When I was a kid, I suffered a bad case of asthma. Fortunately, it was never a life and death situation, but severe enough to prevent me from having a normal life. The attack occurred often in the middle of the night in bed. I remember myself being on my knees, my elbows and head down to the pillow, wheezing and coughing, trying to cough out a mucus mess from my lungs all night long. It was miserable. Not to mention, getting a decent amount of air into my lungs was a struggle. My condition began to improve significantly as I was seriously getting into sports activities during middle school.
I thought to myself, “Building stronger lungs from high aerobic activities must be the key to defeating asthma.” So, I kept at it. However, my allergy conditions like, runny nose, itchy eyes, eczema all got worse during the same period. And they persisted throughout my teen age years and into my late twenties. There was a time I even had to use nasal spray just to keep my runny nose from dripping onto everything I touched. My nose and eyes were always red, my lips were so dry, chapped and swollen that I couldn’t even open my mouth wide to eat. I know now, and I sort of knew back then, that bad eating and drinking and smoking habits had something to do with my terrible health. But what I didn’t know was that all of my allergy symptoms including asthma (I didn’t know asthma was also allergic reaction) were triggered by the substance called Histamine.
Histamines play an essential role in the body’s immune response in a number of ways. For example, they trigger the mucus-producers—called “goblet cells” to create more mucus. The goal of the mucus production is to create a wetter, more fluid environment, so that allergens can be trapped and carried away from the body. Many people suffer from allergy symptoms like a runny nose, watery/itchy eyes on the daily basis because of our body’s defense mechanism. In the case of asthma, histamines overreact and produce far more mucus than needed. They are also responsible for the inflammation which exacerbate the constriction of the airway.
Many people are allergic to certain foods, most notoriously peanuts, as well as airborne allergen like dust, mold and pollens. If your histamine tolerance level is very low you must stay away from them as much as possible. However, what I found was quite surprising to me. It turned out that most of the food we eat regularly have a certain level of histamine in them. Some of the food contains high level of histamine, and some have low levels. And some foods cause our body to release histamine as they enter our digestive system. Another fact I found about histamine was quite shocking to me. The level of histamine increases as the food gets stale. It means that the left-over meal that has been sitting in the refrigerator for a few days has much higher level of histamine compared to a freshly prepared meal. So, the left over dinner for tomorrow’s lunch is not recommended if your allergy symptoms are severe. So let’s take a look at list of commonly consumed foods that contains higher level of histamine.
Fermented alcoholic beverage, especially wine, champagne and beer; sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter milk, dried fruits (apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins), most citrus fruits, walnuts, cashews, and peanuts, avocados, egg plant, spinach, tomatoes.
Histamine Releasing Foods:
Alcohol, bananas, chocolate, cow’s milk, nuts, papaya, pineapple, shellfish, strawberries, tomatoes, wheat germ, artificial preservatives and dyes.
Freshly cooked meat, poultry, freshly caught fish, gluten-free grains (rice, quinoa), mango, pear, watermelon, apple, kiwi, cantaloupe, grapes, fresh vegetables (except for the ones listed above).
You may not have obvious allergic reactions to histamine rich foods if your histamine tolerance level is high. But, remember that inflammation from histamine can cause other symptoms like headaches/migraines, difficulty falling asleep, sluggish digestion, nausea, fatigue, abnormal menstrual cycle and many others. So, please pay close attention to your body’s response to certain foods or allergens. In many cases, outcomes from histamine reaction are subtle and often benign. But they may accumulate and turn into something serious if you don’t take care of it early.
For those who suffer from chronic allergy conditions, we have herbal pills called AE. Many people have reported back to me during severe allergy season that their allergy symptoms were so much better with regular intake of AE. As for me, my digestion improved overnight because of AE. It took me a while to figure out that my entire digestive system was inflamed and swollen because of the histamine rich foods. Bloating, indigestion, sluggishness, tightness around the abdomen are no longer an issue. Even inflammation in anal area is gone. Thus, no pain. (For those who are new to our newsletter, I wrote an article about my battle with hemorrhoid and the solution in the past issue. You can view the past issues at www.hensenherbs.com/resources/newsletter-archive)