Don’t believe the lists!

I’ve been diagnosed with Histamine Intolerance (HIT) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) for over 5 years now and I forget that people newly diagnosed don’t have the same level of information, and skepticism, about the diseases as myself.  So this post is aimed at the newly diagnosed, or those who think they might have problems with histamine.

I’m only going to talk about diet, because that’s how I control my HIT – I don’t take any supplements because my mast cells hate supplements.  MCAD isn’t controllable by diet because mast cells can be triggered by just about anything in the environment, such as hormones, stress etc, but many people with MCAD follow a low histamine diet to reduce their bodies histamine load.

There is loads of information ‘out there’ on histamine in foods and for the most part it is absolute rubbish.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is currently no lab which is testing the histamine content of foods.  None.  I urge you to read my Histamine in Foods: the Evidence page which outlines the situation.  Most of the current lists rely on one paper for their information, but it is years old and has been discredited.  Sadly, however, most of the histamine food lists online use this research paper as their source without checking its validity or accuracy.  The histamine content of food is simply chinese whispers – it is not based on fact, no matter which list you look at (including the one listed here on my blog).  Bare in mind that many popular online histamine sites are making money out of their books and online courses – they’re not suddenly going to turn round and say ‘oops, turns out everything I’ve been telling you for the past 5 years is a pile of poo’.  I don’t make a bean out of my blog and am just trying to be objective.

If you’re following a low histamine food list have you checked where the author has gleaned their information from?  I mean, really checked it?  Have you followed the research links (if they’re available) and actually read the research?  How old is it? Has it been replicated by another research group or testing facility?

The problem with the histamine content of foods is that histamine formation and degredation depends on how old the food is and how it’s been stored.  Just because a lab in Norway has found a level of, for example, 5mg/kg of histamine in yoghurt doesn’t mean the yoghurt you’re eating contains that amount because you have no clue how the milk the yoghurt is made from was stored or handled.  This is why the only accurate way to test for histamine in the food we eat is by actually testing the food we eat – which is why I’m so excited by the home testing kit I’m hoping to try next month!

Information on the histamine content of food is changing all the time.  The most recent reseach paper to come out about the histamine content of foods was undertaken by the University of Barcelona and focused on the histamine content of non-fermented plant based foods, including fruits, nuts and legumes.  It’s a really good paper and I urge you to read it.  Hardly any information on the histamine content of plant-based foods is available, and this new research found that the only products of plant origin with significant levels of histamine were eggplant (aubergine), spinach, tomato and avocado – which is good news and makes most plant based foods fairly safe in histamine terms.

Most of the online foods lists say people with MCAD or HIT should avoid citrus fruits, berries etc., yet this new research demonstrates that no fruit is high in histamine.  The food lists say that strawberries, for example, may not be high in histamine themselves but liberate histamine in our bodies.  It’s tosh.  There is no way of testing whether or not any food liberates histamine stored in our mast cells and you need to be questioning the author of any such information on how they’ve reached this conclusion.

The histamine content of wheat products, eg bread and pasta, all showed undetectable amounts of histamine.

The authors state that storage temperatures are the main contributor to histamine formation in plant based foods, so the rule is to eat plant foods within a day or two of buying them and to keep them refrigerated.

The way we cook food can also affect histamine formation.  It appears that boiling vegetables decreases histamine, sometimes quite dramatically, as the histamine transfers to the cooking water.  In a very small study frying, however, increased histamine (though this hasn’t been replicated in other studies as far as I know).

Having said all that, although the only plant based foods which were found to be high in histamine were eggplant (aubergine), spinach, tomato and avocado, some foods were found to contain other biogenic amines such as putrescine and spermidine.  How much these other amines are implicated in HIT is completely unknown, so how much you want to worry about them is up to you.

The conclusion of the research was that: “the exclusion of a high number of plant-origin foods from low histamine diets cannot be accounted for by their histamine content” which is what I’ve been saying for a long time now.  We are cutting out nuts, fruits, wheat and most veg from our diets for absolutely no good reason!  The authors do conclude that some of these foods contain putrescine and if you have an issue with them it might be because of that, but the foods aren’t high in histamine and if anyone tells you they are they’re fibbing.

 

Advertisements

17 thoughts on “Don’t believe the lists!

  1. Melanie Odell

    Actually if this was directed at my book suggestion it was the medication list and the supplement lists I found most interesting. However one more piece of the pie when it goes to anything ingested, that most of what we experience and react to are actually intolerances, and not histamine reactions. And when it comes to some of the most common intolerances, most fruits and veggies, and nuts are on those lists, but that is different person to person.

    And yes it does depend on how food is prepared, such as fish should have been alive no more than as hour ago, only freshly butchered, non stored cuts of meat, to. be immediately cooked and eaten. Fresh fruits and veggies that have not been sitting in a grocery store. And they must be purchased, and taken right home to prepare and eaten immediately. Do not refrigerate or freeze anything, throw away all unused portions of everything. The list goes on a on. Which is great, but most people just can’t do this stuff.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jak Post author

      HI Melanie

      My post wasn’t “directed” at you, or anyone else. Many of the comments people leave on my blog remind me how I felt when I was first diagnosed, or give me ideas for posts. If you find my style of writing combative maybe this isn’t the blog for you.

      Jak

      Like

      Reply
      1. Melanie Odell

        Haha. Wow I did not think your writing style was combative at all until you suggested maybe this blog wasn’t for me! Now Ouch!. That is tres harsh. But I get it. I have been sick since I was a teenager and I have 27 illnesses. I am very direct and also pull no punches. I am in the trenches too. So I totally get your no frills style and actually related to it. Just so you know.

        Like

        Reply
  2. d

    While I have found I have to be careful of meat (i.e. I look for the longest expiry date and I eat it well before that date, searing it when cooking), and I generally do not eat leftovers, I have found no issues with eating fresh fruits or vegetables a week or more after purchase as long as they are not spoiled. I agree with Jak, take the lists with a huge grain of salt and use them as place to start when figuring out what you can and cannot eat. Every person with HIT will have a different list of foods they cannot eat, with a bit of overlap. When I first started reacting to food, everything (and I mean everything) produced some kind of reaction. My system was so hyperactive it took months for things to calm down and for me to figure out what I could eat without causing myself too much grief. I think people also need to consider amounts. I can tolerate some citrus, some chocolate (soy free, organic), etc. BUT if my system is overloaded in other ways (i.e. environmental triggers) then I can’t. So I have to wait for things to calm down again and then I will eat those foods. It’s a process. A long, boring and at times frustrating process to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. And it can change over time as well.

    Thanks for the information about the study Jak, I will definitely check it out. I can’t wait for you to try out the histamine testing device!

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jak Post author

      Brilliantly said d. Just like you I reacted to everything when I was first diagnosed, but now can eat a very varied diet as long as my histamine isn’t high from other stuff like my hormones or a high pollen count x

      Like

      Reply
  3. d

    Jak I’m curious if the presence of Putriscene and/or Spermidine syncs up with any of your intolerances? For me it could explain why sometimes I have minimal reaction and other times a stronger reaction, depending on whether that food is competing for DAO resources with other foods.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jak Post author

      Hmm, it’s complex isn’t it d? I have no idea of the putriscene content of the foods I eat, so no idea if it is contributing to any symptoms.

      I’ve always put the fact that I react to one thing one day and not the other as due to other factors, eg. how stressed I am, if my period is due etc., but maybe it’s more complicated than that x

      Like

      Reply
  4. d

    This study also makes me wonder if rather than calling it a Histamine Intolerance, it should instead be called a DAO deficiency, with a focus on foods that require DAO to metabolize specific biogenic amines (histamine, putrescence, spermidine).

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jak Post author

      That would make sense. But not sure how this ties in with the histamine/food issues faced by MCAD sufferers, which really is histamine related and not biogenic amine related x

      Like

      Reply
  5. melody

    Thanks for this interesting update on the prolific diet challenges!
    Darn, I’ve started to become sensitive to strawberries (even my own organic ones) 😦 and really wanted to blame it on histamine.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Jak Post author

      I hate it when that happens! It was the same for me with apples……..found out on skin prick testing I’m allergic to birch pollen and they are related. But I didn’t become allergic until I was in my forties – no hayfever or tingling after eating apples until then.

      The whole HIT and MCAD thing is a huge muddle. They are very separate issues but seem to often get lumped together (sorry, I can’t remember which you have or both). Now I have my diet under control I hardly have any symptoms of HIT, but still have loads of mast cell related allergy issues.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. M

        Hi Jak and d! I found on my 23andme that I am prone to histamine intolerance and DAO deficient . I found it just now but dealing with food reactions for at least 15 years and possibly longer but I never contributed it to food. And also reaction were less often and mostly associated with sun and some food as I know realize . I wonder if anyone is aware of such connection to genes? Also once I found it out some things became more explainable. I tried DAO supplement but I am 1). Super bad with supplements 2. Did not know how much to take. I was not officially diagnosed with HIT nor MCAD . However, my dr strongly believes it is MCAD. I am highly allergic too and skin test showed to birch pollen, some other two forget the name of pollens as well as milk…
        He put me on XOLAIR which helps but any time I take fermented food as well as dairy or eggs. Thank you for reading!

        Like

        Reply
        1. Jak Post author

          There are some bloggers who are really into the gene stuff M – have you read Lisa’s Mastattack site? https://www.mastattack.org/ Although I have my raw data from 123andme I admit I haven’t done anything with it or gone down the gene route because it’s all so complex.

          Like

          Reply
          1. M

            Thank you, Jak! I never was into checking seriously my raw data but it happened I got a few thoughts out of raw data from ND but only when I found lifehachers or something like that site (I have to check) I went though a specific SNPs and was fascinated. I must admit I enjoyed the process of mapping but it is not scientific by any means.

            I will check the link you posted. Thank you again!

            Liked by 1 person

            Reply
      2. melody

        I really don’t know which I have. Doctors haven’t been very helpful either–according to the allergist, I’m not reacting to anything except cold (cold urticaria, I asked for the ice cube)–never mind the angioedema, and apparently clearly pollen-induced hayfever, etc. She did prescribe an EpiPen. It sounds like either histamine or mast cell activation might be behind my symptoms?

        Like

        Reply
          1. Jak Post author

            I did all the usual allergy/immune system routes on the NHS Melody and got nowhere, even though I was so ill at the time I was sometimes passing out after drinking water! The only things I was actually allergic to are my dog and birch pollen but of course neither HIT or MCAD are allergies anyway so won’t be found on any kind of allergy testing. If you suspect MCAD or HIT you’ll have to see an immunologist who specializes. Jak x

            Like

            Reply

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.