Getting Your Mast Cells Through the Holidays

by | Dec 19, 2022 | Blog, Histamine, Integrative Medicine | 0 comments

If you have mast cell activation issues or histamine intolerance, the holidays can feel tricky. How can you stay low-histamine during the holidays without sacrificing your sanity? How to keep your mast cells at bay during the holidays without giving up delicious meals? How to stay healthy while enjoying this season?

These are the questions I want to answer today. Let’s get into it. Let me share my top tips on how to keep healthy, keep your mast cells at bay, and stay low-histamine during the holidays.

How to Keep Your Mast Cells at Bay and Stay Low-Histamine During the Holidays

Without further ado, here are my tips for staying low-histamine getting your mast cells through the holidays:

Follow an Anti-Inflammatory, Low-Histamine Diet

This goes without saying. Your diet can set you up for success or failure. Too many inflammatory foods can increase chronic inflammation, chronic pain, chronic symptoms, and the risk of disease. Too many high-histamine foods can increase mast cell activation and histamine intolerance. Following an anti-inflammatory, low-histamine diet can calm your mast cells, reduce histamine intolerance, and improve your health. It’s a non-negotiable step for staying low-histamine during the holidays and keeping your mast cells at bay.

  • Avoid inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oil, gluten, conventional dairy, artificial ingredients, additives, junk food, overly processed foods, and any food that causes food allergies, food intolerance, or food sensitivities. 
  • Remove high-histamine foods, including aged cheese, citrus fruits, canned and cured meat, dried fruits, fermented foods, fermented alcohol, legumes, certain nuts, such as cashew and walnuts, soured foods, smoked fish, certain vegetables, including avocados, tomatoes, eggplant, and spinach, vinegar-containing foods, and preservative-filled processed foods.
  • Remove histamine-liberating foods, such as bananas, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, tomatoes, wheat germ, cow’s milk, alcohol, nuts, shellfish, chocolate, and many artificial preservatives and dyes.  
  • Avoid DAO enzyme-blocking foods and drinks, including alcohol, black tea, green tea, mate tea, and energy drinks.
  • Follow an anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, low-histamine whole foods, including greens, vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices, grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry and eggs, wild-caught fish and seafood, and wild game.
  • Add quercetin-rich foods to your diet, including grapes, blueberries, cherries, apples, cranberries, black plums, black currants, olive oil,  asparagus, red onion, cruciferous vegetables, red leaf lettuce, cabbage, kale, romaine lettuce, sprouts, snap peas, and peppers, as they can naturally reduce histamine (1).
  • Add mast cell-stabilizing foods to your diet, including watercress, moringa, chamomile, turmeric, Thai ginger, apples, Brazil nuts, peaches, nettle, onion, and fiber-rich foods (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,11, 12).

Eat Home-Cooked Meals and Try New Recipes

Eating home-cooked meals is the key to a healthier diet. It is helpful for staying low-histamine during the holidays. This way, you are in control of your ingredients and you can make delicious foods you love. During the holidays, many of us attend more events and eat out more than normal. Try to focus on home-cooked meals whenever possible. You don’t need to skip holiday parties and outings completely (I will have some tips for that soon too!), but aim to cook at home on days when you don’t have any important invitations. 

The best way to make low-histamine and mast cell-friendly cooking enjoyable is by trying new recipes. The holidays are a great excuse to try new nutrient-dense and healthy recipes. Start browsing the internet or get some low-histamine cookbooks ready and try out your favorites. I promise low-histamine meals can be delicious. Don’t forget about my low-histamine food prep and cooking tips to guide you along the way.

Read Labels

Whether you are cooking, offered food somewhere, or receiving a food gift, reading labels is key for staying low-histamine during the holidays. Look for high-histamine, histamine-liberating, and DAO enzyme-blocking ingredients. Also, look for artificial ingredients, additives, and other inflammatory ingredients. My article on a healthy pantry has some great tips on reading labels. If you see an ingredient that may be triggering for you, you can just skip that food or dessert. If you don’t see any labels, you may look into it only, ask the person who made it, or simply skip it. Remember, this won’t be your last delicious opportunity this holiday season.

Host Holiday Gatherings

You can’t escape the holiday without gatherings, parties, and events. To avoid temptation or avoid triggering foods, many recommend that you eat before any event and avoid food at parties. That’s not fun. I have some better solutions for keeping your mast cells at bay and staying low-histamine during the holidays.

One great solution is hosting a party yourself. This way, you will be sure what’s on your plate. Cooking for guests doesn’t have to be stressful either. Using your Instant Pot and Air Fryer are great tricks to make low-histamine cooking quick and easy. You can easily make some holiday-friendly, low-histamine dishes. 

If cooking for an entire crowd seems too stressful, you can always host a potluck. Ask your guests to bring any dishes or desserts they want to share. You can still cook enough of your favorite low-histamine meals to share and have for yourself.

Bring Food to Gatherings

Of course, you can’t always escape invitations. If you are invited to any holiday gathering, notify the host about your dietary needs. Don’t worry. Food allergies and sensitivities being so common you won’t be the only one with special requests. You can give them a list of low-histamine foods you can eat and high-histamine or otherwise triggering foods you can’t. You may offer some recipes to make their job easier.

An even easier way to go about this is to offer to bring some dishes. Your host won’t have to worry about accommodating you. They have to cook less. And you won’t have to worry about your dietary needs or going hungry. Bring enough to share with other guests.

When talking about your low-histamine diet, dietary needs, or lifestyle choices, don’t be apologetic. Explain why you are choosing a low-histamine diet. Remember, many people walk around with undiagnosed mast cell activation issues or histamine intolerance. Some people may recognize their symptoms and look into mast cell activation or histamine intolerance as a potential cause behind their chronic symptoms. You may inspire them to start taking care of their health by showing them how you are staying low-histamine during the holidays and keeping your mast cells at bay.

Reduce Triggers of Mast Cell Activation and Your Histamine Bucket

A low-histamine, nutrient-dense diet is not enough to keep your mast cells at bay and stay low-histamine during the holidays. There are many factors that can trigger mast cell activation or increase your histamine levels.

  • Reduce your exposure to anything that may trigger your mast cells, including food, allergens, chemicals, toxins, and stress.
  • Make sure that your home is free of mold. Use a high-quality air filtration system to improve your indoor air. 
  • Avoid chemicals, heavy metals, and environmental toxins. Instead of conventional cleaning, body, and beauty products, opt for organic, natural, or homemade options.
  • Avoid the use of plastics, especially BPA. Choose glass, bamboo, wood, organic cotton, and silicone instead.
  • Choose organic food whenever possible. 
  • Drink purified water or spring water instead of tap water.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety. Practice meditation, breath work, guided visualization, gratitude, positive affirmations, and journaling. Engage in activities that lift you up. Spend time with supportive people but also save some space for ‘me-time’.
  • Exercise regularly. Move your body throughout the day and exercise 5 days a week for 20 to 30 minutes. Mix up cardiovascular exercise with strength and resistance training and low-impact exercise.
  • Improve your sleep. Avoid electronics, sugar, alcohol, and heavy food close to bedtime. Choose relaxing activities in the evening that help you to wind down. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of restorative sleep each night.

Support Your Gut Health

Supporting your gut health is critical for your overall health, but especially if you have mast cell issues or histamine intolerance. Poor gut microbiome health, gut infections, and leaky gut syndrome can trigger histamine intolerance and inflammation. Eat plenty of prebiotic-rich foods, including Jerusalem artichokes, apples, onions, garlic, leek, and Dandelion greens. Take a daily, high-quality probiotic supplement.

Try Some Histamine-Reducing and Mast Cell-Supporting Supplements

You may also benefit from supplementation with natural antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers, such as quercetin, resveratrol, curcumin, vitamin C, nettle leaf, luteolin, and DAO enzyme helpful (13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19). Quercetin, for example, offers antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and helps to reduce histamine release naturally. Resveratrol and curcumin also offer anti-inflammatory properties and help to reduce mast cell activity. Vitamin C helps to boost your immune system and may help to reduce mast cell activity and inflammation. Nettle leaf and lutein both help to stabilize your mast cells and reduce histamine release. DAO enzymes can help to clean up excess histamine that your body can’t handle.

Be Gentle with Yourself

The holidays can be stressful. Stress can trigger your mast cells, increase histamine levels, and lead to inflammation. This is the opposite of what you want. So be gentle with yourself and don’t beat yourself up over the little things.

Despite your best efforts, you may end up eating something that’s higher in histamine or triggering for your mast cells. Don’t worry. You didn’t ruin anything. Staying low-histamine during the holidays doesn’t mean you have to be perfect. Try your best, but if you end up making a higher-histamine choice, move past it. Choosing a less-than-ideal food once, doesn’t mean you have to continue down this path. Just move on. Choose better the next meal.

Next Steps

Follow my tips for a healthier holiday without your mast cells acting up and histamine giving you grief. These strategies should help you stay low-histamine during the holidays and keep your mast cells from getting triggered. Follow the same strategies into the new year, and continue reading my blog for more information and inspiration on improving histamine intolerance, MCAS, and chronic health issues. 

If you are dealing with histamine intolerance, MCAS, or other chronic health issues, the best way to get to the root cause of your symptoms and create an individualized treatment. I welcome you to start a personalized functional medicine consultation with me for further guidance to improve your health. for advice on how to improve your nutrition and health, I welcome you to start a functional medicine consultation with me for further personalized guidance to improve your health. You may book your consultation here. 

Check out my Histamine Intolerance Course here. Learn on your own time, from anywhere. Get an inside look at the most helpful functional medicine tests for pinpointing imbalances, ways to identify and manage the most common (and sometimes surprising) mast cell triggers, and learn what to eat, what to avoid, and why.

Learn more about working with Dr. Gannage