By Bea Garth, copyright 2015
I just had a major realization today that not everyone who gets migraines realizes there is often a migraine histamine/amine connection. Further IMHO there is yet another connection often to gluten and sometimes corn and other grains as well as a whole variety of food additives. I should have known this particular fact since I only discovered the more full story fairly recently–i.e., just two years ago. And this was after years of investigating food sensitivities on my own due to migraines, body aches and pains, kidney issues, psoriasis and itchy skin, osteoporosis, long lasting viruses etc! Despite my best efforts to stay well.
What I figured out via diet and herbs by my early thirties kept me alive and semi functioning–but as I started getting older, my health began deteriorating again. To tell the truth, its only very recently I have been able to nut out what all is really going on for myself–although certainly I am learning more all the time. My hope is that what I present here on my blog can be of use to others in their healing journey.
I credit the Internet for helping so many make the connections in areas like this that were little known or simply unknown previously. I also credit ground breaking work on food sensitivities being done in Australia by Sue Dengate and others, as well as the work of Dr. Janice Jonega and Yasmina Ykelenstam (the Low Histamine Chef) and the work of her mentor, Dr. Theorides.
The theory is we are all different. Thus the work of the Royal Prince Albert Hospital (RPAH) which did seminal research on food sensitivities was and is very important. They suggested one keep a food journal of what one eats when, and how one feels after in order to figure out what kind of food sensitivities one has. Sue Dengate’s work has expanded on this subject. There is much one can learn from her various books on food sensitivities.
At the time back in the late seventies and early eighties, however, I didn’t even know that RPAH existed and also had not heard of Sue Dengate. Instead I saw a very similar suggestion to keep a food journal in a self help book which I think was called something like Diagnosing Your Food Allergies. I didn’t go on a fast as was suggested, since I had previously gone a couple of 3 days fast with disastrous results to my poor kidneys when I was in graduate school. I lost half of my right kidney due to scar tissue from nephritis within two years. I also became allergic to most antibiotics after several bouts of nephritis that first year. Despite my rashes, welts and ringing ears, my doctors wanted me to stay on antibiotics ad infinitum. However I realized I just could not realistically do it.
Fortunately my grandmother suggested that I might have food sensitivities similar to hers. She had discovered as a young woman that she could not tolerate eating citrus and several other foods for example. Although she never developed kidney problems, she had recurring cystitis which her homeopath suggested could be food related. Fortunately for me, my grandmother was right. By going off the antibiotics plus avoiding citrus and taking herbs, I was able to start healing.
I figured I had too many built up toxins to handle having a true fast again like the self help food allergy book suggested. So instead I decided to eat food I normally didn’t eat like turnips and rutabegas instead of other carbohydrates, along with some greens I usually didn’t eat either, and then gradually add in a food once every two days after the initial simplified diet.
Although I investigated my food sensitivities by keeping an extensive journal, there was just not enough known at the time for me to get a larger picture of what was really going on. I took my pulse (a la the Coco pulse test) along with keeping the food journal and talked to my naturopaths, which helped a lot. But I had no clue about other factors like celiac and histamine/amines. Nevertheless I did get some valuable suggestions from an amazing herbal from the U.K. called the Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman–which shows different healing systems along with their attendant healing herbs. It was a good start, but it did not complete the picture.
Although there was no way for me to really know how or even why my symptoms were truly interconnected, some part of me figured they had to be. This was why I felt it was important to use herbs not only for my kidneys, but also for my liver, intestines and lymphatic system.
At that time however there were very few doctors who knew anything at all about these matters. Even my naturopaths were dumbfounded by my long list of things I reacted to, especially since I wasn’t clinically “allergic”. Whereas standard AMA doctors practically laughed at me (while trying to pump the antibiotics!). Even now its not difficult for me to have the same unfortunate experience of misunderstanding from my doctors. However with the Internet helping aid communication, I believe there is no longer as much reason to stay in the dark and continue to suffer so horrendously with migraines and other related health issues if I do not want to. I figure help is now out there if I keep looking and making the connections that work for me. And certainly the advances in knowledge in this area continue to impress me with each passing year!
Back in the early nineties, despite the fact that my extensive self testing showed I reacted to the wheat family, I sometimes indulged in a large chocolate chip oatmeal cookie as a reward. I didn’t realize my occasional treat was destroying my intestinal villi–since I thought my food sensitivity wasn’t even up to being an allergy! Just ten years ago, in fact, I still thought my sensitivity to the wheat family was not that serious. I had read about celiac in the Merck Manual, but I still did not really realize how insidious gluten really is for the likes of me. No one said anything to me about it despite my bringing the matter up several times with different doctors–AMA and naturopathic– since even at that time celiac was considered to be very rare and severe gluten intolerance was pretty much ignored.
So in the meantime I still used herbal tinctures off and on made with grain alcohol which I put in hot water–even though I subliminally realized that tinctures never worked for me as well as using the raw herb (now I know why!–both due to trace gluten in the alcohol from the wheat family, plus amines from any alcohol, whether heated or not).
On top of that, I was working as a property manager, renovating my family’s old rental houses. I discovered the hard way that many building materials have both gluten and amines (in the glue!) holding them together–and making me sick. It took me quite a while to figure what was going on! So I now often wear a mask at a work site.
All of the above was setting me up for migraines and a host of other issues like osteoporosis and a weakened nervous system — which easily led to more migraines. I even got so bad that I started shaking when I would get up to walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night! I frequently had to crawl. Plus my heart would race over nothing at all — even waking me or start thumping on a non strenuous walk or trying to clean something up. Not to speak of extensive problems with my teeth and bones literally from not having enough usable calcium. My body was degenerating with osteoporosis and weak teeth even though I ate yogurt and took calcium supplements along with my other vitamins since my early twenties. My intestinal villi could not absorb the nutrients I so conscientiously gave myself. I didn’t realize I needed to avoid gluten entirely.
Starting in the fall of 2007, I finally discovered that even trace amounts of gluten in things like lipstick or shampoo or using someone’s else’s cutting board, or eating something baked in an oven previously used to bake gluten from the wheat family made me ill even though my diet overall was gluten free.
Fortunately I had previously figured out I should not eat pre-prepared food since it invariably made me feel puffy and achey, often with 5 to 10 pounds mysteriously added on in one day! I also figured out that vinegar and really anything that was fermented except for plain yogurt left my brain reeling and foggy!
I had no idea that my continued trouble with chronic migraines however was also due to the age of the food I was eating (since aging proteins form amines). I just did not realize that all those wonderful big pots of food I’d make ahead of time and keep in the fridge unfrozen were giving me a royal headache from the amines!!
Further, I finally discovered that histamine found in some fruit (bananas, citrus, pineapple and papaya being the worst), most nuts and a variety of vegetables and even egg-white and a few common kitchen herbs were also creating havoc with my head and skin (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cumin, cayenne). And that my love for tomatoes and spinach were doing me in from the heavy load of histamine. Histamine is known as the awake hormone! And apparently for me, the migraine hormone and the insomnia as well as hives, psoriasis and inflammation hormone too, more often than not.
Fortunately I am finally getting more of a handle on all this. My health has been getting a lot better. I have a lot fewer migraines, and when I do I pretty much can figure out why, as well as how to get back to feeling better sooner. My skin has improved such that I am no longer as itchy with psoriasis as I was. My teeth and bones are also improving, as is amazingly enough my short term memory. I no longer stumble as much. However I still am having trouble getting to sleep at a decent hour. I now do yoga, visualization and deep breathing several times a week, which helps create more serotonin. And yes it really does help me sleep better and have fewer reactions. But its not quite enough. I still have those hard jags now and then, though often I will discover there really is a reason why. Its either excessive stress or some food I thought was OK actually isn’t, at least not eaten as frequently as I’d like.
Its thus clear to me there is yet more to learn and do in order to heal more completely. My newest discovery this week is the healing power of super oxide dismutase (SOD), as well as my need for it due to my own particular genetics. I wonder how many people who have chronic migraines could be helped by it. I read in Wikipedia that SOD is healing for those who have IBS and even SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth)–as well as for diabetes and the heart etc. I can well imagine it may also help those who have extensive damage to their villi from celiac. Plus perhaps nerve damage such as migraines and restless leg syndrome etc. could be helped by it too.
This truly is a shamanic journey I have had to come to respect. For whatever reason(s) I have been chosen to follow it. My hope is that my healing journey can help others, just as the discoveries of others continue to help me.
Note: There is more here than I can possibly contain in one essay. I plan on putting in more details in this section as I go along. Meanwhile, I am infinitely grateful to those who have made information on food sensitivities finally more known.
So for now before I develop more details in this section of my blog, I wrote up the LINKS page above. Please check out Dr. Jonega’s site on mastocytosis for the best food lists I have seen. I have also found the information on The Low Histamine Chef particularly useful. Keep in mind we are all a little different, so what applies to me or someone else, may or may not apply to you. Please consult with your doctor before you experiment with your healing diet.