Life Lessons and Learning to Live with Histamine Intolerance
WARNING: This post is a bit wordy and kinda lengthy. Read on if you want to learn about Histamine Intolerance. Skim to the bottom for the cliff notes! 😉
Have you ever had an experience where you suffered from something but you just couldn’t figure it out, there seemed to be no solution; it ailed you, kept you up at night, literally made you sick, left you feeling helpless like you were drowning? Then, literally out of nowhere you reach a point of clarity, a light goes off and suddenly everything makes sense; so much sense, in fact, that it brings you to tears? That recently happened to me and let me tell you, it was life changing.
Ever since I can remember, I have suffered from urticaria (skin rashes/hives), digestive issues, reproductive problems, tachycardia, insomnia, heartburn, headaches and anxiety. These all are seemingly unrelated and over the years doctors have treated them as their own issues.
Prednisone to treat the hives, elimination diets to deal with digestive issues, PPI’s for the heartburn, pain meds for the headaches and various medications prescribed over the years for anxiety and insomnia.
I was poked, prodded, monitored. Diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, GERD, gluten sensitivity, IBS, ovarian cysts and polymorphic light eruption disorder. To combat some of the symptoms I eliminated gluten, most dairy, refrained from staying in the sun too long and took my heartburn meds religiously. Sometimes, it seemed to help, other times not so much.
I did what I could to avoid the things that I thought bothered me and just accepted the pain and discomfort as it came.
Then, recently, my diet changed to what I thought was a smarter way to eat. Every morning I ate eggs and an avocado, I started eating more spinach salads and switched from white wine to red (don’t judge- they say there are health benefits 😉 ). Funny thing is, I didn’t feel better at all- I felt worse….way worse.
My stomach was bloated all. the. time. I was in pain to the point of not being able to sleep, I suddenly developed an “allergy” to cats and strawberries. At what seemed like random times I would have a full blown allergy attack- running nose, swollen eyes, tight feeling in the chest. My menstrual cycle was no longer normal, my bloated belly hurt so bad that I begged my OBGYN to do a sonogram, convinced that I had a giant fibroid or cyst that just wouldn’t pop.
I was on the verge of a breakdown, why is that that I am eating right and still feel so crappy?! Then one night after a particularly long day I had a glass of red wine before bed only to be awoken by terrible abdominal pains and a tightness in my throat and chest. Racking my brain to figure out why, I realized the red wine could be the culprit. Unable to fall back asleep, I googled “red wine and inflammation” only to stumble across another woman’s story about her apparent “allergy” to red wine to finally be diagnosed with what is called Histamine Intolerance.
I immediately googled Histamine Intolerance (technical definition here) only to discover every single ailment I have ever suffered from listed (above list is not all inclusive) from digestive issues to an “allergy” to the sun– as if I wrote it. I won’t lie, I began to cry.
The cause? Foods containing histamine: red wine, avocados, walnuts, eggplant, soy, fermented foods, aged cheeses…the list goes on. It also includes foods that contain gluten and others that act as a histamine liberator: citrus fruits, strawberries, chocolate, tomatoes, spinach…more than I care to list. Exposure to environmental elements (sun, cats, etc.) and certain histamine containing medications are also problematic.
The issue with diagnosing this condition is that people who suffer from Histamine Intolerance aren’t technically allergic to any of these foods- instead, the reaction is due to a cumulative response.
The analogy of filling a bucket is used; the more foods you eat/factors you’re exposed to that contain histamine the more water you add to your bucket. Once the bucket becomes full, a histamine response will occur. So if spinach, red wine and avocados are all consumed in a short period of time (each person’s timeline is different) an “allergic” reaction will happen.
Yes, you read that right…AVOCADOS and RED WINE are a NO NO….
Finding out your favorite foods are the exact things that are causing you pain is devastating not to mentioned that my already restricted diet (gluten free, dairy free, soy free) just became more restricted. WHO KNEW that foods like pumpkin and pickles could be problematic?!
It would be easy to adopt the “everything sucks” attitude but I’m a doer, not a complainer and I am trying to look at this as an opportunity to educate myself on something that apparently only 1% of the population suffer from.
Over the last several weeks I’ve begun to eliminate things which I had been eating that are known to have histamine or are histamine liberators. It has been a learning process but it has helped tremendously- my bloating is gone, my stomach is back on track and I no longer feel like I’m constantly on the verge of an allergy attack. The next step is finding a doctor that can perform some tests to confirm (very rare in the US) but from what I’ve read, most will just recommend the elimination diet process.
So what does this mean when it comes to the blog? As I navigate through this new world of the low histamine diet, I’ll start to feature recipes I develop that are low in histamine. Not every recipe and not all the time but it is an area that I’d like to be able to offer some recipe solutions.
To educate myself, I have been researching, buying books and trying to find whatever information I can to take control and start “draining the bucket”. If you’re interested in learning more, here are some resources that I’ve found helpful:
HISTAMINE INTOLERANCE RESOURCES:
Alison Vickery – Holistic Healthy Coach (VERY helpful)
The whole bucket analogy also got me thinking about the future of the blog in general which leads me to the whole life lessons thing.
Lately, my bucket has been full but much like histamine intolerance, not in a good way. I briefly touched on it before when I posted about finding a balance in life– I meant to but I just kept riding the busy train.
Going to BlogFest really inspired me to make a change though- choosing quality over quantity and focusing on select areas that I want my blog to focus on: allergy friendly recipes, DVRT (Dynamic Variable Resistance Training) and running. In the coming weeks I will start posting less but really focusing on bringing you quality content- I hope you stick around!
What would you do if you found out you couldn’t have red wine or avocados?
Have you ever been relieved to figure out your true diagnosis despite meaning that sacrifices would need to be made?
What are your tricks to being productive vs busy?