Tag Archives: histamine liberator

Liberate me from the liberators!

I rarely talk about food on my blog these days.  For the first 2 or 3 years it was all I could talk about because I’d spent 18 months battling severe reactions after eating, not to mention after any kind of medication, and honestly thought I’d die so, naturally, the topic was all-consuming.  But my Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome are, for the most part, under control now and have been for at least a couple of years so I’m happy to not have to think about every single thing I put in my mouth any more and the relief is HUGE.

Now and again, some lovely person out there in the Universe will leave some catty comment here on my site.  Something like “you’re talking shit” or “this site is a joke” which is hurtful considering how ill I am and the effort which has gone in to 6 years of writing twice weekly posts, not to mention the thousands of hours that have gone into research, putting together information, links and photographs, or all the recipes I’ve made available here for free, but not everyone in the world is nice or has manners so you just have to take it on the chin.  A couple of weeks ago, one of these kind people left a message on one of my histamine-related food pages to the effect that the information was out of date and I might like to sort that out.  I was taken aback, as I’d only revisited the page in January this year and hadn’t heard on the grapevine of any significant new information on histamine in food lately (or ever), so I asked the poster to please point me in the direction of said new information so that I could share it with all my followers.   She didn’t reply.  They rarely do when asked to provide proof to back up their claims.

I had some free time today and, despite the most god awful thumping bloody headache, I decided to do some digging to see if I could find any new information on histamine in foods.  I failed miserably, but I did find an abundance of low histamine food lists and every single one had a big list of “histamine liberators”, ie those foods not actually high in histamine themselves but capable of forcing mast cells to release histamine.  Things like egg whites, strawberries, ‘additives’ (unspecified), pineapple, peanuts, fish, pork, liquorice, spices (again unspecified), tomatoes and of course citrus fruits.  Seriously?  No, really.  Seriously?!  And then people have the gall to say that my painstakingly researched information on histamine in food is out of date!

I spent nearly a year researching histamine in foods and could find zero evidence for any food “liberating” histamine from mast cells.  If you don’t believe me, Google til your fingers bleed.  There is no such thing.

Hardly any of the low histamine foods lists, even really popular ones like SIGHI, reference the research on which they base their information.  Most freely admit it’s gathered from patients,  which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard.  There is a reason we have laboratory tests and double-blind randomized controlled trials and it’s so there is a level playing field, all the participants have exactly the same disease and no other disease (like fructose intolerance, or coeliac disease, or an issue with nightshades), and the resulting information is accurate.

So where has this myth that egg whites, citrus fruits or strawberries liberate histamine from mast cells come from?  It took me ages to work that little puzzle out and eventually I realized that where research was cited on a low histamine food list it usually came from a single source: a paper called ‘Histamine and histamine intolerance’ by Laura Maintz and Natalija Novak in 2007 which was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and their information came from various sources cited at the end of their paper.  I followed the trail and discovered that the myth about egg whites came from ‘research’ (and I use the term loosely) by Schachter and Talesnik in 1952 (!) that egg white releases histamine in non-sensitised animals when injected intravenously.    A 64 year old single animal research study which didn’t even involve the animals actually eating anything is the basis for everyone excluding egg white on low histamine diets – jaw dropping isn’t it?   And the myth about strawberries liberating histamine came from unpublished data by Schachter in the 1950s but the paper is so old and obscure no-one has actually been able to obtain a copy to see what it actually says! In the Jul-Aug 2005 edition of the Netherlands Journal of Medicine is a paper entitled ‘Mastocytosis and adverse reactions to biogenic amines and histamine-releasing foods: what is the evidence?’ in which the authors conclude “We could not find any study on histamine-releasing effects of most of the foods suggested of having histamine-releasing capacities.”  I rest my case.

Everyone is a lot more savvy and clued up on histamine these days and there are now dozens of sites giving information on low histamine diets………….and they are all, without exception, wrong.  I simply can’t understand why these myths linger or why sites that really should know better perpetuate them.

Most of the people who write low histamine food lists are genuinely trying to be helpful and offer guidance to patients suffering from HIT and MCAS and it is nice to hear about other patients’ experiences of their safe, and not so safe, foods but it’s merely anecdotal and you simply can’t treat this kind of information as fact.  For example, buckwheat is listed on many lists as a safe food low in histamine, but I simply can’t tolerate it.  The truth is no-one has ever tested buckwheat for its histamine content as far as I’m aware and I have no clue where the testing figures or research information is that says it’s ‘safe’ for someone with HIT or MCAS to eat.

I could be wrong, of course.  There could be exciting new and accurate information on the histamine content of foods out there which I know nothing about and if so I hope one of you, my lovely readers, will tell me all about it. I’d like nothing more than to know which foods are safe to eat for someone with raging HIT and delinquent mast cells and which foods aren’t, but I suspect I’ll still be guessing by Christmas…………2030!

 

There are none so blind..

…as those who don’t wish to see.

Y’know as a kid when you didn’t want to hear something you’d stick your fingers in your ears and go “la la la la, can’t hear you!”  I’m starting to think that’s the way most people feel about histamine.  They only hear the bits they want to hear and ignore everything else.

To me, the most important page on my entire blog is the one about the evidence of Histamine in foods, yet it receives the least visitors and has no comments.  Not a single one.   The article proves that there is basically zero evidence on which to base any of the current Low Histamine Food lists and that the histamine content in food is just a guess, and oftentimes not even an educated guess.  It’s very important to know this, particularly if you have HIT and could go into anaphylaxis if you eat too much histamine-rich food.  But it seems no-one cares.  No-one is shocked at the lack of evidence for histamine in food.  And that shocks me more than anything!

In comparison, The Low Histamine Food list page has the most traffic, even though I’ve proven it’s not based on fact or much of anything else.  It seems no-one’s bothered how accurate, or not, the low histamine food lists online are despite the fact their lives could depend on it.

We see what we want to see, especially when we’re desperate.  We see a list of research references at the end of an article and think to ourselves “oh well, it must be based on fact then”, even though we don’t bother to read the research references to find out how old they are, how big the study was, if it was replicated, if it appeared in a peer review journal and was scrutinized.  In other words, whether the research the article is based on is just a theory or whether it’s fact.

All the low histamine diets online tell you should avoid egg white.  Did you know this is based on one single miniscule study done in the 1950s on mice which was never published or scrutinized?   Would you let someone operate on your heart, based on a single research study on mice done just after the Second World War?  No, I thought not.

No food is innately high in histamine.  Histamine is produced during the aging process (eg mature cheese), the production process (eg. yoghurt, vinegar) or during storage and transportation.  The latter is very important.  A banana straight off the tree will be zero histamine.  A month old, brown, soggy banana will be high histamine.  Our food storage and transportation has come on leaps and bounds in the last 60 years.  We now use refridgerated lorries and food often appears in supermarkets within days of being picked or produced which impacts its histamine level.

I wish if nothing else people would take away from my blog the fact that there is no such thing as a Low Histamine Food list.  They don’t exist.  It’s pointless Googling for whether or not Pak Choi is low or high in histamine, cos no-one knows.  No-one knows whether the blackberries I pick off the bush in my garden contain histamine, or are higher in histamine than the blackberries shipped in from Israel for sale in the supermarket.

No-one knows how food affects DAO in the gut.  We can’t even accurately measure DAO in the gut, so how on earth would we know if any food increases or decreases it?  No-one knows if particular foods (eg. lemons) releases histamine stored in mast cells.  And if you read differently online the person or company saying otherwise is either lying, guessing or simply hasn’t done their homework properly.

I know what I’m saying is deeply unpopular.  I know sick people don’t want to hear it.  But we should all know the facts about this stuff.  It’s important.  People following low histamine diets are cutting out all sorts of foods for absolutely no good reason.  Aren’t our lives hard enough without that?  If you don’t believe my research, do your own.  Try and find evidence for the histamine content in foods – real evidence.  Properly conducted up-to-date research published in medical or food Journals.  And you’ll find it’s virtually non-existent.  Just because there’s an app listing foods high in histamine doesn’t mean it’s accurate for heaven’s sake!  And any app which lists foods which liberate histamine from mast cells, or which increases or decreases DAO is wrong, wrong wrong!  Ask the people who produce the app to provide you with the evidence on which they base their information.

Knowing all this, I’ve been re-introducing some foods back into my life which I’ve avoided for the past 3 years.  There is no evidence for baker’s yeast being high in histamine, and I really miss proper bread especially when I’m out and about, so I’ve been eating it in small amounts for a few months now.  I still have my yeast-free bread when at home because I like it, it’s organic and doesn’t contain any of the crap of supermarket bread, however it’s only nice toasted so when out of the house I eat ‘normal’ bread in cafes and for my sanis.  I’m happy to report no effects on my symptoms whatsoever.  None.  Yayyy 🙂

I’ve also re-introduced milk chocolate.  I’m careful to use brands without soya of any kind (one of the only foods for which there is proper evidence of high histamine content) and am again happy to report that it has not affected me one iota.  My hormones are ever so grateful – having a menstrual period without chocolate was sheer hell 😉

There is not a shred of evidence for the histamine content of fruit or how fruit affects histamine in the body.  Not lemons, not oranges, not strawberries.  No research has been done on it.  So over the summer I intend to try various fruits I’ve been avoiding, one by one, and see how it goes.  Bananas are not purported to be high in histamine, yet they make me brain fogged, so it may be I react badly to some fruits for reasons no-one understands and which has nothing to do with histamine.  Or bananas may be high in histamine.  No-one knows, as they’ve not been tested!

Please, think about what you read online.  Just because 100 people are saying one thing, and 1 person is saying the opposite, doesn’t mean the 1 person is wrong.  Do your homework.  Look at the evidence and make informed choices.