frozen salmon as my friend Julie contacted Tesco and they told her their salmon was caught, gutted and frozen on board the boat so that’s as fresh as it’s going to get unless you catch it yourself! I eat salmon because it’s just so good for you. Fabulous source of Omega 3 oil, which has many vital roles within the body, and a great source of protein and B12. I have never reacted to freshly gutted fish and it’s an important part of my pesco-vegetarian diet.
Some people are surprised to see that I eat mozzarella cheese, along with other ‘soft’ cheeses like mascarpone and ricotta. I spent a whole week once looking up how various cheeses were made and concluded that soft cheeses were pretty much ok. Mozzarella isn’t aged or fermented – you can even make it at home (I personally don’t have the will or energy!) and is just separated curds and whey which is heated. Some mozzarellas are made using a fermented live culture (which wouldn’t be allowed), but most aren’t. Tesco’s mozzarella is suitable for vegetarians.
7. Tinned (canned) food
I hold my hands up! I do use tinned beans in some of my recipes simply because they’re quicker than using dried. My memory is so shocking I forget my own name some days, so remembering to soak dried beans overnight then having to boil them for ages before even starting to use them in a recipe would drive me nuts. But as I state all the time on my blog, if you want to use dried beans knock yourself out.
I’m ill and don’t have much energy. Not only do I live alone without any form of help and have 5 painful, exhausting, sometimes crippling diseases to contend with I’m also sole carer for my terminally ill Mum and have to keep an eye on my Dad who has dementia. I don’t bake all my own biscuits or make every single item from scratch as I don’t have the energy – consequently I have to do buy some processed foods from the supermarket like the odd tin of beans. However, I don’t beat myself up over it as I know I’m doing the best I can under difficult circumstances. My diet is low histamine, not no histamine and that’s OK – you have to do what works for you.