I’m very grateful I was raised in a pristine natural environment with parents who ate healthy organic food and preferred natural medicine over conventional medicine. My health was great until I was twelve years old, during which time I started to get headaches and developed food sensitivities to MSG. At this time I also received my first antibiotic and first round of vaccines. Coincidentally, I also developed TMJ and scoliosis at this time. I now know that both TMJ and scoliosis are due to lymphatic and kidney congestion (your spine will curve away from the kidney that is more congested. This is not common knowledge even among doctors but it has been demonstrated to be true by way of people who have healed themselves of both TMJ problems and scoliosis through lymphatic cleansing and improving kidney filtration and health.)
By sixteen, I had received one more round of antibiotics but was still generally pretty healthy, until I gradually and unconsciously added to my overall state of inflammation when I started working in a coffee shop. There, I consumed a lot of wheat and caffeine. Unknown to myself, my kidneys were becoming more compromised and my body more acidic. Other than having issues with acne though, I was generally resilient as we are when we are young. I didn’t know that my acne was an expression of lymphatic congestion and acidosis at the time.
In my twenties I underwent two minor surgeries with the attendant antibiotics and painkillers. I also went on one full month of antibiotics to try to help clear my persistent acne issues, which I now understand were an expression of congested lymph from kidneys compromised by previous antibiotics.
Needless to say, pharmaceutical medications are without a doubt a huge culprit if not the primary cause of most of my lifelong health problems. However, because these effects were gradual, it was difficult to measure or realize the real impacts until they had accumulated to the point where they started to manifest as chronic disease.
Still, I didn’t develop consistent and persistent headaches until I was in my late twenties. At this time I also had another small round of antibiotics for a fungal infection. I thought I was getting an anti-fungal but it was actually an antibiotic – flagyl.
After this I started to get regular migraines about once every two months. I also had a lot of stress in my life at this time and was very sedentary. I spent hours on the computer with my neck hunched forward scanning through huge reams of data. I know now that the stress from this time contributed to my lymphatic congestion, because when we are stressed the capillaries dilate, and blood proteins get stuck in the lymphatic system (more about this later).
It all makes sense now, but it took me almost a decade to understand, much less solve the problems that I am sharing with you here.
A few years later, I was still struggling with persistent migraines and trying everything I could do to alleviate them, with varying results. Over time, I learned how to manage them but never healed them. I could consistently get rid of an oncoming migraine through various means and techniques, which included drinking tons and tons of water or going for a run.
I now know why these two approaches work. Running and deep diaphragmatic breathing gets the lymph flowing, and migraines are a result of inflammation in the lymph and some degree of sepsis. Water is a natural antihistamine and will lower histamine levels. It also raises blood volume, making it more likely that blood can reach to the head.
It was when my son was born via c-section that my health really declined. The migraines had completely disappeared in the last trimester of my pregnancy, because the placenta releases diamine oxidase, the enzyme that breaks down histamine. This is the body’s natural way to protect the fetus from excessive inflammation in the mother’s body. Naturally, after the pregnancy, the migraines returned – but now I had them three times a week and on the days when I didn’t have them, I had a headache or brain fog. I was also sleep deprived from nursing my son all night, so my already taxed kidneys and adrenals were under even more stress than usual – for over two years. The adrenal glands use progesterone to make adrenaline, and progesterone is what puts the breaks on estrogen. So my adrenal fatigue was contributing to estrogen dominance, which contributes to histamine overload. Histamine disrupts sleep cycles, and the nightmare of insomnia reinforces itself and continues. It is very hard to heal without adequate sleep.
The combination of epidural, pitocin, anesthesia, pain meds, and antibiotics did a total over-ride on all of my organ systems. As a result of this surgery and medications, I developed gallbladder spasms, thyroid problems, urinary tract infections, inflammation and pain in the liver and pancreas, bloating, nightmares, anxiety, depression, easy bruising, strange burning nerve sensations running up and down my legs and sacrum, numb hands, parasitic infestation, pain and pressure problems in my ears, muscle cramping, acidosis, joint pain, frothy saliva, . . . . etc. etc. etc. etc.
I was a total wreck and my life was a living hell – my son and husband being the two lights in my otherwise dark tunnel.
I have pulled myself out of this nightmare mostly on my own. I did see a naturopath early on and she prescribed me a Chinese remedy. I’m very grateful to her that she did this even though the remedy made me much sicker. I realized there was something in it that was exacerbating my symptoms. The first ingredient was cinnamon. I started googling cinnamon and found out it was high in histamine. Through a series of links I found myself on a website about Histamine Intolerance, something I had never heard about before, even from a doctor.
This was the beginning of me understanding what was going on enough to start to heal myself. It started with eliminating fermented and histamine-rich foods – but we don’t heal through elimination. We heal through nutrition.
I went through a very strict period where there was virtually nothing I could eat. I had so much histamine in my body that almost anything would trigger me. I became afraid of food.
This is a horrible place to be in (especially when you are still nursing a little one!) and it is the exact opposite of healing, because it truly is food and plants which have the nutrition we need in a depleted state to rebuild our health.
Incidentally, during this phase of strict eating I was eating mostly carrot juice, potatoes, cabbage, apples, and other veggies. I started to dramatically improve. I would always crave potatoes after a migraine. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the resistant starch in the potatoes that was reducing the inflammation in my colon, which my body was so keen to tell me it needed.
I was juicing carrots mostly for blood cleansing and parasite cleansing. I wasn’t aware then how important the potassium in them was for me, so I slowly petered off to juicing about once a week, and lost the benefits until I later had to rediscover them. The potassium in the carrots was helping my cellular metabolism and electrolyte balance. The sodium potassium pump in the cell requires plenty of potassium for optimal functioning.
At the time, my research had convinced me that I needed magnesium more than potassium. So I was rubbing magnesium oil all over my body. Then I tried it orally. It took a lot of research to try to determine which magnesium was the best kind, and my cabinets were full of all sorts of supplements. I became disenchanted with all of them eventually. Supplements hold no power compared to food as medicine. One important difference between food as medicine and supplements as medicine (besides its affordability, bio-availability, and superior taste) is that living food also contains electrical energy and hydration that dry dead supplements do not.
It took me almost three whole years of hell post c-section to reach the point where I finally healed the migraines that plagued me and had become a physical handicap that would have prevented me from holding a job if I had needed to do anything other than be a stay-at-home mom whose main job was researching every day how to take my life back.
During this time, I worked on healing a lot of other organs besides my brain and gut in the process too, but that is another story. This story is about how I learned to first reduce histamine-rich foods from my diet; how to clean my blood and gallbladder and kidneys with radishes; how to improve digestion and drastically reduce bloating and inflammation in the colon with the help of resistant starch in potatoes and green plantains, and how to decongest the lymphatic system with the help of fruit and micronutrients available in living greens.
I’ve also been amazed to watch my body healing from many seemingly unrelated (but apparently related!) issues that I had accepted as part of my life, such as acne and TMJ resolving on their own. I no longer have any premenstrual syndrome or pain or discomfort during my moon cycle. The cystic breast tissue that I had been told was just a hereditary trait has also completely resolved. My gums and oral health are incredible.
It turns out that the body doesn’t know how to selectively heal, and when we support the whole, all kinds of problems just start to fall away. Supporting the whole unavoidably involves great attention to the quality of our diet and nutrition. Yet how and what to eat remains one of the most confounding question for many of us. We are the only species on the planet that is confused about what and how to eat. It’s my pleasure to share some of what I’ve learned works best for me. For the first time in my life, I have no food cravings, no food addictions, and no confusion about how and what to eat.
I believe that all healing, whether on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level, requires a belief in the possibility of healing, and giving ourselves the permission slip to actually do so. Once these two factors are in place, healing becomes simple (but still, not always easy!).
When I realized that I had Histamine Intolerance, everything started to make sense and fall into place. I finally had a basic framework for understanding why I got migraines and how to prevent them (however, my knowledge was incomplete as I didn’t understand the role of the gut flora, kidneys and lymph in my state of sepsis). When my histamine levels reached a certain level, I would get a migraine.
Histamine is a natural neurotransmitter that is utilized and produced by the body’s mast cells in making stomach acid. So it makes sense that when my histamine levels got high, so did my stomach acid, and the migraine would not disappear until I threw up large amounts of stomach acid. Afterwards, I would always crave potatoes.
Identifying with a disease is never healing. Even though I was self-diagnosed with Histamine Intolerance, in retrospect I believe that it has become important to learn to un-diagnose myself. While a diagnosis is initially a relief because it is an explanation for what is going on, many people reinforce their health problems by identifying with having a disease. So I think that a better descriptor for my symptoms would be that of “Histamine Overload”, rather than describing myself as having “Histamine Intolerance”. Histamine Overload describes a (temporary) state or process, Histamine Intolerance implies that the body’s mechanisms are dysfunctional, and that you are dealing with an actual disease. I see so-called “diseases” as alarm signals of bodily processes in distress, not as real, objective “things” that exist as discrete entities. The distinction is important for healing.
The body is not the enemy. I had to take responsibility for what it had gone through to make sense of what was “wrong” with it. In my case, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories were the assault that depleted my diamine oxidase levels making it difficult for me to break down any foods that were fermented or had tyramine or histamine in them. (More on fermented foods, tyramine, and histamine later). The antibiotics had shifted the balance in my flora towards histamine-producing bacteria, contributing to my load.
For quite awhile, my sole approach to healing was to eliminate problem foods, because I didn’t know how to heal my pancreas from the non-steroidal inflammatories and their effect on my DAO levels – and because I didn’t realize that a huge part of my histamine load was in my colon. The antibiotics had wiped out much of the friendly bacteria in my colon and no amount of food elimination would change the fact that my colon needed good prebiotic starches to feed the healthy bacteria.
I also didn’t know that the other huge piece of my inflammatory histamine load was in my lymphatic system, or that I needed to get my kidneys supported in order to get the lymph flowing and step out of the state of sepsis I was living in.
One advantage of focusing on Histamine Intolerance is that I had to avoid many supplements. Quite a few supplements are made through a fermentation process. This includes vitamin C (which is also a mast-cell stabilizer), B vitamins, and probiotics. I didn’t explore probiotics for this reason, as I was afraid to get triggered by them. I’ve since learned how much more important prebiotics are as compared to probiotics.
PRObiotics introduce friendly bacteria but they may not survive your stomach acid or be able to make much of a stronghold in your gut given the other flora that are already established there. PREbiotics are the food that feed the friendly bacteria. If you feed the good bacteria the right food, their populations will eventually dominate over the unfriendly bacteria, assuming you are not feeding the unfriendly bacteria too much as well.
While eliminating all histamine rich foods and fermented foods did reduce my migraines, it also diminished greatly what I was able to eat, and it was always a very tenuous balance. My diet was very meager and I firmly believe we cannot heal by being afraid of most food or eliminating otherwise healthy foods. (Whereas eliminating unhealthy foods, better known as “food-like substances” – is ALWAYS an advantage).
Because the foods that are fermented or contain tyramine or have histamine in them or liberate histamine is a huge category of foods, I learned over time how to discern which foods were the greatest triggers for me. A small portion of yogurt wouldn’t trigger me as bad as a small sprinkling of cinnamon or chili. A sip of kombucha wouldn’t trigger me as bad as a sip of wine. A bite of a date wouldn’t trigger me as bad as a bite of chocolate. UNLESS of course, my histamine load was already very high. THEN, the smallest thing could tip me over into migraineland!
One thing that would have made it virtually impossible to realize I had Histamine Intolerance instead of a different kind of food allergy or food intolerance is that the reaction to histamine and tyramine rich foods is not always immediate. It is not an allergic reaction. Once the food hits the small intestine where the DAO is normally released, it will not get broken down properly because of the low DAO and so by the time it makes its way to the colon a few hours later, that food will start to ferment. Unfriendly bacteria in the colon will try to break that food down, leading to bloating and indigestion. These bacteria actually produce histamine. But this is not an immediate reaction so the connection between certain foods and bloating and headache can be hard to recognize, unless your histamine levels are already so high that you do have an immediate reaction. It all depends on how full your “bucket” of histamine is.