Histamine Intolerance: When Allergies Get Out of Hand

In this day and age, the food we eat and the lifestyles we lead don’t always leave us feeling so great. Headaches, constipation, lethargy, gas, bloating, etc. are things we’ve all experienced at some point. But nailing down the exact cause of our symptoms can be a real challenge—oftentimes they can signify anything from daily wear and tear to a more serious medical issue. So how do you know which one it is?

The first step towards finding the answer is usually to start the Paleo diet, which keeps from us eating the foods that tend to lead to the annoying symptoms listed above. Many people will find their quality of life transformed after being on the Paleo diet for an appropriate length of time. But if you’ve given the Paleo diet a try and your symptoms remain, it might be time to look at some other explanations for that persistent feeling of illness. One of those explanations is histamine intolerance.

Before I talk about histamine intolerance, I want to say a bit about what histamines are and the purpose they serve. Histamines are chemicals that we come into contact with in a few different ways. The first and most common way is when the body itself releases histamines. This happens any time an allergen triggers the immune system. Once released, the histamines leave us with runny noses, rashes, itchy throats, and the other typical allergy symptoms most of us know all too well. We also come into contact with histamines when 1) we eat foods containing them and 2) certain bacteria in our guts produce them. 

To keep histamine production under control, our bodies produce an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO breaks down these histamines, subduing the allergic reaction. But some people have a deficiency of DAO, which means histamines are allowed to build up inside the body over time. Histamine buildup can lead to a variety of symptoms including migraines, digestive upset (constipation/diarrhea), nausea, and low blood pressure, in addition to all the other allergy symptoms listed above. In other words, you may have what feels like an allergic reaction but in the absence of any allergen at all. We call this histamine intolerance. 

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Histamine intolerance, unfortunately, is often hard to diagnose because most of these symptoms (runny nose, headache, constipation, etc.) are nothing out of the ordinary. However there is at least one give-away to the histamine intolerant—they always respond poorly to foods that contain high levels of histamines. Although your body produces them as well, our biggest histamine source tends to be the food we eat. In reality, its not the food that contains the histamines—it’s the bacteria living on the food. Anything aged or fermented will contain a lot of these histamine-producing bacteria—think yogurt, aged cheese, cured meat, alcohol, vinegar, fish and seafood, mushrooms, dried fruit, and more. Sometimes even leftovers contain enough bacteria to cause problems. 

However, a person’s reaction to specific foods can very widely. For example, someone might be able to eat fish from one store without a problem, but suffer terribly after eating fish from another grocery store or restaurant.  There are also foods that don’t actually contain histamines themselves, but rather cause our bodies to produce more histamines, like spinach, citrus fruit, pineapple, pork, shellfish, chocolate, and nuts. Individual sensitivities to these foods often vary greatly, but most of the time people are primarily affected by only the very high-histamine foods, which like I said, includes anything aged or fermented.

The best way to diagnose histamine intolerance is to follow a customized histamine-elimination diet for four weeks. After that time, the patient should reintroduce the eliminated foods to see if there is any noticeable difference in well-being. A food journal and the guidance of a medical practitioner can be valuable tools in diagnosing histamine intolerance. If you want to know more about what foods should be avoided in a histamine-elimination diet, please see the following link: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/5/1185/T3.expansion.html

If you believe high-histamine foods might be behind your symptoms, there are a couple things you can do to feel healthy again. In addition to avoiding the foods containing the most histamine, you’ll want to make sure your meat is as fresh as possible or frozen as soon as possible after slaughter. It’s also important to pay attention to your gut health. Like I said earlier, some of the bacteria in our guts produce histamines. If the bacteria population in our guts becomes imbalanced (due to taking antibiotics, eating the wrong foods, etc.), then histamine buildup can become a problem. Taking particular probiotics, like Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, can help suppress this histamine release. Other helpful supplements are Vitamin B6, copper, and Vitamin C. These nutrients encourage a healthy population of DOA, which again, eliminates histamines. 

At this point in time, scientists are unsure just how much of the population is histamine intolerant. If you’re having allergy symptoms accompanied by digestive upset, headaches, low blood pressure, etc. for no apparent reason, you might be one of those affected. Luckily, simply giving your diet a little more attention can often alleviate the symptoms of histamine intolerance. The best way to find out more is to contact your healthcare practitioner about crafting a histamine-elimination diet and reintroduction to see the difference for yourself. 

How Low of a Low Carb Diet is Correct for You?

As most of you know, I am a strong proponent of the Paleo lifestyle. My practice is very Paleo focused. Paleo eating leans heavily on vegies, fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs and grass fed protein. It strongly suggests a very limited consumption of grains, simple carbs and little dairy. Having said that, there is an important place for carbohydrates in your diet. They play are critical roles in many aspects of our health and metabolism. So the real questions is “What is the correct about of carbs you should be consuming?” This is the first of two news letters that will examine living a truly healthy life in relationship to the role carbs play in our diet.

Chances are, you have, at least once, been solicited to buy into some sort of miracle diet touting low-carb high protein intake as a fast and painless way of losing weight, such as Atkins or Southbeach. Many of you may even have entertained trying out this kind of extreme diet for yourself.  What most people don’t realize is that carb-intake can affect everything from your gut to your brain. Have your been feeling sluggish, anxious, or depressed? Having problems with digestion? These issues and more can all be influenced by carb-intake. When you choose to go low-carb, you are actually inviting a host of risks upon yourself. Let’s explore how to clarify the low-carb myth:

Let’s begin with the basics. For the sake of simplicity, carbohydrates are sugars, fibers, and starches. They can be found in a huge variety of foods including bread, potatoes, beans, milk, vegetables, pasta, and fruits, with the unhealthiest carbs being found in highly processed, refined foods like white bread, pastries and soda. When you eat any carb-containing food your body is provided with glucose, which is converted to energy. Our bodies need this energy to support daily bodily functions and physical activity. However, choosing unhealthy and too easily digested carbs (like white bread and soda) is a proven cause of weight gain, diabetes, and even heart disease (Harvard). In light of this new-age plague of obesity and heart disease that has stricken the country, it is no surprise that low-carb diets have been thrown into the spotlight in the past decade or so.

Low-carb diets are, obviously, based on limiting carbohydrate intake, while also encouraging consumption of foods high in protein and fat, like meat, eggs, and cheese. Most diets will give you a certain percentage of your daily calorie intake that should come from carbs. A diet low in carbohydrates would typically require somewhere around 10-20% of your daily calories to come from carbs (whereas the typical American will consume 45%-65% of calories a day from carbs) (Mayoclinic). These diets can be quite tricky, as avoiding carbs is surprisingly hard to do for most people. Imagine going to the grocery store and having to walk past all the grains, beans, nuts, fruits, pastas and starchy vegetables!

However, ad campaigns and the media will have you believe that managing to attain the sort of excessive discipline a low-carb diet requires can have great pay-offs. Carbs, particularly refined ones, can cause a quick rise in blood sugar and subsequently an increase in insulin, which can then lead to an increase in hunger and naturally, weight gain (UMM). Therefore avoiding carbs supposedly forces the body to burn stored fat for energy due to lower insulin levels, which in turn encourages weight loss (Mayoclinic). Some people have reported shedding up to 15 pounds in two weeks on the Atkins diet. However, it would be a fallacy to judge diets based on only the first few weeks of trials, for a lot can change—and reverse—when held to the test of time (US News). That being said, if a low-carb diet sounds a little too good to be true to you, you’re absolutely right! The following is a carefully researched list of what really takes place when you make the choice to go low-carb:

-As I hinted at before, low-carb diets seem a bit less promising when evaluated over long periods of time. In the short term, much of what’s shed on low-carb diets is actually just water-weight (US news). Most studies find that, after 12-24 months, low-carb diets don’t produce significantly more weight-loss when compared to diets based on mere increases in protein-intake unaccompanied by a carb decrease (Mayoclinic).

-A sudden and drastic decrease in carb-intake can inspire some pretty bad side effects including weakness, fatigue, bad breath, and headache. Severely restricted carb-intake has also been shown to result in vitamin or mineral deficiencies and/or bone loss over time (Mayoclinic). Further, carbohydrates contain valuable probiotics that help keep our guts healthy, so avoiding them could lead to an alteration of gut-flora, which often manifests as diarrhea or constipation. (Kresser).

-If you engage in moderate exercise several times a week, restricting your carb-intake can lead to severely damaging conditions, including but not limited to: decreased thyroid output, decreased testosterone, impaired cognitive function, suppressed immune function, and slowed metabolism. In other words, depriving your body of one of its main sources of energy is likely to make you feel sick and sluggish, and inspire more than just your average bad mood.

-Women are particularly prone to experiencing the negative side effects of carb deficiencies. Unbeknownst to many, low-carb diets can disrupt hormone production, leading to a stopped or irregular menstrual cycle, more body fat, and, more gravely, lowered fertility, hypoglycemia, anxiety, and depression (Precision Nutrition). 

-And finally, while low-carb diets almost always promise you heart-healthy benefits, a report from the American Heart Association concluded that there is not enough evidence to say whether or not diets low in carbohydrates are, in fact, good for the heart (Mayoclinic).

Given the evidence, it is safe to say that low-carb diets are not a good choice for most people, despite all that jazz you may hear about the Paleo diet and carb-free diets being “man’s original way of eating.” 

I would like to stress that, regardless of whether you need to diet or not, every one of you should be aware of the amount of carbs you are in fact ingesting. Many people who experience physical and mental ailments may not consider the possibility that the culprit is their diet; even worse, many are blissfully unaware of how skewed their diet is from the national recommendation, and how profound an effect these small divergences can have on the body. So if you find yourself suffering from any of the aforementioned symptoms (lethargy, indigestion, anxiety, etc.) please stay tuned for part two of this newsletter, which will be out in December and contain a guide on how to find your optimal carb–intake, without having to go to any extremes.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Dining with IBS: An Uncomfortable Date Indeed

For those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), eating out can be a jungle expedition, fraught with danger, unexpected twists, and improvised back up strategies. The sufferer calls ahead to ensure there are suitable food options, ingests caustic medications with potential side effects that range from extreme constipation to heart attack, and drives a separate car that can serve as a getaway vehicle. At the restaurant they must nonchalantly nudge the dining party towards a table near a bathroom, and pounce on the seat with easiest entry and exit path. During the meal they must be vigilantly self-aware, constantly assessing their evolving physical state as the food digests. Only when the meal is over and the bill is paid can an IBS sufferer breathe a sigh of relief. A leisurely dining experience is never so simple for a person with IBS.

IBS is not restricted to digestive discomfort- it affects the way we live. The stress of IBS can lead to physical and emotional debilitation. However, we do not have to passively accept IBS or merely numb the symptoms. It is possible to combat IBS at its root and completely eradicate it from our lives. This month’s blogs will offer a simple 3-step solution for dealing with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Please call 734-726-0153 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation. At Digestive Health Ann Arbor we are known for providing professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide people towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Chemical-Soaked Industrial Food: Tough Questions, Real Answers

Why are chemicals so pervasive in industrial foods?

The increased usage of chemicals in food production means more money for agribusinesses. With each new protein or hormone, the agribusiness is able to patent and gain exclusive sales rights. There is more money to be made off of engineered foods than foods that grow and reproduce naturally. 

Don't these chemicals protect the crop from pests and create a more stable food system?

Though this is certainly a selling point from agribusinesses, the usage of pesticides, herbicides, and genetically engineered crops has not created a more stable food system. The long-term effects of these chemicals on humans have not been adequately studied. Additionally, the increasing crop homogenization and decrease in species diversification leaves us vulnerable to a pest, virus or bacteria that could wipe out an entire crop. Though the chemicals do prevent pests in the short-term, the long-term public health effects are much more detrimental.

How does chemical exposure in food consumption effect our children's bodies?

Since 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tracts, the foods we eat along with the chemicals they contain significantly impact our health. As these foods travel down the intestines, they can corrode the “pipes” much in the same way that chemical toxins corrode plumbing. The damage inflicted can leave a child vulnerable to a long list of autoimmune disorders such as food allergies, asthma, and ADD/ADHD, among many others.

What can I do to help protect my family? 5 Steps Towards A More Secure Diet:

  1. Educate yourself and others about industrial food.
  2. Eat a healthy, unprocessed diet.
  3. Buy local, organic fruits and vegetables.
  4. Avoid meat and dairy products that have been treated with hormones or antibiotics.
  5. Get a food allergy test for family members that display signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Detecting Food Allergies: What Every Parent Needs to Know

12 Signs and Symptoms of a Food Allergy

  1. hives
  2. itching
  3. rash (eczema)
  4. behavioral/temper changes
  5. swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or eyes
  6. diarrhea
  7. vomiting
  8. cramps
  9. itching and tightness of throat
  10. difficulty breathing (asthma)
  11. wheezing
  12. in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is an immune reaction to a protein usually found in food that the body perceives as a foreign invader.

Can Children Outgrow Food Allergies?

Some children may outgrow their food allergy, though evidence increasingly suggests that autoimmune disorders such as asthma, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis, among others, may result.

What Can I do to Keep My Family Safe?

  1. Cut “frankenfoods”

Manufactured by agribusinesses with suspect synthetic proteins, preservatives and dyes, these processed foods are built with foreign additives that our bodies often reject, resulting in allergic reactions and many other health issues.

  1. Eat real food

Local, organic fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products are usually the cleanest and safest nutrient sources. Support these alternatives by shopping at farmer's markets.

  1. Food Allergy Blood Test

Simple, reliable, and cost-effective, these food allergy tests can quickly detect up to 96 possible food allergens particular to any one person. If a loved one is displaying the signs and symptoms of a potential food allergy, this is the quickest and easiest detection method.

Dramatic Rise in Hospitalizations: Children with Food Allergies Dramatic Rise in Hospitalizations: Children with Food Allergies Dramatic Rise in Hospitalizations: Children with Food Allergies

A 265% Increase in the Past 10 Years

Since 1998, there has been a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergies among children under 18, according to a 2008 CDC report. In ten short years, the number of children in grave danger due to consumption of a food allergen has nearly tripled. What is causing this unprecedented increase, and what is being done to prevent the unimaginable from happening to our nations' children?

A “Typical” Breakfast Sends a Child to the Emergency Room

Unfortunately, not much can be done. Robyn O'Brien, a former food analyst and mother of four, found this out the hard way. One morning over breakfast, her life changed forever. Her youngest daughter suffered an acute allergic reaction to her standard breakfast of Eggo waffles and was rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, O'Brien's daughter survived, but the mother's confidence in the nation's food system did not.

Over 3 Million Child Sufferers

To O'Brien's astonishment, she learned that an unbelievable 3 million children now suffer from food allergies. Unfortunately, these trends are not merely related to a general population increase. It is the very food we feed our families that is turning their immune systems against them.

3 Shocking Discoveries

In her search for answers, O'Brien made three surprising discoveries:

  1. Many food allergies are caused by synthetic proteins manufactured and inserted into our crops – proteins which were never tested for possible side effects.
  2. An allergic reaction to food is not only related to possible genetic predisposition, but an industry that willingly experiments on it's unsuspecting consumers.
  3. Our government's response to the food industry's frankenfoods is “safe until proven dangerous.”

How Many Children Sacrificed?

How many more children will be sent to the hospital before we realize the food is not safe? As more and more money is spent on disease management instead of economic growth, our international competitiveness dwindles.

Defending Our Nation's Children

Though never a foodie herself, Robyn O'Brien has become what many call “Erin Brokovich” of the healthy food movement. She recognizes that this is an issue that bridges the gap between progressive and conservative. Democrats, Republicans and independents alike all have children that they love and for whom they want the best. As an economist, she reminds us that we must ensure the future of our nation is in strong, healthy hands. 

U.S. Lags Behind Europe in Celiac Disease Knowledge

Did you know that 1 in 133 people in the U.S has celiac disease? (Archives of Internal Medicine, published 10 February 2003)

Unfortunately, only about 1 out of every 4,700 Americans has been diagnosed, which means 97% of cases go undetected in our country. Why is this? Dr. Alessio Fassano, the Director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland, points to lack of research by medical professionals in the United States.

"Equal recognition of celiac disease has been frustratingly slow to reach the U.S," says a colleague of Dr. Fassano, Dr. Guandalini, who trained in Italy. "In Europe, it typically takes a few weeks to go from the first symptoms to a diagnosis. In the U.S., the average lag time between onset and diagnosis is 11 years." If ever.

In the mid-1970s, European scientists spearheaded a task force to determine celiac disease prevalence and presentation. These efforts allowed for both a greater understanding and management of the disease. In the United States, very few medical doctors attempt to understand the disease or its wide-spread implications. Unless your endocrinologist or pathologist knows about celiac disease, the diagnosis could remain a mystery for years.

IBS Eradication Step #3: Find Solutions that Work for You

Discover what foods serve as our triggers.

 

RAST blood examinations (short for radioallergosorbent test) which tests for acute immune reactions to food, combined with an ELISA Blood Test, which examines the body's latent reaction to 96 potential food allergens, provide a comprehensive picture of IBS triggers.

 

Exclude the trigger food from our diet.  

Though it sounds surprisingly simple, removing trigger foods can lead to radical improvements in our well-being. Once we discover and remove the root of the cause, the symptoms will dissipate.

 

Nourish stressed systems with supplements and enzymes. 

There are a variety of supplements and enzymes to heal a compromised digestive tract. Speak to your health practitioner about what options are best for you.

Out of the Digestive Jungle

Dining out does not have to be a dangerous trip into unpredictable territory. When we educate ourselves about IBS and make appropriate lifestyle changes, we can regain control of our lives. True health and wellness is within your reach.

IBS Eradication Step #2: Critical Analysis of Current Medical “Cures”

What Do Some Medical Doctors Say about the Cause and Cures of IBS? While some medical doctors concede that IBS is affected by diet, most do not test for food allergies. They allege that the true cause is unknown, and the best course of action is to numb symptoms with prescribed medication.

Is there a Second Opinion? Yes. Thankfully, some doctors realize the direct correlation between diet and IBS. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, says that “more than 50% of IBS patients were found sensitized to some food or inhalant.”

Why is there a discrepancy in opinion about IBS causes and cures? Michael Pollan, investigative journalist and author of the new book Food Rules explains that “there's a lot of money in the Western diet...The healthcare industry makes more money treating chronic diseases (which account for three quarters of the $2 trillion plus we spend each year on heath care in this country) than preventing them.” (Pollan, 2009, p. xiv) It is more profitable to prescribe medications to patients than to remove the cause of their illness.

It is important to think critically about our health. Once we see the sociopolitical factors that surround our healthcare system we can understand how to advocate for our own well-being. Stay tuned for IBS Eradication Step #3: Find Solutions that Work for You.

IBS Eradication Step #1: Understand the Cause

What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)? IBS is a continuum of chronic abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea.

How does IBS develop? Around 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract. Its primary role is to “ok” or “attack” a food we ingest. When our immune system doesn't like something we've ingested, it uses inflammation and excess mucus as ammunition. This inflammation leads to IBS, among other dietary disorders. The triggers of IBS are food allergies.

What are Food Allergies? An allergy is the immune systems response to a protein usually found in a food, such as peanuts, eggs, wheat or milk that it perceives as a foreign body. Most food allergies are acquired, not inherited. Some people develop sensitivities due to repeated exposure especially in large quantities, and others react to pesticides and herbicides combining with the natural chemicals in food. Whatever the cause, the result is the same- a compromised immune system and discomfort.

Once we understand what causes IBS can we begin to heal. Stay tuned for IBS Eradication Step #2: Critical Analysis of Current Medical “Cures.”

Shocking Symptoms: What Every Parent Should Know

This month’s blogs will center around an eye-opening and informative interview of pediatric allergist Dr. Doris Rapp on the Phil Donahue show. The 45-minute long show can be viewed at this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRDpcWZUEiU

Dr. Doris Rapp is considered the Mother of Environmental Medicine. She has received numerous awards for her work on the affects of environmental toxins and food allergies on the human body. More about her work can be found at her website.

A Word from Dr. Doris Rapp, Pediatric Allergist:

“We have managed to pollute our air, our water, our foods, our clothing, our homes, our schools and our work areas and the youngsters you are seeing today. Many of them can't go to school anymore because of all the chemicals. They can't go shopping. They can't go to a movie. There are many things they can't do. Everyone knows about allergies affecting the nose, and the eyes, and the lungs, but allergies and environmental factors can affect the way we think.”

 

Dr. Rapp, Pediatric Allergist and the Mother of Environmental Medicine hasmany tips if you suspect your infant has food allergies. Here is a comprehensive list:
Symptoms of Food Allergies in Infants
1. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or constipation, bloody stools
2. Hives, eczema, asthma
3. Prolonged colic, crying, inability to sleep at night
4. Poor growth, failure to thrive, inability to properly absorb nutrients
5. Acid reflux
6. Congestion of nose or chest, excessive spitting
7. Head banging, crib rocking
• Symptoms of Food Allergies in Children 
1. Red earlobes, cheeks
2. Dark eye circles
3. Bags or wrinkles under the eyes
4. “Spaced out” look
5. Wiggly, restless legs
6. Dislike of being touched or cuddled
7. Bedwetting after the age of five
8. Asthma, hay fever
9. Diagnosed with ADHD, inability to focus
10. Headaches
11. Depression, anxiety, irritability, mood swings
12. Violent behavior, temper tantrums, aggression
13. “Allergic Salute”- particular way of wiping nose as shown at 17:15 in Phil Donahue interview from 1989: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRDpcWZUEiU.

 

Love Your Bacteria: Yeast Infections and IBS

Over 100 trillion bacteria are crawling inside your body right now, the majority of which reside in your digestive system. Gross? Yes. Necessary? Yes. Without it, food could not be digested, our immune system would be underdeveloped, and all of us would have IBS. It's time to start loving our bodies’ healthy bacteria.

When our healthy bacteria is wiped out by antibiotics or overridden by an excess in yeast, IBS symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain can arise. Yeast invades and irritates tissue, flourishing rapidly and stamping out the growth of beneficial bacteria. Since yeast feeds on sugars, diets rich in starch, refined carbohydrates, sweets and alcohol encourage its growth. Though eliminating these foods from your diet can help, the best offense is a good defense. Make sure you prevent yeast infections by using a probiotic to replenish friendly bacteria after using antibiotics, and avoid foods that feed yeast. Get tested for potential food allergies with an ELISA blood test, and make sure to avoid using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. It's time to tell the whole story when it comes to healthy bacteria, yeast infections and IBS.

13 Warning Signs: Detecting Food Allergies, What Everyone Must Know

As we have seen, there is a surprising amount of evidence implicating food allergies and intolerances in digestive disorders. However, 60% of people with food allergies display symptoms that are seemingly unrelated to their digestive system.

Check out these 13 Warning Signs of possible food allergies:

1. Tiredness, drowsiness, no energy.

2. Frequent headache or migraines.

3. Stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence (IBD/IBS).

4. Mouth Ulcers.

5. Chronic cough, bronchitis, asthma, colds and 'flu'.

6. Eczema, psoriasis, and chronic skin problems.

7. Aching joints, backache.

8. Gradual weight change.

9. Tinea or Yeast (Candida) infections.

10. Clumsiness, lack of coordination.

11. Miscarriage, infertility.

12. Hemorrhoids and Ear pain.

13. Cravings, addictions.

Read the journal article yourself, and many others: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19559137