The Paleo Diet (and How I’m Doing it Low Histamine)

April 16, 2014  |  Blog, Histamine Intolerance

I don’t really do diets, but I sort of have calmly, and slowly, evolved into a Paleo Diet, that has been one of the keys to my recovery.

I am sharing an overview of the Paleo Diet, how I’m doing it low histamine, and how it lowered my histamine burden.

Bio-individuality

Before we start I am not trying to convince you that a Paleo Diet is right for you. Everyone has his or her own bio- individuality. Mine just happens to be Paleo.

Histamine intolerance is also not a diagnosis but a symptom. My diagnosis might be different to yours. I have had mine all my life. There is an infographic here about this.

That’s why your body (and the way it feels after eating a food) trumps anything I say, or any diet rules, or any food list. Your body knows best. And do seek the advice of your healthcare professional. My diet is endorsed by my immunologist.

The Paleo Diet Simplified

The Modern Paleo DietImage via greatist.com

The Paleo Diet’s premise is that our genes dictate our optimal diet. Specifically, because our genes have not really changed in 10,000 years, paleologists conclude we should eat like our ancestors. Its a return to the fundamentals of eating.

So a Paleo Diet means:

  • Not eating: legumes, grains, peanuts, vegetable oils, sugar or any other processed foods. Dairy is either not eaten or reduced.
  • Eating: meat, saturated fats, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and fruit that are high in nutrients.
  • It also means living a more organic lifestyle including light, sleep, and exercise.

The Autoimmune Paleo variation also eliminates for 30 days, then challenges; eggs, nightshades, nuts, and seeds which are common allergens.

If you are a visual person there are two great infographics on the Paleo Diet here (and used on this page) and here.

The Paleo Diet and Histamines

The Paleo Diet is not automatically low histamine, but it does automatically solve a lot of problems, by cutting out processed foods, and switching to more nutrient dense whole-foods.

A Paleo Diet also lowers the histamine burden. Research by Moneret-Vautrin [Clinical Reactions to Food 1983 pp. 135 – 153] shows that grains are the major cause of histamine synthesis by fermentation in the gut and legumes are histamine releasers (that release stored histamine).

This was really important for me. When I removed grains and legumes completely it had a profound effect. My immune system stopped responding to everything and anything, and I could then reintroduce many higher-histamine foods. If I eat them now things start to unravel again.

The Paleo Diet and Auto-immune Disease

There is also a separate issue of genetic susceptibility, not only to histamines, but also to the macronutrients (such as gluten and lectins) in grains and legumes.

Scientists believe that in some people grains and legumes may:

  • Break down the protective coating of ALL cells, not just the gut,
  • Pass through the protective blood-brain barrier (leading to neurological symptoms),
  • Lead to a pro-inflammatory response,
  • Increase inflammatory markers (including C-Reactive Protein),
  • Interfere with the gut’s bacteria, and
  • Cause exercise-induced reactions (shortly after eating).

If you have an autoimmune condition, scientists estimate the incidence of gluten and/or lectin intolerance, to be as high as 30%, compared to the standard population, where it is up to 7%. Moneralet-Vautrin also concludes lectins affects mast-cell disorders.

Whether you follow a Paleo Diet or not, and have histamine intolerance, I believe it is important to know if you are in that 30%. I am.

Histamine Intolerance and Inflammation

Inflammation increases the histamine burden.

Histamine is stored by the body and then used to fight inflammation. When the body perceives a “threat” the body releases stored histamine, to increases the permeability of our blood vessels, and allow white blood cells (and other proteins) in to the blood stream to fight the threat. Once in the bloodstream it circulates throughout the body.

That is why for me restoring my health has been a three-part process. I have had to:

  1. Temporarily lower my histamine intake,
  2. Eliminate the source of the inflammation (that is an environmental toxin), and
  3. Quieten an overly keen, hyper-aroused, immune system.

The literature focuses almost exclusively on lowering the histamine intake. My own experience is that identifying the source of the inflammation (which for me includes grains and legumes), and very importantly standing down the auto-immune system when hyper-aroused, provided a clear way forward. Glutathione has also been important and I will share more on this shortly.

My Low Histamine Paleo-ish Diet

My diets started off very low histamine. As my inflammation has reduced, and my auto-immune system stood-down, my automatic responses to non-food sources of histamine has abated, and my tolerance of whole-foods has systematically risen.

Today I eat a moderate histamine diet. If you want to see my diet in action follow me on instagram. In the meantime here is what my diet looks like today.

I don’t eat processed food. This is the central tenant of my diet.

I eat organic (pesticide free), non-genetically modified, whole-foods. I remain highly intolerant of pesticides, artificial colours or flavours. I always ask if something has been sprayed (If you cannot afford organic there is a list here of fruit and vegetables that retain pesticides but it does not include berries particularly blueberries which are problematic).

I buy from the local farmers market where produce is seasonal and has been picked the day before and is in peak condition. I also have a small but productive garden in pots on my balcony. My butcher is also a farmer.

I also get spring water from a local. I have a tank in my garage that he comes and fills. This may sound extravagant but it just tastes really good and I love to drink it so I do. I have a cup of coffee most days.

I also have a small garden, which includes a lot of herbs and rhizomes, which I am slightly addicted to. I use herbs in most meals and teas as herbs can impart just about any flavour I desire. I can also eat cacao in moderation.

When I travel I stay in apartment hotels with kitchens. When I do eat out I just do the best I can. I don’t see it as a license to eat whatever I want, but I don’t stress about it either. I will often order chicken and ask for any sauce on the side.

Grains and Legumes

Paleo Grains and LegumesImage via greatist.com

I no longer eat any grains or legumes whether soaked or sprouted or otherwise. I use banana flour (which is made from green banana with a low histamine profile) as it performs like flour. You can find the one I use here.

Dairy

Paleo DairyImage via greatist.com

I do eat some dairy, but in moderation, and I eat full fat. I make my own home-made yoghurt (this is the recipe I use), ghee, and yoghurt cheese, and do well on them. I have not tried raw milk but I hear good things.

Protein

paleo_04-animal-proteinImage via greatist.com

This saw a really big improvement for me. I don’t buy protein from the supermarket. In Australia it tends to be heavily processed and aged in the supply chain.

When I changed from supermarket to fresh grass-fed or wild protein (that is less than 2 weeks old, or fish within 12 hours) I had another quantum change in my symptoms. I also find that I don’t need as much protein (when it is grass-fed or wild) to feel satisfied.

I can eat most protein now including eggs and stock (other than pork which I have never been able to do and offal which is gross).

Fats

Paleo FatsImage via greatist.com

I can eat most types of fat. I mostly eat ghee, coconut oil, macadamia oil, olive oil, and avocados which are readily available here. For me having enough good quality fat in my diet means I don’t crave carbohydrates or sugar and I feel totally satisfied.

Fruit and Vegetables

Paleo DietImage via greatist.com

I can eat most fruit including citrus fruit. I struggle with berries unless I grow them myself. I think that it is because of the pesticide residual, which I remain highly sensitive to, as I grow mulberries and eat them without an issue.

I also eat most vegetable, and I eat lots of them. I even eat them at breakfast! I also eat some starchy foods, mostly sweet potatoes, but also eat winter squashes. I eat all fruit and vegetables in peak condition and preferably in season.

Nuts & Seeds

I eat nuts and seeds in moderation. I have never eaten a lot of them.

I briefly soak nuts before eating, only eat raw nuts, buy them in small quantities, and try and buy locally grown ones.  I live near the macadamia capital of Australia so I eat mostly macadamias!

Finally

I have had histamine issues all my life so I still have to be mindful of what I eat. This was done one supplier, and one food at a time, and really just became a way of life. Where ever you are just start there.

Whether your future lies in a Paleo Diet, or not, I hope reading this post encourages a sense of hope, determination, and curiosity about your relationship to food, that will profoundly improve your health and happiness.

Helpful Resources

Paleo Diet Challenges and Resources, By Chris Kresser. This is a free download at www.chriskresser.com.

The Gluten Summit (Particularly Dr Loren Cordain) at www.theglutensummit.com.

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  • Hi Alison, thanks for this article – I found it so helpful! I am new to histamines and have only begun to research it recently as I found a correlation between my server cystic adult acne and my consumption (and love for) salmon, avocados and spinach! I gave into temptation today and ate smoked salmon for lunch (after eating a salmon steak for dinner last night also) and broke out like crazy this morning, and much much worse by this afternoon. It’s always a horrible breakout that goes from just bellow my cheek bone to under my chin. Have you ever heard of a connection between acne and histamines? I have also been diagnosed with PCOS and pyroluria, however, don’t feel like PCOS is my main issue, more a result of other issues. I eat paleo and have done for the last 12 months. I am only 21 years old, and otherwise fit and slim – and this acne is getting ever so frustrating! Any light you’re able to shed on the issue I’d be so grateful for! Many thanks. Bec

    • Hi Bec. nice to hear from you; and you certainly have a lot on your plate, for a 21 year old, but good on you for seeking answers. I am not sure that there is a clear link between acne and histamines but that is not to say that there isnt. Labels (like PCOS or histamine intolerance) are not very helpful when you want answers. Have you thought about keeping a food diary. If you have an Iphone you can get a really good app called My Symptoms. It gives you invaluable data to work out what is triggering your acne. Often it is just one or two small things. The key things implicated in rosacea for example; are wheat, dairy, sugar, and/or nightshades. Not necessarily all of them but if your sensitive any amount of them. I have also seen people succeed with dramatically increasing their fruit and vegetable by adding in juicing as snacks. Another consideration is also your gut, particularly if you have been given anti-biotics for your acne, so if you have a functional doctor or a naturopath I would highly suggest that route. Anyway it is difficult to be specific but these are just some of the things that you might like to explore but please start with a diary; your body is letting you know valuable information, its not really acne, its information, that will lead you to the solution. I hope that helps!

      • abhishek chouhan

        just have 8 to 10 grams of turmeric with milk as in 3 grams at day and 5 grams or little more at night. and in the morning have 5 grams of black pepper , 10 neem leaves. your histamine will go away

    • Princ

      My acne went away 95% when I gave up being pescatarian and went back to eating most poultry.

    • Sue

      Have you found anything that works…food elimination or addition? I also feel my adult cystic acne is connected to high histamine.

      • Yes – I find identifying the root cause to be the most effective. It is common to be able to reintroduce foods after that is done. Its ultimately not about the food although a low histamine diet is important whilst sorting the underlying cause.

  • Philip Clax

    Banana flour recently appeared in my local health food store…I may just have to give it a try!

    • Awesome stuff. The one I use is Mt Uncle’s Banana Flour.

  • Mocha

    Dear Alison, I’m not sure if this post is still active, but I hope someone reads this. I cannot tolerate anything fermented, aged, dried, leftover and a number of the higher histamine fruit and veg. I’m trying to eat AIP but this limits my food choices quite a bit. The usual staples like avo, coconut, broths etc are a problem. The result is usually severe migraine. Any suggestions? I’d welcome any comments.

  • jyatt7

    I love your visual presentation. Much easier to read and comprehend. Thanks