The drugs don’t work but the low histamine diet does

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It took exactly 38 hours to travel from London to Malindi, Kenya, and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t take its toll on me. I slept a total of two hours, after having stayed up writing all night before leaving (no sleep).

It took a major toll on my last time I traveled here too. The difference is that last December it took me over a week to get over it, but if I’m honest with myself, I never actually recovered. I spent three weeks in total in Kenya, on the vacation of a lifetime. My man, my best friends and I were transported on private planes to go on safari with Masai warriors, on boat trips to the most beautiful islands in western Africa, and to sumptuously catered parties hosted at glamorous villas. But I was too sick to enjoy any of it.

I had arrived in Kenya already sickly, having paid far too little attention to diet for far too long. I continued to dope up with an increasing number of antihistamines, convinced this was the only treatment available to me. The malaise I felt was, at times, the only indication that anything was wrong with me. Unfortunately every few days the bladder pain, anxiety, depression and severe intestinal distress would render movement impossible. I spent half our safari time in bed, complaining to anyone within earshot, while amusing myself with food.

While friends eagerly jumped into the ocean and enjoyed champagne at every opportunity, I spent last year’s trip bundled up against the imaginary cold, brandishing a bottle of still water and crying in the loo when there was nothing I could find to eat, bitterly asking myself why I had bothered to come. I was angry at myself for being sick, but I was furious at others for having the fun I couldn’t.

Today, just a year later, I not only managed to get myself onto a boat for a beautiful day at sea, I ate a hearty meal, swam for hours and crisped myself into a fetching shade of lobster. I have a full week of work ahead of me, as well as a number of trips across the country.

What’s changed? Kenya last year was the watershed moment when I swore I would change my life. With the encouragement and support of my man, I finally quit the antihistamines and benzodiazepines I now know were sabotaging my “recovery”. Once off antihistamines I understood my limits and the necessity of eating a low histamine diet rich in antihistamine and anti inflammatory foods, but most importantly, it dawned on me that elimination was most definitely not the way forward. Chronically cutting nutrition from my diet and eating the same few “safe” foods over and over was starving my body of the very nutrients needed to function (somewhat) normally. This whole last year has been spent applying the skills I used to travel the globe as a CNN/BBC television news producer, to surviving and thriving with my histamine disorder. My diet now incorporates dozens of foods, herbs and teas I have thoroughly researched and have found to be potent H1 and H2 receptor antagonists (antihistamines) and anti inflammatories.

So how am I surviving (and enjoying) this trip?

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Malindi airport – 36 hours later

I’ve made my peace. I understand that the very act of digestion causes histamine release. I no longer fret because I react to every single food I ingest – I KNOW I will, and just move on with my meal and my day. Because this too shall pass. I do not use the fact that I react to everything as an excuse to go and pig out on high histamine foods because ” I react to absolutely everything I eat.” I’m now a low histamine adult rather than the sulky preteen I once was.

I prepared for my trip. Read all about how to travel with a histamine condition here.

Before our arrival, I continued my daily meditation and visualisation excercises and reaffirmed my determination to enjoy life beyond the dinner plate.

I hit the ground running. The first thing I did upon arriving at my client’s villa was brief the kitchen on my food situation. I handed over the foods I had brought, along with copies of the DAO Support and On the Go cookbooks. Having done my research on local foods, I highlighted the recipes I knew would work and left it up to them which order to serve them. While I know that not everyone has the luxury of having a staff at their service when they travel, neither do I usually. If I was not staying at my client’s house, I would be at a rented apartment with a kitchen, where I would be preparing my own meals. 80% of the travel issue resolved.

I’ve adapted. I’m ok with eating very little till I can find something safe. Yesterday, breakfast was not something I could have, so I waited till lunch (having made sure I could eat it!). I enjoyed a light lunch of red cabbage with a little olive oil and lemon, asparagus filched from the large vinegared salad which I rinsed in a little bottled water, and a flatbread rye salad “sandwhich” (cucumber and lettuce).

low histamine lunch in kenya

low histamine lunch in kenya

In the old days I would have muttered angrily to myself, bemoaning my fate. Despite being a healthy eater most of my life, and being an advocate of Dr Fuhrman’s Eat to Live nutritarian lifestyle (life beyond the dinner table), I was unable to apply it to my own life since finding out about my histamine condition.Why? My theory is because I no longer felt in control of my body. I was angry at it for betraying my trust and the years of love I had lavished on it. But the joke’s on me. I am in control of my body, to a certain extent anyway, and I plan to live every moment left to me, to its fullest. And that means being even better to myself than ever.