Histamine Intolerance vs. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome can produce similar symptoms. (Read more about these symptoms.)
But there is a difference between Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Histamine Intolerance is when your body has too much histamine. There are 3 major pathways in the body that breakdown histamine. The 2 most well known are Diamine Oxidase (DAO) and Histamine N-Methyltransferase (HNMT). There also also some lesser known pathways, like Acetylation, a detox pathway.
If one or more of those 3 isn’t working, histamine can build up to high levels and cause symptoms. Or Histamine Intolerance can develop when someone consumes too many high histamine foods.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome happens when immune cells called mast cells are over-reactive. The job of the mast cells is to release inflammatory molecules to help fight off pathogens and allergens. But when the mast cells are over-reactive, they produce way too many of these inflammatory molecules. The best known one is histamine, but there are hundreds of other molecules that mast cells release.
Some people just have Histamine Intolerance. With Histamine Intolerance, a low histamine diet makes a big difference. The 3 main pathways that breakdown histamine often need to be supported as well. With these steps, Histamine Intolerance symptoms will usually get much better.
With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, we have to reduce all the root factors keeping the mast cells over-reactive. So, there is a lot more work to be done. Low histamine diet helps, but usually doesn’t fix it. We have to reduce all the food mast cell triggers (and other underlying triggers like infections).
Food triggers in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome go beyond histamine. Lectins are a big trigger – these are specific proteins found in a lot of grains and some vegetables. Oxalates are a trigger for some people too. Oxalates are found in many grains and specific plants. And there are the common food issues to think about: wheat, dairy, soy, and even eggs for some people.
I have both Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. It took me a long time to find the diet that worked best for me. I had been gluten and dairy free for a long time. (Except I still eat ghee and butter.) Low histamine helped, but I still had a lot of symptoms.
Removing high oxalates foods allowed me to get off the cane I had to use to walk. The last thing I worked on was lectins. When I stopped eating high lectin foods, my joint burning ended.
The hardest thing was that so many food lists online are contradictory. I had to do a TON of research to figure out which lists were reliable. I also found it was really hard for some people to go straight to removing histamines, oxalates AND lectins. So I made a number of different lists to match where each person is in their journey. Having a food list makes shopping and meal prep much easier.
You can get my starter Low and High Histamine Foods List here.
At first, I didn’t feel like there was enough left to eat. But then I got creative and started making all kinds of recipes. After starting low histamine, clients often ask me what I eat. So I started blogging my favorite recipes. These are the things I make all the time in my own kitchen. All my recipes are Low Histamine, Low Oxalate, and Low Lectin. They are also sugar free and generally lower in carbs. I’m really excited to share these recipes with you!