“Healthy” Foods to Avoid when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
I was trying to eat healthy long before I knew I had Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
And I made so many mistakes along the way!
Have you ever tried Celery Juice? Or Cultured Veggies?
I tried both. And they made my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance so much worse!
Or what about Moringa?
I remembered when I started out working on my health many years ago. The first thing I did was go vegetarian, and then vegan.
I was eating a lot of high histamine foods then! It’s probably why I felt so bad.
I’m not saying people can’t be vegetarian or vegan with Mast Cell or Histamine issues.
It’s just that I didn’t know anything about my own Histamine and Mast Cell issues back then.
After that, I got into making cultured veggies, kefir, and kombucha. I read all the books about traditional cultures eating this way.
So, I thought it would make my health issues better.
But oh my gosh, did it send my histamine levels through the roof! I had diarrhea, bad itching, and I couldn’t sleep.
I was so bummed out! But, I kept searching.
And made all the mistakes with foods figuring out what was healthy for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
At one point, I was even making bone broth every week. And eating a lot of grass-fed beef. I’d also keep leftovers for several days.
I was even juicing the wrong vegetables! And trying the wrong superfoods!
As you can imagine, I was really struggling with:
- Muscle Pain
- Joint Pain
- Memory Issues
- Concentration problems
Have you dealt with any of these issues from foods?
Beyond Histamines: What to Know about Oxalates for people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Now, not everyone with Mast Cell Activation syndrome has a problem with histamine. There are some people with Mast Cell Activation who do fine with histamine foods.
But I’ve found the vast majority of people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome do have Histamine Intolerance. (And many people who think they only have Histamine Intolerance are actually dealing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome too.)
Oxalates can cause another problem with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. This is because oxalates can trigger mast cells.
Oxalates are microscopic crystals found in plants. They’re part of the plant’s natural defense mechanism. They use oxalates to keep animals from eating them.
Some plants are higher in oxalates than others. Eating high oxalate foods can increase the levels of oxalates in your body. Usually, your gut should be able to break them down.
But there are certain situations where you’re not going to break them down very well:
- Gut problems
- Certain genetics
- Lack of B1 and B6
- Mold illness
… and more.
If you have issues with oxalates, you could have any number of symptoms. Oxalates are highly associated with kidney stones.
But less than .5% of all oxalate issues cause kidney stones. Oxalates are also linked to all kinds of pain. And to brain inflammation.
These are all related to oxalates:
- joint pain
- muscle pain (think Fibromyalgia)
- urinary burning and pain, interstitial cystitis (often misdiagnosed as UTI)
- brain inflammation
- trouble eating sulfur foods like broccoli and cauliflower
- autism-like symptoms
- breast cancer
You will learn more about oxalates and lectins in this post:
Beyond Histamines: What to Know about Lectins for people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
And Lectins are another food component many people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome need to watch out for!
Mast Cells have lectin receptors on the outside.
Which means lectins can trigger mast cell activation.
Lectins are another defense component of plants. They are also a way plants communicate with their environment.
Unlike oxalates, lectins can be found in some animal-derived foods, like casein in milk.
Lectins can also make foods, such as eggs from grain-fed animals more problematic. (Grain-less chicken eggs are lectin free, though.)
Lectins are a type of protein that binds to certain carbohydrates. And they can cause problems by stimulating the immune system.
Including mast cells.
They can also alter hormones and damage cells. Especially in the gut.
Now that you know the background, let’s get into the histamine and mast cell triggering foods to avoid. And what to replace those foods with.
This post assumes you know the most common high histamine foods. Things like spinach, strawberries, and avocados.
But if not, you can get the complete foods list here:
Let’s look at the most common “healthy foods” here that people are told to eat all the time.
But these healthy foods can make Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance much worse!
I’ll also give you some mast cell-friendly alternatives to these.
Let’s start with bone broth.
Avoid Bone Broth if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
If you have immune system issues, you may have been told you need to heal your gut.
More often than not, the recommended gut healing protocol includes bone broth.
But bone broth may not be healing if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
That’s because bone broth is actually high in histamine. The long cooking process increases the histamines released from the meat.
Bone broth is a great source of the amino acid, glycine. Which is one of the reasons people love it.
After all, glycine lowers inflammation, improves healing, and helps the gut. It even protects the liver.
Unfortunately, glycine can also get converted to oxalates in the body. And for some people, this can cause all kinds of problems, including histamine release.
Something you might have heard of is about pressure-cooking. See, pressure cooking is sometimes used to lower lectins in some foods. Or to reduce the cooking time of bone broth.
However, even pressure-cooked bone broth can cause problems for some people.
What to Do Instead of Bone Broth if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Don’t make bone broth that’s simmered for hours. Instead, you can quick cook some low histamine meat broth.
To do that…
- Heat up olive oil in a large pot.
- Add a couple of onions and cook until translucent.
- Then add chunks of meat (about 2 lbs), browning slightly on all sides.
- Add low histamine vegetables and herbs (carrots, parsnips, leeks, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme).
- Cover with water and bring to a boil. Allow to continue boiling for 10-20 minutes.
Make sure to use it or freeze it right away. Because histamines develop as the meat broth sits.
Freeze the broth in ice cube trays to make it easy to use. You can then empty the frozen broth cubes into a freezer bag. And just grab a couple as you need them for recipes.
Avoid: Bone Broth
Instead: Meat Broth
Okay, so you’ve got it now that bone broth isn’t good for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
But, what about collagen or gelatin for healing the gut?
We’ll cover those next…
Avoid Collagen and Gelatin if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Collagen and gelatin are often used and recommended in the Paleo diet world.
They’re especially recommended as part of a gut-healing protocol. Or, a gut healthy lifestyle.
However, collagen and gelatin can be a problem for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
Collagen and gelatin can generate oxalates. That’s because they are high in an amino acid called hydroxyproline. Hydroxyproline can get converted to oxalates in your body, too. Particularly if you are deficient in vitamin B6.
Dietary collagen doesn’t directly become collagen in our bodies. It gets broken down into individual amino acids during digestion.
And then those amino acids have to be rebuilt in the body anyway.
So you don’t have to have consume collagen to support your own collagen.
Instead of worrying about your collagen intake, just eat high quality, low histamine protein. And optimize your protein digestion.
For more information on low histamine meat, check out this blog post:
What to Do Instead of Collagen and Gelatin if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
For Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance, it’s best to simply eat good quality, low histamine protein.
For animal protein, that means finding meat that has been frozen soon after slaughter. That prevents histamine from accumulating as it ages.
There are lots of options:
- Beef (unaged)
- Bison (unaged)
You can also do fish! But only if it’s been frozen soon after being caught.
If you tolerate eggs, they are a great source of protein. Pasture raised is ideal. You could even try duck eggs.
For plant-based protein, legumes are an option. Just keep in mind you need to pressure cook to reduce the lectins. And they can become higher oxalate.
- Lentils (soaked overnight + pressure cooked)
- Beans: black, pinto, navy, garbanzo/chickpeas (soaked overnight + pressure cooked)
Make sure to cook them yourself, as canned beans and lentils are higher in histamine.
Keep in mind they are higher lectin. Moderation is key.
Also – since gelatin is often in recipes as a thickening agent, you can use arrowroot in place of gelatin for thickening.
Avoid: Collagen and Gelatin
Instead: Arrowroot for thickening
Low histamine animal protein, possibly legumes
Do you like to have a morning smoothie? A lot of people add superfoods to their smoothies. But are they always healthy when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance?
Let’s take a look at a popular superfood – the superfood green powder, moringa.
Avoid Moringa if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Moringa is often recommended as an anti-inflammatory superfood.
It may be used in a salad as fresh leaves or as a fine superfood powder.
As healthy as moringa is, it’s not necessarily good for people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
The reason for this is that moringa is high in oxalates. And we know that oxalates can raise histamine levels.
What to Do Instead of Moringa if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
So, how can you get in a green superfood without the oxalates?
Try instead: Arugula
Arugula is a healthy, spicy green leafy vegetable that is not only low in oxalates. It also has histamine-lowering effects.
Arugula can be used as a part of a healthy salad. It can also be used as a spicy addition to a smoothie.
Try it blended with histamine-lowering fresh mango.
Smoothies with histamine-lowering fruits and greens are great.
But what about juices, like the ever-popular celery juice?
Avoid Celery Juice if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Drinking glasses of celery juice has been really popular in recent years.
The “Medical Medium,” Anthony William has been recommending it as practically a cure-all.
While the amazing benefits of celery juice are probably overrated, it is good for lowering inflammation in the body.
However, drinking large amounts of celery juice isn’t good for everyone: It’s very high oxalate. Which can raise your histamine levels.
And a 16 oz glass of celery juice calls for an entire head of celery! This is going to be really high oxalate. I’ve seen people who drink celery juice daily and they get really bad joint pain.
If you eat celery, keep it to 1-2 stalks total for the day.
What to Do Instead of Celery Juice if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Instead of drinking glass after glass of celery juice, trying juicing these together:
- 1 stalk celery
- 1 crown of broccoli
- A few leaves of flat-leaf kale (also known as lacinato, tuscan, or dinosaur kale)
That way, you can get the benefits of celery without over-doing the oxalates.
Additionally, make sure you buy organic.
Celery is really high in pesticide residues. People with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance already have difficulty detoxing.
And when you juice celery, you’re removing the fiber and creating a highly concentrated juice.
What’s also concentrated when you juice fruits and vegetables? Pesticide residues.
You’re not just getting a small amount at a time… like you would if you just ate half a cup of chopped celery. You’re getting the pesticide residues that have accumulated on several stalks. It can add up quickly.
If you’re taking in additional toxins while juicing, it could be counterproductive. Always buy organic celery.
How about another healthy beverage like Kombucha? The probiotics must make it good, right? Not so fast…
Avoid Kombucha if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Kombucha is a cultured beverage generally made with either black or green teas.
It’s fermented with something called a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY).
Kombucha is not good if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
As a fermented tea, it’s really high in histamine.
Also, black and green tea are high in oxalates to begin with. But then, making kombucha worsens the oxalate load.
In the fermentation process, kombucha produces oxalic acid. This can be a big problem. Because oxalates can increase histamine levels.
What to Do Instead of Kombucha if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Some people can do the brand, KeVita which has histamine-lowering strains of probiotics. Specifically, Bacillus coagulans.
Bacillus coagulans can also help reduce oxalates.
The Lemon Cayenne flavor has the least sugar. Just keep in mind that lemon and cayenne may not work well for more sensitive people.
You don’t want to get the higher sugar ones. Because sugar raises insulin. And high insulin levels increase mast cell activation.
If you can’t do the Lemon Cayenne KeVita, then stick with sparkling water. You can always add a little freshly grated ginger and stevia for a refreshing drink.
So, we’ve covered some “healthy” beverages to avoid if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
Now, let’s take a look at some generally healthy foods that aren’t good for us.
Avoid Fish and Seafood if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
I taught yoga and yoga therapy for a number of years. And a long time ago, I had a private student who owned a great Fish and Seafood store.
We would trade. Each week, he would bring me fresh sushi-grade tuna. And scallops. And salmon. It was delicious!
But, it turned into a histamine nightmare for me, sadly!
In theory, fish should be low in histamine. But that’s only if you just caught it. And you’re grilling it right there on the boat or shore.
Or the fish has to be gutted on the boat and flash frozen, quickly.
See, it doesn’t take long for histamines to start building up in fish. So, it’s important that fish be really, really fresh!
Truly fresh fish is really difficult to find. If you find it “fresh” at a grocery store, it’s already too old. Pretty much guaranteed.
To prevent fish-provoked histamine reactions, avoid most fish. Fresh or frozen. You don’t know how long the fish was sitting before it was frozen.
What to Do Instead of Fish and Seafood if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Instead, order Wild Caught Salmon from Vital Choice. They guarantee it’s frozen on the boat.
I spoke with them for a very long time about how their different fish and shellfish are processed. These are the other lower histamine options.
Their scallops and tuna are flash frozen on the boat. I’ve done well with both of these.
They say their Halibut, Petrale Sole, and Cod are also frozen on the boat. But I haven’t tried them yet.
Their lobster should be low histamine, as well.
Now, this ONLY applies to their fish. Scallops, tuna, etc. aren’t going to be low histamine elsewhere. Because other places aren’t as careful.
You can check them out here:
Avoid: Most fish, fresh or frozen
Instead: Wild Caught Salmon from Vital Choice
So, what if you want to make an arugula salad to go with your wild caught salmon dinner? Let’s say you’re buying a healthy salad dressing.
You might come across carrageenan and xanthan gum on the label.
These two are common food additives. But are they safe? Read on to find out…
Avoid Carrageenan and Xanthan Gum if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Carrageenan and Xanthan Gum are additives to watch out for if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome of Histamine Intolerance.
They are often found in salad dressings, non-dairy milks, and ice cream.
Xanthan gum may even be listed as an ingredient in some gluten-free or Paleo recipes.
Carrageenan is actually used in scientific studies to cause allergic-type inflammation in lab animals. And often used to trigger mast cell activation in research. Yikes!
We certainly don’t need more inflammation!
Not only that, but it acts on our histamine (H1 and H2) receptors. It can lead to mast cell degranulation.
What to Do Instead of Carrageenan if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Read the labels on salad dressings. And also be sure to check non-dairy milks and ice cream. Make sure you don’t see carrageenan and on the label.
You can easily make your own dressing by simply mixing olive oil with a teaspoon of lemon juice and adding a pinch of sea salt.
Mix it up by adding different histamine-lowering herbs, like parsley.
For a non-dairy milk substitute, buy 100% Coconut Milk with no thickeners added. You can dilute it to the consistency you need or prefer.
You can even use this coconut milk to make your own ice cream!
Instead: 100% Coconut Milk with no thickeners
I like these mini packs. Because you can use them up quicker without waste:
Corn is another common food additive that may be hidden in the ingredients list.
It could be hidden under “dextrose,” “glucose,” or even as a source of vitamin C.
Corn starch and corn meal are even used as a gluten-free flour alternative. But is it safe? We’ll cover that next.
Avoid Corn if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Corn is often used as a replacement for wheat. After all, it’s a gluten free grain that holds together really well.
It’s used in many forms:
- Corn starch
- Corn meal
- Corn syrup
- Glucose (from corn)
- Corn products: popcorn, corn chips, corn tortillas, etc.
But it’s a high lectin food. And it can trigger mast cells. So, it can contribute to inflammation and related symptoms.
When I stopped eating corn, my joint burning stopped. I’ve tried re-introducing it 3 times. And always, the joint burning comes back.
Here are a few other reason to avoid corn:
- Corn is (more often than not) genetically modified
- Corn tends to be high in pesticides
- Corn harbors mold and mold toxins
- Corn is a cross-reactant food with wheat (it has a gluten-like protein called zein)
- Corn is difficult to digest
What to Do Instead of Corn if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Of course, avoid eating corn – sweet corn, popcorn, cornmeal, etc. And watch for it on labels. (It may be hidden under “dextrose” or “starch.”)
For recipes that call for corn starch, you can use cassava.
If you decide to use cassava, make sure you get Otto’s brand. It’s the only one that isn’t fermented.
Cassava may just be your new best friend!
Click the photo and use the coupon code mastcell360 for 10% off.
Avoid: Corn starch, corn meal, and other corn products
Instead: for baking
Corn is a known allergen, often listed as such on labels. Another common allergen is dairy.
But what about raw milk? Isn’t that better? It depends…
Avoid Raw Milk if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
You may have given raw milk a try sometime along your health journey.
Raw milk has a lot of benefits. Especially in contrast to its highly pasteurized counterpart.
Raw milk retains its naturally occurring enzyme, latase, for digesting lactose. A lot of people do well with it.
However, raw milk is still high in histamine.
But all milk and milk products are still full of lectins. And these can set off the immune system. Including mast cells.
What to Do Instead of Milk (Even Raw Milk) if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
For a great dairy substitute, use 100% Coconut Milk with no thickeners added.
Again, you can dilute it to the consistency you need or prefer.
Avoid: Raw Milk (and pasteurized)
Instead: 100% Coconut Milk with no thickeners
I love to add it to my decaf coffee. Or use it to make desserts.
These mini packs are perfect for when you don’t need a normal size container.
Within the raw milk-loving community, you’ll also see a lot of love for apple cider vinegar.
In fact, there are websites and books devoted to “apple cider vinegar cures.”
But, what about for those of us with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance? Is apple cider vinegar good for us?
Avoid Apple Cider Vinegar if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Apple cider vinegar is said to be the best vinegar for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
This is because it’s the lowest in histamine of the vinegars out there. But it’s still high in histamine.
That’s because it is fermented.
Some people might do okay with 1 teaspoon of it. But that’s only IF the vinegar is really fresh.
Don’t use it if it’s been sitting around for several weeks.
What to Do Instead of Apple Cider Vinegar if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Instead of apple cider vinegar, most people are able to tolerate ½ to 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
It’s best to use freshly squeezed to avoid preservatives in lemon juice.
And it will be lower in histamine if it’s fresh.
Avoid: Apple Cider Vinegar (and all other vinegars)
Instead: Use ½ tsp to 1 tsp of lemon juice
I hope this list of substitutions helps you navigate the health food scene.
Wondering about supplements that could help with your Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance?
Sometimes, a low histamine diet just isn’t enough. Join me for a Supplements Masterclass below.
Looking for what to read next?
Take a look at this article to make sure you’re handling meat correctly for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance:
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Ykelenstam Y. Low Oxalate Low Histamine Diet – The Missing Link?