meat on platter

Are You Raising Your Histamine Levels With These Meat Handling Mistakes? – What to know if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

Hello, everyone! I’m always looking for new resources and tips to share with you.

This post has some good starter information, but be sure to check out these 2 new blog posts with more up to date information — including additional sources for low histamine meat options.

The Best Low Histamine Meat and Seafood Options – info for those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

Meat Handling Tips: Preparation, Cooking and  Storage — What to know for those with Mast Cell Activation or Histamine Intolerance

When you have Histamine Intolerance or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, food storage and preparation are important for keeping histamine levels in foods low. Especially when it comes to meat.  

This is because bacteria grows very quickly on meat.

I’ve seen some of my clients make mistakes when it comes to handling meat. I want to share those with you so you don’t do the same! And I’m also going to share some solutions for the best ways to keep those histamine levels in meats low.

I’ve seen hundreds of clients who were suffering with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. When we first evaluated their food diaries, all were making at least one of the mistakes below.

And they all had big improvements once they started following the tips on the best ways to handle meat and fish to keep it low histamine!

So what are the common mistakes and what can you do? Let’s get started with mistake #1.

Most Common Meat Handling Mistakes - What to know for those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance

1. Mistake: Buying conventionally raised meat and farmed fish.

Conventionally raised meat and farmed fish can have high levels of antibiotics, toxins, and growth hormones. These can all raise histamine levels.

Further, the animals are raised in stressful conditions. These means they are full of stress hormones.

And they are fed grains. So when you consume these foods, this is getting passed to you. And those things can lead to inflammation in your body when you consume them. This spells bad news for mast cells.

Instead: Buy pasture raised meat and wild caught fish.

Pasture raised means the animals were raised outdoors and fed on grass, not grains (in the case of cattle). They are also raised without growth hormones or antibiotics. This method is more humane for the animals.

And there are many health benefits for you, too. Pasture raised meats and wild caught fish have higher levels of Omega 3s. Omega 3s are good for your mast cells (and help keep histamine lower). And pasture raised meats are also raised without chemicals that wreak havoc on your body.

But it is important to find a reputable source. Some farmers use the term “pasture-raised” lightly. (Note – “natural” and organic meats are still fed grains. Natural and Organic do not mean the same as pasture raised.)

The next tips tell you how to find low histamine, pasture raised meats and low histamine wild caught fish.

2. Mistake: Buying unfrozen meat or fish from the grocery meat department.

Meat and fish build in histamine levels very fast, especially on unfrozen meat and fish. Meat and fish can sit unfrozen at the grocery for a week or more. And who knows how old it was before it made it to the grocery?

Instead: Buy meat as fresh as possible or immediately frozen after slaughter.

I get pasture raised meat from a local farmer who freezes the meat directly after slaughter. It is frozen when I pick it up, and it stays in my freezer until thawing time. This has worked best for me. See #6 for more on how to source low-histamine fish.

3. Mistake: Giving up if you don’t have access to a local farmer.

Having MCAS and/or Histamine Intolerance means we have to work a little harder to source our food. Don’t give up! Your health is worth getting the best protein sources you can for your body.

Instead: Purchase with Northstar Bison

If you don’t have access to a local farmer who freezes right after slaughter, you have a really good online option. Northstar Bison has these low histamine options:

  • Unaged Bison 
  • Elk 
  • Chicken 
  • Turkey 
  • Rabbit 
  • Lamb
  • Salmon 
  • Halibut  

If you can’t buy your meat through option 1 or 2 above, then call the store where you purchase meat. Ask them what day the meat arrives. Let them know you have a health issue and need to buy your meat as fresh as possible. When you arrive at the store, ask for the meat that came in that day.

Remind them you called earlier because of your health issues. Only buy the meat that came in that day. Then either freeze the raw meat or cook the meat right away and freeze the leftovers. Just remember this isn’t as low histamine as buying it frozen after slaughter.

4. Mistake: Buying beef.

Almost all beef is aged. That makes it very high histamine. It is usually best to avoid beef unless you can get it unaged and frozen immediately after slaughter. This is really rare and hard to find.

Instead: Choose pasture-raised, unaged, frozen meats. I like the elk from Northstar as a good beef substitute.

You can also opt for any of the other low histamine meat options. Chicken is a popular favorite.

Anything that isn’t aged will be a lower histamine option than something that is aged.

5. Mistake: Buying ground meats.

Ground meats collect bacteria faster because of increased surface area. I’ve tried ground pork multiple times from my tried and true local farmer. I was hoping that since it was frozen right away, it would be ok. But I reacted badly each time. So skip the pre-ground meats. Even the frozen ones.

Instead: Grind your own meat at home using a meat grinder.

I’ve used the meat grinder attachments that come with my food processor and juicer. What if you don’t have those appliances and still really want breakfast sausage? This meat grinder is a good option and is very affordable.

6. Mistake: Eating Fish

In order to be safe for mast cell and histamine issues – fish and shellfish need to be gutted and flash frozen very quickly. Then the fish has to be frozen on the boat to keep histamine levels down.

Otherwise, fish and seafood are some of the highest histamine foods! Fish and seafood that wasn’t immediately gutted and frozen can be your worst histamine enemy.

Instead: What if you really love fish?

Vital Choice guarantees their King Salmon is gutted and flash frozen on the boat.

Their Albacore Tuna and scallops are also frozen quickly and are lowest histamine options. The sockeye salmon take a little longer to process and while many people are find with it, those who are extremely histamine sensitive may need to stick with the options above.

You might try it once you have had significant recovery with histamine sensitivities.

Skip the smoked fish, caviar, and jerky. Vital choice also offers burgers, hot dogs, sausage and bacon all made from fish, but you’ll want to skip these, too, since they are more heavily processed. They do have meat options, too.

7. Mistake: Letting meat or fish sit in the fridge after thawing.

Again, those histamine levels will build quickly. Don’t let meat or fish sit in the fridge after thawing!

Instead: To thaw your meat or fish, let it thaw in the fridge until it is still a little frosty but almost thawed through.

Or for smaller cuts of meat, you can run hot water over it until thawed. An Instant Pot can cook meat that is frozen solid to done in usually 45 to 90 minutes.

8. Mistake: Keeping leftovers in the fridge.

The bacteria that produce histamines start building right away on leftovers. Even in the fridge. It is worse with meat. But even veggies will build in histamine levels, too.

Instead: Once you cook meat, freeze the leftovers right away.

When I’m done cooking, I make my plate and immediately put all leftovers into glass storage containers and put them in the freezer. This makes a huge difference. Some things, like salads, obviously won’t freeze well. But freeze leftovers as much as possible.

Then thaw your leftovers as you are going to eat them – again you can thaw in the fridge until still a little frosty. Or you can run hot water over it to thaw. Then reheat. I do choose to sometimes use a microwave to thaw my food. It is mainly the radiation from microwaves that are the problem. So I leave the kitchen while the microwave is heating leftovers to avoid the radiation.

9. Mistake: Ordering meat or fish when eating out.

Eating out can be tricky.  You never know how old the meat or fish is at a restaurant. You can ask what the freshest choices are among chicken, turkey, pork, and lamb. But even that can be tricky. And it is definitely better to avoid fish and seafood at a restaurant unless it is prepared fresh from a tank. Skip the fish special. Skip the sushi and sashimi.

Instead: I prefer not to risk ordering meat at a restaurant.

I check the menu ahead of time and make a list of my low histamine options. I usually order vegetables. Then, I bring a little container of my thawed, cooked meat in my purse (kept chilled on the way).

Once at the restaurant, I just let the waiter or waitress know I have some food sensitivities. I let them know what I can have from the menu options. If you are polite, restaurants are usually very kind about accommodating food sensitivities. Once my meal arrives, I discreetly add the protein I brought to my plate.

10. Mistake: Stressing out about getting low histamine “right”.

Sometimes my clients worry so much about controlling everything with their food that they make things worse. If you’ve read my free report The 7 Root Causes of MCAS, you know stress increases mast cell problems. (If you haven’t read it, you can get it here.)

Instead: Don’t let yourself stress about food.

I’m not perfect, and you won’t be either. Just do your best. And be sure to enjoy your low histamine food! 😊

It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone. Always be sure to work with your healthcare practitioner. 

Before you change your diet on your own, please make sure you’re working with a healthcare practitioner who can help you with this.  

*Some links in this website are affiliate links, which means Mast Cell 360 may make a very small commission if you purchase through the link. It never costs you any more to purchase through the links, and we try to find the best deals we can. We only recommend products that we love and use personally or use in the Mast Cell 360 practice. Any commissions help support the newsletter, website, and ongoing research so Mast Cell 360 can continue to offer you free tips, recipes, and info. Thank you for your support!

Comments

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  5. Amy

    Thank you for the encouragement and tips. I so wish someone would publish a hard cover cookbook with meal plans to help those, like me, who are busy raising families, exhausted, and sick! Recipes are helpful…but I could really use daily menus and weekly/monthly meal plans to help!

    I rely on my instant pot a lot and I’m glad you mentioned it. It’s been a godsend! I find it useful to put my frozen leftovers in the instant pot (covered with parchment paper and foil and on the rack it came with) with about a cup of water and hit the STEAM button for 15-20 minutes (depending on size of leftovers). This option has saved me from multiple microwave use. However, I do have to rely on the microwave if I’m out of the house.

    More tips for eating out would be helpful too! I do my best but by the time restaurants have stipped down dishes of all my food allergies/sensitivities, I’m usually left with a steamed vegetable or salad (I bring my own olive oil). 🙁 It just doesn’t seem worth eating out anymore or traveling anywhere. 🙁

    Thank you for sharing resources! I do love US Wellness and shop there when I can’t find certain cuts from my farmer’s market. I’m too afraid to add back fish right now, but I have ordered from Vital Choice before and US Wellness sometimes carries various fish from Vital Choice. Both great companies!

    Kasindrinos sells these great travel packets of olive oil that I keep in my purse when I travel: https://kasandrinos.com/collections/olive-oil/products/box-of-20-kasandrinos-organic-extra-virgin-olive-oil-travel-packets-12ml

    Christina from the blog A Clean Plate has an ecookbook with 28 day meal plans that are low-histamine and AIP. I find it’s been extremely helpful and the meals are delicious, but can still be somewhat restrictive since it’s also AIP. Some of the meals include avocados, cinnamon and mushrooms which I have to avoid right now.

    Just thought I would share these two resources in case they might help anyone.

    Thanks again, for the valuable information!

    1. Beth O'Hara

      Thank you for such great tips and resources! I take my own olive oil too both when traveling and eating out – I usually put it in a re-purposed glass spice jar. Wonderful ideas for future blog posts – I’ll see what I can get out there!

      1. Niki

        I just found a source of “flash frozen” fish at my local supermarket and wonder if you have any comment. While it is farmed, the package says they are “responsibly raised in pristine open waters and farmed at low densities” and”fed a predominantly vegetarian diet.”
        https://www.thebetterfish.com/why-barramundi/

        1. Beth O'Hara

          Hi Niki, it really depends on how soon after catch the baramundi was frozen. I recommend taking a look at my low histamine Foods list and working through the elimination phases. Once you get to phase 2, you can try to introduce some frozen wild Alaskan salmon. This is the lowest histamine fish option, next to something freshly caught and served immediately on the boat. I wouldn’t try the flash frozen barramundi until phase 3.

  6. Niki

    I just found a source of “flash frozen” fish at my local supermarket and wonder if you have any comment. While it is farmed, the package says they are “responsibly raised in pristine open waters and farmed at low densities” and”fed a predominantly vegetarian diet.”
    https://www.thebetterfish.com/why-barramundi/

  7. Nicole

    I just contacted a local farmer and could use some help with her answer.
    What’s normal and what’s possible in terms of freezing “immediately” after slaughter? Maybe the answer is, the smaller the animal, the better?

    “Well, for pork and lamb and beef, the animal is hung actually for days after slaughter, to ensure the rigor process completes. The larger the animal, the longer the hang time. So all pork and lamb from our farm is processed at a licensed slaughter house where it is aged the requisite time. After aging, then it is butchered and frozen. Without this process, the meat will be very tough. I can ask my processor if they would butcher directly after slaughter, I am not sure if the CDA or USDA requires this aging time, but it is industry standard. All I have available at this time are pork and lamb by the half or by the whole. I can ask if they could do this differently for you. I have butcher dates set for March 2 for lamb, and Feb 2 for pork. A non-refundable deposit is required to hold an animal for you. Let me see if they can butcher the same day as slaughter, but know that the meat is missing an important processing step that may completely change the quality of the meat.”

    1. Beth O'Hara

      Hi Nicole,
      Great question. It depends on how sensitive you are and how full your Histamine bucket is. I recommend you try some pasture raised, frozen after slaughter chicken first. Then as your Histamine bucket improves, you could trial their pork or lamb and see how you do.

      1. Jaime

        Hello what is we cannot find pastured chicken? I can look for frozen chicken but deff not any pastured around. Will organic or cage free be fine aslong as its frozen? Thanks

        1. Beth O'Hara

          Hi Jaime. If you can’t find Pasture raised meat locally, I would use US Wellness Meats. Organic and cage free would be 2nd best. These are grain fed, and are much higher in unhealthy fats. Also the grain fed meats can trigger people with mast cell and histamine issues.

    2. Rachel Christenson

      I get pork and lamb from local farms and yes all meat hangs for a little bit but pork and lamb are not very long from what I know. The place I get lamb from has all of their meat back from the butcher within 3 days. My husband hunts and you have to at least let the meat cool down before cutting or it is very hard to cut up so over night to a day for our venison then the time cutting and packaging. I have never had an issue with this. I am not quite as sensitive as some, but I do have to be careful.

    3. Alba Liripio

      Leading university ag programs say: “Carcasses that have only a thin fat covering should be aged three to five days; those with more fat, five to seven days. Very little tenderization occurs after seven days. Longer aging may result in off flavors and odors due to microbial growth. Only carcasses with fat covering the entire outside should be aged longer than 10 days.”

      Reference: https://extension.missouri.edu/publications/g2208

      Yet, many smaller butchers hired by family farms are aging 2 weeks and over. Even US Wellness meats ages 9 days or so. I’ve too many disastrous results ending with very expensive dog food. Frankly I’ve now given up (as much as I like the idea of supporting local farms) and now only buy vacuum packed meat from a large producer in my state who do not over-age. I buy unopened bags of whole beef rib-eye and sirloin roasts that I butcher into steaks and/or smaller roasts, wrap in paper and freeze. I do the same with lamb leg roasts (a butcher saw comes in very handy to saw through bone). I do not react to this meat.

      Cheers!

      1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

        Hi Alba,
        Thanks for weighing in. I’ve spoken with US Wellness Meats, and you are correct that their beef and some of their meat is aged. This is why I clarify that the chicken, rabbit, and turkey are the lowest histamine options. Beef is always aged 7-21 days, unless it is a special processor who specifically carries un-aged beef, but this is hard to find. Aged beef doesn’t work well for most the people I talk to with these problems. Very glad to hear you found what works for you, though.
        Beth

  8. Teresa

    Omg you just helped me so much. I am a mma fighter and I’ve been crippled for months. Sibo and mold. But I’m in histamine awful intolerance. I stopped eating pretty much. ESP meat and was always away from dairy and gluten, but I’ve been eating meat the past two months without making these considerations and I’ve relapsed. Gut and histamine. I can’t workout. It’s flares me up the next day. Workout is my life. I thought I needed to go vegan

    1. Beth O'Hara

      I’m.so glad this post helped you! I hope you are back to MMA soon! If you need help with these areas, just let us know.

  9. Amy

    It’s becoming so difficult to find the “good” meats now with COVID-19, even at the above mentioned resources! People here are hoarding and it has limited me significantly! I wondered if anyone has any other resources they go to. It’s becoming extremely stressful and now contributing to my illness. 🙁

  10. Festus

    I was thinking washing the meat or even a 1min boil and discard water may help.

    I remember pressure cookers help with antinutrients in legumes and also boiling meat vs frying, that its better to boil as it lowers histamines whilst frying grilling raises histamine.
    So, I was wondering if washing or a quick boil and water discard and then pressure cooking was the ideal way to go?
    thanks

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hello!
      Washing may help, but the freshness of the food, how it’s handled, and cooking time are generally more important than cooking method. That being said, we do use the pressure cooker and instant pot frequently!

  11. eunice

    hi! Thank you for all this information!
    Would you consider <1week of aging for pork be considered too long?

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hi Eunice,
      For the lowest amount of histamine, you want it to be frozen almost immediately after slaughter when possible.
      Suz

  12. Heather

    I am new to Mast Cell and have been looking for a company that freezes meat immediately after slaughter. The US Wellness company doesn’t freeze there’s immediately after slaughter but 24 hours after. I am just avoiding meat all together.

  13. Melanie

    I have histamine issues caused from mold and one thing I don’t understand, is beef is supposed to be higher histamine due to the hanging but I actually do better with beef. I also have had horrible reactions from lamb. I am in Texas and beef is a popular farm animal raised. The low histamine diet helped me in beginning but like stated, not everyone is the same and I have found things I couldn’t do like apples and things like beef, I can do. I order my chicken from Perdue and it’s the best choice out of the options I have. I can’t find a lot of frozen meat locally. I struggle finding fresh organic produce locally. If I pick up meat locally, I have to buy in the fridge section as the frozen are often soaked in broth, highly processed, lots of additives so what I do is I look at the date pkged and time. I choose ones pkged that day and closest to time picked up. Honestly, I’ve found my histamine reactions all revolve around bacteria. I’ve learned to eat at restaurants that are clean. The restaurants that aren’t very clean inside is where I have major issues or food that has set out. And while I hate eating fried food, I’ve found in a pinch, the deep fried foods I react less too. My theory is the high temp of the oil is killing bacteria. For me, this site has helper guide me but much has been trial and error. For example, there is just some vegetables on the list I can not do no matter how organically grown it is. Cucumbers is a bad offender for me. Sometimes, I have found I do ok with but on a whole, most are just bad all the way around. I also have oxalate issues. And I’m on a budget so that makes it hard having such strict dietary restrictions. One of the biggest keys for me is adrenal support, DAO, and basically buying as fresh, higher quality as possible and keeping it simple. Above all of these, getting out of mold. Then dealing with cross cintaminated items. This by far helped the most . These lists can be super stressful so the last one on the list is probably my top priority. Do the best you can, and when you live in a rural area like me, it’s not feasible to do all these things. If I followed them to a T, I wouldnt eat as I have to drive just to get groceries every week to follow some or the guidelines. Another thing that makes absolutely no sense to me is I can do eggs. But I got the freshest eggs one could get from a neighbor 2 houses down the road and I reacted to them while I can buy organic eggs in store and do fine. There’s one piece of the puzzle I’m missing there. But I do know, no matter what I do, if I get into mold, no amount of diet, mast cell support will calm the histamine until my body flushes some of it. Sometimes, it’s just a few hours up to a week. A really bad exposure can take a month which makes sense since the hard to flush ones can take a month for the kidneys to flush. I think there is so much we don’t understand on the histamine issues since everyone is soooo diff on what they can and can’t have with histamine issues.

  14. Judith Rizzo

    I was wondering about cryovaced whole meat cuts? I have much less problem with them except for the hamburger. Additional problem is that they come in such large packages. We have to immediately process and freeze the smaller pieces, but that meat seems to be a great help.

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hi Judith,
      Everyone is different in their levels of histamine intolerance. If it’s working for you, that’s great that you found something that works! Generally speaking, most people with histamine intolerance prefer meat that’s frozen after slaughter.

  15. Sandra

    I read something years ago about spraying meat with food-grade hydrogen peroxide. H2O2 kills bacteria and viruses. So I experimented by spraying a steak with the H202, and sure enough, the meat stayed “fresh” for a few weeks, as the bacteria was so minimized, the meat didn’t rot. I ate it and felt fine. BUT, wasn’t having overt histamine reactions at the time. Now I’m living with histamine issues and I’ve been wondering if the H202 reduces histamine production on meat, by killing the bacteria that causes it. I did have a steak early on in lowering histamine and sprayed it. I didn’t react much. I had another steak that wasn’t sprayed – and reacted. It would be neat if others could try this as well (without compromising health, of course!), to see if positive results are not just with me. I spray with a 3% solution. Store-bought H202 in the brown bottles has stabilizer or other things in them, so maybe not best to use. I spray the meat and let sit. After it stops bubbling, I let sit for 5-10 min, rinse off, pat dry, then spray again. Thoughts anyone?

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hi Sandra,
      Beth had this to say about it:

      I have heard of people rinsing meat to reduce bacteria on the surface. This may be very helpful with store-bought meat. I haven’t found it necessary with meat purchased frozen after slaughter, like from Northstar Bison, etc. First, steak is almost always aged and not low histamine. So even with washing or spraying it, it isn’t low histamine. It might be that you have a milder case of histamine intolerance if you can eat this. I probably wouldn’t spray anything you’ll swallow with store bought H2O2 – the stabilizers aren’t food grade or meant to be swallowed. If you are going to do this, it would be very important to use food grade only. I don’t have any experience with it, so I can’t weigh in on either side as to whether this works, but I’m interested if anyone else has tried this. Let us know!

  16. Sandra

    I also wonder if the histamine is produced more on the meat’s surface than internally. I haven’t been able to find out. Does anyone know?

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hi Sandra,
      Yes, the more surface area, the more bacteria can build up. And that means higher histamine levels. It’s part of the reason why ground meats tend to be higher histamine.

  17. Jaime

    Hello. I am wondering if you can allow a steak to marinade in things such as mango, onion, parsley etc. to tenderize the grass fed beef. If it is left to marinade in the refrigerator with these things are histamine levels going to build? If yes would a vacuum sealer to infuse the meat quickly work better?
    Thanks.
    Jaime

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hi Jaime,
      Any time you leave thawed meat in the fridge, it will build in histamine levels. One thing to remember, though, is that everyone has a different level of intolerance. What might not work for someone else may be ok for you. I don’t have experience with a vacuum sealer, but if it infuses the meat quickly, that might be the better option. Time, Oxygen exposure and Temperature are all factors in how quickly mirco-organisms can grow. We’ve got a new post on meat and seafood handling tips coming out next week and we also have this newer article which may be of some help in the meantime: https://mastcell360.com/the-best-low-histamine-meat-and-seafood-options-info-for-those-with-mast-cell-activation-syndrome-and-histamine-intolerance/

      Suz, MC360

  18. Amy

    I’m trying to discern whether I have a histamine intolerance or some other issue. I react very specifically to ground turkey. I’m not great with deli turkey either but don’t get the same reflux, nausea, and quick bloating. Anyone ever experienced this? I can find nothing on it but do react to several other high histamine foods

    1. Suz, Mast Cell 360 Team

      Hi Amy,
      Pre-ground meats of any kind and lunch meats can both be higher histamine. (If you grind your own meat right before you cook it, that’s fine.) Many people figure out they have histamine intolerance just by reducing histamine levels for a few weeks with a low-histamine diet. If you see improvement, it’s likely you have histamine intolerance. If you don’t see improvement, you may have something else going on, too, like MCAS. Check out this article on Histamine Intolerance to learn more: https://mastcell360.com/what-is-histamine-intolerance-and-how-can-you-address-it-what-to-know-if-you-have-mast-cell-activation-syndrome-and-histamine-intolerance/

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