Along with Mast Cell Activation Disorder I have the double whammy of also suffering from Histamine Intolerance. Many people confuse the two, but they are distinct diseases with different causes and need different treatments. Histamine Intolerance (HIT) is caused by a lack of enzymes in the stomach, one of which is Diamine Oxidase (or DAO). There are other enzymes involved but DAO is the only one we currently know much about.
All the food we consume contains histamine, but some foods are much higher in histamine than others. When we eat our stomach also produces histamine to aid digestion. DAO then mops up any histamine left over from the digestive process. For those low in DAO, however, this excess histamine isn’t dealt with and results in histamine toxicity with all sorts of unpleasant symptoms.
We don’t really know, as yet, what causes DAO deficiency. It’s thought that some people may be genetically low in the enzyme, while other people may acquire DAO deficiency through taking certain medications. I’m not sure where I fit in in these hypotheses. I haven’t taken drugs for years due to my MCAD reactions, and until I was in my mid-forties could eat anything I liked without any kind of reaction so if I’d been born with low DAO this surely would have shown itself earlier. So my guess is that there are other factors at play which can affect DAO of which we are currently unaware.
It’s obvious why following a low histamine diet helps in HIT – the less histamine we eat the less our stomach has to deal with and the less histamine is floating around our bodies causing havoc. There are supplements on the market, eg. DAOSIN, which claim to increase DAO. My Consultant, when asked, didn’t dismiss these entirely but did say that he doesn’t endorse them as there is no evidence on their efficacy or safety. It’s up to the individual, therefore, whether they want to use supplements without really knowing how they work or if they have any negative side effects.
There is an International DAO Society made up of researchers who study DAO and their research has found that DAO is abundant in young pea shoots. You can buy these from the supermarket, though they do degrade quickly and look a bit like a limp rag by the time you get them home, or you can grow your own. It’s cheap, easy and a lot quicker than you might think.
1. Buy a bag of dried marrowfat peas from the supermarket.
2. Soak the dried peas in water for 24 hours (the amount will depend on the size of crop you want, but it might be best to do a large handful every few days then you’ll have a continuous crop rather than having them sprout all at once).
3. Select a shallow container, about 2-3″ (6-9cm) deep – seed trays are ideal, or you can use a wooden box so long as you put drainage holes in the bottom.
4. Fill the container with compost, multi-purpose is fine.
5. Water the compost, then just lay the soaked peas on top. You can sow them close together, just any old how is fine.
6. Cover with a layer of compost, about the depth of one pea and water again lightly.
7. You can grow peashoots both indoors or outdoors. Research suggests that growing in the dark for the first few days can increase the DAO produced by the peas, but I just grow mine in the kitchen windowsill. They start to germinate literally within 24 hours.
8. Keep the compost moist but not wet and within 2 weeks your shoots will be about 3-4″ high and ready to harvest. Chop off the shoots above the first set of leaves. Some of the shoots will then re-grow and give you a second crop.
You can add peashoots to smoothies, or salads, include in sandwiches or use as a garnish.
Apologies for any typos in this post and my poor grammar – I’m trying to write on an empty stomach and through a pounding spacey migraine!