Which Fat Is Low Histamine?

January 28, 2015  |  Blog, Histamine Intolerance

One of the questions I often get asked is which fat is low histamine? There is a lot of confusion around fats, let alone histamine intolerance, such that when you add the two together, then its easy to be really confused. I hope to make this simple.

Contrary to marketing propaganda fat does not make you fat. Instead many fats (but not all) are essential (and must be consumed to be healthy), regulate our cell function (that are mostly comprised of fat), but are mostly pro-inflammatory to varying degrees.

What Happens When We Eat Fat?

When we eat fats this is what happens.

Fats are histamine releasors. This means that when we eat fat, histamine is released from the mast-cells, as fats are pro-inflammatory.

At the same time, the H4 receptors, regulate the release of diamine oxidase (DAO), in proportion to the histamine released in response to the type of fat. The more histamine is released – the more DAO is released. The DAO then rapidly degrades the histamine in around 30 minutes.

Fat consumption does not increase our overall reserves of DAO.

So consuming fat is not ordinarily a problem. It only becomes a problem at the tipping point when our body cannot release as much DAO as the histamines in the fat we consume.

From a histamine intolerance perspective, we need to eat fat to be healthy, but we also need to eat the least pro-inflammatory fat as possible, to retain as many foods as possible in our diet.

Histamine Releasors

The histamine released from mast-cells after consuming fat has been extensively studied. Here are the results:

POLYUNSATURATED FATTY ACIDS

OMEGA 6

[VERY HIGH]   Arachidonic Acid is typically found in offal and causes the highest increase in histamine. Offal is traditionally included in a healthy diet in small quantities due to its high nutritional content. Chicken eggs are also relatively high, whilst duck eggs are relatively low in arachidonic acid.

[HIGH]  Linoleic Acid is typically found in large quantities in flax seeds and seed based oils and small amounts in a wide variety of foods. Dietary requirements can be obtained incidentally without using seed based oil. It is worth noting that seed based oils are typically low in salicylates and recommended on a low salicylate diet.

OMEGA 3

[MODERATE]   A-Linolenic Acid is an essential fat typically found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, herbs, micro herbs and sprouts, as well as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, avocado, onions and butter.  It is beneficial in preventing inflammation but paradoxically also leads to moderate histamine release. Only a modest amount is converted to the EPA & DHA form of Omega 3.

[? LOW] EPA & DHA is also essential fats typically found in fish and grass-fed protein. Two serves (or four if consuming seed based oils) of fish a week typically meets dietary requirements. Whilst studies were not conducted on the histamine releasing potential of EPA & DHA it is widely hypothesised that these healthy fats at moderate levels prevent inflammation caused by Omega 6 consumption, brain inflammation, and depression. At higher rates they can become pro-inflammatory.

MEDIUM CHAIN TRIGYLCERIDES

[LOW] Medium-chain Triglycerides are typically found in coconut milk, coconut oil, and mother’s milk and result in almost no increase in histamines. They are metabolised differently to other forms of fats and are pre-digested. They are high in anti-oxidants.

MONO-SATURATED FAT

[LOW] Oleic Acid is found in olive oil, avocado, lard, and nuts like macadamias. It only slight increases the precursor that leads to histamine release from the mast-cells.

SATURATED FAT

[ LOW] Stearic Acid is mostly found in meat, coconut, and milk products and does not in itself result in histamine release. This type of fat is around 80% of the fat stored in the body’s cells for future use.

Other Histamine Sources

The studies have been done on the histamine releasing potential of fats.

One of the biggest problems with coming up with a conclusive histamine tolerance list is the quality of the food. Histamines build as the food ages, ripens, or deteriorates. Artificial ingredients and pesticides also release histamines.

Here are some of the common ways in which the histamine content can be increased in fats in our supply chain:

[FERMENTATION] – Some fish oils, like cod liver oil, appear to go through a fermentation process. Others fish oils go through a purification process and are better tolerated.

[ADDITIVES] – Even with oil it is extremely important to check the label. Oil should have only one ingredient and does not need any additives to remain stable. I understand from my fellow health coaches also that in America olive oil can be diluted with canola oil so surprisingly it is important to check that the oil is 100% olive oil.

[ANTI-OXIDANTS] – In theory anti-oxidants are good except when they are synthetic. In “cheap” oils it is common to see “anti-oxidants” added to the oil. These are synthetic and have a history of allergic reaction. It is also a sign that the oil has been over processed to extract as much as possible such that ingredients need to be re-added at the end of manufacturing.

[PLASTIC LINED TINS OR BOTTLES] – Please consider buying oils only in glass bottles. Some varieties of plastic and tin linings are thought to have estrogenic activity and it is better to be safe than sorry.

[SMOKING POINT] – Each fat has a temperature at which the oil deteriorates and the histamine content starts to rise. This is called the “smoking point.” Here are the smoking points of commonly low histamine fats.

TemperatureFat
High
> 400 degrees Farenheit
Ghee
Olive Oil (Extra Light)
Coconut Oil (Expellor Pressed)
Moderate
> 300 Degrees Farenheit
Macadamia Oil
Coconut Oil (Extra Virgin)
Olive Oil (Extra Virgin)
Hemp Oil
Low
< 300 Degrees Farenheit
Butter
Flax Seed Oil

How I Eat Fats

The simplest way to lower you histamine load without cutting out foods is to live by the mantra “Shop Fresh, Cook Fresh, Eat Fresh” and that means choosing local, in season, just ripe, organic, whole-foods. It just jumps over a lot of potential supply chain added problems.

So my diet is first and foremost dictated by what is grown locally and is super-fresh. As I live in a semi-tropical climate in Australia this may differ to your options so I am sharing more concepts than lists.

Here are 30 low histamine foods that I now regularly eat for their healthy fat content. I did not start with this list but I have doggedly built the list up one bite at a time.

As with all things trust your body not my lists and try to eat as wide a variety as possible. Hypersensitivity is extremely common when introducing new foods please consider introducing new foods in tiny tiny amounts and building.

Here are 30 low histamine foods that I now regularly eat for their healthy fat content.

30 Low Histamine Healthy Fats

There are probably a few things on this list that surprise you specifically the avocado! More on that in a moment. Here in the meantime is how I have gradually adapted the fat content in my diet:

Omega 6

Arachidonic Acid

I have not yet tried to eat offal. I am aware of its superior nutritional benefits but emotionally I cannot cope with the thought of it. At the best of times I don’t like signs of life in my food.

Linoleic Acid

I don’t consciously eat seed based oils ever. I mostly cook with ghee or expellor pressed coconut oil, and I otherwise use hemp oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and macadamia oil, cold so that I do not really need to use it.

Of course, many people who have salicylate intolerance can only tolerate seed based oils. Fortunately that is not one of my many problems but for those who struggle then it is important to increase your Omega 3 intake.

Omega 3

A-Linolenic Acid 

Readers of this blog will know that I actively eat herbs, micro-herbs, and sprouts as an ingredient rather than a garnish.

I also eat more vegetables than a vegetarian (around 6 – 9 cups a day) which are rich in Omega 3 a-linolenic Acid fats and a powerhouse of anti-oxidants including glutathione and its precursors. These are the backbone of my diet.

So I not only prioritise these in my diet but I believe that these are a lot lower in histamines that the ingredients I would otherwise replace them with. Whilst initially I did have to watch cruciferous vegetables due to my liver as my health has improved my tolerance has also.

EPA & DHA

The biggest challenge on a low histamine diet for me, and frustratingly the one that appears to be anti-inflammatory, was to identify a reliable source of EPA and DHA.

Wild salmon is not native to my area, and all the “flash frozen” imported salmon, was too high in histamines for me. If wild salmon is native to your area (or at least an overnight frozen supply) then it would solve a lot of problems.

For me, living in sub-tropical Australia, I am limited to wild snapper and barramundi, which are both white flesh fish.

Through persistence, I have managed to find a reputable supplier, of white fish caught the night before, which is vacuum packed, and delivered within 12 hours of the catch. I tolerate this fish without any problem and eat it twice a week.

Also through persistence, I have managed to identify farmers, who can supply direct to me a wide-range of grass-fed protein, which has exceptionally high levels of Omega 3 fat.

If you wonder whether it really does have a different nutritional content, then I would encourage you to seek out a grass fed chicken, and compare it to an organic chicken which is fed “organic” pellets. They are a completely different colour, flavour, and texture and fat content. It converted me instantly.

Medium-chain triglycerides

Coconut products are a grey area for people with histamine intolerance. They are also high in salicylate.

Many people with histamine intolerance tolerate coconut oil and MCT oil without an issue. I am one of them.

Coconut milk for me, like a lot of people with histamine intolerance, has been a little bit more problematic.

There is no doubt that my tolerance of foods has improved as my health has improved.

More importantly I believe that the additives in commercial coconut milk have prevented me from introducing it earlier. It has taken me some time to find an organic brand without additives that is 100% coconut milk.

As I am now moving towards a ketogenic diet, maintaining coconut milk in my diet, has become important. There is nothing like coconut milk to put me into a fat burning state.

I currently have coconut milk safely in my diet 3 or 4 times a week.  When I first put it into my diet it was a little reactive but I have persisted with pushing up the quantity regardless and my body has settled. Big reactions I remove, small wobbles, seem to resolve themselves.

Oleic Acid 

I eat a lot of olive oil and macadamia oil which is made locally and it is in my diet on almost a daily basis.

I regularly eat organic macadamias but not many other nuts. The macadamias are pesticide free, locally grown (I live near the Macadamia Capital of Australia! Who knew?!), and purchase in small quantities.  I soak them briefly for about 1 or 2 hour before using them.

Controversially, I also now eat barely ripe, local, organic, avocados, without issue a couple of times a week. Avocados do contain (hist) amines but these increase in the fruit as the avocado ripens.

I could not do this a year ago. As my health has improved, I have been able to reintroduce this exceptionally healthy fat source back into my diet. This has taken a while to do.

Stearic acid

I eat a predominantly paleo-ish diet and steric acid forms the back-bone of my fat intake. Finding ethical sources of organic grass fed protein rather than supermarket sourced protein has been one of the biggest differences to my histamine levels. I have written quite extensively about this but for me sorting my protein source has been profound.

Summary

In summary here are some of the basic changes I have made in a systematic and gradual way (I have a slightly rebellious side to me that does not do big changes, rules, of harsh diets easily) to provide the healthy fats my body needs:

  • Eat fresh local organic produce where possible
  • Avoid industrial seed oils
  • Eat pasture fed protein where possible (within 2 weeks of processing)
  • Eat a minimum of two (preferably four) serves of local fresh fish a week (within 12 hours of the catch)
  • Eat a wide variety of herbs, micro-herbs, sprouts, and vegetables
  • Use heat stable oils (such as ghee and expellor pressed coconut oil) to cook with
  • Continue to gently increase and rotate the variety of quality fats that I consume.

Additional Reading

Myung Chul Kim, Min Gyu Kim, Young Soo Jo, Ho Sun Song, Tae In Eom, Sang Soo Sim “Effects of C18 Fatty Acids on Intracellular Ca(2+) Mobilization and Histamine Release in RBL-2H3 Cells”. Korean J Physiol Pharmacol 2014 Jun 12;18(3):241-7.

Yong J, Yasuhisa Sakata, Xiaoming Li, Chao Zhang, Qing Yang, Min Xu, Armin Wollin, Wolfgang Langhans, and Patrick Tso, “Lymphatic diamine oxidase secretion stimulated by fat absorption is linked with histamine release,” Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. Apr 15, 2013; 304(8): G732–G740.

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  • Philip Clax

    My fat sources are quite similar to yours…I do well with coconut oil and milk and try to only eat macadamias if eating nuts. I would like to try using macadamia oil to cook with too. I drizzle MCT oil on salads which works well.

    • Thats awesome Phillip! Yeah! Fats are extremely important also fish oils are extremely helpful

  • Mel

    What about supplemental primrose oil?

    • HI Mel it would depend on what is in the supplement (i.e. whether it is 100% EPO. My understanding is EPO is predominantly linoleic acid (75% content) so would be high.

  • Jein Noir

    Great article~ I had hypothesized that my consistently bad reactions to adding fat to my diet were because they release histamine via increasing stomach acid for digestion. Puts yet another new perspective on why eggs and offal may have helped flood my histamine bucket when the itching first began.

    I passed a fat digestion test while experiencing either histamine or fat maldigestion symptoms. Of course, it appears to have proven it was the histamine. Perhaps this is why Lauricidin is one supplement that has never caused me symptoms (may have cured my temporary depression, too.) I’ve not tried consuming refined coconut oil in large quantities yet, but I have had small amounts and use it on my skin without issues (took some building up though.)

    I would imagine any histamine actually present in fats would be removed by refining but is generally low to start, at least in plant oils? I have been entertaining the idea of trying to add extra virgin olive oil (used to be a dietary staple of mine) and ghee into my diet again. Despite the immediate (bad) change in digestion that occurred while eating massive amounts of fat for my test, I actually felt really good the first day. My mood seems to improve after adding high amounts of fat to my rather low-fat diet (and then my reflux puts me back in bed.)

  • Larae

    Hello Alison,
    Thank you so much for your blog! Your information and advice has been very helpful to me.
    I have a question about fats. In this article, it suggests that pastured pork lard and grass-fed tallow are low in histamine and low histamine releasing. I am confused though because in your Histamine Guide it lists these fats as high. Is this due to histamines being generated while these fats are stored?

    • Thanks Larae. This research looks at the underlying micronutrient but with histamine the greatest problem is actually the way food is handled. For example grass fed beef which is not hung (which btw has an intense taste) is typically low in histamines and it is the ageing process which affects it. Similarly, when protein is processed by high heats or long temperatures in the presence of fat it dramatically escalates the histamines. I have personally tried quite a few grass fed variants of stock and tallow from a highly ethical company and dont do well. As with everything it is also a case of your thresshold and quanity consumed. I am always just looking for easy solutions (the fewest number of foods to pull out; for me attending to protein, sort of opens up the whole spectrum of nutrition). Also sufficient fat in my diet has been important. Hope that helps

  • Guest

    I couldn’t find any information that says arachidonic acid has high histamine levels, but the opposite, that histamine causes the release of AA. ???

    • Hi Guest. No that is incorrect. AA causes the release of histamines.

  • Philip Clax

    After re-reading this post, I’m wondering if my Ketogenic diet could potentially be increasing my histamine reactions? I still stick to the good fats as much as possible like coconut, mct oil etc, I just wonder if the body releasing fatty acids during Ketosis will cause more histamine issues.

    Also, do you knowing it’s ok to keep local grass fed meat frozen before using? Will it generate histamine whilst frozen or only when at room temperature?

    Sorry for all the questions and thanks for any help!

    • Philip a ketogenic diet (>30% of calories from fat) is not suitable for everyone. This is not a histamine issue. Yes it is also fine to freeze meat.

      • Philip Clax

        I actually feel much better on a ketogenic diet, Im just concerned the extra fats may make my histamine issues worse really. Unfortunately many keto foods are high histamine, as nuts, avocado, eggs, fish etc. I do manage by using coconut oil and fresh meats, but it gets tiring having a limited diet. Still, it’s worth it for the extra energy i now have.

        • You only need coconut oil (better still coconut milk) to put you into ketosis Philip. If your body is responding well then listen to it.

  • Shelley

    So, since we are talking about fats, it must be the yolks that are high in AA? Would a pastured chicken make a difference? Would it lower the AA acid enough to lower the effects? Will you help me understand why egg yolks are listed as a low histamine food on many lists, but they are not on your list? Thank you! Trying to build an eating plan for my family…

    • This is a case of you cannot just look at single ingredients because the presence of omega 3 will neutralise the omega 6. Pasture raised eggs are great.

  • Suzette

    This is so frustrating! I’ve researched many sites and each site contradicts each other. Some say avocado is super high in histamine and to avoid. They also say green beans, no nuts at all, one site says their okay. I also read flaxseed oil was okay. How can one follow a proper low histamine diet and see if their allergies improve when there is so much conflicting literature??

    I went on a very low carb diet due to dr’s orders for hypoglycemia. I’ve noticed after eating mostly spinach, tomatoes, avocados, nuts, healthy fats and eggs daily that my allergies, and eyes constantly watering. I also was diagnosed with a severe gene mutation MTHFR Homozygous. It prevents me from metabolizing folate and B-12. Which is why I ate a lot of spinach, eggs etc. I’m at a point of what do I do????

    • Hi Suzette, I know this is frustrating. The bottom line is that you need to listen to your body. A list only provides a systemetised and organised way or providing a testing ground for what suits you. If you need help figuring it out then please do get help. I think it is also important to know how the list was derived and the philosophy behind the list. For example the SIGHI list is based on average experiences of a group of people. The Baliza app is mostly based on unspecified sources. My listing is based upon the royal prince alfred hospital’s (Australia’s) research and verified to the medi-pharm’s nutrition tables (which summarises medical research). I also offer an auto-immune paleo option that reduces or eliminates common allergens. At the end of the day, if you keep a thorough diary (I recommend my symptoms app) then a pattern emerges. It is my experience that the trigger foods become obvious. So please listen to your body. There is an answer. MTHFR is a complication, but we all have complications. I do hope that helps.

  • Carolyn Lowe

    Hi Alison,
    May I ask what your feeling is in regards to histamine tolerance with EPA/DHA in the forms of cod liver oil, fish oils (sardines and anchovies) and/or krill oil? thank you 🙂

    • Hi Carolyn some can tolerate cod liver oil some cannot due to fermentation. The best tolerated is Nordic Naturals in my opinion. I am also however seeing good results with Sea Buckthorn Oil. It is important to buy high quality oils as quality can be an issue. Of course fish (if you can get it super fresh) is still the best option.

      • Carolyn Lowe

        Hi Alison,
        Thank you, It is Nordic Naturals Cod liver oil that I have been taking, I have had very intense allergies and eczema in one spot, I then introduced the Nordic Naturals ProOmega in conjunction and have just realised it was inflaming things more, after taking that out things calmed down but now have inflamed a little again… I am concerned that if I take the cod liver oil out my omega 3 and 6 ratio will be unbalanced.
        Aren’t we amazing? Just playing to see what suits my body 🙂 … I do have some good quality krill oil that I stopped taking a while ago I may trial next..

      • Carolyn Lowe

        Alison, may I ask what brand Sea Buckthorn Oil? thank you

  • Terijo Brewton

    I hae begun cooking with good sourced lard and tallow. Any comments on these?

  • Saucysusan

    I enjoy reading your blogs because you are not dogmatic. I’m at my wits end as to how to eat, how to heal. I’m on disabilty because of a vast array of health problems. From what I can discern, I’m having difficulty with histamine sensitivity, salicylates, & fodmaps. I have active Crohn’s disease, nasal polyps, sinusitis, Psoriasis, diabetes (not insulin dependant – I take Metformin ), High Blood pressure, allergies, asthma, Osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, insomnia, and bipolar disorder. I can’t afford to eat the way all these diets recommend. I was eating all the wrong things to lose weight..super high fiber, stevia as a sweetener, fruit smoothies, wild caught frozen salmon, lots of beans, lentils, etc. I did lose 20 lbs. .but my health is totally trashed. I just started taking Apriso..a Mesalamine drug..but I’m dramatically worse in just two days. I know I was binge eating sugar & junk food..but I’ve quit that.
    It feels like everything I eat is poison in my body. I downloaded an app you recommended. .seems like there’s not much that’s safe.
    I take a good quality Multivitamin, 5000 units of vitamin D since I’m perpetually short in it according to bloodwork, L-GLUTAMINE, and probiotics (which now seem to be problematic, since they might not be the right strain ).
    I’ve tried to talk to my gastroenterlogist about the role of food in my overall health, but she toes the (big Pharma ) party line: sick? Take a pill. Sick from the pill? Take another pill…
    The meds I’m on: Metformin, Amlodipine, and the supplements. I will likely be on something soon for the bipolar depression which is spiraling out of control. The doctor wants me to go on a biologic such as Humira or Remicade. Scary stuff.
    I just really don’t know what to do within my very, very limited means. Sorry this is so lengthy, but I feel so desperate. Thanks!

    • Hi saucysusan nice to hear from you. I am sorry to hear about all you have going on. It is difficult for me to provide advice on a blog other than general comments. Are you able to grow any fruit and/or vegetables to reduce the cost? Also do you have a good stress management techniques in place? Crohn’s and bipoloar are highly influenced by stress. Have you got a solid stress management plan in place? Can you please discuss with your doctors whether a side effect of any of your medication could be increased food sensitivities (for example it is with Metformin – although I am not sure that is what is going on for you as you also have Crohns – and you can manage diabetes through diet. My mother is a diabetic but cannot tolerate Metformin so controls with a glucometer an diet. Please discuss this with your doctor). I think it is often difficult when you have so many symptoms to know what actually you need to do for yourself. The blogosphere has so much focus on diet and yes it is very important but rest, exercise, and stress management is also super important to create the optimum condition for healing.

      • Saucysusan

        It’s winter here, and I live in an apartment, but next spring/summer I will do some veggies in containers. My mind is overwhelmed with trying to sort through the overabundance of info on the Internet. But I do realize ways I can clean up my diet, even on my income. How to get the Crohn’s under control is harder. But, I’ll find a way. Thank you so much for your time, and for putting information out there for us.

  • Pingback: What Does Histamine? | alantyl()

  • Miren Hary

    Awesome post again Allison! You are just so full of the right information!

    • thankyou Miren I do appreciate this. I have just been trolled by someone who has just sprayed their unpleasantness all over me and I am sitting here asking why I bother blogging? And there you were. Thank you.

      • Miren Hary

        Alison, it is really obvious how much info/ knowledge you have acquired this can only be done with passion and determination of the truth. I benefit everyday from your blogging and it has helped me enormously, , , , Don’t ever forget that, , , , , and, , , , , , that you make a huge difference in many people’s lives ! , , , , , Thank You, , , , ,!

        • thankyou!. I am motivated by not allowing others to suffer. I am glad I have been able to be of assistance.

  • Jessica Jackson

    I have a question about fish and meat. When it comes to fish, when you say 12 hours from the catch, does this mean processed and frozen within 12 hours from the catch or you literally have to eat it fresh within 12 hours of it being caught? I’m so confused about fish. Also do you freeze your grass fed meats or seek out local farmers or cattle ranchers that freeze them after a short hang time. I do not want to eat vegan…I only feel good eating paleo but the meat is making me feel so bad these days. I tried turning to beans and legumes for protein and oh…my poor tummy. Thanks in advance. Oh I forgot to ask are you able to eat cooked meat that has been frozen. Say for instance I cook a whole low histamine roast and then freeze in smaller quantities or does the meat have to be smallish sizes that I cook fresh and consume immediately? It’s hard to tell from one day to the next what’s going on because I don’t react to the same foods the same every time. Sometimes there’s no reaction even though I had a reaction before and then the next time there’s another reaction. I just have to laugh to keep from crying. 🙂

    • Hi Jessica. Freezing stops (but does not destroy) histamine so I buy from a trustworthy supplier and freeze in single portions. Same goes for batch-cooking. I cook food fresh, batch it, freeze it. Hope that makes life easier!

      • Jessica Jackson

        It most certainly does and thank you so much for taking the time to respond. I just downloaded your nourished soup book and have fallen in love with the combinations you have concocted and u have taught me many things I did not know about low histamine preparation. This has me really excited! What do u think about blending organic coconut flakes (the larger sort not the fine ones) with hot water then straining with a nut milk bag to make home made coconut milk? I noticed your concern for store bought brands and wasn’t sure if u knew of this method…or perhaps there is a histamine issue with the flakes. I’m not sure but I’ve made it and although not as thick as store bought it turned out beautifully. And perhaps some kudzu could be added in to thicken it while blending. I’m just guessing since I never heard of kudzu before reading your book. 🙂

        • I have not tried making my own coconut milk (I do buy fresh coconut milk). The main issue is that most tinned coconut milk is not 100% and many of the fillers are problematic.

  • Philip Clax

    Would avocado oil contain histamines?

  • Nikki

    Hi Alison, thank you for yet another hugely informative article. I regularly holiday in your area and am wondering if you would feel comfortable sharing your source for meat and fish?

    • I purchase meat from the farmers market (Byron or Mullum) and sometimes direct from local farmers. In terms of fish – Freckles in Byron is one option, the other option is the Fish Co-op near bunnings. You have to ask them for fish caught that night – Freckles can show you photos. The Fish shop in Ballina seems to ring the local chefs but sometimes you can be lucky.

  • Clare Fisk

    Evening primrose oil was recommended to me by my doctor, I have been taking it for over a year. Could this have contributed to my increase in symptoms? I have just started a low histamine diet but am still very confused about what I should and shouldn’t have