Change

Things are going well – I can eat just about anything now.  Over the last 2-3 weeks I’ve been increasing the amount of fiber in my diet gradually.  At first I was getting sore throats and my mood was a little unsteady, but now that seems to be gone – or almost gone.  Still taking Culturelle Probiotic.  I tried taking 2 capsules twice a day and one capsule 3x a day, and it wasn’t any better than taking one capsule twice a day.  I’m not totally sure it even needs to be twice a day – maybe I’ll experiment with once a day.

This probiotic has caused a massive shift in my day-to-day health and (in my opinion) my prognosis. Since I’ve started taking it I can tolerate fiber so I can eat fruits and vegetables again.  I’m not so hungry anymore, and I’ve been able to reduce the fat and caloric density of my diet.  I’m optimistic now that I’ll be able to shed the extra pounds and get off some of my prescription medications over time.

I stopped taking the R-Lipoic Acid.  I became irritable after a full day of taking it, so I stopped, not sure if it was the supplement that caused the problem or if it was something else.  I’ll probably try again at some point.

 

One Step Back

I had to retreat a little bit on my “look ma! no hands!” diet.  Turns out bread and starches still make me feel a little…like crap!  I had a few days away with the family, eating out in restaurants the whole time, and I discovered that when I stop monitoring my histamine intake and eat whatever I want I still get irritable and tired…even with my new probiotic friends.  No crying though.  Used to be I’d dissolve into a puddle of tears, and only waiting it out a couple days would fix it.  So things are better.  Still not perfect, but better.

Now that I’m home again I’m happy to get back to eating food I’ve prepared myself, so I can get back to feeling awesome again.

Next Up

I have taken a couple days to enjoy eating starches and fiber without worrying too much about my blood sugar.  Yesterday I (gleefully and with abandon) ate a banana, an apple, bread, pasta, and broccoli.  Today my weight is up 2 pounds to match my all-time highest weight of 211 pounds. It’s the most carbs I’ve eaten in a long time so I’m hoping it’s just water.  Time to refocus on my next goal…whatever that is…

I think my next goal will be getting my blood sugar under control.

I’ve decided to start taking R-Lipoic Acid again, which my NBT coaches said was important for blood sugar control, doing sort of the same thing Metformin does but without the possible negative side effects.  No way around it – this stuff is expensive, which is what has stopped me from using it much.  I’m going to give it a try again though.   I have enough right now for 2-3 months, so I’ll get started and see how it’s going in 60 days or so.

Exercise.  I have shied away from exercise for a long time because it made me feel worse – more tired, less relaxed, and frustrated by my lack of fitness.  I need to start somewhere though, so I’ll be starting with yoga and biking (stationary) using my spin bike at home.  If things are going well I may add some kettle bell exercises.

Eating.  I’m thinking maybe the Perfect Health Diet…paleo with starches.  Not sure. I think for now I’m just going to focus on adding more fruits and veggies.

By the way…mood is still great.  Hot flashes still gone.  Histamine symptoms are greatly reduced – some minor itching is all that’s left.  I’m not sure if the Culturelle effect is transient or if the little L. Rhamnosus dudes are setting up camp.  One day I’ll get bold and see if the effect sticks around without the supplement.  I wrote to Culturelle and thanked them for their awesome product.  They wrote back and told me they don’t claim to cure hot flashes or fix depression.

Haha….ok.  Well, a nice side effect then.

Recovery

I feel like I’ve taken a giant leap toward recovery.  My depression is gone.  I ate an apple yesterday with no negative mood consequences!  A month ago I ate a small slice of an apple and was irritable and tired 3 hours later.  Yesterday I felt great all day.

I feel like it’s important to nurture my new L. Rhamnosus GG bacteria by giving them something to eat, so I’m adding fiber right away.  I’ve been dying for this!  I can actually eat healthy food now.  I’m so tired of eating meat all day long, and my body isn’t happy about it either.  I think meat can be a PART of a healthy diet, but a standalone – substituting for everything else?  I don’t think so.  Yesterday I had eggs and gluten-free toast for breakfast (first slice of toast in about a year), and then soup and an apple for lunch…and then I didn’t eat again for 4 hours.  4 glorious hours….I couldn’t believe I could go so long without my blood sugar crashing and making me desperate to eat.   Then I realized…that’s the power of fiber!  It actually keeps you from having to eat every 2 hours.  Maybe my perpetual hunger will drop now.

As much as I’d like to sit around and celebrate right now, I do have other work to do.   Recent issues:

  • I had to go on a third blood pressure medication last week….and still my b/p isn’t awesome.  It went up when I gained weight, and I haven’t managed to lose the weight again yet.
  • Went to the dentist a week ago.  No cavities, thankfully, but my gums were in worse shape than the previous visit.  I asked what the hell happened.  The dentist said, “Well, you’re likely to see more of this when you have Diabetes.”  Really?
  • Had an eye infection last week…went to the optometrist, who gave me antibiotic drops.  He said, “This kind of thing becomes more common when you have Diabetes.”  Huh.

My fasting blood sugar has been in the 160s a lot lately.   Too high, but I haven’t had a lot of options lately.  Because I couldn’t eat starches or fiber, it was eat meat all day long and suffer blood sugar crashes every 2 hours, or add sugar to my diet (which I did).  I’m not sure what I’m going to do now that I can eat fiber….maybe a Terry Wahls-type diet?  Is my gut ready for 9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables?  Or how about the potato diet?  If I can get my weight down at least one of the above problems will improve – maybe more.  Exercise is a possibility now too, without the fatigue that came with the depression.

So many options.  I couldn’t be more grateful.

A Theory of (almost) Everything

It’s all starting to make sense.

Starting Culturelle probiotics has caused a major shift for me.  Initially it made me feel amazing – euphoric, even – and I was taking it 3x a day.  Then I began feeling like my guts were all swollen, my mood became uneven, and my sore throat flared up, as it tends to do when my body is under some kind of stress.  I couldn’t tell if I was sick with a cold or virus or if something else was going on.  After a couple days of this it occurred to me this might be a Herxheimer reaction so I cut the probiotics back to 2x/day.  The symptoms continued.  I felt very tired, went to bed early, slogged my way through work, and then I developed a bacterial infection in my eyes.  Probably unrelated, except to the extent that my immune system was too busy to kill it off in the early stages.

Two days later I suddenly felt better.  Like, all better. I started eating things that would normally cause me to become depressed – things containing starch or small amounts of fiber.  No depression.  My throat would become a little sore, but no depression.

Then I put it all together.  I think my biggest problem – my inability to tolerate starches and fibers, which has prevented me from eating fruits and vegetables for years now – has been caused by an overgrowth of a so-called “beneficial” bacteria that produces histamine in the large intestine.  So when I would eat things that ferment in the large intestine like soluble fiber or resistant starch, those bacterial colonies would have a feast and put out a ton of histamine.  My body would react with negative cognitive and emotional effects because histamine acts as a neurotransmitter, mucking up my brain.  (<–Not too clear yet on the actual biochemistry…but this is close.)

So when I started taking Culturelle probiotics with L. Rhamnosus GG in it (apparently the “GG” is the strain and is pretty important here) the GG starting kicking the ass of the bacterial overgrowth.  I don’t know how this happens exactly, but I will say (without too much offending detail) that the first week after starting Culturelle my stools changed – there was evidence that biofilms might be breaking up (?).  And now suddenly my moods are solid and I can eat regular-people food including bread, potatoes, pretzels, crackers – without bloating, discomfort, or mood changes.  (I haven’t tried anything REALLY fiberous yet, but will soon.)

A little background – there are several reasons histamine may be high in the body.  It can be high because:

  • The gut is damaged and doesn’t make enough DAO (histamine degrading enzyme).
  • There is a genetic mutation causing the body to produce insufficient amounts of DAO.
  • The mast cells (producers of endogenous histamine) are unstable and producing too much histamine.
  • There are too many mast cells.
  • The diet is just too damn high in histamine-containing foods.
  • There are too many histamine-producing bacteria in the gut.

I think my problem is the last one.  WAS the last one.  And I think the Culturelle is cleaning up that mess.  I’m so friggen excited about this!

I mentioned in a previous post that there are some bacterial strains to AVOID because they DO produce lots of histamine.  Not everyone agrees about which ones these are.  Mark Sisson says:

Among the histamine-producing, foremost are Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus delbrueckii, and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, all of which are found in most yogurts. Avoid those. That’s why fermented dairy is a no-go for most people with histamine intolerance.

Joe Cohen from SelfHacked says to be wary of the following histamine-producing bacteria (supporting research is linked in the parentheses):

  • L casei (R)
  • L reuteri (R)
  • L bulgaricus (R)

Alison Vickery – a holistic health coach from Australia who seems to know a LOT about histamine has written an ebook on The Therapeutic Use of Probiotics for Histamine Intolerance, which she sells for $10.  I bought it and it’s very much worth the money, just in the hassle it’ll save you experimenting with different probiotics.  She says some strains of L. casei and L. reuteri ARE helpful for some conditions (and her book is specific about which ones), so it may not be as cut and dry as some of the other sources would have you believe.  This study agrees with her, and indicates (emphasis mine):

Lactobacillus casei (TISTR 389) and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus (TISTR 895) were found to produce [biogenic amines]. The highest levels of histamine (1820.9 ± 3.5 mg L−1) and tyramine (5486.99 ± 47.6 mg L−1) formation were observed for the TISTR 389 strain, while TISTR 895 produced only histamine (459.1 ± 0.63 mg L−1) in the decarboxylase broth. Biogenic amine potential was not observed for the Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus lactis subsp. lactis, Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis, and Lactobacillus plantarum strains studied. This study confirmed that BA formation is strain dependent and not related to the species.

Here’s what I’ve learned though – and this is important – L. casei (unspecified strain) was in almost all of the probiotics I’ve used over the last few years, and it’s widely considered to be a species that produces histamine. It’s also in a lot of commercial yogurts and other fermented dairy products.  THAT CRAP MIGHT BE WHAT WAS MAKING ME MISERABLE ALL THIS TIME. I don’t know for sure that that was the overgrowth I was dealing with, but it might have been.

Bottom line…I now believe my depression was caused by a “good” gut bacteria, in the right place.  This wasn’t SIBO.  And it wasn’t a pathogen.  It was a “good” guy.

Bacteria are truly running the show.

I’m so grateful science has advanced to this point, that we can identify specific species and strains of bacteria to treat specific conditions….and they actually work.

My next step is to eat some fiber and see how it goes.  If I can successfully eat fiber for a few days in a row I’m confident I can start eating a more healthful diet and get the rest of my health back on track.

Oh, and by the way….hot flashes are still gone.

Low Histamine Life – Day 9

My hot flashes are almost gone.

Yesterday I only had 2 hot flashes – and really, the first one was just a warm flash.  It wasn’t even hot.  The second one I had right after eating dinner.  I had eaten some mushrooms with a lot of garlic – I was dying for something with a strong flavor.  I had eaten mushrooms before without a reaction, but not in this quantity – this was about 1/2 cup.  Plus, it appears lots of people react to garlic.  Well, between the mushrooms and the garlic I definitely had a histamine reaction – the hot flash, prickly heat on my back, fatigue, soreness.

Anyway, the good news is that my hot flashes – the pain in the ass symptom that’s been plaguing me for several years now is receding as I eat/supplement to reduce histamine.  I don’t think histamine alone caused the hot flashes – I think it’s probably a combination of factors that include hormonal changes and lowered histamine threshold due to stress over time.  It lends support to the idea I’ve heard before that as we age we just can’t handle some of the biological stressors we used to endure easily.

Hot flashes are going away!

Culturelle

I can honestly say that of all of the supplements I’ve taken over the last 5 years, none has had as dramatic and immediate an impact as Culturelle probiotics. That sounds like an ad.  But seriously – I’ll be rolling along fine, not great but fine, and I take one of these Culturelle probiotics and within a couple hours I feel ridiculously happy, calm, and alert.  I start walking around with a smile on my face for no reason, and it lasts for hours.  It’s that sort of blissful happy that I had after following the NBT plan for a couple months (2 years ago).  It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt this way, and it turned right on with Culturelle.  I’ve been taking it 3x a day – 1 capsule 15-20 minutes before each meal.

I can only assume this has something to do with my gut flora.  I think a good chunk of my mood problems have had to do with histamine being high, and the L. Rhamnosus GG (apparently the “GG” is the strain, which is important) in Culturelle is degrading some of that histamine in the gut.

Now, being of scientific mind, I have asked myself, “How do you know it’s the Culturelle having this effect, and not the fact that you’ve been following a lower-histamine diet for a week now?”  Well, here’s my answer to that.  On Monday night – 3 days ago – I went out to eat and had seafood and tomatoes in my meal.  There was very little on the menu that was low-histamine, and I didn’t have any of my DAO supplements on me at the time, so I just did the best I could.  At the end of the meal my nose was stuffed up, I was having more intense hot flashes, and I was feeling a little itchy.  So, clearly a histamine reaction.  The next morning I started taking Culturelle, and within an hour my mood was spectacular.  So I don’t think the mood was due to my meticulously following a low-histamine diet for the previous 3 or 4 days….because I hadn’t been.

When I bought the Culturelle (over the counter at the corner drugstore) they had 2 kinds:  Culturelle Health & Wellness Daily Immune Support Formula and Culturelle Pro Well 3 in 1 Complete Formula.  It was Buy 1 Get 1 50% off so I bought one of each.  I notice that the former – the Health & Wellness formula gives me that really happy feeling, and the other one doesn’t.  The latter is just neutral.  The Health & Wellness formula has 15 billion CFUs of priobiotic, vitamin C, and sodium (and of course other inactive ingredients).  The 3 in 1 formula has 10 billion CFUs, vitamin C, sodium, and fish oil – including 70mg Omega 3 oil.  Huh…well, I like the one without the fish oil.

Weight as of today, to 206.4 – That’s about 5 pounds down from a month ago when I was stopped taking hydrocortisone, and about 2 pounds down from a week ago when I started eating low-histamine.  I asked my doctor in December if hydrocortisone could cause weight gain. He said, “Yes, if you’re taking more than you need.”  So apparently 5mg 3x a day was more than I need.  I’m becoming very opposed to unnecessary medication at this point.  At least some of my health issues have been caused by trying to fix my other health issues. I’d like to point out that I’m not counting calories or macros.  This shift in weight is due to manipulating hormones.

Anyway….high histamine?  Try Culturelle.  It’s kind of awesome.

Supplements

I’ve decided that one of the best things I can do for myself is to start limiting unnecessary supplements and medications.  The calcium channel blocker that my doctor was about to use next for me is on the list of medications that increase histamine release and/or block DAO (enzyme) production, leading to overall higher histamine.  By not taking it I’m avoiding that.  Got me thinking….of my current supplement/medication regimen, what else don’t I need?

I probably don’t need the biotin anymore.  I started taking that when my hair was falling out 18 months ago after 6 months of very low carb dieting.  Now, hair not falling out.  Is it because I’m no longer eating low carb?  Or is it because of the biotin?  I’m guessing the former.  Some of my Peat-friends banter about the benefits of biotin – I’ve seen some say that it can be helpful for reducing insulin resistance.  I haven’t personally had that experience.  Maybe it’s time to remove that one.

The other thing I’m not sure about is the CoQ10.  I hate to remove that one because my doctor and the rest of the world all seem to think it’s beneficial for heart health and general wellness.  I just haven’t noticed anything one way or the other since I’ve started taking it.  I’m currently taking a semi-cruddy brand, but even back when I was spending a dollar a pill on CoQ10 I didn’t notice anything.  Maybe I’ll finish off the bottle.

I added Culturelle probiotics yesterday (h/t to Christe).  Culturelle is L. Rhamnosus GG  – one of the strains of probiotic bacteria that is suppose to help degrade histamine produced in the gut.  Other probiotics that do this are B. Infantis, B. Longum, and L. Plantarum.  (Probiotics that create histamine and therefore should be avoided are L casei, L reuteri and L bulgaricus.)  (Sorry, no time to dig up links at the moment to make this more credible.)

Low-Histamine Life – Day 5

Macadamia nuts are out.  It’s been several days since I’ve had abdominal bloating.  I had it yesterday after eating macadamia nuts.

Some low-histamine lists say nuts are fine.  Others say things like “pecans and walnuts…no.  Other nuts…yes.”  Some say all nuts are a no.  It can all be very confusing if you expect the internet to provide a road map.  I’m learning the only way to find answers is to eat one food at a time and then observe.  Macadamia bloating hit me within 15 minutes of eating them.  Apparently nuts contain Tyramine, which in excess has a similar response to excess histamine.  Whatever.  No more nuts.

Yesterday I had some fresh ribeye steak from the supermarket.  Not frozen, and I cooked it within 24 hours of purchase.  Within 30 minutes I was fatigued, itchy, and my nose was stuffed up.  I went back and looked at the sell-by date – it was January 1st.  So I had bought “fresh” meat that had been sitting in the store cooler for probably a week.  Mental note – check the “sell by” date next time and buy fresher.

I’m avoiding all condiments.  There’s very little in the way of vinegar-free or non-aged condiments anyway…but even salt is off the menu for me right now due to hypertension (and, sorry Peat-heads and Paleo friends – some people ARE salt-sensitive when it comes to blood pressure and I’m one of them).  I do miss salt.  I could eat straight salt every day of my life and never get tired of it.  But this isn’t about my preferences anymore.  Blood pressure just now: 131/82.  It seems to be working!  I don’t think I’ll be adding that calcium channel blocker.

One of the main questions I have is this….Does this histamine issue have any relation at all to the depression/irritability that I get when I eat starches and fibers?  It feels the same when my histamine is high as it does when I’ve eaten fiber.  I get angry and start yelling at people.  My tongue swells.  My spleen swells. Here’s a stretch…maybe when I eat fiber I’m stirring up the mast cells somehow, which are then dumping serotonin, cytokines, and other inflammatory compounds into my system?  Increasing cortisol and screwing with my hormones and well-being?

Maybe gut bacteria is playing a role here.  There are gut bugs that produce histamine – maybe I have a bunch of them in my gut and they feed on fiber?  What if I caused this with all of my probiotic supplementation over the last 2 years?  I know Lactobacillus casei is in the probiotic I’ve used most over the past 2 years, but so is Lactobacillus rhamnosis, which is supposed to counter histamine.  Whatever – I’ve stopped taking it.  I’m considering adding a single-strain supplement at this point, targeted for the purpose of reducing histamine and histamine-producing bacteria (such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum, Lactobacillus plantarum).

Thank you so much for the comments on the last post – those have really helped as far as giving me some ideas, directions to look for treating this nonsense.

Low-Histamine Life Day 4

Happy New Year.  I’m looking forward to 2017.  I’m approaching 5 years with this blog.  My health isn’t better yet, but I think it would be worse if I hadn’t embarked on this journey with you guys.  My resolutions this year: More dancing, more traveling, and more laughing.

I started a low-histamine diet on 12/29, making today Day 4. I’ve been keeping a log of the things I eat and the reactions I have to them.  I suppose here is as good a place as any to keep track of my findings.  One thing I’ve learned is that triggers for high histamine vary a bit from person to person, so there’s value in figuring out what does and doesn’t work for you personally. Also – and I don’t know if other people have this experience – I notice that some high-histamine foods cause certain symptoms while others cause different symptoms.  Like, pork that is leftover from a previous day will make my throat itch, while bacon (even uncured) makes my inner ears itch. Smoked ham makes my girl parts itch while aged cheese makes my face itch.  Reliably!  Isn’t that interesting?  What the hell is going on there?  Don’t know…just avoiding all of it at this point.  My tongue still swells sometimes too – haven’t figured out the trigger for that yet.

I had a grass-fed steak from Trader Joe’s a couple days ago, thawed from frozen, and it made me feel terrible afterward – itchy, tired, irritable.  I had to go lie down and nap.  I guess I have no idea how long it was sitting around before it was frozen.  When I woke up I had some vanilla Haagen Dasz ice cream, which made me feel great again.  Friggen food.  The power it has over me is ridiculous.  Fortunately I’ve been off work this week so I’ve had time to experiment.

So my approach right now is not to eat low-carb, keto, Paleo, Peaty, or in accordance with any other particular paradigm.  It is ONLY to eat low-histamine.  Yes, I still have high blood sugar – I’m not dealing with that at the moment, except indirectly by trying to lower overall inflammation via histamine limitation.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to see if my blood sugar lowers without changing anything else?  Fasting blood glucose was 165 today.

And wouldn’t it be fun if eating a low-histamine whole-food diet resulted in lower physiological stress, lowered cortisol/adrenal/HPA output because of less inflammatory compounds being released into the system?  And wouldn’t it be great if that meant less hunger, lowered appetite, weight loss?  Lofty goals, but I think it’s possible.  Weight today was 207.9 – a few pounds down from my all-time high of 211.1.

Foods I’m currently tolerating with no symptoms: fresh cooked chicken (so far leftover 1 day after cooking is ok), fresh cheese (with no vinegar as an ingredient), commercial broth (organic), cooked vegetables including kale, onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots; vanilla Haagen Dasz ice cream, egg yolks, white sugar

Foods that clearly cause symptoms (itching, mood disturbance, tachycardia, fatigue): Meat purchased frozen, aged cheese, cheese containing vinegar, chocolate, all smoked/processed meats (even “uncured” and “no nitrates” varieties),  avocado, some fresh cooked/purchased meat

Supplements I’m currently taking (I won’t change these for a while)

  • Multivitamin – 2x/day – For bioavailable B vitamins and overall health
  • Vitamin D (5000IU) – For bones/teeth and overall health
  • Vitamin K (1mg) – For bones/teeth and overall health
  • Vitamin A (5000IU) – For hormones/bones/teeth and overall health
  • CoQ10 (100mg) – For heart health, blood pressure
  • Colostrum (5-10g/day) – For gut health
  • Potassium (1000mg/day) – For blood pressure, overall health
  • Milk Thistle (150mg) – For liver health
  • Biotin (5mg) – to address hair loss
  • Magnesium Glycinate (600mg) – For overall health

Prescription Medications (for hypertension):

  • Hydrocholothiazide (25mg)
  • Methyldopa (250mg 3x/day)

It’s possible I’ll be adding a third medication for hypertension, depending on how my blood pressure looks over the next few days. To manage blood pressure I’m taking additional potassium and using no added salt.  Current blood pressure is 139/88 on the above meds, 4 days after stopping Irbesartan. It’s been hard for me to get enough potassium after eliminating histamine-causing foods like avocado, tomato juice, and OJ.  I’ve resorted to supplementation for now.