No time to cook

It’s been some considerable time since I wrote anything diet/food related on my blog, so I thought I should explain why.  When my MCAD finally exploded back in 2012 I was having anaphylaxis every time I ate anything and sometimes after just drinking water.  I have never been so terrified in all my life and honestly thought I would die, especially as the Doctors I saw just looked at me like I was nuts and told me it wasn’t possible.  I was given diagnoses like gastritis and IBS, which I knew were absolute bullshit but I was told “it’s not cancer” and I should be grateful, then just left to get on with it.  Thank God for the internet and eventually receiving my MCAD and HIT diagnoses from Dr Seneviratne.

For the first two years following my diagnoses I was naturally obsessed with food.  I spent months wading my way through the information online on low histamine diets, adapting recipes to be low in histamine, experimenting and finally finding a plan I could stick to and which (on the whole) controls my symptoms.  I am so grateful to no longer pass out after I have a meal I can’t even tell you, though I’m not always symptom free.  That’s because my mast cells react to a whole host of things other than food, so it depends on any one day how full my histamine bucket is as to whether the mere act of digestion (which produces histamine!) sets off a reaction or not regardless of which food I’m eating.  But the symptoms aren’t anywhere near as extreme as they used to be and, although still not pleasant, are liveable with.

After my condition stabilized I really began investigating low histamine foods and made the shocking discovery that hardly any foods have been tested for their histamine content and every diet online is based, for the most part, on guesswork.  It rocked my world really because my life depends on keeping histamine at bay, yet the information on which I was basing my diet couldn’t be trusted.  I could still be eating ‘safe’ foods which are nothing of the sort and may have been cutting out foods, like egg whites, for absolutely no good reason!  What a bloody nightmare.  So I began experimenting again and discovered I don’t react to baker’s yeast, small amounts of lemon juice, vinegar, stone fruits or fresh berries though chocolate is still off the menu *sob*.

By now it’s 2016, I’m in peri-menopause and am having to contend with extra symptoms on top of the dozens I already have.  My Mum has been diagnosed with severe COPD and Emphysemia, is in heart and kidney failure and has become an alcoholic, while my Dad is in the early stages of Dementia.  They both need help with daily living and the job has fallen to me (quite why it hasn’t fallen to my 3 healthy brothers, their wives or adult children, three of whom ironically work for Home Care Agencies, is another story).  It’s hard enough keeping my own life and home going and I’m finding keeping two homes and three lives going tough.  I’m so busy I meet myself coming back, then am so exhausted from all the extra work and my rampant hormones I literally can’t think straight.

These days I no longer have the time or energy to spend hours in my kitchen thinking up and experimenting with new recipes.  In fact, I spend one day a week cooking then shove what I’ve made in the freezer as I don’t have the time or energy to cook myself dinner every day, let alone anything extra.  In any event, I’ve become quite disillusioned with ‘low histamine’ diets because neither I, nor anyone else, have any idea of the histamine content of individual food items and I now use all sorts of ingredients in my dinners which would cause outrage if I were to put them online.  For example, this week I happened to be in Sainsburys and bought 2 jars of pre-made sauces – don’t fall off your chair in shock 😉  One contained concentrated lemons and the other contained additives!  I know for a fact I won’t react to either, yet if I put them on my low histamine shopping list I’d be crucified, because according to the lists online they contain things I shouldn’t be eating.  Only of course no-one knows if I should be eating them or not because they haven’t been tested for histamine – try telling the low histamine zealots that though!  Obviously my ‘low histamine’ diet has helped my symptoms enormously so obviously some foods are higher in histamine than others, but whether I needed to have cut out all the foods I have is anyone’s guess.  My reduction in symptoms might literally be down to cutting out spinach, cheddar cheese and fish and I’ve been unnecessarily cutting out 30 other foods for no good reason.  Or it might be that I absolutely have to cut out 30 foods in order for my diet to be low in histamine.  I have no idea and neither does anyone else.

According to people like the Low Histamine Chef and others I shouldn’t be eating low histamine anyway, but I should be eating anti-inflammatory.  Only there’s about as much robust evidence for anti-inflammatory diets as there is for low histamine diets.  Point me to the research on people, not rats, that measures inflammation after ingesting a particular food and I might change my mind.  Only of course it doesn’t exist.  It’s as impossible to measure inflammation in our bodies after we’ve eaten a specific food as it is to measure histamine in our bodies after we’ve eaten a specific food.  It’s all such bullshit yet is talked about by these self-proclaimed ‘experts’ as fact.  And just because they include research references at the end of their articles doesn’t make it fact either.  Does anyone actually read the research?  Is it a properly conducted, double blind, randomized, controlled trial which has been peer reviewed and published in a nutritional journal?  Because if it’s not it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.  When I was investigating low histamine foods, I discovered that the only reason egg whites were included in low histamine food lists is because of a tiddly trial done on mice in the 1950s, which was never reviewed or published.  The way food was made and stored in the 1950s bears no resemblance to the way food is made and stored in 2017, so quite why this pseudo half-experiment is quoted as fact in the low histamine world astounds me.  All this stuff plays on the absolute desperation of very sick people and it makes me furious.

It extends beyond the world of histamine though.  For years saturated fats were ‘bad’ for us as they raised cholesterol and gave us heart attacks, until it was discovered that actually heart disease is a much more complex issue, trans fats were much more unhealthy than saturated fats and the jury is still out on how big a role saturates play in plaque formation.  Then salt was bad for us, until it was discovered that eating too little might be as bad as eating too much, though again the debate rages on.  Now it’s sugar that’s the demon, until in 30 years time it will be discovered that without sugar our energy levels are half what they used to be or some other such nonsense.  If we’re honest, we know very little about digestion, diet and the impact what we eat has on our health, and I suspect genes and how we as individuals process food will turn out to be the determining factor for health, rather than the foods we eat per se.

I admit I’m no expert on food and the information here on my blog is simply based on my own thoughts and experience.  And my experience is that I am currently managing my symptoms OK with the diet I choose to follow and, due to changing circumstances in my life, I no longer have the time or energy to experiment with new recipes particularly when I’m not even convinced they are low histamine as I have no evidence to back that theory up.  So apologies to anyone reading my blog and hoping for loads of inspiring recipes and foodie facts.  Having said all that, I hope the information and recipes listed in the menus at the top of my site are useful in your own journey through the histamine maize and at least it’s all free and I’m not making money off the back of other people’s suffering.

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13 thoughts on “No time to cook

  1. Laetitia Lalila

    Hi Jak, I’m glad to hear that you found some variation of the diet that works out for you! It sounds like hell you went trough and any relief is God sent!

    Irronically, I stumbled upon your blog while reasearching low-histamine recipes, stayed for the sense of humour. 🙂 Unfortunately, I found no relief on the low-histamine diet per se, I even tried the more extreme elimination diet where I ate only rice for a week, no change in symptoms.

    Finally, I thought that maybe I don’t have HIT, but maybe MCAS, and the low-histamine chef healed her MCAS with her nutriet rich foods, yoga and meditation, so I should be able to do it, right? Especially since I am so dilligent and persistent, right? Right?

    Well.. no. It didn’t help a bit and I got really frustrated and cynical, and upset that her advice is not scientifcaly based. Sure, she links studies, but studies can be flawed, or they can be pre-clinical, preliminary lab tests. Best example: turmeric, that she says she adds to all her soups, for its anti-inflammatory properties: https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/turmeric-tasty-in-curry-questionable-as-medicine/
    I mean, if she is feeling better ( and she looks great too) more power to her, and eating healthy,nutrient rich foods is always wonderful advice, but it’s not like, a cure.

    Today, I’m still folowing some form of the low histamine diet ( eating everything fresh, no pickled or fermented food, no chocolate), even though I’m not sure it helps. But I’m soooo so sick at the time I don’t feel like chalenging it right now.

    Thnaks, Jak, for being a voice of reason and bringing another POV to this issue.
    xoxo

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    1. Jak Post author

      Sounds like you came to the same conclusion as me Laetitia re the diet. I’m so sorry it didn’t help you. I think it helps me because I have HIT. If I had MCAD on its own I think it would have made no difference at all if I’m honest.

      I always feel really bad slagging people like the LH Chef off on my blog, but I get so frustrated especially with people who have zero qualifications and yet are plugging their books, making money off supplements, charging for webinars etc. etc. I know producing a book costs money which you have to recoup, but lots of stuff could be done for free and isn’t. I’m just a bit cynical about the whole thing – bet that’s come as a shock lol!

      Jak x

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  2. Glo

    When I was first diagnosed I came home with my list of things I shouldn’t eat and cleared my kitchen of them all. This left me with almost nothing to eat. Over time I’ve found things on the list I can eat and usually if I keep things to a minimum it’s ok. The problem being that stress can also cause symptoms plus outside environmental things. Plus everyone with MCAS reacts to different things. So I have found things that really cause problems such as bleached flour, cheese and strawberries. I admit even though the cheese makes me itch like crazy I still eat it I just do it in small amounts. For me the less processing in foods the better. We are all different and need to find our own diets. Hopefully without severe reactions. Let me also say I was doing yoga and meditation for years before I was diagnosed and it did not cure me. 😺

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    1. Jak Post author

      I feel the same as you Glo. Before my MCAD went nuts my diet was considered really healthy, fairly additive and preservative free and mostly organic so no chemicals/hormones. And I spend hours every day in bed so get loads of rest. Yet still I got really really sick. I blame my hormones, but who really knows what set it off.

      Glad you’ve found a diet which works for you. Jak x

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  3. carmensnip

    Excellent post again. Thanks Jak, for the clear insights. I too am convinced that everyone needs to figure out their own diet. Sadly, by trial and error, but this is the most accurate.

    Moderation and diversity seem to help me. Plus, the regular use of Daosin, dropping chocolate completely 😦 , and avoiding all dairy, nuts, and grains. Slowly I’m learning what keeps my MCAS down and what activates it. Avoiding stress as much as possible is helpful too, just not so easy to do.

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    1. Jak Post author

      Absolutely, we’re all so individual. I’m lucky in that it’s ‘just’ low histamine foods for me plus apples as I have a birch tree allergy, but I know many others like yourself who have to cut all sorts of foods out 😦

      As you say, avoiding stress is easier said than done – we have to live and life can inevitably be stressful.

      Jak x

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  4. d

    Thanks for the post Jak. I agree it’s complicated, and I did the same as everyone else. Cut out most foods and still did not feel a whole lot better. Once I started to figure out my environmental triggers, things started to get better. I also found that resting every day helped, as did moderate exercise (not too much though or it can produce a reaction). Those last two things seemed to make the difference that made me more tolerant, and I was able to add some foods back into my diet. I don’t really understand the why’s of it, but it worked so well for me that this lazy lard bum was out walking every day (with extra meds as needed to manage the seasonal stuff) or riding a stationary bike.

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    1. Jak Post author

      I’m exactly the same d! Having ME, even a short slow walk can be like climbing Everest but I still do it every single day (having the dog keeps me motivated). I do feel it’s beneficial, although if I walk even slightly too far on a bad ME day it can make me feel like crap still, but it helps the other diseases so it’s a trade off. And then of course I fully rest every afternoon in bed. It’s a fine line. Jak x

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  5. d

    I forgot to mention that I have found I do tolerate a small amount of chocolate, as long as it is soy free (which over here means only certain organic brands). I also seem to tolerate milk chocolate better than dark (my favourite).

    Following your lead on trying out foods on the histamine hit list, I have found I can also tolerate small amounts of lemon juice, which has opened up some alternatives for sauces and dressings. I also used it to make ricotta cheese the other day for the first time. While I wanted to eat all of it, I had to restrict to a smallish amount, but it was so good it was worth it. I plan to make it again and try it on a pizza soon : )

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    1. Jak Post author

      Really chuffed you’ve managed to re-introduce some foods 🙂 Bet that will make a huge difference to meals – I got so fed up of eating the same things every day. x

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      1. d

        Absolutely! Eating became something I had to do and there was no enjoyment in it. There were days when I thought if I could get away with it, I wouldn’t eat at all I was so sick of the same food all the time. Thanks for inspiring me to go back to the list and try things again. : )

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