How histamine conditions mimic psychiatric disorders

Tabletten und Pillen

Those of you who follow my blog (or who know me through the forums) are familiar with my psych background: psychiatric misdiagnoses up the wazoo, accompanied by 14 different psych meds: antidepressants, benzodiazepines, anti-epileptics, mood stabilisers and sleeping pills. Shrinks really had me convinced that the anxiety, shaking, dizziness, depression, mood swings etc were simply bipolar, borderline personality and a bunch of others, that would require me being drugged to the gills for the next decade.

Interestingly, I was able to withdraw from four concurrent meds, against the advice of several shrinks, in a terribly short time, once I fixed my diet. Practically overnight, within days of starting Dr Fuhrman‘s Eat to Live diet, I found my mind buried under the layers of numbed out grey matter and misfiring neurons. Within weeks, despite working 20-24 hour days as a journalist during the Lebanese War of 2006, I was able to reclaim my brain from the haze. I did so under the supervision of a lovely psychologist in Beirut, who basically made sure I was still playing with a full deck.

I would never ever recommend withdrawing at my speed. I was incredibly lucky not to end up in a chronic withdrawal syndrome. Please check out my friend Monica’s incredible Beyond Meds website. She shares her misadventures in psychiatry, how to withdraw safely from meds, and how she ultimately found out that histamine intolerance was behind a number of symptoms.

But after fixing my diet, things went awry, probably because while eating healthy was an improvement, a number of the foods I added were actually high histamine. And so the rashes that had plagued me throughout most of my life made a come back just a year later, as did the nausea, vomiting and a few others. Reaching crisis point with no answers whatsoever, I was once again convinced by friends and doctors that I had bipolar disorder. It was hard to argue – my moods flipped faster than a McDonald’s burger jockey. And so I went another few bouts with with mood stabilisers and alprazolam (xanax) which I had noticed also eliminated my hives. I figured I had already withdrawn once, doing it again wouldn’t be an issue. Or so I was told.

A few scary episodes led me down an alternative path. After an initial blood pressure crash, my heart rate would rise to 24o bpm and my throat would begin to constrict. Scary stuff, but all part of my bipolar diagnosis as far as the docs were concerned.  But it all started coming together in Cairo when I stumbled onto xanax’s properties as an H1, H2 and muscarinic receptor antagonist. This was one of the first clues that I was dealing with a histamine disorder rather than being headed for the loony bin. The incredible relief I experienced following a three day fast (as recommended by Dr Fuhrman) ended in a heartbeat when I ate a piece of zucchini. At that point, my body was so reactive and in such a heightened state of inflammation, that even one of the lowest histamine foods caused horrific itching and tinnitus.

And so began my journey on the low histamine diet. Within months I was able to bin the antidepressants, mood stabilisers and sleeping pills but I clung to my antihistamines and xanax till I finally dedicated myself 100% to my recovery, choosing to focus on an anti-inflammatory low histamine diet, with no cheats. In July 2012 I said goodbye to meds and have never looked back. If you suspect that your psychiatric symptoms are due to histamine’s effects on the brain/mood/neurotransmitters, you’re not alone. Finally some in the medical establishment are sitting up and taking notice, and some even also suffer from a histamine condition. If you’re lucky enough to live in Boston and are need of support in exploring how diet affects your mood/psych symptoms, please contact Judy Tsafir, M.D. I highly recommend reading her article on histamine intolerance.

Don’t forget to read my post on how histamine causes anxiety symptoms.