Results From the Low Histamine Diet

Thanks to Pauline for bringing to my attention that I never shared the results of my low histamine diet from May 2012. The Low Histamine Diet was an experiment to see if histamine was playing a role in my late night headaches.

The short answer is that dropping from a high level of histamines to almost none had zero impact.

Test
Average Headache (0-5)
Average Sleep Quality (0-5)
Low Histamine1.283.64
All days since April 20111.233.80
May 20131.293.77

As you can see from the table, the Low Histamine Diet had no effect. May 2013 was included to measure any seasonal differences. The good news for me is that my kimchi and kefir have no correlation to my headaches. The bad news is that coffee is likely the remaining cause, although it isn’t nearly as strong of a trigger as gluten or alcohol.

kimchi

kimchi

In Episode #49 of the Bulletproof Exec, Dave Asprey mentioned this blog (46:33) and my fermentation hobby. His theory is that the reason I can eat fermented veggies daily is because my liver produces high levels of diamine oxidase (DAO). He further theorizes that most people have low or average levels and this makes consuming ferments problematic. Then he goes off into his toxic planet thesis, which I addressed in the post 4 Reasons Not to Ferment Veggies.

I’m not a PubMed Warrior, but I have trouble with his logic. Cultures have been fermenting foods for thousands of years. Long before refrigeration, our ancestors figured out how to preserve foods via fermentation. We are the descendants of those people. Although it is understandable that some people would have histamine intolerances, those should the exceptions.

Perhaps everyone is looking at histamine the wrong way? Can our bodies adapt and become more efficient at removing histamine with repeated exposure? I can’t but help to think of lactic acid build up from certain type of exercise, such as negative (eccentric) lifting to failure. The first time you do it, you feel like hell. Then after a few workouts, the body adapts and you feel much better, much faster.

I do think it is wise to take a break from foods high in histamine from time to time. Fermented veggies make sense during periods outside harvest. The rest of the year, seek out fresh veggies. In other words, hedge the benefits and the risks of both. Assume incomplete knowledge.

Kefir, Caffeine and Trigger Point Therapy

I’ve got three health items on my mind today.

Is Dairy Kefir Anabolic?

About a month ago I started making dairy kefir again. I stopped making kefir a year ago when I started getting a reaction to water kefir. Then I learned about the high level of histamines, which may have been triggering some of my headaches. I started The Low Histamine Diet last May and did it for over a month. Seems I didn’t post a follow-up. The results were that greatly reducing histamine levels did not help with my headaches. I forgot all about kefir.

Then a friend of mine started making kefir. He offered grains to me. My initial thought was the headaches I got from kefir, but that was water kefir. I never had an issue with dairy kefir, so I started making the dairy ferment once again. And I am loving it. My kefir tastes great and I’m even mixing in a little half and half to get a thicker texture.

The interesting thing I’ve noticed in the last month is that I may have gained some muscle. This was unexpected, as my workouts have not been that intense recently. I’ve often read how milk is anabolic, but I haven’t really drank much since I was a child. Kefir should be equally anabolic. Who knows? I’ll keep drinking it.

Caffeine Might Be Making Me Jittery

It appears I am going to have to really cut back on caffeine again. My plan was to survive on a lower level until spring and then do a longer detox. Even though I’m consuming half the caffeine I did prior to my October 2012 detox, I am finding myself feeling jittery. I’ve never felt jittery on caffeine before.

The good new is cutting back on caffeine should be much easier than the last time.

Unsure about Trigger Point Therapy

In the post Help Me Fix My Neck and Shoulders, one of the ideas in the comments was Trigger Point Therapy. I am new to this topic, so I got a few books from the library. The books showed me where I could apply pressure to relieve tightness in my neck and shoulders. Although my neck and shoulders weren’t in terrible shape, I had been interested in loosening up that area to provide more free movement.

The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief, Second Edition by Clair Davies

Using the books, I was able to locate the points, apply pressure and feel what felt like knots loosening up. So at first, it appears this stuff was working. The problem I experienced was the tightness kept returning and it felt like it was getting worse. The more time I spent doing Trigger Point Therapy, the better I felt in the short term, but the tighter I felt later. This is when I thought about Dr. John Sarno and and my battle with back pain.

I posted on Dr. Sarno in The Psychology of Back Pain.

Dr. John Sarno specializes in patients that deal with chronic back pain. He believes that stress is the major cause of back pain. When we go through periods of chronic stress, the brain uses a diversion tactic to protect us emotionally. That diversion is to manifest REAL PHYSICAL pain, often in the lower back region. The pain is real. It is not in our head. The roots however are psychological.

One of recommendations Dr. Sarno tells his patients is to stop all forms of treatment, because that treatment is validating the physical manifestation of the pain. It does nothing to address its roots. When I began to suspect that Trigger Point Therapy was making my neck worse in the same manner, I stopped it. Within a few days, my neck felt better on its own. Not perfect, but back where I started.

I can see where Trigger Point Therapy might help with injuries. See Foam Rolling & Trigger Point Activation on Biohacks for one example.

Last Words

So I’m loving the dairy kefir, cutting back on caffeine and stopping the Trigger Point Therapy. Love to hear your thoughts.

An Asian Alternative to Slow Cooked Pork

A month ago I outlined all the food restrictions involved in a low histamine diet. One of the no-no foods is vinegar, which is a sneaky food ingredient. I was just getting ready to load up the slow cooker with pork and BBQ sauce, when I realized that vinegar was in the sauce. I didn’t want to go to the store, so I improvised. After going through every bottle in my kitchen, I discovered my oyster sauce had no vinegar in it. My dish would be Asian style.

I’m not going to post this in recipe format, because it was a version one that I’m sure could be improved upon. Basically, I lined the bottom of the crock pot with onions. Added the pork shoulder. Then I made a paste of the following:

  • diced ginger
  • diced garlic
  • oyster sauce
  • some chili powder
  • Chinese 5 Spice Powder

I added that to the pork and mixed it up. Then I added some chicken stock and cooked it for 4 hours, with the first hour on high and the remainder on low. I served the dish on rice. It was excellent.

For an improvised version one, I’m quite proud of myself. And I was able to avoid vinegar and stay low histamine.

Asian style cook slowed pork

The Low Histamine Diet

Well the day finally arrived. Yesterday morning my refrigerator had no ferments at all. For the past few weeks, I have been finishing up all my sauerkraut and kimchi in preparation for my latest dietary test. For the next 30 to 60 days, I will go on a highly restrictive low histamine diet. I’m trying to determine if histamines play a roll in my late night headaches.

There are two groups I will need to restrict. Group one are foods with high levels of histamines, which are primarily fermented foods. Group two are foods that stimulate the body to release higher levels of histamines. The full list is quite extensive. I’m going to tackle the foods that have high levels and that I consume the most. I’ll probably screw this test up a few times, but if I can achieve a 95% or greater reduction, I think I’ll have solid data.

Foods HIGH in Histamines to AVOID

  • Fermented vegetables (kimchi, sauerkraut, etc).
  • Fermented dairy (cheese, yogurt, kefir)
  • Fermented meats (sausage, salami, etc)
  • Fermented alcohol (beer, wine, cider)
  • Fermented soy (natto, miso)
  • Vinegar, Ketchup, Mustard
  • Yeast Food (Marmite, Vegemite)

My kimchi will be missed.

Foods to AVOID that Stimulate the Release of Histamine

  • Bananas
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant
  • Chocolate

The Questionable List

I believe the heavy histamine problems are on the two lists above. These are ones where the consensus was less certain. As the test proceeds, I can keep an eye on these as well.

  • Avocados
  • Shellfish
  • Egg Whites
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts (other than almonds)
  • Canned Fish – This appears to get high histamines from storage, but if consumed upon opening is OK.
  • Spices: cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, anise, nutmeg, curry powder and paprika
  • Black tea
  • Sunflower seeds

This will be the toughest test ever for me, as I consider kimchi and sauerkraut to be essential foods. It doesn’t help that The Art of Fermentation just arrived in my mail.