Friday, September 27, 2013

Is it a flu? Is it a cold? No, it’s Hystamine Overload!

Since I was a small child, living in the country, and unto the present day, I have been allergic to many seasonal pollens. My fate was somewhat sealed by a bout of pneumonia at about age 3. I remember that summer illness: the doctor and the shot he gave me (he wore a suit and came to the house); the heat; the cool evening breeze blowing through the curtains, my grandmother (on a rare visit) singing me a lullaby. My respiratory system was always somewhat weak after that. Windy conditions always brought sore throats, and many times, that would turn into a bad chest cold.

When I grew up, as things turned out, I became, of all things, a trained singer.

I cannot remember when it was, exactly (15 or even 20 years ago?), that I noticed a distinct pattern to each illness that would threaten my ability to sing. They unfolded in exactly the same way each time, although the durations was not always the same. Severe swollen glands, severe rhinitis, fluid streaming down the back of my throat into my bronchial tubes. The menu always included severe congestion that decongestants could not tame. I at certain times of the year, I thought I was catching bugs from people, and I might have been.

At some point, I realized that with flu and real colds, there was temperature elevation, as distinguished from the “allergy bronchitis”, which did not.

Five or six years ago, I studied about herbs. I discovered supplements and concocted home remedies that were successful in ways my allopathic doctor could not. Newly armed, I have since had fewer illnesses to deal with, and was able to recover more quickly.

However, every once in a while, an ill wind doth blow, and while my new knowledge of herbs has served me well, the “allergy bronchitis” does pop up now and again, threatening my ability to sing.

Meanwhile, I had moved from learning about herbs to dealing with issues of diet, in order to help with a cholesterol issue experienced by my husband. Having added to the wellness toolkit, we have modified our diet recently, with good results.

Then, my son who wakes up with a clogged nose everyday, came home from school on a windy day, glassy-eyed and sneezing. Uh-oh. Not good. You see, he is going camping with his scout troupe this weekend.

I wouldn’t worry, if it had not been the case that he was hospitalized four years ago with an “asthmatic episode.” My son does not have asthma, mind you, but he had to be hospitalized because he was unable to breathe, owing to severe swelling of all his sinuses, throat tissues and bronchial area. Scary! And, upon his release, we were sent home with steroid inhalers and had to closely monitor his recovery. If it should happen again, the doctor told us, we might have to enroll him in an asthma clinic and have tests taken…

On Sunday evening, just before the third week of school, my son was changing for bed. He came running into the living room. “Mom, Dad! I have this rash!” Sure enough, he had a rash covering his entire trunk and upper thighs!

The squeaky wheels of my mind got to work. Benadryl, the answer popped out. My husband thought he needed to be taken to the emergency room, the rash was so extensive, and now starting to really itch. I drove to the emergency room. By the time we got checked in and seen by a physician, the Benadryl had done quite a lot to clear up the horrific looking rash. We were sent home. By morning, the rash was completely gone. The doctor, after asking us a number of questions, could really offer no explanation for why there could have been such an outbreak.

As we were driving home, because the squeaky I asked my son how many glasses of milk he had drunk that day. I knew I had seen him drink two glasses, at different times in the afternoon. He confessed to having had four, that he could remember, maybe five glasses of milk. Hmmmm… I told him to drink no more than two glasses of milk in a day, and to drink more water. “Milk is a food.” I said, “You need to think more about hydration with water. It could be that your rash was caused by too many histamines in your system.”

Last week, I had drunk a glass of wine with dinner. I took another glass with me as I cleaned up in the kitchen. I found myself scratching my arm several times. Looking at the location of the itch, there was a raised bump, but it was not red. A spider bite? I wondered.

Then next morning, I had a number of cups of coffee. The wind was howling outside, threatening to cancel the America’s Cup races. Uh-oh. This time of year, ragweed, elm, chenopods, every weedy thing in the world is blowing around at 30 mph. The arm was still itching. And then my nose started to water, and my eyes, by the afternoon, I was in trouble, with concerts coming up in the following week.

The squeaky wheels started turning again. I knew this was no cold. I knew this was an allergy attack, but what if there was more to it than just exposure to pollens?

A kaleidoscope of images over the years came flooding to mind: my daughter waking up with “spider bites”, my son wheezing in the hospital, both kids getting clogged sinuses while visiting at a friend’s house (I figured that one out: The friend was using detergent on her sheets that had “timed-release freshness particles”); my son’s rash; my itching arm while drinking a glass of wine.

Histamine overload. Obviously, that was it. But the histamines accumulated in our systems were not just due to airborne particulate allergies and detergent/chemical reactions. Histamine overload due to dietary considerations, that had to be a huge piece of this puzzle!

I started looking around on the internet. Turns out, there is not a whole lot of information in this country about “histamine overload”, but I did find information available on European sites. HIT (Histamine Intolerance) is what people are calling this. The real culprit in this situation is a lack of DAO (Diamine oxidase, an enzyme involved in the metabolism of histamine.

When you look at the list of that trigger, build or bring histamines to your system, you get an idea why doctors here don’t want to deal with this issue: the list of foods is endless; and your favorite snack items and cereals are at the top of this huge list.

The list of foods that don’t trigger histamine release is about a paragraph long. The list of natural antihistamines is extremely short. Here are three from that short list: apples, Vitamin C, quercetin.

Taking the short list of antihistamines, I have mostly recovered from my overload, just in time for the concerts.

Now, I will explore the longer campaign of diet issues, so that I can help my family avoid major problems in the future. This will be the hard part. All of what I have read, so far, tells me that elimination of trigger foods is not the way; rather, one needs to rotate the foods one eats, and realize that nutrition, and also enjoyment, can be the better choice.

And, of course, “moderation in all things, including moderation!”

I may report in on this later, but suffice it to say, the whole family is in for additional dietary changes, including the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”

Amazing, that this mystery has taken my entire life to unravel! I hope you will wish me good fortune as I continue with my family on the path toward better health, living with allergies and HIT.