The Paleo Diet (and How I’m Doing it Low Histamine)
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.
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 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.
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:
- Temporarily lower my histamine intake,
- Eliminate the source of the inflammation (that is an environmental toxin), and
- 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
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.
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.
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).
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
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!
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.
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.