Our beloved Betsy Ashton, hostess extraordinaire of the weekly FLCCC webinar, was having some allergy issues recently that made her look like she’d been crying her eyes out. The amazing FLCCC army chimed in with lots of good advice, including a suggestion to follow a low-histamine diet.
So, what exactly does that mean, and how do you go about it following it?
First of all, what are histamines? They’re chemicals in our immune system that tell the body’s defense system to get rid of things like allergens. Some foods have high levels of histamines or can trigger your body to release them. These include things like sauerkraut and other fermented foods, alcohol, processed meat, aged cheese, certain types of fish and shellfish, and nightshade vegetables like tomato and eggplant.
A low-histamine diet reduces the number of foods that can create those pesky allergic reactions. Give it about 30 days to see the best results.
Here are some general principles to follow in pursuing a low-histamine diet.
- Fresh is best. The histamine content increases as food ages or spoils. Therefore, make sure your food – especially meat and fish – is very fresh or was frozen while fresh. Avoid eating leftovers.
- Avoid fermented foods. While fermented foods are good for gut health, they also have high levels of histamines.
- Avoid artificial coloring and preservatives. This is good dietary advice at the best of times but if you’re having allergies, stay away from additives, dyes, and preservatives such as benzoates and sulfites, which can trigger the release of histamines.
- Stay away from the slow cooker and the barbecue. Boiling or pressure cooking (Instapot) is good, while slow cooking, frying, or grilling can increase histamine levels.
- Eat your quercetin! Quercetin is a natural flavonoid found in many foods and is thought to help reduce the release of histamines. Foods containing quercetin include leafy vegetables, broccoli, red onions, peppers, apples, grapes, black tea, green tea, and red wine.
Here’s a little twist, too… Try to relax. Reducing stress may not seem like an allergy treatment, but stress can make the body release substances that cause allergic reactions. Stress reduction like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing techniques can help manage symptoms. L-Theanine, an amino acid found in tea leaves, has also been studied for its potential to promote relaxation and reduce stress without causing drowsiness.
Here are some supplements that can also be considered:
- Vitamin C: Can help degrade histamines and stabilize mast cells.
- Probiotics: Certain strains (Bifidobacterium infantis and Lactobacillus plantarum) may help break down histamines in the gut.
- Bromelain and N-acetylcysteine (NAC): May help break down and remove histamines from the body.
- EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate): A type of catechin found in green tea that research suggests might have the potential to stabilize mast cells and prevent them from releasing histamines. However, most of this research has been conducted in laboratory settings, and it’s not yet clear how well these effects translate to humans.
- Curcumin: The main active component of turmeric; can inhibit the release of histamines from mast cells. Also an anti-inflammatory.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Anti-inflammatory and good for overall immune health.
- Stinging nettle: Traditionally used for allergies and may help with histamine-related symptoms.
- DAO: Diamine oxidase is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamines. Supplementation could help reduce symptoms but should be combined with a low-histamine diet.
- Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA): A fatty acid found naturally in foods like egg yolks and peanuts. Dietary supplementation can help with chronic inflammation, pain, and certain allergic conditions.