Is it Allergy, Candida or Histamine Intolerance? It can be kind of hard to tell with symptoms running parallel on so many fronts. Maybe there is a connection, or maybe one leads to the other? I think that could be the case for some if not many. Let me tell you why.
But first her is a list of Histamine Intolerance symptoms:
Difficulty falling asleep, easy arousal
Vertigo or dizziness
Arrhythmia, or accelerated heart rate
Difficulty regulating body temperature
Nasal congestion, sneezing, difficulty breathing
Abnormal menstrual cycle
Here are Candida symptoms:
Skin and nail fungal infections (such as athlete’s foot or toenail fungus)
Feeling tired and worn down or suffering from chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or diarrhea
Autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Ulcerative colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma or Multiple sclerosis
Difficulty concentrating, poor memory, lack of focus, ADD, ADHD and brain fog
Skin allergy issues such as eczema, psoriasis, hives, and rashes
Irritability, mood swings, anxiety, or depression
Vaginal infections , urinary tract infections, rectal itching or vaginal itching
Severe seasonal allergies or itchy ears
Strong sugar and refined carbohydrate cravings
And here are allergy symptoms including food allergies:
Hives (reddish, swollen, itchy areas on the skin)
Eczema (a persistent dry, itchy rash)
Redness of the skin or around the eyes
Itchy mouth or ear canal
Nausea or vomiting
Nasal congestion or a runny nose
Slight, dry cough
Odd taste in mouth
Severe allergic reaction:
Obstructive swelling of the lips, tongue, and/or throat
Shortness of breath or wheezing
Drop in blood pressure (feeling faint, confused, weak, passing out)
Loss of consciousness
A weak or “thread” pulse
Sense of “impending doom”
As you can see, there are many overlaps for all.
About a year ago my husband became very ill due to a reaction to a prescription medication. He developed severe itching, welts and hives all over his body, with rashes that looked like 3rd degree burns. It took several weeks for the reaction to appear. This was a reaction to a medication called Alpurinol and what happened to him is a known potential side effect, happening to 2% of the population and it has the potential to kill you. Thankfully he made the connection early enough that it was not life threatening, but he was still miserable. It wasn’t easy making the connection because of the very long reaction time. I think most of us think within hours not weeks if there is a problem.
Looking for help, weeks turned into months, with countless doctors having no idea what to do or even what was happening. Again we found ourselves struggling to find the answers on our own. With tons of research and examining the rashes as they grew larger and larger, looking at time lines we realized that this medication had seriously changed something in my husband and after about 4 months of suffering my husband began to become suspicious that food was a problem now. It was not at all easy to figure out, because he would eat the usual foods with no immediate reaction as you might expect in an allergy. Then after one of our favorite meals, mexican food with literally bowls of red salsa fresca, the following day at least 10-12 hours after the meal he was particularly broken out. Lips swelled, they cracked, welts on his face and torso, red raw rash on his legs and he itched miserably everywhere. That was the moment his research went to food. What was odd was that long delay, so it didn’t seem like a true food allergy, so what was it?
After pouring through information he eventually came upon histamine intolerance. The information was pretty scarce, but thanks to Yasmina, the Low Histamine Chef we began to understand what was happening to my husband. He was not allergic to specific foods per say, but he had become sensitive to histamines or in other words, his tolerance to histamines had been significantly lowered somehow by that medication. An understanding of histamine intolerance is virtually unknown here in the US, but understood a bit more in Europe. When doctors were asked about it here, most knew nothing. My husband even sought the help of a well-known allergist in the San Diego area and was given nothing. He did recommend an allergy rotation diet which my husband tried, but it wasn’t really very useful.
There is a neat little analogy of low histamine tolerance using a bucket. Histamines are important to a healthy body, in fact our body actually produces histamines in our stomach and there is more than 1 kind of histamine. There are additional histamines produced as a response to a true allergen. So everyone has a histamine bucket which may be a different size depending on your health, genetics, etc. As long as those histamines stay within your bucket all is well, but if the histamines overflow, than there can be problems. For my husband, taking that medication Alpurenol, his bucket somehow got very, very small and his body could barely handle the histamines it was already producing let alone any others that were either coming from the foods he was eating or additional stress or his usual seasonal allergies. His bucket was constantly overflowing causing him to be broken out in hives, welts, blisters horrible rashes.
Histamine intolerance was making so much sense. Something we did not know is that many foods are high in histamines naturally. What can make things even worse is, histamines multiply rapidly when food is becomes aged and yes this includes your favorite leftovers. This means food in cans or jars should be avoided too. It also means that tasty aged beef steak. Fermented foods are extremely high in histamines, like pickles, sauerkraut, and vinegar. Foods like sausages are very high in histamines. Once my husband made this connection both of us immediately went on the Low Histamine Diet. I will explain that a little further on.
Almost immediately his symptoms started settling down. The itching was not constant and he was finding some relief. The Low Histamine Diet is rigorous though. You really have to cut so much out of your diet. Everything must be fresh. It was so hard to eat like that and it was exhausting for me as I had to really put thought into what was for dinner. There was no opening a jar of organic spaghetti sauce and pouring it over organic rice noodles any more. Everything started from scratch. Even beans, I had to learn how to soak beans overnite, I had never had done that before. My first bean dish…..well, the beans were kind of crunchy. It was work, hard to find new things to put on our plates and I do say our plates, because I did it with my husband. There was no way I could sit down with a big old steak while he would eat yet another piece of grilled chicken and rice. Thank goodness he likes chicken. He did feel better, but he seemed to kind of plateau and not progress any further. I was beginning to think, is this it for him for the rest of his life and mine?
Then one weekend I took a class. I had the opportunity to ask the instructor a question about what had been going on with my husband. We had been using essential oils, loving them right up to the moment my husband got sick. My husband loved them every bit as much as I did. We tried to use them to sooth his skin, but now it seemed what had worked before was now making things worse. I was so confused and I asked her about a time I had given my husband an AromaTouch and it seemed like right away things spiraled out of control. The first word out of her mouth was Candida! She said “I bet you he is overwhelmed with Candida.” Hmmmmm, now that was a thought. Through the rest of the day, she mentioned Candida on and off, the importance of detoxing and how really important it was to have a healthy gut. She went into some explanation of what happens when leaky gut becomes a problem. About 70% of our immunity happens in our gut and if the gut is not healthy than it will often show up on the skin or in the lungs. The skin is our largest organ and almost always when there are skin issues, it can usually be traced back to Candida AND Leaky Gut. Ding, ding, ding…..bells start going off in my head.
I had been kind of thinking along these lines, considering that maybe what was happening on the outside of my husband was happening on the inside too. Maybe his gut was full of these red raw sores and holes, with all kinds of debris leaking into his blood stream due to a serious case of leaky gut. When food particles end up in your blood stream where they don’t belong, the immune system starts an all out war and a skin reaction can be the outward manifestation of what is going on on the inside. That night after speaking with Dr. Sue I was very excited, because I know for a certainty Candida has been an issue for my husband, he craves carbohydrates like no man I have ever known.
I told my husband I think we need to work on healing your gut. I had a thought…..if leftovers are not good when you have histaminne intolerance, then undigested food slowly moving through the gut can’t be good either. Technically, it’s a leftover and the histamines would be multiplying like crazy right inside one’s body. We set a new course. Stay on the low histamine diet, but we were going to do a Candida cleanse too! Now add a Candida Diet to the Low Histamine Diet and that wipes out about another 1/2 of the already extremely limited diet he was on. On the Candida Diet, the goal is to starve the Candida which feeds off of sugar. That absolutely meant no white flour or sugar. We really don’t eat that anyways, but to really starve the Candida we decided to cut out all fruits, any sugary veggies, like carrots and green beans, potatoes of all sorts and rice, even brown rice which is our staple.
We eat only organic grass fed, free range fresh meats whenever possible, large amounts of veggies (raw as often as possible), juiced just about every day and some dairy. I invested in a good juicer and a Vitamix. The juicer is a Omega Vert. It works great for me, takes little counter space and is much more powerful than what I had before. It is a slow moving auger which is preferrable. To be sure the food was being digested real well, we started taking a good digestive enzyme with every meal, 1-2 depending on how much cooked food was in the meal. The more raw food, the more natural enzymes are present. We ate giant salads, full of different lettuces (none of that bagged stuff, by the way, because it is also growing histamines). What we did for dressing, I will tell you further on down. My husband taking various carefully chosen supplements to support not only the healing process of his gut, but to boost his entire immune system. Caution had to be taken beause supplements can very often contain ingredients that are high in histamines.
The results were crazy amazing. In just 2-3 days, his itching had nearly disappeared. He had no welts or hives. His legs were still very sensitive, but became less so with every passing day. 10 days into this Candida/Low Histamine Diet, we both started working on cleansing the GI tract for about 10 days. When that was completed we began replenishing the gut flora with a super high quality probiotic. The cleanse took 30 days, but by the end, not only had my husband lost about 20-25 lbs, but he was feeling almost normal. His legs were still quite scarred and sensitive to the touch, but he had not had any breakouts since starting the cleanse. That was so exciting. I benefited too, with people making comments that I had also taken another leap toward a healthier me, it could be seen in my eyes, my energy level and the enthusiasm for what was going on around me. I also lost 2 dress sizes!!
It was at this point that we decided to go outside the box just a little, we had been so good and we needed to celebrate a little. Before we did, we had read about an enzyme that blocks histamines called Histamine Block. Every time we went out of his box, he would take 1-2 of these little capsules depending on how far out of the box we went. One of the first tests was an anniversary party for some dear friends. Their kids had invited about 20 of our old friends and made us the most beautiful dinner. My husband ate bits of all of it, with the one exception of passing on the wine (super high in histamines). He took the histamine blocker at the beginning of the meal and somewhere in the middle. He did great, and maybe once a week from there on out, we would go out to eat. Still choices were made very carefully, choosing grilled fish, a steak, steamed veggies, salad with lemon and olive oil, and a baked potato with sour cream and chives! We even had our favorite Mexican food, but he opted for a Green Salsa Verde which is usually made with tomatillos rather than tomatoes. My husband ate his favorite carnitas, grilled veggies, a little refried beans and mexican rice, but avoided the cheese. We even tried sushi, with a touch of soy sauce. We love our sushi here in California. My husband absolutely loves these enzymes, they have given in the oppurtunity do be able to continue doing one of his favorite things, eat yummy foods again.
At one point I think he got a little to confident though when we had to go out-of-town unexpectedly for a really fast trip. We covered 2000 miles in all, 2 nights in a hotel and a lot of restaurant food in just 4 days. The turn around was very busy and we were tired. I remember him having an omelette with cheese….bad idea. There were a few other bad choices too and he started breaking out pretty bad again. It was clear that even though he was doing so much better, things were not back to normal. In fact we have a feeling the normal for him still involved Candida and some Leaky Gut prior to this whole ugly incident. He has always had what he thought were allergies that made him itch all over.
So back to square one we went, total Low Histamine Diet. We kept it up while keeping up with supporting the gut using the probiotics, supplements, and juicing. We also got another probiotic ProBiota Infant which is an infant probiotic to replace organisms we should have at birth. He regained the lost ground in about 2 weeks.
The real test came when we took a vacation to Puerto Villarta in May, one year ago. Nearly 11 months since this whole ordeal had begun. Armed with the Histamine blocker and some Benadryl capsules and cream we set out on our vacation. We really, really needed this. A margarita made with tequilla with a great Mexican meal was what he wanted most. We were gone a week. He still tried to be very careful, took the histamine blocker with every meal and enjoyed himself some margaritas, quite a few actually!! We laid around, read books and he floated around in the salt water pool for 6 days. His legs cleared up really nicely, which makes us think the salt water was very healing and he barely itched at all. At this point he was so far outside the box I can’t even tell how close to back to normal this was! No backsliding at all.
Last night he ate a little bit of tomatoes in his salad for the first time since early November 2013. It’s been a couple of years now, and I have no doubt he is not out of the woods entirely. I still believe it could be another year before his gut is really healthy and functioning as it should. A lot of inflammation comes along with Leaky Gut and it will take some time to reverse all of that. His body can recover and I bet yours can too.
So how far did he have to cut back on foods? First it was the Low Histamine Diet and the food list looked like this. Here is one of the first Low Histamine Diet books we purchased. It was a very helpful jumping off place and gave me some good ideas.
Foods to Avoid (To start at least):
No canned or ready-made meals
No fermented foods, pickles, sauerkraut, etc
No alcohol especially those that are fermented which is most
No mature cheeses
No smoked meats like salami or sausage
No shellfish or crustaceans like shrimp
No beans or pulses like chickpeas or soybeans
No tomatoes or anything made from
No foods with preservatives or artificial colors
Foods You Can Have:
Use organic if at all possible
Most fresh fruits and veggies (the riper a fruit or veggie must be, the more likely it may cause issues)
Fresh meats (cooled or frozen fresh)
Fresh caught fish (flash frozen is ok)
Fresh skinless chicken (cooled or frozen)
Rice, oats, millet and rye Pasta made of rice
Fresh milk or dairy products
Organic ice cream
Most cooking oils
Most fresh herbs (garlic, basil, rosemary)
Certain essential oils that are safe to consume are a perfect seasoning option (oregano, rosemary, thyme, ginger, etc}
Here is a more comprehensive LIST of foods. There are others and sometimes they say slightly different things, which only means we are not exactly the same and some things may bother you more or less than others.
Think fresh, fresh, fresh. I haven’t opened a can for dinner in months. Think about preparing smaller portions because you aren’t going to want to eat leftovers the next day. It was with the list above that my husband found quite a bit of relief, but reached that plateau, far from competely well and he was stuck there. When we began working on the Candida Diet to heal the Leaky Gut the foods listed below were also removed.
Candida Diet: Foods to Avoid:
All refined carbs
Any carbohydrate that will turn into sugar, so no rice or other grains.
No sweet veggies like green beans
No starches like potatoes or sweet potatoes
This was so, so difficult, but we made it work and it was so worth the effort. Progress was significant when combined with a candida cleanse. We tried to find ways to have fun. One night we went to dinner, we hadn’t been in a very long time. We went to a little steak house in our area. We ordered steaks, tableside salads so we could pick what went in, and steamed veggies with no carrots. For salad dressing we asked for olive oil and lots of lemons. Lemons are citrus and on the do not eat list, primarily because they are what is called “histamine liberators”. So if a meal has histamines in it, the lemon will liberate histamines in excess causing you problems. So if the meal is low histamine we found my husband could have as much lemon as he liked. We also had a drink with club soda, gin or vodka which are not generally fermented, organic stevia for a touch of sweetness and lots of limes. Our waiter was awesome and really went out of his way to help us enjoy our meal despite the stringent food restrictions. We had fun, it was a nice evening out and my husband had zero reactions.
I learned to cook some pretty good stuff which I will share with you in a later post. Living along the southern California coast there is a way of eating here that with recipes coming from Europe I needed to doctor a lot of stuff up. Fresh spices are so important and lots of them. Stay tuned and I will add some low histamine recipes.
Food is not just nutritious, but it is a very social thing. When you can’t eat anything, crazy as this sounds, people become isolated. Depression is a very big problem when it seems like there might be no hope for you. Don’t lose heart, I am in constant amazement at the body’s ability to recover, to renew and replenish itself. Give it the tools it needs and in time it can heal itself.
Please keep in mind that there are clearly true food allergies such as a peanut allergy which could be life threatening. This is a very different issue than the one discussed here.
I am a Holistic Health Coach. I am not a Physician, just a wife, a mom, and a grandma who loves learning natural health care. I love to research, and I share that as well as personal experiences & the experiences of friends and family with all of you.
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