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How to eat low histamine if you’re me

As requested, the details on how I eat low histamine.

The low histamine diet is confusing. There are several lists of which foods are high and which are not. Various sources cite different instructions for food preparation, storage, etc. There isn’t a lot of agreement on what is considered best practice for following a low histamine diet. I figured out what works for me by trial and error and that is what most people need to do. This is what my life looks like on a low histamine diet.

I started the low histamine diet January 1, 2014. I found a bunch of recipes online and spent three hours in Whole Foods trying to find everything. That first month was phenomenally expensive as I needed to get organic and/or low histamine versions of typical pantry products like oils, flours, spices, sugars and so on. The good news is that after that first month, my food bill has been much more manageable (though still more expensive than competing supermarkets like Stop and Shop).

I chose to follow the low histamine/low tyramine diet you can find on the Canadian Mastocytosis Society page. Foods that are canned or preserved are generally considered not to be low histamine as preservatives can be triggered and something bad is supposedly generating by the canning process (I’m unclear on what that is, but it seems possible to me). Vinegar is not allowed and I used many types of vinegar regularly, so that was a bummer. No wine or liquor for cooking because no fermented products and no alcohol. Several of the prepared sauces I used to cook Thai and Vietnamese food also contained verboten ingredients. When you start this diet, I strongly urge you to look at the labels of everything in your kitchen and discard anything that doesn’t qualify. Most sources recommend doing the diet for thirty days to determine efficacy and using one unapproved ingredient in that time period can really make it hard to tell if it’s helping.

Another big no-no is leftovers, but again there isn’t a real consensus. Not being able to cook meals for an entire week really threw a wrench into my schedule. I used to cook two meals on Sunday and eat the leftovers all week. As a microbiologist, I can verify that bacterial degradation of meat begins quite soon after it’s done cooking and this generates histamine as a side product. So no meat leftovers seemed like a good idea to me. I had to trial other types of leftovers to see what I tolerated.

I eventually got to a decent place with this diet where I was spending more time preparing than before but not a ridiculous amount. This is what that looks like.

I juice a lot. I started juicing this past winter. I am not particularly sensitive to taste so I just chop up a bunch of stuff ahead of time and throw it in. I juice one large mason jar of chopped veggies and one small mason jar of chopped fruit in the morning on weekdays. This gives me about a full 8 oz glass. I chop all the veggies at once and set up the mason jars in the fridge for the whole week. It takes about 45 minutes. Vegetables include carrots, parsnips, celery, celeriac, fennel, parsley, kale, arugula, cucumbers and beets. Beets give me energy, and this is apparently a well known phenomenon. I use ¼ beet per juice because more than that gives me cramps. Fruits include apples, pears, mango, star fruit, passion fruit, pomegranate, longan fruit, lychee, rambutan, and kiwis. I sometimes add ginger. I’m not very sensitive to taste, but if it tastes really bad, I just add a little pomegranate juice and it covers it. So that’s usually what I do for breakfast.

Other breakfasts include apples or pears with honey and peanut butter, scrambled eggs, hash browns or home fries (potato or sweet potato) with onion and black pepper, and Applegate chicken and apple or chicken and maple breakfast sausages.

If I forget to pack a lunch and have to go to work, I eat one of the following: apples and peanut butter, mozzarella with yeast free crackers, or multiple pieces of fruit. I can get these items at a nearby supermarket and they are safe fall backs for me.

If I have some time to prepare food, I usually bring with me one of the following: mashed potatoes with salt and butter, sweet potato casserole, saffron rice, mixed cooked vegetables, various versions of daal (lentil dishes, I usually also add chickpeas) and sometimes yeast free flat bread. I can prepare any of these meals and eat them for the following two days without a problem (so if I cook on Sunday, I can eat it Sunday, Monday and Tuesday). This is really helpful. I store them in mason jars and stick them in the fridge. Some people find it is better for them to freeze anything they don’t eat immediately and then thaw and eat it when they choose. I don’t do well with that.

For dinner, I generally have mashed potatoes and an Applegate chicken and apple sausage. I peel and dice two medium, yellow organic potatoes and add to small pot of boiling water. I then put the sausage in its own small pot of boiling water and both are done in about ten minutes. Quick and easy. Sometimes I use a little turnip instead of the second potato and whip it with butter and sage.

If I’m feeling more adventurous or have more time, I have some other dinner dishes. Saffron chicken and rice is really good. I buy organic meat and eat it the day I bought it. Any meat not eaten is either given to someone who can eat it or thrown away. This also includes anything cooked directly with meat, like the rice in the saffron chicken and rice.

Squash risotto is good. Squash lasagna is good. I eat a lot of squash. I make decent squash soups. There are many different types of squash so if you can eat squash, you can often get a lot of variety in taste and texture with squash. Sometimes I candy squash and beets and walnuts with brown sugar, salt and maple syrup. I can eat the risotto and lasagna for two days after cooking and I can successfully freeze and thaw the squash soup.

I strongly recommend making your own stock, both because it is much cheaper and also because it is much safer for mast cell patients who react to lots of foods. I boil down entire bones. I get bones from an organic food store or keep the bones from something I have cooked (like turkey or chicken). I soak the bones in cold water with the juice of one lemon for a few hours. While I’m doing that, I cook celery, carrots, onions and garlic in butter in a large pot. I add the bones and cold water to that pot. I add quartered onions, turnips and potatoes and whatever miscellaneous veggie odds and ends I have. I season it and add water until it’s about an inch from the top, then turn the heat down really low. Every couple of hours, I remove the debris that has floated to the top and stir the pot. I add more water as needed. I cook it for about twenty four hours, then pour it (with funnel) into mason jars and freeze immediately. This stock is really soothing on my GI tract when it has that burny type of pain.

For snacks, I usually eat peanut butter or potato chips. Plain potato chips are generally safe for me. I will sometimes indulge in chocolate or ice cream if I’m not pushing my luck already that day. I can eat most versions of Rice Krispies treats safely. I can eat cake if I make it (and the frosting) myself. I have some low histamine cookie recipes. I make my own low histamine hummus (I tolerate tahini okay, so sometimes I include it and sometimes I don’t) and will eat that with carrot and cucumber spears.

I really enjoy salads but my GI tract has a hard time with them so I am only recently eating them again. I make salads with lettuce or a green that’s not spinach, cucumbers, lots of chickpeas, black olives (safe for me) and a hummus based salad dressing. It’s pretty good. I pack the salads up in mason jars and the lettuce stays crunchy for a few days.

Eating low histamine can really be a royal pain in the ass because of how much work goes into food prep. However, if you can identify some quick items for when you’re really not feeling well or out of your house, it will seem a lot less stressful. Knowing that I can get a Rice Krispies treat at Starbucks to hold me over until I get home helps a lot. Finding out I can eat some Applegate products which can be prepared in a few minutes has made my life much less stressful. It is really difficult in the beginning because you have to check everything and cook everything from scratch, but once you get in a routine it’s not that bad.