I know what you’re thinking…low-histamine WHAT?
A few months ago, I didn’t even bat an eyelash at the term “low-histamine”, nor did I know what following this type of diet was. Little did I know, after listening to Doreen Virtue’s latest book on audible, “Don’t Let Anything Dull Your Sparkle,” that my entire style of eating was about to flip completely on its side.
Previous to listening to this book, I was following what I believed to be a pretty well-balanced diet. Having gone vegan in 2010, I ate plenty of plant-based proteins, nuts, grains, and seeds. I focused on home cooked meals for dinner every night, and I tried not to binge too much on sugary foods like cake and extra treats. I also had been doing yoga for about 9 months, getting up at 4:30 in the morning to make it to class and back home in time to homeschool my kiddos. I honestly thought that I was doing everything right, and at first, it seemed to be working well for me.
However…I noticed that after Christmas I was starting to not feel well. I was craving more processed foods, I felt nauseous most of the time, and I started getting really…cranky to say the least. My once-loved yoga started to feel really HEAVY on my mornings, and I realized that I was slowly gaining weight.
I was really stressed, but I didn’t entirely know why.
THANKFULLY, after listening to “Sparkle” back in February, I found complete clarity. What I learned was that I had been munching on high-histamine foods, some of which I believe I was allergic to, but didn’t know. Histamines are in all foods, but an excess of them can cause inflammation in the body, and even contribute to a leaky gut if not addressed early on. I realized that the bulk of my meals contained high amounts of histamines, and while some people do not see symptoms occur because of them, I realized that I did.
And it’s not just histamines, it’s also stress. I found that getting up early to go do yoga was actually putting my body under extra stress, and I was losing sleep, which caught up to me and ended up hurting more than helping. As a side note, I was also dealing with a lot of grief from recent deaths in my life, but didn’t realize I had so much baggage at the time. I became very grouchy and run-down, causing me to binge on high-histamine foods and sink deeper into the hole.
It was a viscous cycle that I didn’t even know I was participating in, but once I started to take it seriously, things changed for the better.
And I’m not going to lie- I wasn’t all happy-go-lucky at the beginning of this journey either. In fact, I was pretty ticked off about it lol.
I think the first time I sat down to make a “low-histamine” vegan grocery list, I lost my shit. It took me FOR-E-VER, because I had NO IDEA what the hell to eat! I thought, “How can I possibly do this when I don’t even know what to feed myself! Am I supposed to just eat romaine lettuce and sliced cucumber for the rest of my life??? And what about the kids!?” Flabbergasted, I had a hissy-fit the entire time I searched and planned out extremely basic recipes.
Oh yes, the ego went berserk.
It also didn’t help if I mentioned it to people either. I learned after that first week that it was best to keep my mouth shut about trying to do this, because (just like when you first go vegan), people will doubt you, try to sabotage you, or talk you out of it because they are worried.
And so, I vowed to myself that I would try JUST ONE MONTH of low-histamine foods, to get my system back in balance and see where this takes me (it has now been three months, which I documented for you below).
My kids would eat a low-histamine lunch and dinner, but I would make sure that I did not limit them on their breakfast and snack choices. As for hubby, he was completely on board, since he listened to the book with me and wanted to see if it would balance out his system as well.
So before you get the run down of my journey, I wanted to give you a good sample list of high-histamine foods. One of the things I learned is that there will be conflicting lists on the web, so you kinda have to pick one and then see if you have any reactions to things on that particular list.
Most importantly, please know that there is light at the end of the tunnel! Don’t get discouraged when you look at the list below- this is just a jumping off point.
Vegan high-histamine foods include:
- Soy & processed fake meats
- Canned foods
- Processed foods
- Pickled foods
- Red beans
- Some citrus fruits (conflicting depending on where you look)
- Cashews & walnuts
- Hot peppers
*Of course these are all vegan high-histamine foods- if you consume meat and animal products, your processed meats and dairy will also contain high amounts of histamine.
I know, I know, trust me I went through the same thing and had a panic attack the first time I heard this list (remember my ego shit-fit I mentioned earlier?). However, if you play it right, you can figure out what works for YOUR BODY. Below you will find some foods to help you on your journey if you choose to make the switch.
Low & Anti-Histamine Foods
- Honeydew melon
- Dried beans
- Dried lentils
- Dried black eyed peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown & black rice
- Plain oatmeal
- Chia seeds
- Bread made with unbleached flour
- Most herbs, such as nettle, basil, tarragon, chamomile, peppermint and thyme
- Mushrooms (conflicting depending on what list you look at- I have had no negative reactions to them)
See!? There ARE things to eat thank goodness! The more that you work with your list of choice, the more in tune you will be with your body and you can be more prepared in the future.
A Note About Nightshade Veggies
During this process I also learned more about the nightshade family, which fall under the species of Capscium and Solanum. Nightshade vegetables are considered to contain poisonous properties, yet certain parts of the plant may be consumed. I realized that a few of the high-histamine foods were nightshades, and I also learned that too much nightshade in your diet can cause aches, pains, and inflammation in the body.
- Potatoes (all EXCEPT sweet potatoes/yams)
- Peppers (both hot and sweet, excluding table pepper)
- Goji berries
- Ground cherries
- Garden huckleberry
Because of this information, I decided to use sweet potatoes in place of regular potatoes in my meals. However, the chances of a negative reaction depends on a number of factors, one being how green the potato is. I had heard that you should never buy green taters, but I figured it was just based on shelf life (and not poison levels!).
The hardest part was probably the hot peppers, because I REALLY love spicy food. That being said, I kept my bell peppers to a minimum, and didn’t notice any reactions to them in particular.
Onward to my experience…
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The first month on low-histamine was challenging to say the least. I think all I could manage was variations of broccoli, cauliflower, brown rice, and lentils. I made meals such as lentil soft tacos- flavoring the lentils with a small amount of cumin, salt, and pepper, and topping it with romaine lettuce and green onions. My main goal was to ditch the high histamine foods I had been relying on, such as tomatoes, eggplant, spinach, and canned vegetables and sauces.
Oh, and the number one culprit? SOY.
I ditched ALL soy products, including soy sauce, fake meats, soy-based butter, and anything else that had soy listed on the label. I bought soy-free Earth Balance butter and soy-free, dairy-free mayo for light condiment usage. (Pst! Get a recipe for your own homemade low-histamine friendly vegan butter by clicking here.)
I know this comes as a slam to some vegans who rely heavily on soy products. I myself jumped on the soy wagon (hell, I had a bunch of soy recipes on this blog!), as it is a great substitute for certain “fleshy” meals. I still think soy has its place in a healthy diet, but TOO MUCH soy obviously can lead to problems for sensitive people. I’m apparently one of those sensitive people, and unfortunately, I had to kiss soy goodbye.
Mostly though, during month one, I relied on herbs, light Himalayan pink salt, and pepper to help flavor my meals. I made every dinner from complete scratch. I stuck to the basics. And I retrained my taste buds to enjoy some of the natural tastes of food.
By the second week, I could already FEEL a significant difference. I wasn’t feeling nauseous or bloated, and I wasn’t getting headaches like I was before.
I felt BETTER, and that was incentive to keep going. I’m not going to fudge this blog post and say that I was 100% “well-behaved,” but I tried my hardest to stay on track. When I had a couple slip ups (I blame chocolate), I didn’t beat myself up about it. Instead, I just moved forward and tried harder the next time.
Overall, I think that during month one I had a 90% success rate, which made me feel loads better physically and mentally.
And, after all this histamine knowledge, I decided to say goodbye to sunrise yoga. I realized that the extra stress was not helping me (not to mention the time change kicked my ass!). I was a little bummed to leave that chapter, but the added sleep REALLY helped stabilize my mood and got my body back in check. Instead of getting up early to workout, I shifted my schedule and started to fit in stretching at home and weightlifting later in the day, so I didn’t have to sacrifice a good nights sleep.
During the second month of low-histamine, I started to get the hang of making my grocery list and pairing certain foods together.
This was also a time where I decided to “try out” a couple high-histamine foods, to see what my reaction was. I decided to give homemade pesto a go, using walnuts as a base and OMG, that went horribly wrong. I actually felt like I got kicked in the stomach and did not have a very relaxing night after that.
I tried tofu for the first time after about 5 weeks on low-histamine and that did not go over too well, but it wasn’t as bad as the walnut experience. I noticed that my soy reaction depended on a number of factors, such as if there was added soy (such as soy sauce) and whether or not it was organic. I came to the conclusion that I should keep soy out of my day-to-day, but if I’m out at a restaurant and that’s one of my only options, it won’t hurt me all that much.
During month two, I continued to make dinners from scratch, staying away from canned foods, soy, and as many processed foods as possible.
I started making my regular meals but leaving out certain ingredients that were high-histamine. For example, I would make Indian inspired cauliflower curry, but leave out the tomatoes. I found that I could still enjoy these dishes, but that the herbs really carried the flavors more than some of the high-histamine foods I had thought were a necessity.
I also allowed myself to have an “allowance” of certain foods, such as chocolate. Having one piece of sleepy-time chocolate after dinner helped me learn to relax and made me feel like I wasn’t depriving myself.
And you know what? Eating this way actually helped me in more ways than one. March got off to a horrible start, because my family experienced a tragic death in our immediate circle. This caused me to have a period of mourning and life-evaluation, but by continuing on with my low-histamine goals, I was able to focus more on self-care (instead of saying screw it and treating myself like a human garbage can).
I stuck with it, and over the month I noticed how it was helping contribute to my mental health as well as my physical health.
Having just finished month three, I can honestly say that trying low-histamine was one of the best choices I ever made.
While I do not follow a super strict low-histamine diet, through it I have discovered what makes my system feel uneasy and what doesn’t. If I’m craving a certain meal, I may choose one day during the week to indulge in that meal, but the rest of the week I eat low-histamine.
I also learned how to balance my high-histamine foods. For example, I’ve had spaghetti (one of my most FAVORITE meals ever), twice in past two months. While cooking my sauce, I made sure to add plenty of garlic and nettle (two anti-histamine foods) to help my system process my dinner.
To save time (and not use canned foods), I will often cook up a batch of beans or lentils in my crockpot and then use them for dinner that night.
This journey has shown me that it is all about BALANCE, not PERFECTION.
The way Doreen describes it in her book is that we each have our own little “bowl” of histamine tolerance in our bodies. When that bowl gets too full, it will overflow and cause havoc in our bodies. And so, I try to keep my bowl stable and balanced. I avoid foods I know I cannot handle and I indulge in others (such as chocolate- have I mentioned how much I love chocolate?).
As I said above, this is NOT about being perfect. I know some people may look at this post and think that I’m either crazy or a hypochondriac, and that’s okay. This post is not for those people. This blog post if for the people that may be feeling a little icky or run down or stressed. It is for the people that may be having allergic reactions to foods, but are not yet aware of the importance of histamines.
If anything, going “low-histamine” doesn’t have to be forever- for you it could just mean a month or two of getting yourself back in balance. It’s no fun to walk around feeling ill! I would much rather put in the extra effort of making things from scratch than to walk around feeling run down and sick. But hey, that’s just me.
The point is, you have to figure out what is right FOR YOU. No one else is going to be able to 100% understand how you feel during your day-to-day.
So if you are feeling a little blah, try avoiding these foods for just one month and see what happens. The results could be like *magic*.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be adding more low-histamine vegan recipes to help you along the way.
P. S. Bonus Recipes
Since writing this post, I have made a conscious effort to add low-histamine vegan recipes to Bohemian, and will continue to do so from this point forward! While I am no longer as strict about low-histamine (after following a LH “cleanse” for over 6 months), it completely changed the way I approach my meals. I have learned what foods I need to avoid, such as SOY, canned foods, cooked tomatoes, and white potatoes, and can now plan my recipes according to my needs. This is completely freeing and valuable, so if you are overwhelmed, just remember that there is hope! If anything, rollin’ it LH for a while will really help you tune into what upsets your system, creating a happy future for you in the long-run.
If you want a little inspiration on how to start a low-histamine vegan diet, please make sure to sign up for my VIP list below. For future recipe posts on the blog, you can find them under this category: Low-Histamine Vegan Recipes.
UPDATE: You can also find more recipes in my NEW cookbook, “Low-Histamine Vegan: TOTAL RESET” by clicking here!