Looking back over the FoodsMatter site statistics for the first months of this year I note that on average there were 90-100,000 ‘unique’ visitors per month to the Allergy and Intolerance section of the site, 30-35,000 of whom (approximately 30%) visited the histamine pages. And once they got there, they spent, on average, 6 minutes there as opposed to 5 minutes on the rest of the allergy and intolerance section. These figures suggest both that there are a lot of people out there wanting information about histamine – and that there is somewhat of a dearth of information available. Which is why we have combined with allergist Dr Janice Joneja to distill her expertise into a couple of books.
Let’s start by what histamine intolerance is, or rather, is not. Histamine intolerance, like lactose intolerance, is not an intolerance. In the case of lactose, symptoms are caused by our inability to produce enough of the enzyme lactase to ‘digest’ the lactose in the milk or milk products, not by the lactose sugar itself.
In the case of histamine, we are not intolerant to the histamine, but we are producing too much of it. In the familiar allergy analogy of the bucket with the hole, as long as we only ingest or produce the amount of histamine that can be metabolised by the enzymes DAO and HNMT we remain symptom free; if we make or ingest too much, our ‘bucket’ overflows and we suffer symptoms of histamine intolerance.
But unlike lactose with which we only come into contact if we eat or drink products which contain it (any animal milks or milk products), we not only ‘eat’ histamine (in foods, medications etc), we also make it in our bodies. Indeed, it is a vital chemical released by the immune system to defend us against injury, infection and allergens. But, individual production and tolerance of histamine can vary enormously. And…. It is very hard it distinguish symptoms caused by a genuine allergy or reaction which has triggered the release of histamine, from symptoms caused by an excess of histamine circulating within the body: they are both are effectively the same. This would appear to be one of the reasons why, with a very few exceptions (such as Dr Janice) most medical authorities dismiss the concept of histamine intolerance as a medical condition. And why there is very little help out there for anyone who thinks that histamine could be their issue. (Cheeringly, although excessive histamine may cause extremely unpleasant symptoms, it will not ever cause a life threatening reaction or anaphylaxis.)
However, if you suffer from on-going allergic type reactions and are unable to identify any specific allergen that could be to blame, histamine intolerance could be worth considering.
While you cannot avoid histamine in the same way as you can avoid an allergen (well, food allergens at least – inhaled allergens are very much harder to avoid as hay fever sufferers are only too aware) you can have some control over the condition by manipulating your diet to reduce your over-all histamine load. And although it is a bit complicated – there seems to be no logic, for example, to which fruits are high and which are low in histamine – it is relatively easy to get your head around. And, once you have eliminated the ‘no-go’ foods, and then made a comprehensive list of those that are safe to eat, it is surprising how much choice you will have – including that nice little selection on the cover of the Beginner’s Guide!
All this is explained in really simple terms in Dr Janice’s first book, the Beginner’s Guide to Histamine Intolerance which you can now buy on Amazon here (here if you are in the US) – either as a Kindle or for your computer through read.amazon.co.uk. (£5.99 in the UK, $7.72 in the US.) To come is the Professional Guide to Histamine Intolerance into which will go the very substantial amounts of research that Dr Janice has done into the condition over the last 20 years, in an attempt to persuade her colleagues that this is a real condition causing genuine misery to a number of their patients.
However….. If you are just interested in the subject but do not actually wish to buy a book, you can also go to the histamine section of the FoodsMatter site, where you will find a wealth of Dr Janice’s articles – although you will not then benefit from Hannah’s excellent editing of their material into one easy-to-grasp read!! Oh and, did I mention that the Beginner’s Guide is currently the #1 Allergy book on Amazon UK and the #4 on Amazon US…..
Either way, we hope you find it helpful.