When I was doing my gluten-free trial in November I bought some Soba noodles – they’re wheat and gluten free and made of buckwheat, which is high in Quercetin and Rutin which both have mast cell stabilizing properties. I didn’t get round to using them while doing my gluten-free challenge, but last night fancied a noodle dish (with some salmon and stir-fry veggies) so decided to try them, and ten minutes after my dinner I had 3 head rushes 😦 . This is the first time I’ve had a reaction after food since 20th July last year and I was totally gobsmacked. How can something that’s supposed to stabilize mast cells actually trigger them?! It did give me a bit of an “ah ha” moment though. The whole time I tried the gluten-free diet I felt absolutely lousy – November was the worst month I’d had all year. I was using Dove’s gluten-free flour blend and last night I checked the ingredients – you guessed it, it contains buckwheat! I can’t say for sure that the buckwheat was the culprit, but it seems a bit suspicious to say the least. Oh well, another food to add to my “don’t ever eat this!” list and it just goes to show that we’re all individual in our reactions – one man’s food is another man’s poison.
I’m trying a new recipe this week: thai green Quorn curry. The main ingredient is coconut milk, which is used by lots of people on a low histamine diet. I have no idea what they’re buying, because when I looked at the coconut milks at Tesco they all contained some seriously yacky ingredients (E numbers, preservatives, thickeners and all sorts of rubbish) which aren’t allowed. I’ve tried buying fresh coconut before and it was a disaster. The amount of milk from one coconut is pitiful and had to be strained twice to get rid of all the bits, plus with having very weak hands I simply could not smash the shell and extract the flesh without either cutting myself or spraining my fingers (despite looking up the best methods on Youtube). In the end I gave up and it went in the bin. Store bought fresh coconut milk isn’t available in the UK, so I’ve ended up with the lesser of the evils with the Koko brand. If the recipe turns out OK I’ll put it up on the site.
Speaking of recipes, I’ve added a new one for Tzatziki (made from cucumber, mint, garlic and Quark cheese). It’s easy to make and quite versatile. I often use it like a spread in a wrap with Falafel as a lunch dish – (see the Lunch section for the wrap and scroll down), or as a dip with poppadums or fresh veggies.
The new year seems like a good time to summarize how going low histamine has impacted my symptoms. The reason I started the diet in April 2013 was that I reacted to everything I ate: following every meal I’d get a head rush, vaso-dilation which resulted in a drop in blood pressure, which caused my heart rate to increase giving me palpitations – at times these symptoms were so severe I actually passed out. I also had severe muscle spasms, anxiety and an ice-pick type head pain following food. It had gotten to the stage where I didn’t want to eat at all.
Within 4 months of going low histamine my reactions stopped entirely. It’s wonderful to be able to eat without feeling anxious about every mouthful. So in that respect the diet has been an unqualified success and I now wouldn’t eat any other way.
There have been other positives from going low histamine. After a lifetime of only having bowel movements every 2-3 days I’m now going to the loo virtually every day! This despite the fact that I’m eating less fibre and fruit than I was on a high histamine diet. I’ve also had terrible back pain now for over 30 years, and this has reduced quite substantially. I now only really get back pain when I’m active, rather than it being a constant symptom, and it no longer keeps me awake at night. My urinary frequency has also lessened and it’s now rare that I have to get up in the night to pee, rather than before when I was up every night (sometimes 4-6 times a night!), consequently my sleep is more refreshing 🙂 . I do still have urinary frequency, but it’s definitely reduced – even my Mum commented recently that I hardly ever pee when I visit her these days, whereas before I used to go every hour on the hour.
On the negative side, other histamine-related symptoms have remained unaffected. I still have hives, sneezing, itchy skin, nausea, migraines, sleep disturbance and severe reflux. Taking Tagamet (an H2 antihistamine) has helped (but not alleviated) my reflux and nausea, but the other symptoms carry on unabated – in fact they’re worse than ever.
I’ve even developed a new symptom in the past year: burning mouth syndrome. I thought this was due to apples, which I was eating every day as they’re low in histamine but which are often a problem in people with an allergy to Birch pollen. So I cut out apples (and kiwi) and for a few weeks it did seem to help…………and then the burning mouth came back with a vengeance! It’s not just my mouth which feels scalded, it’s also my entire throat and tongue and I also have a constant strong metallic taste. It could be reflux (my doctor is almost certain I’ve developed a hiatal hernia). It could also be hormonal, as many women develop BMS during their menopause years. I could still be reacting to something I’m eating (if I can afford it I’ll have some more skin prick testing done in April when I go back to see Dr S in London, in particular for foods like carrots which can be a cross-over allergy from Birch pollen). It could also be related to my nervous system problems. Whatever the cause it’s really unpleasant. I’ve also developed burning feet this year. I’ve always had constant pins & needles in my feet since getting ME in 1994, and they’ve driven me bonkers in bed at night being too hot, but the burning sensation on the soles is a new one. Again I’ve read it can develop in the Menopause years – pesky hormones have a lot to answer for.
Eating a low histamine diet has eliminated my acute food reactions and helped several of my other symptoms, but as I’ve stated many times throughout this blog it’s not the be all and end all as I have so much more going on than simply histamine intolerance. It will, however, be a diet I think I’ll be on for life to a greater or lesser extent and that’s now something I’m much more at peace with.