This week I had yet another delightful comment on my Recipe page basically saying that my site was a joke. How on earth can I call my recipes low histamine when they contain mushrooms, chillis and lemon juice?! (with an excalamation mark just to shove the point home). I was not amused, particularly as the writer had obviously not afforded me the courtesy of actually reading my blog. The Read This First! page in the Low Histamine Food section, and the links contained therein, explain the information my food choices are based on and if you can’t be arsed to read it before mouthing off you’re just being rude.
I’ve also had a, thankfully much nicer and more polite, comment from SIGHI (the Swiss Interest Group on Histamine Intolerance) informing me that their cookbook has now been translated into English. I had a look through the excerpt on their website and it’s obviously taken a lot of hard work and is very professional – I’ll add the details to the Links & Resources page when I get the chance.
If you look at the start of the cookbook it lists allowed and excluded foods, some of which differ from those on other low histamine food lists, the list I follow included. The whole histamine in food thing still baffles me and I know baffles most of you all too. Here’s the rub: I can find hardly any research on the histamine content of foods, the exception being fish where scombroid poisoning is well documented.
The list I follow was written by Dr Joneja, a world leading researcher on histamine intolerance, so at least has some validity. The person who told me this week that my site was laughable because I included mushrooms so far hasn’t produced any research to back up their claim that fungi are high in histamine. Barcelona-based nutritionist Adriana Duelo, whose work is regularly submitted to the prestigious Spanish Society of DAO Deficiency (of which she is also a member) , has tested mushrooms however and found they contain zero to 1.8mg/kg of histamine which is about the same as fruit juice and less than swiss chard or rice. Having said all that, some people can’t tolerate mushrooms just like I can’t tolerate apples, which are also very low in histamine.
And therein lies another rub: we don’t all have the same immune system malfunctions. There are people with allergies. There are people with intolerances, eg to tyramines, salicylates, oxalates, nightshades, gluten, lactose. There are people with low or inhibited DAO &/or HNMT. There are people with mast cell disease. And there are people with immune system problems which don’t fit any of the aforementioned categories. And although histamine is implicated in all of these illnesses the mechanisms by which it causes symptoms, and the treatment needed, will differ widely. It is also, in some cases, only a small part of an overall immune system picture. In MCAD, for example, when mast cells degranulate they produce around 30 mediators – why do we only focus on histamine? And why do we mainly focus on food, when just about anything can cause mast cell degranulation in MCAD, including the weather, emotions, lack of sleep, hormones, etc. etc.?
To complicate matters further, many people mix low histamine food lists with other issues. SIGHI exclude wheat on their diet for example, when there is no evidence that wheat is high in histamine. Wheat may, or may not, be inflammatory and excluded on an anti-inflammatory diet or people may be intolerant to gluten but that still doesn’t make it a histamine rich food.
I’m hoping to have time over the holidays to update my website a bit, including writing a new page tackling these very complex issues. To be honest though, the more I’ve learned over the last 3 years the more I suspect any low histamine food list. Who exactly has tested cinnamon, curry powder or nutmeg for its histamine content? And how on earth is it even possible to test whether a particular food liberates histamine once it’s been ingested? Are fresh foods always lower in histamine than dried? Dried oregano, for instance, is miles higher in mast-cell stabilizing luteolin than fresh oregano. If pumpkin is high in histamine what about related vegetables like squash, or other root vegetables like carrots or turnip?
I can see the logic, if not the research, to back up claims that aged and fermented foods will be high in histamine, eg. aged cheeses, cured meats and dried fruits but where is the science that food colorings are high in histamine (not that I’d ever want to eat artificially coloured food but where is the histamine connection)?
I’m almost certain I inadvertently still eat things which are high in histamine. I’m also equally as certain that I’m avoiding some gorgeous foods for absolutely no good reason. And on top of all that I know for sure that histamine in food is only a tiny part of my very complex health issues and I’d love more research on all the other aspects of mast cell mediator release.
I’m just sharing rambling thoughts in this post really and, as I said, will try and put together a more considered and informative page in the near future.