This is a living document keeping track of my own experience living a low histamine lifestyle. My histamine sensitivity symptoms over the years have included: severe stomach pain, GERD, nighttime reflux (causing enamel erosion and severe tooth pain), increasing levels of anxiety, mood swings, moderate lethargy (aka "brain fog"), depression, joint pain, whole body inflammation, and an overly-full feeling anytime I eat anything.
Some of these may seem small and unrelated, but they'd been plaguing me for years and either disappeared or got markedly better after I went on a low histamine diet & started adding in healing supplements. Like most people dealing with HIT, I was not born with these issue but rather developed them over time.
Since I originally posted this, I've found a multitude of potential contributing factors for my HIT. These range from copper poisoning from my IUD, black mold in my apartment, 20 months of low-dose Isotretinoin, and an apparent genetic predisposition towards histamine issues and inflammation.
I'm still working on getting completely better, but until then, I'll be here. I hope my story helps you on your own health journey.
My HIT Journey
The first time I remember having any symptoms I can associate with my histamine issues was when I went to the dentist complaining of tooth pain. ALL of my teeth hurt, especially when I woke up in the morning, yet I had impeccable oral health.
I was barely 21, and I brushed with a soft toothbrush & fancy toothpaste three times a day; I even flossed nightly. Over the next year the dentist prescribed various sensitive toothpastes, removed all of my wisdom teeth "just in case," and gave me a night guard that I wore religiously.
The next major symptom began when I was traveling to Japan in 2017. I'd been flying since I was a few days old, but for the first time ever, I found myself worried about every dip and shake of the plane. My sister had to grab my hand for most of the flight, and this continued over the course of our trip.
I got my first taste of anxiety that day, but I wouldn't call it that for another few years. Fast forward to May 2020, and I was laying in bed in my childhood home, miserable and scared and in so much pain. My stomach hurt right around my esophagus, and I had SO just had enough.
It was 6am, and for the nth night in a row, I was being kept awake by racing thoughts and stomach pain. That night I vowed to finally start a serious diet that eliminated basically everything that could be triggering me. It had to be my food making me sick.
For just over a week, I went down to just 15 organic foods: sage, rosemary, basil, ginger, himalayan sea salt, olive oil, pasture-raised organic chicken breast, carrots, arugula cauliflower, broccoli, butternut squash, kale, blueberries, raspberries, and coconut milk.
To preface this, a year or so before trying the low histamine diet, a friend had recommended I try an anti-inflammatory diet for my then-bearable gastrointestinal symptoms. That friend has since proven herself correct for the 1000th time by accurately pinpointing the fact that my body was inflamed and just needed a damned break.
So I ate only those 15 foods for one week, and my stomach calmed down immensely. I combined the autoimmune protocol, anti-inflammatory diet, and low histamine diet to get down to those foods, as mentioned in my sample low histamine diet.
May 2020 Snapshot: 40mg esomeprazole & an H2 blocker each night. I'm only 24 years old, and after nine months of taking meds, something was still clearly very wrong, maybe even getting worse. I didn't drink alcohol or eat spicy foods, I wasn't overweight, and I didn't have any physical deformities causing acid reflux. It felt like everything was making me sick, and I was beyond exhausted.
Entering week two of the elimination diet, I very slowly started adding in more foods, all of which were from the approved low histamine foods list sent by a trusty friend. By week four, most of the foods I'd added in were of the actively histamine-lowering variety.
At the end of that week I got several tests and panels done, as ordered by my new doctor, and I felt safe to start reintroducing some of the approved starches & grains, dairy, and eggs. While eggs and all of the starch flours I've added in have worked for me just fine, dairy was a screaming no from my system.
I OD'd on chocolate one night and was up until 6am having a mild anxiety attack. Never. Again. I've now successfully reintroduced lentils & chickpeas, eggs, several types of nuts, coffee, and coconut sugar.
I've learned a lot about supplements and some of my limits, and I'm working to ease myself fully off any daily supplements
my meds (the aforementioned PPIs, which I stayed on for over a year before realizing that my GERD was caused by low stomach acid).
As of April 2021, I found out that one of the root causes of my histamine intolerance was heavy metal poisoning from my copper IUD. I'll discuss this more in upcoming posts, but the gist is that the internal inflammation caused by the IUD (it actually prevents pregnancy by creating this inflamed environment) set off major alarm bells in my body's immune system.
My body then reacted by trying to break down the "intruder," releasing incredible amounts of copper into my body constantly for the three-and-a-half years I had the IUD. This incessant barrage cause my body to store all un-detoxable copper in my soft tissues, where it continued to accumulate and worsen my symptoms, not to mention keeping my entire immune system on edge for YEARS.
In this post I'll keep the focus upon my histamine issues, but there's unavoidable overlap. In the end, my body's attempts to rid itself of the excess copper— along with the mold and isotretinoin stressing my liver— led to an increasingly serious deficiency of most other essential vitamins and minerals in the body, including those needed for producing stomach acid, a.k.a. HCl (Sodium, Potassium, Zinc).
This caused low stomach acid production, which ironically has basically the same symptoms as high stomach acid production. A lack of proper digestion left my gut microbiome way out of whack (again, for years, while living abroad and regularly traveling internationally).
Not to mention the fact that you need stomach acid in order to absorb the nutrients in supplements. So even if I had realized my deficiencies earlier, without addressing the stomach connection I was never going to be able to rebalance. Enter: the histamine connection.
An excess of copper & resulting depletion of minerals has a cascading effect upon the body, affecting hormone production, neurotransmitter function, gastric acid production, and more. The low histamine diet has helped me keep my toxicity symptoms under control because the copper excess actually triggered my histamine sensitivity.
The whole foods-focus of the diet is ideal for healing, especially from inflammation. This diet is full of more easily-digested foods, rich in necessary vitamins and minerals which my body continues to be low on as it detoxes.
Eating low histamine lessens the inflammation going rampant in your body, the potential toxins going into your under-sterilized gut (due to the focus on no-pesticide or organic foods), and forces you to start taking some of the antihistamine supplements that support your body's calming.
Going on such a diet while recovering from copper toxicity or any other poisoning can ease the detox burden upon your adrenals and liver, and help you rid yourself of the heavy metal much more quickly.
Due to my own unique genetic predispositions and how my HIT was triggered, my off-list foods are probably different from your off-list foods. Right now, I'm avoiding all gluten and most dairy (ghee excepted), as well as soy and all other high histamine foods (except small amounts of anti-inflammatory dark chocolate and the occasional spice, where noted).
I've also gotten a bit flexible with my meat, buying some uber expensive uncured, unsweetened bacon from a local shop. I had no reaction to it, so I've kept it in my diet (along with some other types of meat).
I'll keep this page updated as I get results back and attempt to reintroduce other foods (so far, everything else I've reintroduced has been off the low histamine food list linked above). Below is my "before" story, the long steps that got me to the point of even just trying a low histamine diet.
My HIT Timeline
Below is a more detailed timeline of how I got to the point of researching and trying the low histamine diet.
Mid 2017: I got my IUD in a couple montha ago, I'm living abroad, and the "monster" in my tummy every morning demands I eat immediately. I assume that's just how I'm built; everybody's stomach rumbles as soon as they open their eyes!
Late 2017: my teeth start to hurt a lot throughout the day; I assume I must have more cavities, but the dentist finds nothing wrong. My sister asks if I grind my teeth, and I tell her I don't think so. Somehow, I've developed a fear of flying, which I attribute to higher stress levels and control issues.
Early 2018: It's been a few months and the pain in my teeth is only worsening. Anything sweet or acidic is the worst, but water and gum seem to help. I finally make it to the dentist, and before I can ask him a thing he asks if I realize I grind my teeth. 'That must be it,' I thought! The pain subsides for a few months.
Mid 2018: The tooth pain is back. I'm on half-strength accutane again. I attribute my joint pain, dry skin, dry eyes, and weird chest fullness to that & only that.
Late 2018/Early 2019: The tooth pain is really bad; I'm chewing gum all the time and rarely eat sweets or much of anything unless I have gum on hand. I can only brush my teeth in the morning and at night, because I'm basically always chewing xylitol gum.
I have a bit of a breakdown in a yoga class, due to stress from work and lack of communication skills, stomach discomfort making it difficult to exercise, and bad joint pain. I'm incredibly unhappy and anxious, but moving away soon. I decide to soldier through, because surely it'll get better once I leave.
Mid 2019: I get off the accutane and wait for the side effects to subside. It's summertime, so I've taken to planning meal times really carefully so I feel most physically able to work out. It feels like I'm starting to heal, even though my teeth still really hurt for some reason. I can spend more time in the sun, get a clean bill of health following the colonoscopy, and I'm really looking forward to getting out in the world to travel.
Late 2019: I'm still abroad, and my Mom is the one to suggest I might have nighttime reflux. I see a gastroenterologist for an upper endoscopy and an immediate prescription, and then I visit a dentist to see how melted my teeth really are. Over the next nine months, I range from 40mg to 20mg of esomeprazole per day, with some over-the-counter antacids added in.
For the first several months, admittedly, I basically ignored the problem. My anxiety got worse, slowly accumulating with each destination. After hobbling along for several months on the meds, slowly trying to heal my teeth from years of nightly acid baths, my breaking point came in May 2020.
May 2020: I was feeling like a flat version of the person I was in college, always anxious and prone to paranoia and obsessive thinking. My stomach hurt constantly, and absolutely screamed after I ate anything.
By then I'd been sleeping on my back a wedge pillow, like a disturbed vampire, for several months. My racing thoughts prevented me from sleeping until 5am or 6am, when my brain finally forced stop, so I spent many hours each night trying to find a comfortable position to read. I never did.
May 11th, 2020: I start a low histamine diet, and within a couple of days I feel way more clear-headed and most of my horrible bloat is gone. I have enough energy to cook my own meals, and I did so while looking for a new place to live (quite a stressful time, even as I was feeling a bit better).
June 2020: I start this site & move into a new place! I continue to feel better and better, and begin to dive into more research on eating low histamine and the science of what's happening inside me. The more I know, the better & more in control I feel.
September 2020: After an initial healing over the summer, I'm having the worst month of my life and mentally spiraling, with a midnight chocolate binge sending me over the edge. I thought I was developing borderline personality disorder, and after an anxious doctor's appointment, we get the ball rolling on a medical marijuana card.
During that same appointment, I get the hint that maybe it's my IUD wreaking all this havoc. After all the blood tests, stool tests, urine tests, and the many bottles of supplements, the root causes were inside me the whole time.
Winter 2021: I've thrown myself into researching copper toxicity as well as inflammatory and autoimmune disorders. I'm convinced that I'll have detoxed my stored copper and feel all better within a year. If only.
Spring 2021: We've tested my hormones for the nth time and I'm officially diagnosed with PCOS, endometriosis, "adrenal fatigue," and IBS. After a long cooling off period in which I'd nearly seemed to have healed my histamine intolerance, I'm suddenly having reactions all over again.
I attribute these to the stress of once again moving apartments; I go back on a low histamine diet and feel much better. I develop joint pain in my elbows and a bit in my knees, but nothing I can't handle.
Summer 2021: I've once again thrown myself into research, this time on neurotransmitters and naturally boosting your brain (sort of like biohacking), as I add fibromyalgia, mold toxicity, and lead poisoning to my now-confirmed copper poisoning diagnoses. My doc declares me "the most toxic patient she's ever seen," in response to the aforementioned findings.
I see a rheumatologist who tells me that my joint pain isn't severe enough, and he doesn't feel he knows how to help me. I begin what ends up being 4 months of physical therapy that not only hurts immensely, but doesn't help my back pain.
Fall 2021: I start experimenting with amino acid therapy for my neurotransmitter deficiencies, and go back on iron supplements amidst a general detox protocol, which I follow for 3 months. By the end, I feel somewhat better in some ways and somewhat worse in others.
As the weather darkens, I definitely feel more down, but my personal life takes on more stresses, as well. Posts on this site markedly slow down.
December 2021: I got my booster shot in early December, and within a few days I started noticing that my arms were going numb really easily when I slept on my side. By the end of the month my hands were losing dexterity in the cold, and it took hours for feeling to return.
January 2022: At the end of January I spent a whole night awake with uncontrollable tremors, my arms going in & out of feeling, and a terrifying sense of doom. My mom took me to the ER the next morning, and after a visit with a doctor who declared my complains "non-life-threatening," we made an appointment with a neurologist.
This month I start low-dose Naltrexone and my depression very slowly begins to lift, but my anxiety remains concentrated on my arms.
February 2022: I started feeling lightheaded at random times, before we even had our visit with the neurologist, and ended up in the ER once more. A series of 7 spinal MRIs ruled out MS or any other structural cause. My joint pain had gotten much worse, but that felt like the least of my worries. A more comprehensive chronic Lyme Disease panel comes back negative.
I didn't connect the timing of my shots with my symptoms until I desperately read some posts on Reddit that brought up the possibility. While I'm glad I haven't had the disease itself, which would unquestionably have been worse, I do wish I'd been made aware that your immune system could be thrown off and affect you neurologically. On February 8th I start an arthritis supplement protocol.
March 2022: One month later, the arthritis protocol I follow has reduced my arm numbness by about 90% and reduced the joint pain by maybe 40%. My doctor still hasn't ordered repeat tests to verify that the excess lead and copper were removed back in the fall, but I don't really care.
I begin acupuncture, holistic physical therapy for my back, and make an appointment with a rheumatologist at a local hospital. I'm hopeful she may be able to adjust my protocol and stop the rampant inflammation, allowing me to rebuild my muscles and heal. I believe I develop an esophageal ulcer sometime in the middle of the month, though it heals over within about two weeks.
April 2022: I resettle back with my parents after a stressful roommate situation and very up & down recovery makes it unreasonable to live alone for now. My osteopath has me start drinking lemon juice in warm water first thing every morning, which actually seems to help regulate my bowels while I take it every day (though I always need to chew xylitol gum immediately afterwards).
May 2022: I go on a very stressful but necessary business trip, and end up with 3 weeks of diarrhea, on and off comensurate with how often I drink my morning lemon juice. It takes many days of only almonds, water, and bone broth to calm my stomach down enough to be able to eat my usual safe meals. I can't really focus on anything else.
For a few days after that it still takes a careful combination of cannabis and DAO to be able to consume most foods I tolerated before, but then things settle down. I have a hopeful visit with the rheumatologist at the end of the month, but tests reveal nothing (unsurprising).
Summer 2022: I go back on the lemon juice each morning for two months, then try to get off it for a week and quickly return to it. Eating low histamine definitely calms my stomach, but just in case my nutritionist puts me on a broad-spectrum natural anti-viral (about 20 different herbs combined in a 3-pill packet you take twice a day).
Once that's done and I still have a sensitive stomach, I focus on stress reduction and slowly transition (over a month later) to taking a different set of herbs from my acupuncturist, who basically became my GP after my own functional medicine doc made the 6th expensive mistake in a year.
The herbs completely stopped my food cravings, but made me sharply anxious and depressed, so back to the drawing board for me.
Fall 2022: Over the course of the fall, I feel like cannabis keeps less & less control over my stomach pain and the rising feeling of depression/unease/anxiety that seems like it's both a part of whatever's going on with me and a symptom of it.
My stomach pains get worse all the while, and I start tai chi and regular meditation just as I begin having worsening heart palpitations. They sort of seem to happen right as I finish dessert, sometimes after eating higher histamine foods, which I'd started to do since my diet didn't seem to help my symptoms anymore.
After my second attack in which my heartbeat ranges from 90 to 240+BMP while just sitting, I head to the ER for the third time this year.
They don't have any advice at the ER, and by the time I'm seen I feel mostly better anyway, so we finally leave around midnight. After my emergency trip, I see a cardiologist who confirms my heart rate and blood pressure are all over the place, but my heart is strong and structurally sound. All anyone can say is to reduce my stress levels; well, easier said than done.
So I read more about fighting depression through diet, and in early October I start a low FODMAP version of the low histamine diet, also going low sugar, grain-free, nightshade-free, nut- & legume-free, and dairy-free. There wasn't much left to eat.
By late October I'm still having semi-constant stomach pain, have had another gastroenterologist appointment with no leads, and am feeling more depressed about finding answers than ever.
November: I nearly throw in the towel and go on antidepressants in November, because the black feeling gets really bad. Then my acupuncturist recommends the deflame diet, which is anti-inflammatory rather than specifically anti-histamine (which is anti-inflammatory in a different way). It's no grains, little to no sugar, and no omega 6-rich seeds or their oils.
It's also generally nothing fried or processed, so there's very much overlap with low histamine (I still avoid almost all high histamine foods, with bone broth and the occasional chocolate being an exception). Cutting out grains and sugar was the only real difference, but it's made all the difference.
I had the flu from mid-November into early December, but each day I felt the black feeling fade and bloat in my belly calmed.
December: I had several days off from being sick, and then someone brought covid into my household and I didn't realize it for four days, when I lost my sense of taste & smell. Before that I had a fever for a few days, but the fun kind where you don't really feel the pain and are a bit floaty.
The day after my week of tasting nothing, when I could finally eat again, I broke a tooth and could only have bone broth for two days. In recovering from covid over the last few days of the year, finally I've felt myself coming out of a bad place.
It was lighter version of that blackness & anxiety that I've felt on and off this year, which came back for a bit while I was trapped inside with covid. The deflame diet seems to be it for me. But I'm also working on reconnecting with friends, getting back to light exercise, and finding my place in my community, and things to do outside of the house.
I sort of got a diagnosis, as well, as I seem to have some form of JAG-A with MCAS, though that's just a name for all the symptoms I've talk about above. I've been following this version of grain-free low histamine into Spring 2023, doing my best to eat low sugar and avoid high omega-6 plant oils.
February 2023: As I travel for vacation and over-indulge in sweets and lactaid-assisted ice cream, I start to gain back any weight I've lost in the grain-free diet. This is the beginning of some burnout, which I do my best to stave off over the next couple of months.
March 2023: I fall off the dietary wagon a bit with a lot more sugar than usual, as I deal with burnout for some weeks, plus a long work trip. It takes a lot of snacks to get me through a week-long trip, but having to eat out so many times did not help matters.
April, May, June 2023: I have a busy social calendar, but start to work on relaxing activities along with meditation & brain retraining, and hopefully this will help me get my life back consistently. Starting my Master's program has put a dent in my time and raised my stress levels, but I'm learning SO much, and a lot is starting to click into place.
My own breaking point came in Spring 2020, when my emotional instability created a rift between me and my family. They didn't recognize me anymore, and I certainly didn't recognize myself.
They couldn't understand why I'd become such a lazy, irritable, sad human, and the transformation after one week eating low histamine is the reason why I started this site. My story is still being written, but maybe it can help someone else understand their own mysterious health issues.
If any of these ailments sounds familiar to you, consider trying a low histamine diet. It could literally save your life (not to mention your sanity).
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