Starting the Low Histamine Diet
Confusion. It can be overwhelming hearing what you’re not supposed to eat. Before this particular doctor appointment, I had never heard of a low histamine diet. If I had read about it on the internet, I would’ve chalked it up to another trending fad. My doctor handed me a pithy little list of what to avoid, which left me wondering, “Well, what SHOULD I be eating?” I found an extensive histamine food content list from a Swiss association (SIGHI) that matched up with all the no-no’s of my specialist and went from there.
This is an elimination diet. The idea is to minimize the amount of histamine getting into your system by means of your food to see if doing so can get you feeling any better. Read about best practices, and get a grocery list and free recipes at the Low Histamine Diet Page.
Low Histamine Food List
Here’s a food summary I used as a guide when starting my ultra-low histamine diet. Safest means foods with lowest possible histamine content. Tolerable means foods with some low amount of histamine, so consume in smaller amounts.
Safest: butter, cottage cheese, cream cheese, young gouda, mascarpone, milk, mozzarella, ricotta
Avoid aged cheeses.
Safest: beef, chicken, turkey, fresh fish
Avoid aged meats.
Safest: cornflakes, oats, quinoa, rice (rice cakes, rice krispies, rice noodles)
Tolerable: wheat (pastas, cereals, bread, etc.)
Pretty much avoid this category, though macadamia nut appears to be low.
Safest: olive oil, canola oil, margarine
Safest: artichoke, asparagus, beets, sweet bell pepper, bok choi, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chicory, corn, cucumber, fennel, green beans, lettuces, parsnip, pumpkin, radish, squashes, sweet potato, yam, white onion, zucchini
Avoid anything pickled, and nightshades (includes spicy peppers, eggplants & tomatoes).
Safest: apple, apricot, blackberry, blueberries, cherries, coconut, cranberries, dates, grapes, lingonberries, lychee, melons, nectarine, peaches, persimmon, pomegranate, raisins
Safest: caramel, fructose, honey, lactose, maple syrup, sugar
Avoid artificial sweeteners and malt extract.
Safest: cinnamon, turmeric
Tolerable: ginger, nutmeg, poppy seeds, vanilla extract
Avoid: soy sauce, balsamic & wine vinegars
Safest: peppermint tea, holy basil, verbena, rooibos
Tolerable: Most herbal teas are low in histamine.
Avoid: black tea
Safe: carrot juice, cherry juice, cranberry juice
Tolerable: coffee, sodas
Avoid: alcohol, energy drinks, chocolate drinks
Don’t forget to freeze left-overs (especially protein), because histamine is produced as microbes break-down food!
I personally have felt a marginal difference on the low histamine diet, but others feel immensely better and swear by it. After a few weeks of hardcore elimination dieting, I decided to just avoid the highest histamine offenders for most meals. A huge improvement through the process was finding a few more mild triggers like malt and cloves. A huge benefit was just generally cleaning up my diet and getting into green smoothies. Clearly my body has trouble enough staying healthy, so why not give it plenty of nutrients to do the best it can. Maintaining a decent appetite can be a struggle for a lot of us POTSies, so smoothies offer a way to get in calories and decent nutrition! After years of restricting calories and intense workouts, I never imagined missing an appetite. Nothing like chronic illness to make you appreciate the most simple things.
Reference: Foods selected based on their histamine content as defined in the histamine food list provided by SIGHI.