How To Stop Histamine Intolerance From Wrecking Your Energy with Yasmina Ykelenstam

Content By: Ari Whitten

I am sure you, or someone you know, have had to take an anti-histamine pill to combat an allergic reaction to pollen or similar, at some point in your life. But did you know that there is such a thing as histamine intolerance and that this can wreck your energy?

This week, I am talking to histamine intolerance expert Yasmina Ykelenstam. Yasmina is a health journalist with over 10 years research and international news production experience for 60 Minutes, CNN and the BBC. After 20 years of being misdiagnosed with everything from multiple sclerosis to leukemia to Lyme disease, she eventually discovered that histamine intolerance was at the root of her symptoms. Since then, she’s been teaching people how to figure out if histamine is the cause of their symptoms and how to cure their symptoms by fixing their histamine intolerance.

Contents show

In this podcast, we’ll cover

  • What histamine is
  • What histamine intolerance can do to your body
  • What to eat to make sure you help your body recover from histamine intolerance
  • How histamine can influence migraines
  • Why diet is essential to treating histamine intolerance

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How To Stop Histamine Intolerance From Wrecking Your Energy – Transcript

Ari Whitten: Hi, everyone. I’m here with Yasmina. Welcome, Yasmina. It’s a pleasure to have you on.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Pleasure to be here. Thank you very much for having me.

How Yasmina came to helping people with histamine intolerance

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I know that you have a crazy story, personal story, and your experience with histamine and that kind of led you to all of the knowledge and to doing what you’re doing now. I would love if you could just tell us all a little bit about how you came to do what you now do.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I first noticed something was totally wrong when I was working as a journalist in Iraq. It’s a little difficult when you’re passing out and suffering from weird dehydration and running to the bathroom every couple minutes and you’re on a military embed and you’re putting everybody’s life at stake because you have to run to the toilet every few minutes.

I had to retire from that life as a journalist and figure out what was going on with me. It was really difficult because at the time nobody had heard of histamine or barely any people had heard of it.

There was no information on the internet. I had to self-diagnose and work out what was going on. That’s why I started writing about it because nobody else was.

What histamine is

Ari Whitten: Very interesting. What is histamine? What is histamine intolerance?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: A Histamine is an inflammatory agent that is found in the body in a white blood cell called a mast cell. Now mast cells are an integral part of the immune system and they open, they break open, to release histamine in the body.

For example, when we need healing, when we’re exposed to a virus, or sometimes when we’re triggered by allergies or things like that, the mast cells break open in a process called degranulation and histamine is one of the inflammatory mediators that are released to get to the area where there’s a problem and to allow the other inflammatory agents to penetrate.

As a consequence, histamine causes a lot of inflammation because that’s really its job. When you have too much of it, it’s a problem. Histamine is also found in foods.

What histamine intolerance is

Some people lack an enzyme or two enzymes, the DAO and HNMT enzymes, to degrade the histamine. When you lack those enzymes the histamine just keeps building up and building up until you spill over into these crazy reactions that nobody can really diagnose.

There’s maybe 20 … I’m guesstimating here. There’s very few doctors in the world who can diagnose either histamine intolerance, which is basically a lack of these enzymes or one of the enzymes, and too much histamine, or mast cell activation, which is considered where mast cells are degranulating at will for no good reason and just splurging inflammation into the body.

How to diagnose histamine intolerance

Ari Whitten: How is this diagnosed? I know you just said very few people in the world, it sounds like, are really looking for this or trying to diagnose it or can diagnose it. How does one actually diagnose this? What are the key things there?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: There are a couple of different ways. One is to go to a naturopath who can run a blood histamine test and also a test for Diamine oxidase, the DAO enzyme that degrades histamine.

Unfortunately, histamine and DAO both fluctuate wildly from hour to hour really because histamine is involved in every … Not every but it’s involved in about 20 different major body processes.

It’s a neurotransmitter, it gets the digestive process going, it regulates our circadian rhythm, it can give us insomnia, it’s implicated in narcolepsy.

It’s really difficult to track with that fluctuation. That’s one way of trying to get a handle on things.

The golden standard because of this is the fact that it is an elimination diet. It’s considered the golden standard. You do it for four weeks. You eliminate all the high histamine foods and if you get better there’s your answer.

The drawbacks when testing for histamine intolerance

There are drawbacks to this as well because obviously when you lure inflammation generally you can have a false positive. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the histamine. It could be just inflammation generally. It can get a bit confusing.

In terms of mast cells, you can go to an immunologist or an allergist and you can get tested for different inflammatory mediators that are released from mast cells.

There are a couple of different approaches depending on whether or not you’re lucky enough to find someone who knows what they’re talking about. I have plenty of information on my website that people can …

There are all the studies. People can download them and take them to a doctor and hopefully be listened to.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I hope so.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: You had a good laugh there.

What the symptoms of histamine intolerance are

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Serious. What are the symptoms of histamine intolerance? What should be cues that somebody’s alarm bells are going off in their head as to starting to suspect that histamine is a problem for them?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: It’s basically allergy-like symptoms but it’s such a mixed bag. Things like bloating or IBS, dizziness, brain fog, food intolerance-like symptoms, inability to remember things – well I guess that falls under brain fog. More generally it can be linked to the bladder, it can be linked to our emotional state because as a neurotransmitter it interacts with GABA, Serotonin, and Norepinephrine.

There’s that interplay.

There are really about 55 or 60, I think it was, symptoms that we know of that are very commonly related to mast cell and histamine issues. That’s why doctors get confused but those are the biggies. Anything that looks like a rash, any flushing, hives or [inaudible], things like that.

Ari Whitten: Got you. A lot of these symptoms are general and can be mixed up with a lot of other things. How does one sort out whether their issues are coming from histamine or from potentially other causes?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I guess that’s why the elimination diet is the golden standard. That would only narrow it down to the fact that it’s an inflammatory issue. That also gets confusing because if you’re sensitive to them, Salicylic acid found in plants, Oxalic acid found in fructose, and many other compounds found in foods can trigger inflammation if the body is already in a state of dysregulation.

It’s difficult. I would say that’s where the practitioner steps in. You can at least narrow it down to an inflammatory issue and then you can play around with different food lists and see if you do better with one or the other.

In my view, if you narrow it down to an inflammatory issue what you really want to do is just support the body overall inflammation-wise.

Why elimination diets can be a bad way of diagnosing intolerances

That’s why my approach to histamine issues differs from everybody else’s. Everybody else’s is eliminating, and then try and eventually add things back to the diet.

What actually ends up happening is that people eliminate and then they eliminate and they eliminate and they eliminate and they eliminate and then when they try to bring foods back to the diet it’s unsuccessful because they’ve eliminated for too long and the body is lacking nutrients, the immune system is just thinking … It’s in a panic when you reintroduce something. Sometimes it’s been gone too long, especially if the immune system is on high alert. Generally.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I love that distinction about your approach because you talk about how other people are really focused on giving you these long lists of foods to eliminate and avoid and you have your list of foods to include and foods you should actively be seeking out and eating more of. Can you just talk a bit about what those foods are and why they’re important?

Why Yasmina is focusing on diet when treating histamine Intolerance

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Absolutely. Originally when I was diagnosed I was told either take these eight medications or that’s pretty much all we can do for you. By that point, I had already realized that I could kind of manage my symptoms through diet alone.

There was this great natural supplement called NeuroProtek that was developed by a mast cell researcher, Dr. Theoharides at Tufts.

I was told that it was the solution to all my problems. A lot of people with histamine and mast cell issues were taking it. I cried when I realized I couldn’t tolerate it.

I looked at it, I looked at the label and I thought, “Well, where else can I find all of this?” While it’s difficult to work your way up to a therapeutic dose using these foods they do act synergistically.

Combining the Quercetin found in apples, broccoli, in herbs like cilantro, basil, which themselves have anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties, independently of the Bioflavonoids Quercetin and Luteolin, which have been shown to act as anti-histamines, they have other compounds that are doing great things like antioxidants.

Antioxidants have been found to mediate the damage done to the body by histamines.

We have a bunch of different stuff going on there. When you combine all of these amazing foods together … You’re looking for brightly colored vegetables, you want to avoid tomatoes, normally.

I’m not saying you have to forever or you actually have to. I’m an advocate of maybe use the elimination list for a little bit and then if you’ve narrowed it down and figured out this is your issue then just try and see what you can get away with.

Things like carrots that are high in antioxidants, but mainly it’s the herbs, it’s the green vegetables, some purple ones, anything purple colored is amazing. As we know for more than histamine intolerances.

What the job of histamine is

Yeah, just lots of whole foods. Avoid processed foods. Avoid emulsifiers, which have been shown to compromise the intestinal barrier. Histamine is involved in leaky gut.

Histamine’s job is to cause inflammation. Histamine is required to get the digestive process and that’s just a recipe for disaster for some people.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. I think that’s an important point. Histamine is not just this bad thing. It’s obviously playing an important role in certain processes in our body. How does one actually get this issue of histamine intolerance? Where is it originating? Why do some people have it, other people don’t?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: There’s an indication that part of it is genetic. The DAO enzyme and HNMT mutations can be passed on from your parents. DAO can be compromised by different foods.

Sorry, I think it was dish washing liquid for example. Also, a lack of nutrients, such as copper, magnesium, B6, and a couple of others.

How magnesium deficiency can cause increase in histamine

If you don’t have enough of these you’re not going to have enough DAO production in your body. Magnesium, in particular, has been shown that if you are deficient in magnesium, for just four days histamine rises incredibly.

Ari Whitten: Really?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I can’t remember the actual figure but Magnesium is absolutely essential for people. As it is for so many different things. I wasn’t entirely surprised to find out but it’s kind of a biggie.

How modern living is causing increased histamine levels

There’s also modern living. Processed foods putting a strain on our digestive system. The harder the digestive system has to work, the more histamine is going to be released because it gets the acid going, it breaks down the food, all that kind of stuff.

Aside from that, we have the fact that just generally our immune system is being overburdened and attacked by so many different things that it’s constantly on high alert. I’ve always told people that the best I’ve ever felt was in Bali.

Not just because my stress was the lowest it’s ever been because, hey, it’s Bali, but also because there was no chlorine in the water that I was bathing in, there was barely any pollution, there were no pesticides in my food, I was eating totally natural foods straight from farm to table. It was amazing.

There was no stress on my immune system. Of course, stress releases histamine and activates mast cells. The circle continues.

What impact mast cell disorder has on histamine intolerance

Ari Whitten: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve also heard talk of mast cell disorder. I’ve seen a book written on that. Do you have any familiarity with that concept? How is that related to histamine intolerance? Is it the same thing? Or are we talking about different things?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: It depends on who you ask. I was originally diagnosed with histamine intolerance on the basis of low DAO and high blood histamine. I worked with that for a couple of years. I’m actually grateful for that because it taught me how to manage my symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes.

But, something was never quite right. I talked to other people with histamine intolerance. I was going into anaphylactic shock. I just thought, “This doesn’t really fit the profile of histamine intolerance.”

That doesn’t mean that everybody with mast cell activation has to go into anaphylactic shock. You have some people who are shockers and some people who are leakers. Leakers just have constant unpleasant symptoms like allergy-like symptoms, the itching, the nausea, all of that stuff.

Mast cell activation is so closely linked because the mast cells release histamine along with other inflammation in the body. That’s one of the reasons that I pulled away from focusing on histamines so much was because in my case I realized that the mast cell was the more … If you stop the mast cell from leaking the histamine and the rest of the inflammation into the body you’re already winning.

Then, you don’t really need to watch what you eat so much because the mast cells aren’t constantly pumping histamine into the bloodstream.

I think that a lot of people diagnosed with histamine intolerance might have mast cell activation. I think a lot of people with mast cell activation technically have histamine intolerance.

You can have low DAO, which is histamine intolerance, and you can also have mast cell activation, which means that you’re just having too much of all of the inflammatory mediators.

When you go in for a workout for mast cell activation they do test you for histamine. It’s one of the inflammatory agents that they do test for.

Histamine, Leukotriene, prostaglandins, and interleukins, which are all housed in mast cells segregated from the bloodstream until needed. In mast cell disorder the mast cells are constantly splurging.

What action Yasmina took when she moved her focus from histamine to mast cells

Ari Whitten: Interesting. You mentioned something about you moving away from histamine and towards mast cells. Can you just talk a little bit more in-depth about why you made that move?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Simply because going low histamine didn’t work for me. I was having terrible reactions and I needed to figure out what was going on. Then I realized that for many people even if you don’t have a classic mast cell disorder the constant triggering of histamine …

Mast cells are triggered by IGE reactions. If you’re reacting to pollen and the histamine type reaction is triggering the mast cells then even if you don’t have a classic mast cell issue you could be having a mast cell reaction.

That’s what confounds a lot of doctors and patients also because they go in with classic mast cell symptoms and they’re told, “Well, I’m sorry. There’s nothing happening.”

To further complicate the issue mast cell activation and histamine intolerance are sometimes, or if not frequently, secondary to something else.

How hard exercise can trigger your immune system

A virus, parasites, a medication that’s not agreeing with you, high-stress life, excess exercise. Exercising too hard can trigger your immune system. I think it’s 72 days until the inflammation goes down from exercise. I can’t remember exactly.

Ari Whitten: 72 hours?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Yeah. For most healthy people it’s not really an issue because they don’t have inflammation. Or they do but not very high levels.

If you think of the body as a bucket, a giant bucket, and you’re operating here because your mast cells are leaky or not enough DAO or whatever and then you keep exercising at high intensity you just keep spilling over and spilling over and spilling over.

Whereas if you were not dealing with this issue you could exercise with no problem.

Regular exercise helps healing and boost energy levels

Some people who have problems with the inflammation from exercising they do yoga, they lift weights at a lower intensity, they walk instead of run.

I think exercise is a huge piece of the healing and so I absolutely do not believe that people shouldn’t exercise even if it does make them spill over. I just think that they should find a way to exercise safely but at a lower intensity and then maybe work their way back up by fixing their diet, by addressing medication or parasites or whatever it is.

What conditions histamine is linked to

Ari Whitten: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely. I know there are a number of other conditions that histamine is linked with. Can you talk a bit about what those conditions are?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: In one way or another histamine either aggravates, mimics or is a part of things like multiple sclerosis, cancer, chronic migraines, cluster migraines, that condition. It’s involved in endometriosis.

It can cause miscarriages by causing uterine contractions. It can also cause false positive … You think you’re ovulating but you’re not because an immature egg has been released. That’s just in animal studies. I haven’t seen anything in human studies.

It’s been linked to Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder. It’s a neurotransmitter. Generalized anxiety disorder was the latest one I saw. Inflammation, in general, has been linked to a multitude of psychiatric disorders.

I think it was researchers at Kings College in London are developing an inflammatory Cytokine test, and that’s what you call what’s in mast cells, to diagnose people with different kinds of depression to see who needs medication.

What conditions are red flags for histamine issues and intolerances

Ari Whitten: Interesting. Are there any conditions which are huge red flags for histamine issues specifically?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Meaning if you have that condition you should look at histamine?

Ari Whitten: Yeah.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I would say cancer generally, just inflammation. It’s difficult because I have readers who have multiple sclerosis who have found that it’s beneficial for them to change their diet.

You have people like Dr. Terry Wahls who discovered that a long time ago but who doesn’t focus on histamines specifically.

I would just say if you’re suffering from any of them, arthritis, any kind of inflammatory condition, you would benefit not just from adjusting your histamine intake, but by adjusting your diet so that it’s anti-inflammatory overall.

How to adopt an anti-histamine intolerance lifestyle

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I know we talked a bit about that but can you talk a bit more in-depth on the overall picture of what an anti-histamine diet looks like? Or an anti-histamine lifestyle, I should say. I would imagine there are certain things that are also helpful beyond nutrition.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Absolutely. The first thing I would advise people to do is to look at their bath and beauty products because there are so many triggers in there that the immune system is just bombarded with so much garbage. It’s just unbelievable that we know triggers mast cells and the immune system. Or if you’re doing the diet and you’re not feeling better definitely look at those. Things like perfumes. Take a look around. See what you’re doing that can be more organic.

Beyond that diet-wise, it’s really just there are many different interpretations of this. Mine is primarily plant-based because I’ve never really been a fan of animal protein. That’s more just worrying about the animals for most of my life. When push has come to shove and I have not been able to fix things through pills, supplements, I have increased my intake.

It’s primarily plant-based, very low in grains or no grains at all ideally. I’ll include a little bit of black rice, a little bit of gluten-free oats. Breakfast is … It’s really individual. Some people can tolerate eggs, some people can’t.

Generally, it’s low protein, which is in line with Dr. Valter Longo’s research. He’s the fasting, mimicking diet researcher at USC. I follow his work very closely and I’ve been doing his fasting for a long time now. Showing that the optimum amount of protein is actually quite low for people who have inflammation.

Why you should take the anti-histamine food lists with a grain of salt

Lots of leafy greens, lots of anti-histamine foods. There’s plenty of lists on the internet. Take them with a massive grain of salt.

Ari Whitten: Why?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: You’ll find things like pineapple on there. Pineapple, tomatoes, yes, if you don’t have a histamine problem those can be anti-inflammatory but if you do, yikes.

Ari Whitten: Wait, there are foods that you’ll see on as anti-inflammatory foods or foods that are high in histamine?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Oh, no. I’ve seen lists on the internet saying if you have allergies or if you react to pollen, eat pineapple. Most people who come to me with issues I tell them, “Okay, the first thing is just cut out pineapple, nuts, dairy, and wheat, and soy, and yeast and see how you feel.” Most of them go away and they don’t have a problem anymore.

They look online for these lists. I’ve seen one list saying soy for your allergy. Soy is one of the most allergenic foods on the planet.

Ari Whitten: Interesting. Why do you think there’s such a disconnect there?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Because I think people are writing blog posts to generate traffic and not necessarily taking very much care.

Ari Whitten: Good answer.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: It’s basically what the Livestrong website is all about.

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Oh, for sure. There’s definitely a lot of spammy health blogs out there that they decide to write an article on something for SEO purposes after doing eight minutes of research on the topic.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Exactly.

A list of the most histamine rich foods

Ari Whitten: What are some of the most histamine rich foods that … Actually, you mentioned a list there. We should go back to that. That was dairy, nuts, yeast, which I assume is mainly bread that we’re talking about.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Soy.

Ari Whitten: Soy. What else?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: For many people, it’s corn, which is unfortunate because a lot of vitamin Cs are made from Ascorbic acid, which is often derived from fermented corn.

Fermented foods are problematic for people with histamine issues, which a lot of people come to realize they have a histamine problem because they try the Gap Diet. All the fermented foods make them crazy. I personally almost had a nervous breakdown from fermented foods.

Ari Whitten: Wow.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I literally thought I was losing my mind. I was shaking, I was manic, I couldn’t catch my breath. Then I just realized, “Wow, I’ve been eating a lot of fermented foods” and I just stopped for a while and it all went away.

The others would be … Wheat is just so inflammatory. It causes so many issues for people. The research that’s coming out now you don’t have to be Celiac, you don’t even have to be gluten intolerant.

There are other wheat proteins that trigger systemic inflammation in susceptible individuals. Just regardless of the other issues.

Another biggie is cheese because it’s fermented and it’s dairy. Dairy is inflammatory. Those are the biggies.

When people tell me, “Oh, I don’t eat tomatoes but I’ll have a chunk of cheese” I’m like, “Ah, reverse that.” The tomato has so many more nutrients. It is anti-inflammatory overall. It contains some [inaudible]

Whereas cheese it’s fermented plus it is dairy. Generally, I tell people if you find food on more than one list be wary of it.

Ari Whitten: On more than one histamine rich list?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: No, no, no. Meaning, for example, spinach is on the high histamine list and it’s on the high Oxalic acid list.

Ari Whitten: Oh, I see.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: If you’re dealing with inflammation it may not be the best choice, especially if you’re suffering from symptoms relating to Oxalic acid, such as bladder issues, dizziness, stuff like that.

For example, some of the nuts. Almonds are low histamine. Well, I just contradicted myself there. Almonds are low histamine but they’re high oxalate. It depends on what your issue is.

Generally, I stay away from the foods or eat them in moderation because I eat pretty much anything nowadays that isn’t processed, that I like. I don’t like dairy so that was never an issue for me.

The link between histamine intolerance and migraines

Ari Whitten: Got you. I want to talk about one condition particularly. I’m curious if you know much about the link between histamine and migraines.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Ah, yes. Histamine, in particular, has been linked to a lack of Diamine Oxidase. The histamine degrading enzyme. Histamine independently of that has been shown to … If you have inflammation in your brain it’s going to make you more prone to migraines or it’s going to make your migraines more intense.

That’s what researchers have found. That histamine can make migraines more intense and that they can make them last longer. It can make them last longer.

Ari Whitten: Have you found success in the people you’ve worked with who have suffered from migraines by adopting your approach?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Yeah, it depends. Yes, some have. Myself included. In the past, I realized that if I took an anti-histamine when there’s a migraine coming on it would stop.

Ari Whitten: Interesting.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: That doesn’t mean it was a classic migraine. There are different mechanisms by which a migraine can occur. I had a six-month migraine once.

Ari Whitten: Oof. Jesus.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: They offered me morphine in the end and I refused, thankfully, because that is a big histamine trigger. Yes, a lot of people have resolved their migraines.

Some people have had Tyramine issues, which also trigger migraines. Then you’re looking at two food lists. I used to do consults. I don’t do them anymore. There are workshops and there are Facebook groups for people to get involved in.

It’s sometimes a combination of things and seeing what works. Histamine will make anything worse. I tell people to think of the body as a giant inflammation bucket and within the big bucket are contained little buckets.

You have the salicylic acid bucket, the oxalic acid, histamine, fructose, you name it, and a little stress bucket.

One of these buckets fills up and spills over. The big bucket spills over and you get a reaction. That’s what confuses a lot of people because they think, “I haven’t eaten a lot of histamines today.” I say, “Well, have you had a ton of salicylic acid? Have you had a ton of oxalic acid?” Look at your diet. Are you mono eating? Are you not mixing your foods up enough?

I tell people to imagine their plate cut into portions. Have a little bit of high histamine, a little bit of low histamine, a little bit of salicylic acid. Don’t have one giant plate of anything.

How to build your meal to balance out the histamine intake and reduce the histamine intolerance

Ari Whitten: What does that look like? As a practical example of the plate that you’re painting a picture of? Using specific foods.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: For me, for example, a salad would be a big mixed bag of mesclun greens that are not high in oxalic acid, some arugula on top, which is anti-histamine, low oxalic acid, high in vitamin K and in quercetin and antioxidants. A couple of slices of avocado, which is very high histamine for a fruit. I will put a little bit of …

I’ll make a dressing from cilantro and basil and thyme, for example. Each one of those is anti-histamine. I’ll mix it with olive oil, which has been shown to boost DAO in the gut. Then I might top some seeds on them, which are high in oxalic acid.

How some cooking methods can make foods more allergenic

Whenever I put high histamine food I counter-balance it with a dressing or the way I cook it, the way you cook food can make it more allergenic. There’s a study that shows that peanuts become 30% more allergenic when they’re roasted.

Ari Whitten: Interesting. As opposed to raw?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Exactly.

Ari Whitten: Okay. Does that apply across the board? That generally cooked food is more allergenic?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: It depends on how you cook it.

Ari Whitten: Okay. Tell me more.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Histamine foods, acrylamides, ACEs and ACHs, I want to say, they form when you roast the food too much. That creates an oxidating effect on the body and that interacts with histamine. Either you want to counter-balance that … I saw something interesting on Dr. Michael Greger’s website Nutrition …

Ari Whitten:

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Exactly. Love his website. He was saying that you should eat a handful of antioxidant containing foods with every meal so that you counter-balance the oxidizing effect of whatever else you’re eating. Dr. [inaudible] has also been saying that for years. I started doing that a while back and it makes a big difference.

Ari Whitten: Nice. Awesome. Wow. That’s quite a mix that you have there. That’s a lot of different plant foods. Some are rich in oxalic acid. You talked about putting certain foods in there that are maybe salicylic acid rich or oxalic acid-rich and yet part of the paradigm you’re presenting is that these are buckets, which you can potentially have too much of. How do we balance that?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: It’s really individual. It’s really hard. People think it might be a cop out for me to say that but it really is highly individual. That’s one of the reasons that my readers like what I do because I don’t dictate. I tell them your body will tell you what the right balance is.

We’re constantly walking a tightrope. One day something works, one day something doesn’t work and we think, “Oh, better pull back. I had a bit too much histamine yesterday. I’m going to eat a bit more of this or that.”

Your brain just turns into this computer of you work it out and it becomes second nature. I don’t refer to lists anymore. I don’t consciously balance my foods. It just becomes something ingrained and when you’re cheating you’re happy about it and you know you’re doing it.

What to do if you suspect histamine intolerance

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Got you. If one suspects that they have a histamine issue or if one is diagnosed with it can you lay out how this should be treated in a step by step way?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Ideally you want diagnosis first. You’re either looking for the naturopath or you’re looking for an allergist and an immunologist.

Failing that you could try the elimination diet on your own, which involves finding a list on the internet and there are many. There is no definitive list. I wish I could create one for people but there are too many variables.

I looked into getting each food tested and all of the labs told me, “Vegetables, there’s just barely any histamine in there. Our machines won’t even pick that up. Forget it.” I have been trying.

Even if I worked out a definitive list it wouldn’t matter because it’s also individual. It depends on what you ate that day.

Why you should always eat fresh – or flash frozen – foods

The WHO recently released a report saying that the histamine levels in fish might be too high for people who have allergies and who have immune system problems or who drink alcohol when they eat the fish. Alcohol paralyzes the DAO enzyme that degrades the histamine. That’s an example of what I tell people. Be mindful of what you’re pairing your foods with.

Ari Whitten: Are there any other examples like that?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: No. That’s the biggie. It would just be aware of what category your food falls into.

Make sure the food is fresh because bacteria trigger histamine release. You don’t want any kind of spoiled food. Fish should be as fresh as possible or flash frozen at sea.

How to find out what foods cause symptoms

Yeah, find yourself a list. Try the elimination diet for a couple of weeks. Then bring the foods back and see what causes a reaction, what doesn’t.

What I tell people to do is make yourself a spreadsheet with your major symptoms across the top and then every time you have a symptom …

Don’t do a food diary every day. Just every time you have a symptom that falls under one of these write down what you remember of what you ate that day and if you can what you remember of the day before.

That way you start to see patterns. It’s irrelevant what lists the foods fall on because you know what your exact triggers are.

Before you do that if you create a list of foods that you would like to integrate into your diet because a lot of people end up eliminating way too much … I made myself a list of super high nutrient foods that I desperately wanted back into my diet. One by one, I’d bring those over into my diet and see how [crosstalk]

Ari Whitten: Yeah, I love that.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: There’s also research showing that low-level exposure to antigens will stop affecting mast cells at some point.

How to reintroduce a food you react to

Ari Whitten: Okay. Translate that into practical terms for people. Eat a very, very small amount of a food that you would normally react to?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I can’t give that advice because I’m not a nutritionist and I’m not a doctor and I don’t want anybody to get hurt but that’s what [inaudible]

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Yeah. There’s some research on that that I’ve seen recently. We’re talking about introducing very minute amounts of foods that you would normally have a reaction to as a way to desensitize your body to it.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Yeah, it’s very difficult. One of the ways I did it originally was I would cook the food in some olive oil and keep it in there very briefly and then take the food out and then cook the rest of my food in that olive oil so that my brain and my immune system were not actually consciously aware of the food, especially if it had bothered me a lot in the past.

It was a very gentle introduction and each time I would leave the piece of food in there longer.

Ari Whitten: Ah, very nice. That’s a cool way. Cool. This has been great.

Are there any final words of advice that you could offer to people who are interested in learning more about this subject and who want to take things to the next level and start to address some of their histamine issues?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: I would say don’t be an extremist. Don’t fall into the rabbit hole. Manage your stress and learn to meditate if you’re not already. That is the most important thing.

I tell people if you’re stressed out you’re not going to be able to add foods back to your diet. It’s just not going to happen.

Your brain becomes wired to reactions. It becomes wired to, “Oh, I had cucumber before. Oh, well, a zucchini looks like a cucumber and I was violently ill the last time I had something that was green and oblong. Oh, well. I’m going to react to zucchini too.”

Ari Whitten: Right. Yeah, I think so many people get in that down the rabbit hole of elimination diets end up cultivating so much fear of certain foods in their mind that the fear of the food almost becomes worse than the food itself.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: Absolutely. I was Orthorexic for a number of years. A type of anorexia. I became fearful of food. I demonized it. I had a love/hate relationship with it. I had many a nervous breakdown at the supermarket.

Where to learn more about Yasmina’s work and treating histamine intolerance

Ari Whitten: Yeah. Beautiful. I love that. Well, thank you so much, Yasmina. It’s been an absolute pleasure. Where can people find more about your work if they want to learn more about what you do and the information that you’ve put out there?

Yasmina Ykelenstam: The new website that I’ve just launched is You’ll find information for your doctor, you’ll find food lists, you’ll find online workshops that you can do at any time, and there are eBooks and there’s free information all over the blog. I poured my heart into that website.

Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Well, thank you so much, Yasmina. It’s been a pleasure. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Yasmina Ykelenstam: It’s been a pleasure. This has been the most in-depth and useful interview I’ve done.

Ari Whitten: Thank you. Glad to hear that. Thank you again. Bye.

How To Stop Histamine Intolerance From Wrecking Your Energy – Show Notes

How Yasmina came to helping people with histamine intolerance (0:16)
What Histamine is (1:18)
What Histamine intolerance is (2:22)
How to diagnose Histamine intolerance (3:04)
The drawbacks when testing for histamine intolerance (4:23)
What the symptoms of histamine intolerance are (5:05)
Why elimination diets can be a bad way of diagnosing intolerances (7:33)
Why Yasmina is focusing on diet when treating histaminie ntolerance (8:38)
What the job of histamine is (10:44)
How magnesium deficiency can cause increase in histamine (11:51)
How modern living is causing increased histamine levels (12;24)
What impact mast cell disorder has on histamine intolerance (13:33)
What action Yasmina took when she moved her focus from Histamine to mast cells (15:53)
How hard exercise can trigger your immune system (17:00)
Regular exercise helps in healing and boosting energy levels (17:48)
What conditions histamine is linked to (18:20)
How to adopt an anti-histamine intolerance lifestyle (20:42)
Why you should take the anti-histamine food lists with a grain of salt (22:40)
A list of the most histamine rich foods (24:24)
The link between histamine intolerance and migraines (27:05)
How to build your meal to balance out the histamine intake and reduce the histamine intolerance (29:37)
How some cooking methods can make foods more allergenic (30:39)
What to do if you suspect histamine intolerance (33:21)
Why you should always eat fresh – or flash frozen – foods (34:10)
How to find out what foods cause symptoms (35:05)
How to reintroduce a food you react to (36:18)
Where to learn more about Yasmina’s work and treating histamine intolerance (38:38)


Click here to find out more about histamine intolerance and how to heal it!

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