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How to Know You are Histamine Intolerant + Your Solution

Wine and cheese still life

Do you feel like you are constantly suffering from random gastrointestinal disturbances or a congested, runny nose that makes you keep a tissue box near you at all times? To make it even more complicated, do your symptoms occur randomly with no apparent pattern? Do they happen after eating? Do you ever feel flushed in the face, break out in hives or endure terrible headaches that hit you out of nowhere? Does your nose block up in the middle of a meal? Well, at the root of your symptoms, a histamine intolerance may be the case!

Statistics show that about 1% of the population suffers from histamine intolerance, and to make matters worse, about 80% of those individuals are middle-aged. That means peri- and post-menopausal women may think they’re having a hot flash, when in fact they are having a “histamine attack.” What is most frustrating for many people is that these symptoms often go undetected or misinterpreted by many practitioners.1  

This is what you need to know about Histamine Intolerance:

Common Histamine Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Chronic Constipation
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Headaches
  • Flushing of the Face
  • Runny Nose
  • Hives
  • Arrhythmia
  • Problems with Menstrual Cycle
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Symptoms may immediately follow eating

So, “What is histamine?” you ask? Histamine is an organic chemical signal produced by mast cells in your body in response to immune signals that is responsible for the symptoms we typically label as “allergies.”  However, it can also naturally occur in certain foods and certain beverages. The biggest culprits are fermented and aged drinks and food.

Say it’s a night out with friends, you reach for that piece of cheese and sip on a glass of red wine. The next thing you know, you’re flushed in the face and endure a debilitating headache. So why did something that taste so good and seem so harmless make you feel so horrible?

Well, this is one major sign that histamine intolerance may be at the root of your symptoms. Why? Because your body is unable to break down the histamine in the food fast enough, so you develop all the typical symptoms that histamine causes. There are two enzymes that break down histamine. N-methyltransferase (HMT) breaks histamine down in the central nervous system. The other enzyme, diamine oxidase (DAO) is produced in the gut and responsible for the breakdown of food and histamine degradation.

Check out the following list with foods high in histamine.1

Common Histamine Foods and Drinks

  • Pickled or Canned Foods
  • Aged Cheeses
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Chocolate
  • Meats (Smoked Sausage, Smoked Ham, Salami)
  • Shellfish
  • Walnuts and Cashews
  • Chickpeas, Beans and Peanuts
  • Eggplant
  • Spinach

Keep in mind that certain foods and beverages can enhance the reaction of histamine or block the action of DAO.1

Foods that Free Up Histamine (thus increasing histamine in the body)

  • Citrus Fruits
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries
  • Pineapple
  • Tomatoes
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Wheat Germ
  • Additives: Glutamine, Nitrites, Sulphites, Food Dyes and Benzoate
  • Pork

DAO-Blocking Foods (thus increasing histamine)

  • Green, Black and Mate Tea (sorry tea lovers!)
  • Alcohol
  • Energy Drinks

When an individual lacks DAO to properly metabolize and de-activate histamine in the gut, the body then reacts to this excess histamine.  Often, this results in a cascade of symptoms (listed above) that mimic an allergic response, and these symptoms seem to come from nowhere.2

The next question is, why is your body histamine intolerant? It would make life much easier if you weren’t dealing with this, especially at a hormonal transition period. Wouldn’t it be nice to  enjoy the foods and beverages on the Avoid List? If you fit the bill for histamine intolerance, then you are either producing too much histamine in your body or your ability to break it down is impaired.1  

What causes overproduction of Histamine?

Overproduction of Histamine

  • Bacteria
  • Allergies
  • GI Bleeding
  • Leaky Gut
  • Gastrointestinal Diseases
  • Gluten Intolerance
  • Ingestion of Histamine (Food and Drink)
  • Impaired enzymatic function of DAO
  • AND Medications that Block DAO Function
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (like Ibuprofen, Advil, and Aleve)
  • Anti-arrhythmics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines (you know these as Allegra and Zyrtec to name a few)
  • H2 histamine blockers (like Pepcid and Zantac)

Your Solution

There is a solution to histamine intolerance. Take these steps to address the root cause of your suffering and start living symptom free.

The Histamine Solutions

  1. Keep a Food Diary
  • Keep track of what you eat, note any reactions and check the lists above to see if you consumed any histamine-provoking foods or beverages.
  1. Heal the Gut
  1. Supplement with DAO
  • If the gut is leaky or there is another reason you may not be producing DAO to break histamine down, supplementing with DAO can reduce the histamine load on your body and reduce symptoms related to consuming histamine-releasing foods and beverages.
  1. Eat a Low Histamine Diet
  • Fresh Poultry and Meats
  • Freshly-caught fish
  • Fresh fruits
  • Fresh vegetables
  • Coconut Milk, Almond Milk and Hemp Milk
  • Leafy Herbs
  • Herbal teas
  • Olive Oil and Coconut Oil

Hope this helps you make sense out of your symptoms, and start on the path towards proactive healing. I’d love to share more strategies to heal your gut and optimize your health with my free Quick Start Guide to a Happy Gut.

References:

  1. Maintz, Laura, and Natalija Novak. 2007. “Histamine and Histamine Intolerance.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85 (9). 1185-1196
  2. Wöhrl, Stefan; Hemmer, Wolfgang; Focke, Margarete; Rappersberger, Klemens; Jarisch, Reinhart. 2004 “Histamine Intolerance-Like Symptoms in Healthy Volunteers after Oral Provocation with Liquid Histamine.” Allergy and Asthma Proceedings, 25 (5). 305-311

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Happy Gut Holiday: Cure Stomach Virus Symptoms + Tips for Gut Health

herbal-tea-happy-gut

With another holiday weekend upon us, how can you be prepared in advance to heal stomach virus problems which may arise?

There can be many causes for holiday and travel gut health compromise and distress, from new unfamiliar foods; food safety issues such as food sitting out in the hot sun; swimming and ingesting unfamiliar waters of a lake, or a highly contagious viral infection.

If you have ever been through a bout of food poisoning or a stomach “bug” and you’ve wondered why it takes awhile before you can eat a normal diet, it’s important to know the facts of what you’ve just been through and how to heal any future bouts.  While the worst symptoms, vomiting and/or diarrhea may thankfully be over, your stomach may still feel gurgly and upset.

As you recover from your illness, it is important to consider whether your food poisoning was caused by either a virus, a parasite, or an imbalance of your gut bacteria. One potential culprit could be the notorious Norovirus, which is a highly contagious and easily contracted from an infected person, food, water, or a contaminated surface.  This is often the cause of a cruise ship stomach bug epidemic that we hear about from time to time. If you have a sensitive stomach, your condition may lead to a condition known as “Post-Infectious Irritable Bowel Syndrome.”

A viral “food poisoning” most often has a rapid, violent onset, reaching a peak of vomiting and diarrhea and resolves within 24 to 48 hours. Viral food poisoning can leave you feeling nauseous and unable to tolerate your normal diet.

A parasite should be suspected if the food poisoning happened during or after travel, especially to foreign countries. However, you don’t have to go far to acquire a parasite. The most common parasite in the U.S. is giardia and can be contracted by inadvertently ingesting water when swimming in a lake, river or stream, or drinking water from an untreated non-municipal supply, such as a country well.

A bacterial food poisoning may set in within 6 to 12 hours after exposure to contaminated food. If it sets in earlier, such as after eating potato salad or rice that has been sitting warm for several hours, it is more likely an exposure to a bacterial toxin. This type of infection leads to violent vomiting that resolves quickly.

Diarrhea, abdominal pain and also possibly vomiting and nausea usually characterize bacterial food poisonings. Bacterial food poisoning usually lasts 3 to 4 days and may require antibiotics.

If left untreated, bacterial and parasitic infections may persist for weeks. As discussed in my book, Happy Gut, stool studies notoriously miss parasitic infections and may even miss a bacterial infection. If your symptoms persist, you should consult with your doctor for testing and treatment.  And, of course, test out my 28-day gut reboot program in Happy Gut.  Happy-Gut-Paperback_Final

Regardless of the cause, food poisoning leads to a leaky gut and reduces your ability to digest and absorb nutrients. I recommend taking a supplement that helps heal the intestinal mucosal barrier.  A complete list of my recommendations is in the resources section of Happy Gut.

  • Saccharomyces boulardii (5 million cfu’s – measurement of viable bacteria) contains friendly yeast that binds toxins and helps line and protect the intestines and restore the normal functioning of the cells, thus reducing diarrhea and improving digestion. It is available OTC as Florastor®. Take 2 to 3 capsules up to three times a day, tapering off as symptoms improve.

Next you need to repopulate your gut with friendly bacteria using Probiotics. These little bacterial helpers are just as necessary for a healthy intestinal tract as your own cells. Choose a high count, lactose-free probiotic with at least 50 billion cfu’s per capsule when recovering from a stomach bug. Take 1 capsule twice a day before meals.  Specific brand recommendations are found in Happy Gut.

herbal_in _water

While recovering, eat a dairy-free, gluten-free diet. As your symptoms improve, you may want to incorporate a small amount of cultured foods. A basic Congee Rice Soup with immune-boosting shiitake, maitake or Reishi mushrooms and anti-inflammatory ingredients like ginger will also help settle your unruly stomach and improve digestion.

Herbal teas that can soothe the stomach and reduce nausea include chamomile, ginger and fennel tea. I also recommend Stomach Ease and Ginger teas by Yogi Tea.  Sip the tea plain or add a little honey and a sprig of mint.

We hope these suggestions help you to prepare better for stomach upsets.  Here’s to a healthy, happy holiday or vacation!

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