Stress and Histamine Part 3

Oriental disciplines can relieve stressOriental disciplines can relieve stress

Oriental physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines such as yoga, t’ai chi, and qigong, which combine exercise with meditation and mindfulness, can trigger the release of beneficial hormones and other body-chemicals. Reducing stress can help people with histamine intolerance.

Evidence shows that such oriental disciplines can lower cortisol levels and encourage cell-healing. In fact, studies have found that when used to supplement traditional forms of treatment, regular practice of such techniques can:

  • reduce stress levels
  • combat depression
  • improve the quality of sleep
  • keep the body flexible
  • improve the sense of balance
  • help maintain bone density
  • decrease the pain of arthritis
  • improve heart health
  • reduce hypertension

Yoga

Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual disciplines that began in ancient India. There is a broad variety of Yoga schools, practices, and goals.
Types of yoga include Hatha, Vinyasa, Iyengar, Ashtanga, Bikram,  Kundalini and Yin. “How to Do Yoga for Absolute Beginners” can be found here.

T‘ai-chi

T‘ai-chi is a Chinese discipline. Though originally conceived as a martial art and used for defense training, it is frequently practiced for a variety of health reasons. It has become popular worldwide. Most modern styles of t‘ai-chi trace their origins back to one or other of the five traditional schools: Chen, Yang, Wu (Hao), Wu, and Sun.
“How to do Tai Chi” can be found here.

Qigong

“Qigong is a holistic system of coordinated body posture and movement, breathing, and meditation used for health, spirituality, and martial arts training. With roots in Chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial arts, qigong is traditionally viewed as a practice to cultivate and balance qi (chi), translated as ‘life energy’.[Cohen, 1999]

“Qigong practice typically involves moving meditation, coordinating slow flowing movement, deep rhythmic breathing, and calm meditative state of mind. Qigong is now practiced throughout China and worldwide for recreation, exercise and relaxation, preventive medicine and self-healing, alternative medicine, meditation and self-cultivation, and training for martial arts.”How to Practice Qigong” here.
[Wikipedia]

You don’t need expensive equipment or even expensive classes to practice these methods. Classes are recommended, because of the social benefit of exercising in groups, and the value of a good teacher. However if you’re really hard up and cannot afford classes, once you have learned some moves from books or YouTube, you can practice yoga, t’ai chi, or qigong for free at home.


Reference:
Cohen, K. S. (1999). The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing. Random House of Canada. ISBN 0-345-42109-4.

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Stress and Histamine: Part 2

dealing with stressful situationsDealing with Stressful Situations

As discussed in the last post, stress is associated with histamine. Minimizing your experience of stress can help to curb your histamine intolerance symptoms.

The team at University of Southern California [“Stress Management” Be Well at USC.] says, “There are many healthy ways to manage and cope with stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose, it’s helpful to think of the four “A”s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.”
You can change the stressful situation by avoiding it or altering it. Or you can change your reaction to the stressful situation by adapting to it or accepting it.

Dealing with Stressful Situations: The Four “A”s:

Change the situation:
* Avoid the stressor:  E.g. Learn how to say “no”;  avoid people who stress you out; take control of your environment; avoid conversational topics that lead to heated arguments; pare down your to-do list; quit your stressful job; get out of your stressful relationship. Changing your situation may not be easy, but if you want major changes in your life you may have to take big leaps of faith. If you’re not prepared to take those big leaps you may have to be satisfied with smaller changes.
* Alter the stressor: E.g. Express your feelings instead of bottling them up; be willing to compromise;  be more assertive;  manage your time better.

Change your reaction:
* Adapt to the stressor: E.g. Reframe problems; look at the big picture; adjust your standards; focus on the positive; change your attitude.
* Accept the stressor: E.g. Accept the things you can’t change; don’t try to control the uncontrollable; look for the positive side; share your feelings with people you trust; learn to forgive.

Each of us has our own way of responding to stress, which means that what works for one person may not work for another. It is worthwhile trying out a range of stress-management strategies. Pay particular attention to the techniques that enable you to feel composed, serene and in control.

In addition to taking control and having a positive attitude, one of the best things you can do to reduce stress is to nurture yourself, body and mind.

You can learn more about stress management on the University of Southern California’s website.

Looking after yourself is a necessity, not a luxury – especially for people with histamine intolerance. Set aside some time each day to really nurture yourself and do something enjoyable and relaxing.

We’ll be offering more stress management strategies in the next post. See you then!

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Stress and Histamine: Part 1

stress and histamineStress and Histamine

“When you’re all stressed out, your body releases hormones and other chemicals, including histamine, the powerful chemical that leads to allergy symptoms. While stress doesn’t actually cause allergies, it can make an allergic reaction worse by increasing the histamine in your bloodstream.”
Stress Relief Strategies to Ease Allergy Symptoms – WebMD

This is the first in our series of posts giving you strategies for dealing with stress.

Life comes with its own built-in stressors. We can try to avoid stressful situations, but:

  • It’s impossible to completely avoid all stress.
  • We actually need small amounts of stress now and then. A little bit of stress, for a short time, can be inspiring and motivating. It’s long-term, chronic stress that can cause health problems.

It’s not so much the stressfulness of a situation that determines how stressed an individual person will feel. It’s that person’s reaction to the situation. For example, two people could find themselves in identical situations, and one might react calmly while the other one panics.

Stress management – the first steps

Stressful situations will always come and go in our lives. There’s not much you can do to stop them happening, but there is a lot you can do to minimize stress and its effects.

Step 1:

Recognize that you are in  control of your own  emotions, thoughts, routines, and responses to stress. Studies show that simply knowing we have some control over our own lives is a major factor in minimizing the effects of stress!

Step 2:

Figure out what is causing the stress in your life.
We’re not always conscious of the real sources of stress. Many people suffer from low-level stress without really knowing why. Sometimes we think we know the reasons, but if we look closer, there may be other causes involved. Thoughts and feelings play a major role.
For example, maybe you feel you are rushed off your feet every day, and you have too much to do. You might blame a heavy work-load for your feelings of stress. But perhaps you are expecting too much of yourself – setting impossibly high standards for the amount of work you think you should get through. Allow yourself to be less of a perfectionist. Permit yourself to take a break and relax from time to time. Simply changing your expectations to make them more realistic could decrease your stress levels.
The point is, you might be blaming external forces for your stress, when in fact your own inner thoughts and feelings are largely contributing to it. If you go on telling yourself that all your stress is due to external factors beyond your control, you will always feel helpless. Work out how much of your stress is due to external factors such as your environment, or your health, or the people around you, and how much of your stress is your own responsibility. The great thing about being responsible for some of your own stress is that it means you can do something about it! You can control it!

In an article called “Stress Management”, the University of Southern California recommends keeping a simple daily “Stress Journal” so that you can  make a list of all the things that stress you out from day to day, and how you responded to them.
[“Stress Management” Be Well at USC. University of Southern California. ]
This is a good way to understand whether your stress responses are useful or counterproductive. For example, do you react to relationship problems by over-eating, smoking or  drinking? Or by talking to friends or counselors?

Step 3:

Work out how to deal with the sources of stress in your life.
If your stress journal shows a pattern of unhealthy, unproductive ways you react to stress, then swap them for better responses.

In our next post we will give you some helpful, proven strategies for doing this.

 

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Apples and Onions

Apples & Onions

… with natural antihistamines?

Quercetin, a compound found in many plants, is a flavonoid and an antioxidant with many valuable properties. It’s readily available in natural foods, especially apples and onions.

  • Quercetin is an antioxidant, and may promote good health by decreasing or even helping to prevent some of the damage free radicals do to our bodies.
  • It may help guard against heart disease and cancer.
  • It is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • In addition, quercetin may have an antihistamine effect by aiding in the stabilization of histamine-releasing cells in our bodies.

In laboratory tests, quercetin stops immune cells from releasing histamine. If this mechanism also works in living humans, then quercetin would be a valuable aid in reducing symptoms of allergies such as –

  • itchy skin
  • runny nose
  • watery eyes
  • hives
  • sneezing
  • wheezing, shortness of breath

Quercetin can be bought in the form of a dietary supplement (capsules, pills etc.).  In the form of supplements it is generally considered safe, however the University of Maryland cautions people against taking more than the recommended dose. It is possible to harm your health by overdosing on quercetin supplements, but it’s unlikely you could eat enough apples or onions to cause any problems!

You can eat apples and onions raw or cooked – you’ll still get the benefits of quercetin. Cooking can change the levels of quercetin in foods, but not enough to worry about. For example, in a study on onions,  “Baking and sautéing produced a 7–25% gain in quercetin concentration, while boiling produced an 18% decrease in quercetin concentration.”

So grab an apple now, or slice up an onion for a salad, and enjoy crunching on a nutritious fruit or vegetable that may help reduce your histamine intolerance symptoms!


References:

[Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, Volume 18, Issue 6, September 2005, Pages 571–581 Quercetin in onion (Allium cepa L.) after heat-treatment simulating home preparation. Kevin Lombard, Ellen Peffley, Emanuel Geoffriau, Leslie Thompson, Andy Herring. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jfca.2004.03.027]

 

 

 

 

 

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Sugar and a Low Histamine Diet

sugar in a low histamine dietSugary or Sugar-free?

“SUGAR IS THE NEW FAT!”

This is the latest slogan popular in the wonderful and sometimes weird (not to mention confusing) world of food fads and fashions.

Fat used to be “bad” and then it  became “good”. Carbohydrates used to be “good” until they did a 180 degree turn and became viewed as “bad”. Evil, fattening coconuts were completely out of the question for dieters until they too turned to the Good Side, gaining a halo and angel wings. Hardly anybody used to even know what gluten was until it, too, joined the ranks of the Foods of Darkness. Wine keeps switching sides, so that it’s sometimes hard to know what to believe.

Not only can food fashions be confusing, they can also be dangerous. “Orthorexia” is defined as “an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy,” and “a medical condition in which the sufferer systematically avoids specific foods that they believe to be harmful.” {Google definitions]

The danger with following too many food-exclusion diets simultaneously, is that people can become orthorexic.

Recently a reader wrote to us saying that the recipes in “Is Food Making You Sick?” contained too much sugar for their liking.

The book is about Histamine Intolerance. It is not about a sugar free diet. It is not about a low-carb, gluten-free, low-FODMAP, lactose-free, vegan, vegetarian, fruitarian, specific carbohydrate, ketogenic, diabetic, detox, low-fat or any other kind of diet.

It is virtually impossible to cater for the entire range of popular diets, all in one book whose purpose is to focus on histamine intolerance. We have done our best, however! Many of our recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian or vegan.

Besides, the fact is that sugar is not a food that is high in histamine, or that provokes a histamine reaction in the body, or that blocks the breakdown of histamine.

Having said that, it is important to note that Dr Alison Vickery states that histamine tolerance can be improved through the stabilization of blood sugar levels. She writes, “… unstable blood sugar can increase histamine levels, and histamine levels can progress the development of diabetes or insulin resistance.”

So, while sugar as a food in itself is not directly a problem for people with histamine intolerance, eating too much of it can cause a “spike” in your blood sugar levels. A spike is generally followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar levels as the body releases insulin to cope with your sugar intake. These zig-zagging spikes and sharp drops are what is meant by “unstable blood sugar”.

To stabilize your blood sugar levels:

  • Avoid eating large quantities of sugar and foods containing refined carbohydrates (such as sodas, candy, cakes etc.)
  • Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners altogether.
  • If you want extra low-calorie sweetness, choose stevia.

Stevia sugar alternativeAlternatives to Table Sugar

People who prefer to eat less sugar can easily adapt the Strictly Low Histamine Diet to their needs. Here are some suggestions:

  • Choose, from the book, recipes that contain no sugar.
  • For recipes containing sugar, substitute rice malt syrup. Anti-sugar advocates say that the main problem with sugar is its fructose content. Rice malt syrup (also known as brown rice syrup) is fructose-free.
  • Alternatively, substitute stevia for sugar. Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the “sweet-leaf” plant, and it does not cause a spike in blood sugars when consumed.

We hope this post has been helpful!

 

 

 

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Home Made Hair Conditioner for Itchy Scalps

home made hair conditionerHome-Made Hair Conditioner

If you’re histamine intolerant, one of your symptoms could be an itchy scalp.  Commercial hair products may contain ingredients such as fragrances, which can irritate sensitive skin and make itchy scalps worse. So why not make your own fragrance-free, natural hair conditioner? It’s actually a lot of fun.

This recipe comes courtesy of www.easy-aromatherapy-recipes.com. To make the hair conditioner you will need a ‘carrier oil’ to suit your hair type. If you find that this formula makes your hair feel greasy, then use grapeseed oil as your carrier oil and reduce the amount. Note: Avocado oil should only make up to 10% of your total oil hair care blend because it leaves a waxy residue that’s very hard to wash out.

  • Normal Hair:     Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil or Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Dry, Damaged or Frizzy Hair:     Castor Oil, Jojoba Oil, Olive Oil, Shea Butter or Virgin Coconut Oil
  • Oily Hair:     Grapeseed Oil or Jojoba Oil
  • Thinning Hair:     Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Avocado Oil, Castor Oil, Grapeseed Oil
  • Dandruff:    Sesame Oil, Virgin Coconut Oil, Avocado Oil, Castor Oil, Olive Oil

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) carrier oil for your hair type (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vegetable glycerin
  • 1 tablespoon (8g) emulsifying wax
  • 1/2 tsp (1.5ml) Vitamin E (or 2 capsules)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) distilled water
  • 5 drops grapefruit seed extract

Instructions:

  • Stir together the oil, emulsifying wax and glycerin in the top part of a double boiler, warming slowly over a low heat until the wax is melted. Remove from heat and pour in the Vitamin E.
  • In a separate pot on the stove or in the microwave, gently warm the water or herbal infusion just until lukewarm. Do NOT skip this step or your conditioner will separate later on.
  • Slowly pour the water/herbal infusion into the oil mixture, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Let the mixture cool a little so the essential oils don’t evaporate too quickly when you add them.
  • Don’t worry if it doesn’t thicken immediately – it thickens as it cools down to room temperature.
  • Stir in the essential oil and the grapefruit seed extract. Pour the natural hair conditioner into a clean, sterilized 8oz (250ml) dark glass or PET plastic bottle and allow it to cool before putting the lid on.
  • Shake the bottle occasionally as the conditioner cools to prevent the ingredients from separating. Store in a cool, dark place.
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Marvelous Mangoes

mangoesMangoes: “The King of Fruits”

Mangoes (Mangifera indica) are an amazing fruit. They are delicious and full of nutrients and fiber, colorful, and versatile. Frozen or fresh, mangoes can be eaten in sweet or savory dishes. Best of all, they are on the list of suitable foods for people who suffer from histamine intolerance. Here are some more facts about mangoes you might not be aware of:

There are more than 400 varieties of mangoes. Each has its own characteristics – differing in flavor, texture, sweetness, size, color etc.

One of the most popular varieties is “Kensington pride”, otherwise known as KP, Bowen or Bowen special. Some rate this as the most delicious mango in the world. Other popular varieties include Calypso, Haven, Palmer, Keitt and Kesar.

New research suggests that eating mangoes may help protect against cancer and obesity related diseases. According to some studies, compounds in mangoes can:

  • reduce the ill-effects of eating junk food
  • destroy fat cells
  • boost the metabolism of fats
  • slow down the growth-rate of cancer tumors in mice.
  • help regulate bowel movements
  • lower cholesterol
  • clear the skin
  • improve eye health
  • improve digestion

Mango is native to India and Southeast Asia. Watch fruit hunters Richard Campbell and Noris Ledesma of the Rare Fruit Council search for the rare white mango on the island of Borneo.

 

 

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Chia seeds

chia seedsWhat’s Good About Chia Seeds?

Chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are rich in Omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one ounce of these amazing seeds contains about 5 grams of Omega-3 ALA, which has numerous health benefits.

Chia seeds are packed with fiber and protein and they are also gluten-free. Their ability to absorb water makes them useful as a thickener in stews, soups and casseroles. They come in three colors –  black, white and red.

According to the SIGHI list of “Histamine Potential of Foods and Additives”, which is one of the authorities on which our own food list is based, chia seeds are compatible with a low histamine diet.

How to Make “Chia Eggs”

You can use chia seeds as a vegan egg replacement in cooking. To prepare a chia egg, begin by grinding some chia seeds in a food processor such as a coffee grinder. It’s best to freshly grind your own seeds rather than to buy pre-ground seeds from a store.

To make the equivalent of one hen’s egg, whisk 1 tablespoon of ground chia seed into 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl.

Thoroughly combine the water and ground chia seeds, then place them in the refrigerator for 15 minutes to set.  When that time has elapsed, the seeds should look like a sticky, eggy mass. Use them as you would use eggs, in baking.

Never eat dry chia seeds, because they naturally absorb water. Eating them dry is dangerous – that may absorb water in the esophagus and swell, causing an obstruction.

How to Make “Chia Pudding”

 Soak chia seeds overnight in your favorite low-histamine milk or brewed rooibos tea.  (Keep the mixture refrigerated). In the morning the seeds will have absorbed some of the liquid and swelled to become a delicious, creamy dessert. Add chopped mangoes, figs, a sprinkle of sugar, a dash of allspice or any other tasty low-histamine ingredients of your choice and voila, you have a delicious, nutritious pudding!

 

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Slippery Elm

Slippery ElmSlippery Elm

The problems caused by histamine intolerance can include digestive upsets. Slippery elm is one efficacious natural remedy that has been traditionally used to ease such complaints as –

  • coughs
  • sore throats
  • colic
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • hemorrhoids
  • irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

It is also used to provide gentle protection against:

  • stomach and duodenal ulcers
  • colitis
  • diverticulitis
  • gastrointestinal (GI) inflammation
  • excess stomach acid.

This remarkable remedy is actually the powdered inner bark of an elm tree (Ulmus rubra/Ulmus fulva) which is native to North America.  Useful medicinal plants often accumulate a long list of alternative common names, and Slippery Elm is no exception. It is also known as:

  • Indian Elm
  • Moose Elm
  • Olmo Americano
  • Orme, Orme Gras, Orme Rouge, Orme Roux
  • Red Elm
  • Sweet Elm

Commercial manufacturers include slippery elm as an ingredient in some foods for infants and adults, as well as in some medicines. Slippery elm throat pastilles are useful for soothing sore throats. You can make your own slippery elm pastilles at home.

Slippery Elm Throat Pastilles

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon dried, chopped licorice root
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup slippery elm powder
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup or maple syrup or pasteurized honey

Instructions

  • In a small saucepan, combine the licorice root with water and bring to a boil.
  • Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Strain the licorice water through a fine mesh sieve to remove licorice root pieces.
  • Place the sweetener (e.g. golden syrup) into a measuring cup. Add enough of the licorice water to make ¼ cup. If there’s not enough licorice water, top it up with plain water.
  • Pour slippery elm powder into a small bowl and make a ‘well’ in the middle. Pour the sweetened licorice water into the well and stir well, mixing to the consistency of dough.
  • On a clean surface, scatter a little slippery elm powder to prevent sticking, then roll out the dough until it is about a ¼ inch (½ cm) thick.
  • Cut the pastilles into small rounds. To make it easier, you can use the clean cap of a small bottle as a guide.
  • Distribute the pastilles on a plate and allow them to air-dry in a cool, well-ventilated place where the air is clean. It can take up to three days for them to dry out. Turn them over to make sure they are dry on both sides.
  • Store in an air-tight, light-proof container in a cool place.

To use, place a pastille in your mouth and allow it to slowly dissolve. The slippery elm will coat your throat with a protective layer, allowing healing to take place.

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Hemp seed

hemp seedHemp seed: a nutritious, high protein food

Hemp seed has been given the green light for inclusion in a low histamine diet by the Swiss Interest Group Histamine Intolerance (SIGHI).

According to the official SIGHI list of “Histamine Potential of Foods and Additives”, hemp seed is “Compatible [with a low histamine diet]. No symptoms [have been observed] after consumption of an[sic] usual quantity.”

The book “Is Food Making You Sick?” lists hemp seed as being fine for histamine intolerance sufferers to eat when they wish to lower their histamine levels.

However, as with all foods, there may be some people who have an adverse reaction to hemp seed. This is uncommon, but if you believe you’ve reacted badly to any food, it’s wise to avoid it altogether for a week or more, then gradually re-introduce small quantities into your diet to see whether you can tolerate it. Every body is different!

In some cases it might not be the food itself that’s causing problems, but the way it has been processed. Choose to eat whole foods, which are either unprocessed or lightly processed, with as few additives as possible.

Hemp seeds are highly nutritious. They are rich in healthful fats, protein and  minerals. They also taste delicious, with a pleasant, nutty flavor.

Nutritional Benefits of Hemp Seed

These seeds are a source of the essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6),  alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) and gamma-linolenic acid, all of which benefit human health.

They are also a good source of high quality protein. In fact, they are considered to contain “complete protein”, which means that they provide all the essential amino acids needed as the body’s building blocks.

Hemp seeds also contain vitamin E and they are rich in minerals such as  sodium, magnesium, sulfur, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron and zinc.

Whole hemp seeds are rich in both soluble (20%) and insoluble (80%) fiber. This does not hold true, however, for “de-hulled” or “shelled” hemp seeds (also known as hemp hearts), from which the fiber-rich outer casing has been removed.

Edible hemp seeds belong to the cannabis (marijuana) plant family. Marijuana and THC are far from being benign substances; habitual use of this drug can lead to permanent brain damage and psychosis. Hemp, on the other hand, is a useful plant. The seeds contain only trace amounts of THC, the compound that causes the psychoactive effects of marijuana.

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