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Food Allergies

Do you become flushed or itchy after eating or drinking…everything? You could have histamine intolerance

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Histamine 101

Histamine is an organic compound made by your body that’s responsible for initiating immune and inflammatory responses…and about a million other functions that we don’t have time to discuss here.

What do itchiness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, and skin rashes have in common? They’re all provoked by histamine! Some people have allergies and some don’t because of the responsiveness of their histamine production to external influences. Anaphylactic allergies to things like peanuts and shellfish are also triggered by histamine release, but from specific immunoglobulins called IgE antibodies.

However, this isn’t a blog about seasonal allergies or anaphylactic allergies, it’s about not being able to drink wine and eat smoked meats! It’s about getting a skin reaction after eating just about anything. Why does this happen??? It’s called “histamine intolerance”.

Histamine Intolerance

Histamine intolerance results from a lack of degradation of histamine and a build up of histamine from foods that, well, produce histamine. Your body can become intolerant to histamine because there’s just so much of it! Histamine is broken down by two different enzymes in the body: diamine oxidase (DAO) and histamine-N-methyltransferase (HNMT). Reduced activity of either enzyme can cause symptoms of elevated histamine, such as: hives, itching, rash, flushing, headache, diarrhea, heartburn, and asthma. Histamine can be found in foods and it can also be formed by the bacterial fermentation of foods. But, you thought saukerkraut and kombucha were good for you?! Not if you have histamine intolerance. Here’s the kicker: some foods are both histamine producers AND DAO inhibitors! Unfortunately, that’s the case for red wine, which also contains sulfites. Sulfite sensitivity can look exactly like histamine intolerance, and can also be due to a deficiency of degradation enzymes.

So what are these histamine-producing foods already!?

  • Alcohol
  • Pickled or canned foods – like sauerkraut, peppers, pickles
  • Matured cheeses
  • Smoked meat products – salami, ham, sausages, jerky
  • Shellfish
  • Beans and canned legumes– chickpeas, soy beans, peanuts
  • Nuts – walnuts, cashew nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Vinegar
  • Citrus- like tomatoes
  • Dried fruits
  • Artificial colouring- found in candies, desserts, cereals, sodas, juices etc.
  • Preservatives- like sulfites
  • MSG

Other tips for reducing histamine production:

  • Avoid canned foods
  • Aim to eat fresh foods, rather than preserved foods
  • Don’t leave foods out of the fridge for long periods of time, pack your lunches with a cold pack
  • Ensure that your kitchen is always kept clean to minimize bacteria exposure
  • Everyone has their own histamine threshold; you may need to experiment to find yours

How will you know if you have histamine intolerance?

  • You experience any of the symptoms listed in this blog (hives, itching, rash, flushing, headache, diarrhea, heartburn, and asthma) after eating/ drinking the above foods
  • Your symptoms may decrease after taking over the counter anti-histamine medications
  • You are sure you do not have anaphylactic allergies, and other allergies have been ruled out by a doctor

Print off the list of foods and keep it on your fridge. When you eat them, write down your corresponding symptoms and watch for patterns. Remember that your threshold may not be reached until after eating the foods for several servings or several days.

Book an appointment with Dr. Sumner


Maintz, L., & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(5), 1185-1196.

Jarisch, R. (2011). Histamine intolerance. Aktuelle Dermatologie, 37, 1-8.

Wöhrl, S., Hemmer, W., Focke, M., Rappersberger, K., & Jarisch, R. (2004, September). Histamine intolerance-like symptoms in healthy volunteers after oral provocation with liquid histamine. In Allergy and Asthma Proceedings (Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 305-311). OceanSide Publications, Inc.

Schwelberger, H. G. (2010). Histamine intolerance: a metabolic disease?. Inflammation research, 59(2), 219-221.

Why Probiotics Are the Greatest Supplement & 3 Tips For Buying the Best

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Following up on my blog post titled “Why Supplement Brand Matters”, this post is dedicated to picking the best probiotic supplement

Probiotics are my absolute favourite supplement!

  • If I was stranded on a deserted island and I could only bring one supplement I would bring probiotics (even if protein powder would be a more likely choice for survival….)
  • If I could describe myself using one supplement it would be a probiotic: I can ease your anxiety, I care about your gut, I don’t want you to get sick, and I’m dedicated to helping you go to the bathroom!
  • If I had to pick just one supplement that is the greatest of all, it would be probiotics!

So what is a probiotic?

A probiotic is a live, healthy bacterium. Your body naturally has healthy bacteria that protect you from harm, but your body can also develop bad bacteria that do cause harm. The bacterial habitat in your body is known as the microbiome and when supported it can do wonders for your health!


Why do I need probiotics?

Your body is born with lots of good bacteria, but overtime this good bacteria is depleted with antibiotic use, medication, poor diet, inflammation, infection etc. When the good bacteria disappears, there is more space in your gut for bad bacteria to adhere and cause health concerns. The goal of probiotic supplementation is to replenish your body with good, protective bacteria, get rid of the bad bacteria, and take up lots of space so there’s no room for bad bacteria to adhere (picture your gut like a parking garage that needs all the spaces full). You may have also heard that the gut is the “second brain”. A huge component of your nervous system (and immune system) is in your gut, so when bad bacteria starts to populate and affect your digestive health, it also affects your mental and immune health.

Can I get probiotics from my food? What about Jamie Lee Curtis the dancing Activia lady?

There are many foods that have naturally occurring probiotics, like: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi….well essentially anything fermented. I’m sure you’ve seen the countless yogurt ads of middle-aged women belly dancing after they’ve eaten their probiotic yogurt and gone to the bathroom! Sure yogurt has probiotics, but it also has lots of sugar. It’s fantastic to include these probiotic foods in your diet, but if you’re looking to up the anti and achieve a greater therapeutic benefit then read further.

Probiotic supplements can be used very effectively for, but not limited to:

  • bloating/ gas
  • digestive pain
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • anxiety
  • low mood
  • frequent colds/flus
  • skin concerns
  • vaginal health
  • bladder health
  • kidney health
  • liver detox
  • hormonal imbalance 
  • weight loss
  • …..wow that’s a lot of stuff!

Hopefully I’ve now convinced you that probiotics rule, so how do you pick one? If you read my last blog you know that supplement brand matters, and it’s not any different when it comes to probiotics. So here we go…

3 Tips for Picking the Best Probiotic Supplement

  1. Take a look at the CFUs (colony forming units)

This indicates the number of bacterial units in the supplement. Different areas of your digestive system have different amounts of probiotic bacteria (you already know that there’s lots of bacteria in your gut!). For example, your colon has more good bacteria than your mouth (up to 99 billion more to be exact). This means that in order to improve the health of your colon and replenish the bacteria, you need a higher number of CFUs than replenishing the healthy bacteria in the mouth. Most health concerns come from a depletion of good bacteria in the small intestine and colon, so you need a higher number of CFUs.

Quick tip– the typical maintenance dose of probiotic for general health is 10-20 billion CFU


  1. Take a look at the bacterial strain(s)

It’s pretty simple: different strains have different therapeutic uses, because different strains of bacteria are found in different parts of your body. For example, if you experience chronic urinary tract infections, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus reuteri are the well-researched probiotic strains. For irritable bowel syndrome you may want to consider Lactobacillus plantarum 299v, and for C. difficile Saccharomyces boulardii is commonly used. And the list goes on!

Quick tip– Multi-strain probiotics, as the name suggests, have multiple probiotic strains. More strains = greater likelihood you’ll get the strain you need. Combining probiotic strains also has a synergistic effect, meaning they work together to improve your gut health. Sometimes it’s more effective to have a whole team instead of just one guy.

  1. Take a look for Prebiotics (aka FOS) and Dairy

Okay what? You read it right; there are probiotics and PREbiotics. PREbiotics are the food source used to fuel the PRObiotics. FOS (fructooliosaccharide) is a form of prebiotic that is added to certain probiotic supplements. For some people, like those with irritable bowel syndrome, FOS can cause bloating and digestive upset and should be avoided. Finally, some brands of probiotics grow their bacteria on a dairy medium (because it’s a sugary fuel!), if you’re sensitive to dairy this is important for you to know.

Quick tip– make sure you read labels thoroughly. The first one has FOS, the second is dairy free

So Now What?

If you are experiencing the symptoms I’ve discussed in this post, you want to belly dance after going to the bathroom, or if you’re interested in what probiotics can do for you book an appointment with me


Borchert, D., Sheridan, L., Papatsoris, A., Faruquz, Z., Barua, J. M., Junaid, I., … & Buchholz, N. (2008). Prevention and treatment of urinary tract infection with probiotics: Review and research perspective. Indian Journal of Urology24(2), 139.

Simren M, Syrous A, Lindh A, Abrahamsson H. Effects of Lactobacillus plantarum 299V on symptoms and rectal sensitivity in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)—a randomized double blind controlled trial. Gastroenterology. 2006;130(1):T2043.

Hickson, M. (2011). Probiotics in the prevention of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea and Clostridium difficile infection. Therapeutic advances in gastroenterology, 1756283X11399115.

Foster, J. A., & Neufeld, K. A. M. (2013). Gut–brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends in neurosciences36(5), 305-312.

Million, M., & Raoult, D. (2013). The role of the manipulation of the gut microbiota in obesity. Current infectious disease reports15(1), 25-30.

Anders, H. J., Andersen, K., & Stecher, B. (2013). The intestinal microbiota, a leaky gut, and abnormal immunity in kidney disease. Kidney international83(6), 1010-1016.

Kelly, D., Conway, S., & Aminov, R. (2005). Commensal gut bacteria: mechanisms of immune modulation. Trends in immunology26(6), 326-333.