Discover more from Intolerant-a newsletter about eating superbly with food intolerances
In the wake of poisoning myself, I tell you this
How to recover from histamine poisoning in the short term (or at least how I do it)
Hello friend, tis me, your friendly not-so-neighborhood histamine intolerant person. I hope you’ve had a good New Year and whatever end-of-the-year holiday you and your people celebrate. I hope you had some good food, maybe making some of the cookies I mentioned in the last issue of Intolerant, or maybe eating something else.
How it started
I am about to tell you a tale of woe that started with a smoothie bowl. Well, it started with a bag of frozen berries. Well, actually it started with a decision I made about six weeks ago to take a daily antihistamine for two months to see what kind of effect it had on my stomach, which is the main place my histamine intolerance rears her extraordinarily ugly head. And there was joy in the land! I was still not splashing out, but without going into too much detail, my stomach was more stable, and this represented an improvement in my quality of life. And I was pleased about this. Many people have recommended that I take a daily antihistamine in the past, and I was like “but I don’t want to take an antihistamine every day for the rest of my life” and then Covid happened and I’m on the zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, etc, train, in addition to the probiotic and occasional other hippie herbal whatnot and I was like well what the hell, a tiny little pill, cheap enough, could improve my quality of life, might as well try. Plus my family member who also has HI was taking some and reported good results and I was like well, we’re genetically similar so why not. Also Jodi and I had spoken many a time about histamine blockers and I felt confident that it was unlikely to do me any immediate harm.
So I was taking this tiny pill nightly, and not branching out too much because well, I like the way I eat, and I didn’t really feel the need to have a serving of my mother’s recipe lasagne, which uses canned tomatoes and also sometimes had spinach in it, plus the gluten and also believe it or not, the ricotta factory in Chile burned down and ricotta is very hard to come by right now. /tangent. So even though I was taking this medication, and it was doing some good, I was not really testing it that aggressively.
But then came the frozen berries. I bought a giant bag, and every day I was making myself an evening smoothie bowl, mixing berries with whole milk in the mini food processor, and scooping the freezing concoction into a bowl and into my mouth. It’s summer here, so why not, I thought? A few strawberries went in on the first day. A few more later on. And what do you know, it was the little antihistamine that could really could.
What I did wrong
Until it couldn’t. I made a few (what felt like) near- fatal mistakes. Again, I don’t get anaphylaxis. If you do, please do not experiment like I did. The problem with the bag was that the smaller berries, black and blue and perhaps rasp- fell out first. So in the first iterations of the bowl I was eating maybe 1-2 strawberries. As time went on, it was becoming more and more strawberryful. Strawberries are a known problem for me, have always given me some oral allergy problems (I get canker sores from them), and sometimes itchy, and they once gave me a very bad vomity and fast moving migraine that took me down at writing conference, and in retrospect, this was histamines and a warning, if only I’d known.
Also, getting back to the berries, I was eating them on successive days. DO NOT DO THIS. If you want to test whether you can eat a food, I recommend waiting three days before you eat it again. Any unsafe (to you) foods are building up histamine in your system. It’s a math problem with histamines flowing in at the top, and out at the bottom and if you fill up that bucket, kablam, you will be laid flat. If you have a histamine intolerance you cannot clear them as fast as you’re getting them, especially if you are repeatedly exposing yourself to something your body reacts to.
I also drank Gatorade. I do this sometimes since I had Covid because something is weird about my electrolytes and I also have always gotten dehydrated easily. I went to an outdoor event by bike in the hot hot Santiago sun (though the event was on a shaded breezy hilltop) from about 2:30 to 7:30 PM, and I was trying to get ahead of my dehydration, but instead of alternating Gatorade and water, since we were far from a water source I started to just drink the Gatorade. Where I live, Gatorade has sucralose (splenda) in it, and this is a known problem for me. It also has citric acid, which is not superb for me either. But so long as my bucket is mostly empty, I can drink 1/4 to 1/3 of a Gatorade with no trouble.
But was my bucket empty, I ask you? No, dear reader, it was not. It was most definitely brimming with histamines, courtesy of my smoothie bowls. And was I only drinking a cup or so of Gatorade? No, I was not, and you know this because you have impeccable attention to detail and foresight (and spoilers) which apparently I was lacking! Also was that tiny antihistamine enough to calm my body down? Oh hell no it wasn’t.
I came home and ate dinner, including some pickled daikon (alert, be ye not so stupid), and went to bed as normal.
Then what happened was this
I woke up fine, and then had some coffee. Which we all know, blocks DAO, which breaks down histamine. Reader, I was setting myself up for some mayhem, which was already hurtling towards me, most likely, coffee or not. And mayhem I got. Dizzy, nauseous, headachey, stomach revolt, woozy, the whole shebang. It was pretty much all of my worst symptoms, though I did not get that creepy icy tingling in my arms I got that one time after the sourdough bread, miso soup, greek yogurt and raspberries. But still, this was bad. I literally was in the kitchen saying to myself “Eileen, you have to go lie down,” remembering not-so-fondly one time when I woke up on the floor of the kitchen at a pensión in Antigua Guatemala, having passed out from dehydration after some food poisoning event pre (we think) histamine troubles.
Ever been there, in the throes of an attack? What’s a girl (or anyone, really) to do?
Here’s what I did
So the first thing I did was cancel breakfast. There was no way I was putting anything else into my system that could possibly upset it. Then, when I was stand-uppy enough, I brewed a liter of nettle tea to sip. I laid down. Got up, laid down, got up. Sipped nettle tea. Nettle tea is a mast cell stabilizer. You know what else is a mast cell stabilizer? Quercetin. I downed some of that. I hit myself with a zeolite spray, which is a binder, kind of inactivating the histamines in the bloodstream or at least the excess of them. Then I took a dose of the natural antihistamine recommended by Dr. Joneja which I found through Alison Vickery’s website. According to Vickery this also stabilizes the mast cells.
Thusly fortified, and exposing myself to a very cool breeze (hot temps make this worse for me), over time (about three hours), my reaction settled to the point that I could stand up again, which I am very fond of. I kept sipping the nettle tea. Stomach revolt quieted, nausea quelled. Dizziness abated. Amazing.
At about five hours after I noticed my reaction, and about two hours after it ended, around 3 PM, I was starving. I went for a safe food for me, a Nature Valley granola bar (I like the green and yellow ones and pecan, but we don’t get those here) and from there on out, it has been smooth sailing.
Lessons for a previous me
When I was first getting sick all the time, I did not know all of my triggers. I did not know about the bucket, that a cumulative amount of histamines could tip me over the edge. So I would keep eating things that “surely couldn’t be bad for me” like yogurt and sauerkraut and miso soup and Vegemite. And I would spend days in bed or wishing I was in bed, or in some fantasy place where I just wasn’t constantly thinking about how sick I felt.
This time, I stopped putting more food in the system until I was legitimately hungry. I stopped introducing more histamines, and I did many things I had on hand to help the system stabilize, which were: staying cool and hydrated, and adding these:
-zeolite spray (I use ACZ after I did some research, your mileage may vary)
-natural anti-histamine (potassium bicarbonate and sodium bicarbonate, link above)
-quercetin (I like the powdered one that you can just dump a scoop of in your mouth, capsules also good).
These elements together let me rescue the second half of my day, go to the pool, have friends over for dinner/snack, which I could also eat, and basically resume normalcy. Amazing. I really wish I had known.
So now what
I am also mostly laying low in histamine land for a few days to continue lowering the bucket, and eating things like blueberries, red onions, watercress and other foods that help out my system. I am (for now) continuing on with the H1 blocker (pharmaceutical antihistamine), wishing I had found these solutions years earlier, sharing the information of what has worked for me for free, and staying the hell away from strawberries for the time being.
Your triggers and rescues may be different. This is not medical advice. I do not know if H1 blockers are a good idea for you. Don’t mess with anaphylaxis. I am wishing you all the well in the world, and please let me know if any of these can rescue you from a flare or if not, what your protocol is. We can all learn from each other.
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