I first noticed symptoms such as hives, itching, acne and headaches several years ago now. I was living a not-so-healthy lifestyle, (eating a poor/low nutrient diet, over-exercising and taking the oral contraceptive pill as treatment for my newly diagnosed PCOS.)
It was then I became aware of the ‘health scene’, through websites like Mind Body Green and magazines like Natural Health. I was starting to learn about vitamins, hormones and most importantly gut health.
With my new knowledge on ‘leaky gut’, probiotics, food intolerances and the power of fermented foods, I immediatly bought bottles of kombucha, jars of saurkraut and kefir. Along with this, I ate tinned fish such as mackerel, avocadoes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, or left over meat that I batch cooked for ‘healthy lunches’ several days prior.
The result? My skin began to itch unbearably, my face broke out in hives and I had a permanant throbbing headache for the next few weeks. But it was just a detox reaction, right?….
I read that negative side effects could be expected when introducing probiotic cultured foods into your diet, as the gut begins to heal and bad bacteria start to die off. With this in mind I carried on, unaware that I was actually causing more inflammation due to a histamine intolerance!
I’m not going to go over the mechanisms of histamine intolerance as you can find well written articles explained by other practitioners online. (Just ask Dr Google)
Along with a histamine intolerance I also reacted badly to salicylates (the natural protective compounds found in plants) nightshades, FODMAPs, yeast, grains and dairy!
Below shows the results of a food sensitivity IgG panel from Genova Diagnostics in January 2015. I probably acquired more food intolerances in the months after this test was taken and also other food I was reacting to didn’t show on this IgG test such as histamine containing food. I have not retested since healing my gut, due to the fact it is super expensive to run, however I would hope that these reactions have now disappeared.
Believe it or not it is possible to eliminate certain food intolerances if you heal your gut and remove the offending foods for a minimum of 3 months as this is the period of time it takes for antibodies to be eliminated in the body. However, this is NOT the case for food allergies which is an IgE response. (Please don’t go eating peanuts if you have a diagnosed allergy!)
This test made me and my practitioner suspect intestinal permeability as it indicated that food was making its way across the gut wall and into the bloodstream, triggering my immune system and sending it into overdrive against certain foods! Even the highly nutritious foods like asparagus, pineapple and bananas.
So what have I done to improve and eliminate many of these sensitivities?
To start, I treated my gut pathogens and infections (SIBO, yeast, parasites) which I have written about on previous blog posts and followed different diets to lesson my symptoms eg. low-FODMAPs, SCD, Paleo. I then rebuilt my nutrient stores, healed my gut lining and carried on eating a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet. Expect this to take from 3 months- 2 years depending on your case. You will have set backs along the way, but its important to focus on the positive changes you experience and remember that your body is doing the best it can to heal at all times.
Now I can eat a much wider variety of foods and have successfully introduced many of the things I was reacting to 6-12 months ago. My histamine and salicylate tolerance has increased a lot! Throughout my treatment, I followed the guidelines and principles that The Low Histamine Chef recommends. Yasmina focuses on a nutrient dense diet and not being super strict with elimination diets; avoiding everything completely that you could be reacting to. I can definitely relate to this, as its easy to get carried away with online food lists and the online ‘health guru’s’ (who often have no qualifications) telling you which foods to eat and to avoid. This causes so much anxiety and stress to your body. You may start to become scared of these foods, even though you may be totally fine with them! You could then be avoiding a perfectly healthy food, like broccoli for no other reason than a total stranger telling you that it will cause problems.
“It’s all a matter of balance”
I avoided the things I knew would cause really horrible symptoms such as dairy, raw vegetables, fruit and fermented foods as the migranes, bloating, stomach cramps and itching were just not worth putting my body through. However, dark chocolate (histamine releasing) chicken eggs ( caused slight stomach ache) and cashews (caused acne breakout) I would occasionally still eat! This allowed me to prepare for the minor side effects and make sure that it wouldn’t ruin my day. I would eat a few more vegetables, drink a bit more water or be more vigilant with facial cleansing that day in order to offset some of the symptoms. This routine worked well for me and allowed me to keep my sanity and enjoy some different flavours now and again, especially if I was travelling and I wasn’t able to source my precious duck eggs for breakfasts. (which I don’t react to!)
In my last blog post I shared many of the supplements I used to heal my gut. These obviously helped my food intolerances as most of our immune system lies in our gut.
I will now share some of the other things I have done to help (so please check the other post before continuing!):-
So you may have noticed by now that I love to use supplements and I believe that they can be hugely beneficial, especially in chronic illness cases and malabsorption.
For histamine and salicylate sensitivity-
* Histamine Block (I take one capsule with high histamine meals)
* Quercetin plus C (anti-histamine properties)
*HistaEaze by Designs for Health (anti-histamine herb blend)
* Probiotics (that contain histamine degrading bacteria eg Seeking health Bifido, Megaspore, Prescript Assist)
*Omega 3 fish oil. 1-3g per day (Anti-inflammatory. I cannot tolerate oily fish due to histamine intolerance as it needs to be very fresh and immediately frozen, however fish oil is often well tolerated. Your omega 3:6 ratio is very important for inflammation.
* Liver GI Detox by Pure Encapsulations (contains amino acids and compounds to detoxify the liver of toxins)
* MSM plus molybdenum buy Seeking Health (the sulphur compounds in MSM help the phase 2 liver detox and help alleviate allergies. Molybdenum helps to break down the sulphur for those who are sensitive)
* Glycine (amino acid that assists removal of salicylates in the liver.)
* Lifestream natural calcium powder (recommended by the Low Histamine Chef. Helps alkalise the system and may aid in reducing skin inflammation.)
Stress management is very important in gut health, immunity and inflammation.
* Mindful eating (I make sure I am in a relaxed environment and state of mind before starting my meals. I chew extremely well, take my time and never eat stood up. Its not uncommon for me to take 45 minutes to clear my plate.)
* I attend a yoga class 3x week and I have been practising for 2 years now. It has helped me soo much during my treatment and taught me the importance of breath work, movement along with energy and mindset.
* I stopped the weight training and high intensity interval training (HIIT) as it was stressing my body and I did not have strength to continue training this way. Walking and yoga is all I do these days and I love it!
* A positive mindset when overcoming any health issue is crucial. Remember that your body is listening to everything you think and say. If you keep telling yourself your never going to get better or that your an idiot for ‘cheating’ and eating that burger, your body will react in a negative way. On the other hand, when you believe that things will improve and you keep your head filled with positive thoughts, amazing things can happen. Just look into the placebo effect or read the book ‘Mind Over Medicine’ as scientific proof!
*Each night I make sure I’m in bed by 10.30pm and try to get 9 hours sleep a night. (Obviously the days when I’m not up for work at 5am!) I also follow the sleep hygiene practices like keeping my bedroom cool, pitch black and no electronics at least an hour before bed.
* Epsom salt baths have helpful in supplying my body with magnesium and sulphates through the skin. This is known to help those with salicylate intolerance as the sulphates can be deficient and this way it goes straight into our system without having to go through digestion and conversion pathways in our bodies.
* Getting enough sunlight and vitamin D (I spend 30 minutes outside on sunny days, exposing as much skin as possible- sorry neighbours- to regulate my circadian rhythm and improve my immunity.
Food and Drink-
As a nutritional therapy student myself, its hard to learn about all of these wonderful foods but not be able to eat them due to a food intolerance. The proanthocyanadins in blueberries or the medium chain triglycerides in coconut oil could be superfoods to one person, yet left me with itchy skin and hives when my salicylate intolerance was at its worst. Some foods I use therapeutically to treat my sensitivities are-
*Pea shoots (great anti-histamine)
*Liver -organic only (natures multi-vitamin/nutrient powerhouse)
*Herbal tea (Holy basil, nettle, white tea, green rooibos, ginger- all high in antioxidants and histamine degrading)
* Homemade ghee (healthy saturated fat, no lactose/casein, contains butyrate which is anti-inflammatory to the cells of our colons)
* Cruciferous veggies (full of sulphur and chlorophyll, helpful for cleansing the liver- go slow introducing if you have gut issues)
* Prebiotic foods such as leeks, onions, shallots, artichoke (Feed our good gut bugs! red onions are high in quercetin!)
* Himalayan or Celtic sea salt (I was craving salt when my blood pressure was very low 80/50. They are also natural anti-histamines and can contain over 70 natural minerals.)
*I cook from fresh whenever possible as left overs increase in histamine due to bacterial fermentation, especially meat. I buy the freshest food possible from local farms and co-ops then freeze the meat I buy, using whenever I need to.
*Organic produce and meat is a high priority for me due to the higher nutrient content and the fact conventional produce are highly sprayed with pesticides and fungicides (etc) which I don’t want in my body! Some people believe that with a salicylate sensitivity, eating non organic fruit and veg is better as the plants do not need to protect themselves as much when they are being ‘protected’ by man made chemicals. I don’t follow this advice, as I have previously stated that I follow the idea of a nutrient dense diet, not avoidance, especially with my plant food.
* Juicing an occasion allows me to flood my cells with lots of vitamins and minerals regardless of digestive health. I only juice vegetables as I am still slightly fructose sensitive at the moment.
As you can see, many of the supplements and recommendations I give focus on the gut and the liver. I believe my liver has become overwhelmed and burdened due to taking the OCP for 2 years, bacterial endotoxins and nutrient deficiencies. I am restoring these co-factors which are needed for the phase 1 and phase 2 liver detox system which will in turn help balance hormones, improve digestion and clear the skin!
My next blog post will be discussing the results of my hair mineral analysis test so stay tuned 🙂