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what to do when your immune system hates you

Histamine intolerance


histamine intolerance
If you are like me, everyone around you probably jokes about how you are 'allergic to everything'. As more and more medical tests are done in your quest for answers, it rapidly becomes less of a joke and more your personal reality to seriously debate encasing yourself in a bubble the next time you have an immune flare-up over nothing. What on earth is causing all these itchy rashes and sinus problems?

Let's start off simply: what is your immune system reacting to this time to require antihistamines? The short answer: histamines. You are having a histamine reaction, which is why anti-histamines will help with your symptoms. What are histamines, though? Yeast and their little mold friends. What you are in fact reacting to is what is termed 'umami' -- ironically meaning 'savory', but is in reality the flavor of a food that might be considered past its prime in some circles. 'Umami' is the by-product flavor of decay in food which in technical terms is called 'glutamates'. If you have a history of histamine reactions, you should try to avoid foods which are high in histamines.

What types of food are high in histamines?

Of special note are sugars and sugary foods, including chocolate. We shouldn't eat much sugar as part of a healthy diet anyway, but you probably know that sugars are a yeast's favourite food. If you eat a lot of sugar, the histamines (which are essentially just yeasts) will multiply faster in your system. This can make a bad situation worse.

What types of food are low in histamines?

After all that list of things you shouldn't be eating, what is left that is low in histamines? Fresh foods, the freshest you can get. Just-picked fruit and vegetables. Meat that was alive and kicking an hour ago, then cleaned and cooked. Curd cheeses that were fresh-made for immediate use (think mozzarella). Any foods just caught or picked, then promptly flash-frozen (shrimps flash-frozen on the boat immediately after being trawled, for example). Flours freshly ground from grains, root vegetables, or seeds need to be used right away or frozen until needed.

This is the key to why certain foods are high in histamines: if they sit around exposed to the air, they decay, they oxidize, they "go bad". Think about how quickly a cut apple turns brown. If you can stop that process of decay, you might be able to turn a high histamine food into a low histamine food you can eat. After peeling a potato for example, dip the remains in a lemon-water solution to prevent oxidation, then prepare and cook. This can generally be done with any fruits and vegetables large enough to peel.

But what about leftovers?

What to do with leftovers, though? Most of us don't have enough hours in the day to prepare every meal from farm-fresh foods. We need to be able to prepare certain things ahead. If there are any leftovers, they need to be frozen immediately after the meal.

Individual portions are best if you have enough containers. This makes for easy reheating from frozen -- quick lunches or dinners on a long day. I highly recommend batch-cooking as much as possible on weekends to feed the freezer.

A histamine free diet?

The important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a histamine free diet. You need some histamines if you expect your GI tract to do its job. If food doesn't digest and move along, you will develop a whole slew of other issues. Histamine issues are a sliding scale of tolerance: how much histamine do you need to have "enough"? How much histamine can you have before "enough" becomes "too much"?

What you will need to do is figure your personal tolerance level to determine how much to have before the level causes a reaction. A small yeasted roll or cup of yoghurt per day might be just enough for one person, not enough for another person, yet far too much for a third. I recommend keeping a food ledger for a period of time to determine not only what foods you react to most strongly, but also the quantity of that particular food which triggers a reaction. You might be surprised to find you have a zero tolerance policy for this item but can tolerate a larger quality of that item. If you can only have X amount of histamines per day before reacting, it is important to decide which foods to eat on which day. Spread your options around for a balanced diet and healthy GI system.

Tip: If you are histamine intolerant with bad reactions to commercial yeast, you can make a leavening agent one of two ways:

Tealmermaid's Treasure Grotto