I think I’m histamine intolerant so what do I do now?

This is probably the most asked question I get on this blog.

After months of suffering and research, someone stumbles over my blog and sees themselves in the description of symptoms. And that’s a great feeling actually, because once you know what’s wrong with you, you can start to fix it. And now you also realize you are not crazy! But where do you start?

Here’s your primer on what to do to get the histameenies under control.

First and foremost, start a food diary. Well, wait, no, first and foremost, try to come to terms with the fact that you need to make some major changes to your diet to get your situation under control. You’ll pay big-time if you cheat, so you need to accept this situation and go from there. You’re really starting an elimination diet. But keep in mind this diet does not cure you. It only gets the intolerance under control. Once that happens, you can start adding foods back in to see what happens. The idea is to heal, not be forever on a restricted diet. How long this takes is about how long your body takes to heal.

Ok, now that you’re ready, start that food diary. I can say within the first day of starting mine I knew I was on the right track. I ate a piece of avocado and my arm itched immediately. I looked up avocado and there it was, high in histamine.

So I wrote it down. And from there on I wrote down every single thing that went into, or onto, my body. And it wasn’t just foods and body care products. I noted things like: bleached the bathroom-had horrible reaction to the bleach, left bicep itch, lower left arm…

I found there was a big correlation between the intensity of the itch, how long it took to manifest and where it was on my body to which foods I had ingested. A food I should never eat made my left bicep itch immediately. If my bicep and my forearms itched, I knew I had overdone it over time. Spinach made my forearms itch, chocolate triggered the bicep, and it all triggered hot flashes and insomnia!

Keeping the food diary and keeping lists of foods that I could eat and couldn’t helped me navigate this new terrain. I had a list of foods I would not touch: cheese, chocolate, spinach, cauliflower, avocado…foods I can have a little of: strawberries, raisins, nuts…and foods that were completely safe: apples, butternut squash, broccoli…Of course there are more foods on each list but those are the ones I remember off hand. I also had a list of not sure, and those foods came and went from the lists with copious amounts of notes reminding me why I could and couldn’t eat something. I even had a shorthand for things like the bicep itch. I called that my hotspot because it was the most intense, awful thing ever!

It turns out I had a real issue with things that were touted as curative for histamine intolerance such as nettle tea. (bicep itch) The only tea I could drink for months was ginger. And it probably took me another two months to finally realize that hot showers were causing hives on my thighs. I’d always itched after a hot shower, but I just wasn’t paying attention yet. After that I realized using a razor on my legs was also an issue and I switched to an electric razor. Sure it doesn’t work as well but I also don’t get hives anymore.

And this is key. It’s not only food. Even when I was eating safely I was still filling that histamine bucket with hot showers and razors. Until I tracked it all, I was still having problems. To this day I do not take hot showers and I do not use a razor.

So to build your lists you have to keep the diary, which now that I reread what I’ve written was more like a journal than just a food diary. I also noted how well I slept, did I have to pee four times a night, and how many hot flashes I had. These were all key because all of those things are symptoms of intolerance.

It was actually keeping that information that I realized ginger was such a savior for me. I think I had an upset stomach one evening and ate some crystallized ginger. I noticed the itching I was having at the same time as the upset stomach abated and I slept well that night. That’s when I started doing research into ginger.

I also noted the supplements I was taking and what combinations seemed to produce the best night’s sleep. That’s how I developed the supplement regimen I was on until very recently. (I still use the supplements but I take a lot less of them. To see the whole regimen, visit the supplements page) Same thing with taking the olive oil. I noticed after using it on my skin I slept better, so I started to take a teaspoon before bed. I slept like a baby for the first time in months when I started it. Now I put a tablespoon in my smoothie every morning.

Once you’ve gotten started the pieces of the puzzle fall into place quite quickly and easily. That’s not to say it’s going to be easy. Social eating can be difficult. I’ve eaten many things that were on the off list to avoid the awkward conversations and explanations. And, if you’ve kept up with my blog, you know I’m also weak around tasty “off-limits” foods. If I had a quarter for every salad with blue cheese dressing I should not have had…

But it was ok because I knew the consequences and I made an informed decision. It took the crazy out of the itch. I could control it completely.

So there you have it. It’s not rocket science. If it makes you itch, or whatever your reaction is, don’t eat it. If it stops the itch, eat it again. Write it all down and analyze it. You will see a pattern. And once you start to identify what you can and cannot eat, you start to regain control of yourself. And from there you can concentrate on healing.

For me, just knowing I could control my intolerance was a relief. Those few months of itching “for no reason” were hellish. I felt like a lunatic trying to explain it. And some of the disorders I’d read about that it could be were frightening! How many of you thought you had some deadly form of cancer?!

In summary, keep a food diary or a journal. Start an elimination diet to regain control of your body. Take a look at the supplements I’ve taken to control acute attacks and keep that histamine bucket from filling. And let me specific here about my supplements. I needed them. I could not have survived my situation without them. I still keep myself stocked with them even though I do not take them all every day anymore. But the minute I feel that first itch come on, I’m into the quercetin. That’s the supplement that took an attack down within minutes. I used to panic when the bottle got too low, and I have them in my purse at all times.

I’d also like to suggest, keeping in mind I am not a doctor and I am not dispensing medical advice, that if you are taking anti-histamines you think about stopping. They are terrible for you and won’t cure you. They will only mask the symptoms. I hear over and over again that people will get off the anti-histamines as soon as they get the hives under control, but you can’t get the hives under control using only anti-histamines. I realize this sounds a lot easier than it is, and I’m not trying to be insensitive. If anything I’m really trying to get you to understand that anti-histamines do not heal the issue. They might make it bearable for the moment, but you have to figure out what’s making you itch and hive up.

And for those of you who think I’m being cavalier about the antihistamines and I must not have itched as badly as you, I say that it’s only recently that the scars have faded from my forearms from the damage I had done scratching. And the brown leathery patch of skin on my bicep from trying to burn the itch off with Capzasin while raking my nails over it is healed too. In the worst of it I had insomnia, had 6 hot flashes a night, and had to pee 4 times a night all while my entire body itched. (I feel like I’m establishing my histamine intolerance cred here!)

I’d rethink probiotics too. That’s the other thing I hear all the time. That you have to heal your gut. Most probiotics and fermented foods are terrible for histamine intolerance. So those of you thinking you’re going to heal your gut with probiotics and then you’ll address the intolerance might just be making the intolerance worse. There are some probiotics that I think are alright to take but I’m not sure which strain. Head on over to the Low Histamine Chef’s site and look it up there. I think she’s suggested a certain strain. Now that I think of it, you might be able to search my blog and find it down in the comments somewhere. I think someone suggested one that was safe to take.

After all this, the next question I often get is I’m restricting my diet but I am still getting hives and you’re telling me to get off of antihistamines, what should I do now? My advice is remember, it’s not just diet. What laundry detergent do you use? What bath products, hair products, or lotions? What else is in your house? Flowers? Perfume? You have to be a detective. Nothing should go un-vetted when you are having issues.

Most of all be patient. It takes a while to get it all under control. You must be disciplined and diligent. But you are not crazy and you can do this. I did. And now you know how I did it.

Listen, I remember the horror that washed over me the day I understood it all wondered if I’d have to suffer a lifetime of eating a limited number of foods and be able to lead a “normal” life without itching to the point of insanity. I mean I never even got hives. I had an invisible itch. I’ll never forget that feeling. But even as scary as that was, I was relieved to know I wasn’t crazy and I could control this.

I hope this helps you get started on your healing journey. Now let me go grind up some fresh ginger. I’m making my own capsules now…but that’s yet another post!

In health,

Dale

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Posted in histamine intolerance, menopause, peri-menopause, Women's health
18 comments on “I think I’m histamine intolerant so what do I do now?
  1. Judy Senesac says:

    I MUST take an antihistamine every other day or I blow up like a balloon – 100% full body covered. I can’t even seem to get them under control enough to figure out what is going on. I am in constant blow out. Any suggestions as to how to food journal if I am in constant live hive?

    • I think you have to figure out what safe foods you can eat and stick to only those at first. Do you know of anything you can eat without an issue?

      The other thing to analyze would be anything else in your house that you inhale and touch. Well I know that’s everything…Laundry products, shampoos, soaps, lotions. What do you wash your dishes with? All this needs to be investigated. Fabrics?

      If you read the low histamine chef’s story she couldn’t use any body products at all.

      When do you first hive up? That’s key.

      How long have you been suffering? Is it menopause related do you think?

      As a note, I edited this response into the original post for the benefit of those who don’t read down to the comments section. It’s the second most asked question!

  2. Susan says:

    Thank you for sharing all of your information. I have had hives for over a year and when I went off the antihistamine, the rebound histamine made me so sick. I never knew what histamine can do to the body. I had to go back on an antihistamine after four months and all kinds of tests that came out healthy. I thought I was dying. I am now just on a very small baby dose. I just had a blood histamine test and it was high. I am waiting for the 24 hr urine histamine test. I have read that the supplement methionine helps with excess histamine, and I am now going to pursue a low histamine diet as my diet while very healthy is loaded with high histamine healthy foods. Susan

    • Susan, I bet you anything that within a week of being on a low histamine diet you’ll see a dramatic difference. And if it’s not diet alone, then start investigating all the products you use on your body and in your house. You can whip this, I know you can!

      Please let me know now it goes.

  3. K.K. says:

    Another excellent post. Thank you, DLB.

    That “horror that washed over me,” as you so eloquently put it. I remember it well.

    There will be ups and downs, but there is that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and more.

    Keep reading here. Do your research.

    It does get better. This need not last forever.

    A low histamine diet was the first thing I did when I realized what was going on in my body.

    As DLB says here, I also eliminated everything else in my life that could possibly cause a reaction.

    (Ha ha. Almost everything. See below.)

    Given my normal propensity to use non-toxic everything, this was not a big a deal for me.

    That is, I do understand that it can be daunting to suddenly have to turn your life upside down, and if you don’t live alone, the lives of those around you, too, but it is worth it.

    Even before all of this, taking any kind of antihistamine was a torment of a different kind.

    If you can do it, get off those antihistamines. They are not good for a body at all.

    My experience with probiotics has also not been good, or helpful.

    Well before all of this, I used them very briefly, and then I could take only a small amount of ones made for toddlers.

    The food diary is a must.

    If I had not already been keeping one for other reasons, before the first attack, I might not have figured out so quickly what was happening—or what things later on affected me, too.

    I’m still keeping one.

    Take a start, even if only a small one, in getting rid of the things that make you ill.

    The more you get rid of, the better you will feel.

    Keep repeating the process until you have an environment that does not make you sick.

    The faster you can do this, the faster you will feel better, but the important thing is to take the first step.

    It’s okay if you can’t do everything at once, or if you miss something. You will figure it out.

    Find things that reduce your stress, because that is key, too.

    Don’t be hard on yourself, and try to not take it out on others. 😉

    The mood swings. Oy. Those will get better, too. 😀

    This is not about only the menopause mood swings. I found that my moods were directly affected by my diet, and when that changed, so did my outlook on everything.

    There was one thing that I completely missed in my household purging, and that I want to add here today.

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve had some kind of allergy to latex.

    It comes and goes, and for the most part it was not something that was a big deal, or on the front of my mind.

    This was mostly because I had very little contact with anything latex, long being in the habit of not having it around, or not being in contact with it.

    In 2009, I moved to a house where there is no dishwasher, other than myself.

    Since then, I have been wearing those famous rubber gloves to do the dishes.

    On average, I spend at least an hour total per day in those gloves. If I’m doing a lot of cooking and cleaning, it can mean several hours.

    Long story short, in the past week a light bulb went off after some new reactions, and I put it all together.

    For some reason, I simply did not consider the latex factor until recently.

    My suggestion to you here is to get rid of your latex items now, or at least ones you use with any regularity if you think they are a problem.

    I found some latex-free gloves on Amazon that I should have soon, and I’ll let you know how they work out.

    If you do yoga, there are some latex-free mats on Amazon (and other places).

    By the way, I just learned that there are foods related to latex reactions, two of them being avocados and bananas.

    Maybe there are other things I’ve missed, or things I’m using that I don’t yet know are trouble.

    It’s a journey of discovery, in more ways than one, I’m finding. 🙂

    I’m not a doctor, and what works for me may not work for you, so please don’t take anything I say here as a concrete remedy.

    My hope, wish is that something I say here may help someone else notice a thing that is not working for her, and vice versa.

    It’s in the sharing of our experiences that we can learn from each other, and find our way back to balance.

  4. I can’t add anything to your wonderful comments other than thank you for reinforcing the idea of the food diary. I think I must mention that it every response!

  5. […] This is the one I think everyone should read first: I think I’m histamine intolerant so what do I do now? […]

  6. Hello, I have just recently found your site, and I am thankful for it! I appreciate so much you sharing with us all what you went through and how you were able to help yourself. Thank you! I have EDS, and I think I am histamine intolerant. I think I have always been, just never knew what it was.
    In the last five years my biggest issues is hot flashes, went through menopause between 45 and 52. I am now 55 and still flashing, they began around 40. Sometimes I can have 50 a day and 25 at night. I can’t sleep. I have “rolling” hot flashes. One will begin, hit a fevered pitch, heart pounding like mad, sweating, feel so ill, and then it comes down a little only to begin to build again to a pitch, and so on for an hour. I must say, it is like torture! Nothing ever helps. Until I began a low histamine diet a few weeks ago. The first few days I had a huge decrease in hot flashes, intensity and number. So I know for a fact that it made a difference. (having one right now! lol!)……

    But….over the past three weeks I have been working on eliminating items and following a pattern. My hot flashes have returned and now are bad again. (hot flash just stopped and it was followed by stingy itching on my neck, upper, and lower left arm). I have an app “The Allergy Detector” and am keeping a diary of all I eat. After reading your post, I will start paying attention to things like showers, soap, bleach, latex (I sleep on a temperpedic, and next to me my hubby is on natural latex).

    I was elated to have the flashing slow down initially, now am very sad to have them back full force! I am not sure why I had such success the first few days. But I will figure it out.

    When I read that your hot flashes are gone…I cried! I am so thrilled for you that you have found some relief.

    Hugs,
    Terri

    • Thanks for writing. I’m so sorry to hear about your suffering but I know you can control this you just have to figure out what’s making those flashes happen.

      I actually am working on a new post about them because mine also came and went a few times. I can tell you that eating a lot of carbs like bread and pasta will make them worse. And I cannot eat white potatos without exploding into a hot mess.

      I also discovered that eating raisins actually helps reduce the flashes because of the boron in them. So if you can eat raisins maybe try those. I know I could eat them even when my intolerance was bad.

      So keep a lookout for my next post and in the meanwhile stay positive. If you managed to minimize them once you can do it again. I speak from experience!

  7. Kerry-Anne Duurland says:

    Anyone getting that off balance and feeling like your body is not coordinated especially when you are tired and hungry. It can be quite scary at times. I am mostly alright first thing in the morning but by lunchtime and at night I feel like my legs are going to give way. I have been eating a low histamine diet for about 2 weeks now. Some days are good some days are hellish, especially at work when I have my lunch and the drugged feeling arrives once again. I hear alot about hot flashes and itching but not about what i am suffering even though I have been through hell with hot flashes earlier on but give me hot flashes anyday compared to what I am experiencing.
    I have sent away for a blood test kit to test for histamine intolerance with a company called Imupro Australia. Hope I get some answers there. Just need a diagnosis for once. Have been suffering for about 8 years now. Just stumbled on histamine intolerance quite by accident. A friend of mine told me to take Restavit for a good nights sleep. First night I took a quarter and slept quite well. Second night took it again but during the day I felt like someone had drugged me. Then I realised it was histamine I was taking and that the feeling I was getting was like when I ate spinach or took magnesium or drank red wine. Bingo I thought there seems to be something in common with some of those things. HISTAMINE!!! So I started to do research and am still finding my way.

  8. […] they first stumble upon histamine intolerance is where to get started. I posted a few months ago I think I’m histamine intolerant so what do I do now? as a little primer on how to get the healing under way using a food […]

  9. Thank you so much for your work on this blog. I just stumbled across it this morning after recognizing that my symptoms were a phantom cycle. I’m 53 next week, also a teacher, but at the other end, K/1. My face has felt like a beehive during my period for at least the past 7 years. Anytime I mention it, people look at me like I’m crazy, I’ve googled the symptoms before and it was only today that your link showed up, so thank you. I look forward to making some of the changes.

  10. Rose Carbone says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have had severe hives for the past 5 months – I’m 53 yrs old — got more information from you than my medical doctor, natural path dr, and homeopath combined. So glad that I too stumbled across your site. I feel reassured that I’m not the only one going through this. I will follow your suggestions and low histamine diet. I’ve been on PMS-CETIRIZINE 20MG for the last 5 months and tried to get off it a couple of times but every time I do, I get a sever flare up of hives.

  11. After a mere two weeks of urticaria driving me mad, I am so happy to have discovered your blog. I am going to start a food journal today.

    I see you have mentioned laundry powder as a possible trigger. Occasionally, I make my own which is very gentle on the skin – not to mention incredibly cheap and effective. The recipe for this is on the DOWNTOEARTH blog, which some of your readers may find helpful.

    Thank you for your help on this itchy journey

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