Endometriosis and Allergies: How The Low-Histamine Diet Helped Me
Growing up, I never had allergies — seasonal or otherwise. I sailed through childhood and my 20s with nary an itchy, puffy eye. My nose never leaked when pets were around or when the seasons changed. But as I entered my mid-30s, I slowly — and then all at once — developed this annoying affliction.
Somewhere along the way, I developed official allergies to dust mites and cats. I'd lived with five cats at one point with no problem, but apparently my 35-year-old self was now allergic to them. After I encased my mattress and pillows with dust mite covers and switched my old comforter for one that was allergen-free, my nightly eye-itching stopped. I also started taking a daily antihistamine because, despite my doctor's advice, the cat is not going anywhere.
While medication helped, I still developed random headaches, itchy spots on my face and body, and unexplained puffy eyes. It turns out, some of my favorite foods were to blame.
Why histamines can be a problem
Research shows people with endometriosis are more likely to have allergic autoimmune diseases, including asthma and allergic rhinitis — when your sinuses get inflamed from things like pet dander or pollen, which causes watery eyes, a stuffy nose, or sneezing.1,2 This started happening to me not just from mites and cats, but when I ate certain foods (and I'm vegan, so it's not a dairy issue). It wasn't an outright allergic reaction — which a doctor can test for — but more of an intolerance. My doctor told me since my cat was still around, I'm probably more sensitive to histamine levels in general.
Certain foods contain histamine and others can trigger the release of histamine in the body. While there are far too many to include, here's a brief list: fermented foods like pickles, spices including cinnamon and cloves, alcoholic beverages, coffee, tea, chocolate, fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, spinach and citrus, nuts, food additives and preservatives — which can be in medication.3
While everyone is different, I felt relief when I limited or eliminated some of these problematic foods.
When I eat something with large amounts of cocoa powder, I am guaranteed to wake up with crusty, puffy eyes that look like they've been shedding tears all night. I'm not willing to give it up completely, so I eat dairy-free, soy-free chocolate chips in cookies instead of big piece of chocolate cake or a brownie. And when I do splurge with something with full chocolate, I take a Benadryl before I go to sleep.
I quit drinking alcohol completely a year ago — not for allergy reasons — but red wine got axed about a year before everything else. I couldn't even have one glass without waking up with the puffy eye problem. It was similar to my reaction to chocolate but with the added pain of having a headache.
Strawberries and citrus fruits
I used to make smoothies all the time, always adding a few strawberries. But I didn't realize they were making my skin itch and causing a headache until after I eliminated them for a few days and then added them back in. After about six months sans strawberries, I tried a cupcake with the red berries. I broke out in hives almost immediately, and I had diarrhea the next morning.
While citrus fruits — including oranges and tangerines — cause some allergy-like symptoms, the orange peel found in herbal teas is the bigger offender for me. It will give me an instant headache. I avoid anything with orange or lemon extracts.
For some reason, I can drink coffee, but not black or green tea without feeling like I have a sudden cold. It's probably because I've never been a tea drinker. I switched to herbal tea (minus orange peel).
I can have 10 or so almonds, but pecans or walnuts (which sometimes show up in delicious cakes) trigger a reaction like hives, sinus congestion or a headache. I try to avoid them completely.
Check with your allergist
While I don't know if I'm truly histamine intolerant — if I ever find out, I'll be sure to write about it — I do know I feel worse after I eat certain things. It's impossible to avoid all histamines because irritants exist in the environment, but paying attention to my trigger foods has helped relieve my worst symptoms. (For the unavoidable flare-up, I always have antihistamines and hydrocortisone at the ready.)
If you find you're having a food intolerance, it might be worth taking a look at the list of histamine list. If you think you might have a food allergy, make sure to check with your doctor and get tested.
Has anyone ever said the following to you about your endometriosis?