This is a guest post from Christina from The Flawless Program.
I usually give advice to people suffering from eczema and other skin diseases, who are looking to heal their skin through natural methods. I want to share a letter from one of my clients along with my response, because I’m seeing that more and more people seem to be having the same kind of “mysterious skin effects” that you’ll see mentioned below.
The people suffering from these kind of breakouts extend to those following a Paleo-type diet, low-carb diet, vegetarian or vegan diet, etc., who have already given up known eczema triggers like gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, and artificial substances in their diet. Most have cut out highly processed foods, and aside from the occasional restaurant or “cheat day” live a pretty healthy lifestyle. Yet they still experience these unexplainable breakouts.
These random skin rashes that usually come with migraines or feelings of fatigue can be really frustrating which causes many to beg the question: “WHY? What am I doing wrong?”
I hope with this email I can shed some light on what causes this problem as well as give some solutions:
Rachel, 32, New York
I recently started your 30-day program, and overall it really helped my eczema to disappear!…But, about 2 weeks after stopping the program I had a breakout all around my chest and neck. The weird thing is that the spots are red and blotchy (not like my previous eczema) and I had really bad itching…it comes and it goes like almost randomly, and I can’t understand why! Sometimes I’ll have it right after I eat, and sometimes it’s when I wake up in the morning. I’ve also had headaches, but I’m not sure if it’s linked to the rashes, or from stress? I’m eating healthy….(no gluten, no dairy, low sugar!) I eat lots of vegetables, I’m pretty active and do yoga regularly, and I’ve even changed soaps and detergents. Overall I don’t feel like I’m doing anything “wrong”, so what is happening to my skin? I just don’t understand….
Thanks in advance!
Firstly let me say that I’m truly glad the program worked well for you and helped to clear up your eczema! I’m sorry to hear that you’re having these breakouts, and I’ll go right to your question.
What you’re describing to me sounds like it could be a case of a histamine intolerance. The fact that you’ve cut out obvious eczema culprits like dairy, gluten, sugar, etc., but still have random breakouts, sound like the bad effects of too much histamine.
You may not know what histamine is or how it’s related to the skin, (and don’t worry, most people have never heard of it before!) so let me try to explain this as simply and short as I can! 🙂
What is histamine?
In the body:
Histamine is an important bioactive neurotransmitter chemical that is responsible in the efficient functioning of many body systems. Its mainly involved in regulating stomach acid, the permeability of blood vessels, muscle contractions, and brain function. In short, histamine helps defend the body against invasions such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign bodies that could potentially cause us to get sick. Everyone has a certain amount of natural histamine in their body. Humans have a small amount in the brain and heart, and a high concentration is found in our stomach, lungs and skin.
Histamine is also found in certain types of foods
Seafood (shell fish, canned, smoked)
Processed, cured, smoked and fermented meats (bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni, etc.)
Leftover meat (after meat is cooked the histmaine levels increase due to microbial action as the meat sits
Fermented foods (Kombucha, Sauerkraut, etc.)
All fermented milk products (cheeses, yogurt, buttermilk, kefir)
Tomatoes and tomato sauces
Artificial food colorings and preservatives
Spices (cinnamon, chili powder, cloves, anise, nutmeg, cayenne)
Alcohol (red wine, spirits)
The side effects of too much histamine
According to medical studies, histamine levels of .3 to 1.0 nanograms per millilitre in plasma are considered to be normal. This varies from person to person, but most everyone has a safe level of histamine they can tolerate without experiencing negative symptoms.
To assist the body from going above the safe levels of histamine, we all have an enzyme called Diamine Oxidase (DAO), which breaks down any histamine we might absorb from foods. Basically this DAO enzyme helps make the food safe for us, so that when we eat a histamine-rich food (like chocolate for example), we won’t have any negative side effects.
There is one problem, however. Some people have a low level of this DAO enzyme, meaning that they cannot consume too many histamine rich foods. If they do, they will usually suffer from some “allergy-like” symptoms, similar to what you mentioned in your email. This is called a histamine intolerance. Take a look at some of these other side effects from an excess of histamine. You mentioned you have some, but do you have any others as well?
Pruritus, itching especially of the skin, eyes, ears, and nose
Tissue swelling or bloating, especially of facial and oral tissues and sometimes the throat.
Increased pulse rate for no apparent reason
Chest pain or heart burn
Fatigue, irritability, inability to focus, memory problems
Hypotension, drop in blood pressure
Unexplained bruising or bleeding
If you experience any of these other symptoms, then this is a sign of a histamine intolerance and you might want to cut back on the histamine-rich foods. But don’t worry! I know the list can sound overwhelming, but you don’t necessarily need to cut all the foods at once.
How to heal your histamine intolerance
Since you’ve been through my 30-day program, then you already know the importance of food allergies and how they can badly affect the skin through inflammation. However, a histamine intolerance isn’t the same as a food allergy. Food allergies are usually more obvious, (like having stomach pain after pizza if you’re allergic to gluten) but with histamine you have to imagine it more as a level.
I recently read an article that gives a great analogy of histamine as a cup of water, which is something I want you to think of. When the cup (your body) is very full (high histamine levels), even a drop more of water will cause the cup to overflow (negative symptoms). But when the cup is less full, you can afford to take more water (histamine foods) without causing an immediate response.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have to take everything into moderation. If you feel like you’ve been excessively consuming a histamine-rich food (like berries or acid fruits), then maybe you should consider cutting down on the intake for a while. If you’ve been drinking red wine every night with chocolate with red meat, with fermented cheeses, with berries (you get my point)– then just try having one or the other. Cutting down or reducing slowly will help you determine exactly what your histamine triggers are.
-Keep a food diary, it will help you easily spot the foods that are immediately causing a reaction
-Keep your cooking area clean and bacteria free
-Avoid canned, dried, smoked, cured meats and fish
-Avoid food that has been left out for long period of time (left over meats)
-As much as possible, eat and buy fresh products, more matured or old products have higher levels of histamine
Consume low-level histamine foods:
Fresh meat (cooled or frozen…the fresher the better!)
Freshly caught fish (again fresher the better)
Rice, all kinds
Rice noodles, vermicelli, sweet potato noodles
Most natural oils, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc.
Plain pasteurized milk
Fresh cheese, ricotta, cream cheese
Most leafy herbs
Non citric fruit juices
Fresh fruits (exception of citrus fruits and berries)
There is no immediate cure for histamine intolerance, and different people will have triggers to different things. The most important thing you can do to help reduce skin breakouts, is to look closely into your diet and try to reduce or eliminate foods that contain high levels of histamine.
One last thing I want to tell you is that a histamine intolerance is easier cured when you have a healthy gut. The body’s natural histamine levels increase during gut inflammation, which is caused by too much inflammatory foods.. The good news is that if you’ve finished my 30-day program to heal your eczema by improving gut health, then getting rid of these histamine symptoms should be fast and easy for you!
I hope this answered your questions, and I wish you a speedy recovery!
Have you had any experiences with histamine intolerances?