The Migraine/Fibromyalgia Histamine/Amine/Gluten Connection

by Bea Garth, copyright 2016

I just had a major realization recently that not everyone who has migraines and/or fibromyalgia like symptoms knows there is often a histamine/amine/gluten connection. Further IMHO there is yet another connection often to  sometimes corn and many other inflammatory grains as well as a whole variety of food additives. I should have known how difficult knowing this connection between migraines/fibromyalgia and histamine/amines as well as gluten sensitivity would be since I only discovered the more full story fairly recently–i.e., just three 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 late twenties and early thirties kept me alive and semi functioning–but as I started getting older, my health began deteriorating again. To tell the truth, it is only very recently I have been able to nut out what all is really going on for myself–although certainly I am still 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–both on a theoretical level as well as by using (or being inspired by) some of my recipes.

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.

My theory is we are all different. Thus for me and many others, the work of the Royal Prince Albert Hospital (RPAH) in Australia which has focused their ground breaking research on food sensitivities was and is very important. They suggest one keep a food journal of what one eats and 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 day fasts with disastrous results to my poor kidneys when I was in graduate school. I almost died due to the fact I was rapidly losing my kidneys from nephritis. I soon became seriously allergic to most antibiotics after several bouts of nephritis in one 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 and begin my investigation of what did and did not exacerbate my condition.

I figured I had too many built up toxins to handle having a true fast again like the self help food allergy book that I bought back then 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–and keep tabs on whatever reaction might pop up.

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) before and after I ate, and then two hours later, 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 and how all our systems are interconnected. He did mention celiac, but I honestly hadn’t had a clue since he did not describe the condition more fully. His book was an invaluable start and still has much in it I use as a reference, 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. Hoffman’s Holistic Herbal pointed me in this direction and I took it! 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. Even now they still look at me askance if given a chance.

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 or fibro and other related health issues if one does not want to. I figure help is now out there if one keeps looking. 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 previous 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! Little did I realize celiac or severe gluten sensitivity is far worse!

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–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 either corn or the wheat family, plus my sensitivity to 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. It took me quite a while (after much suffering) to figure that out!

All of the above was setting me up for migraines and fibro and a host of other issues like osteoporosis and a weakened nervous system — which easily led to more migraines and more aches and pains. 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. Even now I have to use special calcium made from seaweed as well as take zinc and magnesium plus trace  minerals plus silica drops  in order to take in enough to have strong teeth, nails and bones. Amazingly even my hair has improved from this regimen–I no longer have hair that falls out plus my joints are stronger. Years ago I was told I could never do pushups without wrecking my joints, but now I am doing 60 modified push ups a day without harming myself!

Back then, I just didn’t realize what I needed to do 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 had been gluten free for years.

Fortunately I had figured out enough to not eat pre-prepared food or cheese since it invariably made me feel puffy, spacey 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! It was only last year I finally realized most yogurt isn’t for me either, since it was insidiously contributing to my migraines.

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!! And that my love for tomatoes and spinach were doing me in from the heavy load of histamine.

Further, histamine found in some fruit (bananas, citrus, pineapple and papaya being the worst) 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, common cumin, cayenne). Histamine is known as the awake hormone! And apparently for me, the migraine hormone and the insomnia as well as hives, psoriasis and inflammation and brain fog hormone too more often than not.

Fortunately I am finally getting more of a handle on all this. My health has been getting to be 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. The skin in my outer ears is starting to clear up. 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 Hatha yoga, visualization and deep breathing more regularly, which helps create more serotonin. And yes it really does help.

Just recently I have discovered that by taking 500 mg of plain niacin at night (the type that flushes) is very instrumental in helping me relax and sleep better at night–as well as resolve my problem with my body making too much cholesterol. This is a true godsend since I have had insomnia for years–as well as this weird problem with cholesterol even though I don’t eat a lot of meat. I am finding too that if I take a inositol and choline bitartrate earlier in the day, it helps me both sleep better plus make my own lecithin within my body–something that is really helping my skin amongst other things, as well as helping my nerves joints, eyes etc. (there is a tendency to develop glaucoma in my family). I am especially glad about learning about this since I don’t tolerate taking lecithin supplements due  to my histamine sensitivity.

Nevertheless, its clear there is yet more for me to learn in order to heal more completely. One of my newest discoveries 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 migraines and restless leg syndrome etc. as part of the healing to the nervous system, eh?


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 on what I call the histamine/migraine connection, 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.


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