Today, I have the privilege of connecting with Dr. Becky Campbell. She is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine, the founder of Dr. Becky Campbell.com, co-host of the Health Babes Podcast, and author of The 4-Phase Histamine Reset.
Dr. Becky is a true expert in her field. In our conversation today, we look at many changes that occur with women in perimenopause and menopause, rendering them vulnerable to histamine sensitivity. We explore histamine, explaining what it is and where the histamine receptors are in the body, and get into the influence of genetic mutations on sleep. We look into anxiety and migraines, touching on the risk factors associated with histamine intolerances and how estrogen plays a role in exacerbating those issues. We also highlight the foods with the highest histamine content. Additionally, Dr. Becky enlightens us on how to test for histamine intolerance, and we offer some valuable advice on maintaining a sane, balanced, and vibrant life.
I hope you enjoy today’s insightful discussion with Dr. Becky Campbell! I know you will learn a lot from it!
“We need and want histamine because it can help the immune system. It can help with digestion and it helps us with talking between the brain and the body, so it is really, really important.”
– Dr. Becky Campbell
IN THIS EPISODE YOU WILL LEARN:
- Why women in perimenopause and menopause are more susceptible to histamine problems
- The range of symptoms caused by histamine receptors
- How genetic mutations can affect histamine metabolism and lead to histamine intolerance
- The crucial role of estrogen and progesterone in regulating histamine release in the body
- How endocrine disruptors in personal care products can impact hormone levels and cause a histamine response
- How exercising can trigger histamine release in the body- particularly in warm environments
- Why people who have done a keto or Whole30 diet may experience histamine issues
- Dr. Becky identifies histamine-rich foods that could trigger cancer in some people
- The challenges associated with going low-histamine
- The importance of making conscious dietary choices and avoiding inflammatory foods
- Dr. Becky shares her experience with histamine intolerance
Dr. Becky Campbell is a board-certified doctor of natural medicine who was initially introduced to functional medicine as a patient. She struggled with many of the issues her patients struggle with today, and she has made it her mission to help patients all around the world with her virtual practice.
Dr. Becky Campbell is the founder of Dr. Becky Campbell.com, the host of The Health Babes Podcast, and author of The 30-Day Thyroid Reset Plan, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan, Low Histamine Cooking in Your Instant Pot, and her latest book, The Health Babes Guide to Balancing Hormones.
Connect with Cynthia Thurlow
- Check out Cynthia’s website
- Submit your questions to email@example.com
Connect with Dr. Becky Campbell
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:00:02] Welcome to Everyday Wellness podcast. I’m your host, Nurse Practitioner, Cynthia Thurlow. This podcast is designed to educate, empower, and inspire you to achieve your health and wellness goals. My goal and intent, is to provide you with the best content and conversations from leaders in the health and wellness industry each week and impact over a million lives.
[00:00:30] Today, I had the honor of connecting with Dr. Becky Campbell. She is a board-certified doctor of Natural Medicine. She is the founder of drbeckycampbell.com, the co-host of the Health Babes Podcast, and author of the 4-Phase Histamine Reset. Today, we spoke at great length about a great deal of the changes that occur in women in perimenopause and menopause that make them more susceptible to histamine-related issues, what exactly is histamine? The histamine receptors in the body, the role of genetic mutations, the impact on our sleep, anxiety, and migraines, risk factors for histamine intolerances, the role of estrogen, specific causes, what foods are highest in histamine, how to test, and how to live your life and stay sane. I know you will enjoy this conversation as much as I did recording it.
[00:01:22] Dr. Becky, it’s so good to have you on the podcast. I feel like it’s taken us a while to coordinate our calendars to bring you on board. I know you’ve had a very busy last year, like most boy moms do. And I’ve had so many questions from listeners and clients about the role of histamine in our bodies. And why is it that women in perimenopause and menopause seem to be so susceptible to histamine problems?
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:01:45] Yeah, well, let’s start with what histamine is, because a lot of people don’t know. So, it’s basically, we have these cells called mast cells, they’re part of the immune system. And when we have an allergen or pathogen, our mast cells will release different inflammatory chemicals, so histamine is one of those. And so, it has a job and we need histamine, we want histamine, it can help with the immune system, it can help with digestion, it helps us with talking between the brain and the body, so it’s really really important.
[00:02:21] The problem is not histamine. The problem is that many of us can’t break down histamine very well. And there’re various reasons that we can get into why we can’t. So, when that happens, we get this overaccumulation of histamine, and then we have all these random symptoms because there’re histamine receptors all over the body. So, then many of us don’t know what’s going on. And you go to your doctor, I have headaches, I have vertigo, I have skin issues, I have digestive issues, which all can be from too much histamine. And they don’t know what’s wrong because they want to send you to one doctor for each system of the body, and so it can be very frustrating for people, because then they’re kind of just left with no answers, the doctor doesn’t know, so then it’s in your head type of thing, and even family members don’t understand what you’re going through because you tend to look really normal unless it’s showing up in the skin with hives and all that stuff.
[00:03:17] But it’s a really hard thing and it can be really frustrating. And I suffered with it for years, even after my thyroid diagnosis and I knew something else was wrong, but didn’t know what it was. So, for me, it was frustrating. And my husband at the time was like, “You’re fine.” And everyone in my life is like, “You’re fine, you’re just sensitive, you’re just a baby.” And I’m like, “No, really, I’m not.” So that’s why I talk about this all the time, because people really need to understand this and then also need to know what to do about it.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:03:48] I always say it’s usually this pain to purpose story. It’s something that we ourselves have experienced, which we then start talking about and helping to gain greater awareness around it. Now, one thing that I found interesting as I was preparing for the talk is that we have histamine receptors, as you stated appropriately, nearly everywhere. So, you’ve got H1 receptors that vasodilate, so they’ll dilate blood vessels. You have H2 receptors, which occur in the stomach and release hydrochloric acid. H3 is in the brain and neurotransmitters, and then even H4 is found diffusely throughout the body; bone marrow, colon, liver, lung, spleen, testes, thymus, I mean, you name it. So, understanding that when you have an issue with histamine, it is typically not just localized, it is a systemic problem.
[00:04:36]: And as a former ER nurse, we used to just hit patients hard with H1 blockers, H2 blockers on top of everything else to quiet the acute inflammatory response that was going on. And you alluded to some of the symptoms that people experience, and I think the ones that catch our attention, the systemic hives, significant eczema, even POTS, which we saw a ton of in cardiology, this postural orthostatic hypotension. But all these other constellations of symptoms can be very vague, like just having palpitations or low blood pressure or diarrhea. I mean it could be from anything. Is it any wonder that this is so misdiagnosed or it’s not focused on enough?
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:05:14] Yeah, insomnia too. I’m sure you probably heard a lot of that, because histamine wakes up our brain. So, if you’re accumulating all this histamine and it’s higher at night, you’re going to have a lot of trouble sleeping. And even swelling, which I’m sure you saw, especially working in the ER, a lot of people coming in with swelling, which can be of various things, but it can definitely be related to histamine, congestion, runny nose, itchy ears. And, like, a really big sign is when you’re eating and we’re just talking off air about those foods we love, high histamine foods, fermented foods, and so when you’re eating a lot of the time, if you do have an issue breaking histamine down, you’ll get that runny nose, you might get itching in your ears. I remember I would be eating and as I was literally chewing, my ears would start itching, you know it was really bad with this, racing heart, anxiety, panic attacks, all sorts of stuff.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:06:09] And how can genetics impact our ability to break down histamine properly? Because I know that you do a really nice job of explaining this in a very layperson, friendly vernacular, but there’s a genetic piece to this as well that people may not be aware of.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:06:25] So, we can have mutations and some of the genes that help us break down histamine. So, if you do have, let’s say, one of the most common enzymes that breaks histamine down is called the DAO enzyme. So, you can have mutations in that enzyme, and then it doesn’t work properly, so you’re not producing enough of the enzyme. So therefore, you’re not able to break histamine down very well just genetically. Like, let’s take out all the other factors that we can include that do that. So, the thing is, with genetics we know the tip of the iceberg, right? So, what we do know is that when you have these genetic mutations, it’s not always going to bother you, it’s not always an issue, which a lot of people get the 23andMe or whatever test, and they go, “Oh, no, I have the MTHFR gene mutation, therefore A, B, and C,” well, not necessarily.
[00:07:24] So, there’s always some things that if you can, you should do like a follow up. So, like to MTHFR, which is a common gene mutation, which a lot of you have probably heard of, you can run something called homocysteine on blood and that will actually tell you, like is this genetic mutation affecting you? Do you need to support with B vitamins and all that? So that’s just an example. And then actually that mutation really plays a role also in the histamine picture. And I have the worst variants of the MTHFR everyone right?
[00:07:53] Everyone I talk to has it, especially all of us functional medicine practitioners, because it makes you have issues. You don’t detox well, you’re sensitive, all those things. So, there’re multiple mutations you can have and they all play a different type of role in what they’re doing. Some help break down histamine, some are cofactors for the formation of things that you need to break down histamine, it just depends on what it is. So, if you have this, you’re already kind of a step back from being able to break histamine down. But the good news is that alone, it’s typically genetics plus environment, right? So that alone shouldn’t make you just be like, “Well, there’s no chance for me.”
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:08:41] It’s limiting beliefs that we embrace.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:08:43] Yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:08:44] Well and it’s interesting because I myself homozygous for A677T, so I have two copies from my parents. And my parents at one point said, do we need to get tested? I said, no, because I know I have one from each of you at a minimum. But it also doesn’t mean that I have to take all methylated vitamins. I just know for me personally, the thing I have to work very diligently at is methylation and phase-2 detox. I will have to do that for the rest of my existence. And if people are like, “What in the world are you talking about?” Obviously, we detoxify when we sweat, when we urinate, when we defecate, when we breathe, all those things are helpful, but we have two phases of detoxification in the liver, and some of us need support with one or the other or both. And I know from a lot of testing, I will probably be taking certain supplements and doing certain things for the rest of my life, and I’ve just accepted that. And I just know that I feel a whole lot better when those things are supported.
[00:09:37] But to your point, you can have those genetic mutations and unless you have tripped that genetic mutation to turn it on, sometimes it’s not problematic. That’s why probably 10 years ago, when I think MTHFR was probably first really being spoken about, everyone was like, “I need methylated vitamins and I need this,” not necessarily, a lot of it’s dependent on the rest of your labs, homocysteine among with other ones. And so when you’re working with your female patients in particular, because that’s most of whom listens to the podcast, what are some of the things in our lifestyle that put us at risk for tripping off these histamine responses and doing so that really magnifies our side effects?
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:10:15] So, I kind of am always coming up with more drivers. I’m like, “Well that too,” I think about it like that. So, gut, let’s just start with the gut. So just about anything wrong in the gut is an issue for histamine. That DAO enzyme is in the lining of the gut, so having any type of infection in the gut or leaky gut can lower the amount of that enzyme we have plus some bacteria made in the gut, some of the opportunistic bacteria can actually produce histamine, so that’s going to make us have more histamine in the body, and then we’re also having trouble breaking it down, so then you’re just going to have that overaccumulation.
[00:11:00] So, estrogen dominance, which probably a lot of people listening have. And I always like to say with estrogen dominance, it doesn’t mean you necessarily have high estrogen. It just means that in relationship to your progesterone, your estrogen is higher, which when you go through your cycle and you have those ebbs and flows, that can be an issue. So, estrogen really drives histamine. So, estrogen can bind to the same receptor sites that histamine does in the mast cells. So, histamine rises and falls with estrogen in our cycle. And so, when estrogen is going high, we can push out a lot of histamine and vice versa. They kind of do that to each other.
[00:11:40] So, a lot of people get really symptomatic right around ovulation when estrogen is higher and then a couple of days before bleed week, if you’re still cycling, that’s kind of a big problem that I see. I do the DUTCH test on everybody and I’m like, “Well, yep, you’re having an issue with estrogen.” And then they’re like, “Yeah, my symptoms are worse during these times of the month.” And then typically if you have high estrogen, you have lower progesterone. And progesterone can be really supportive for not pushing out to histamine, so it’s supported to the mast cells, it helps upregulate our DAO enzyme, so it helps suppress histamine release in the body. So, we want the right amount, we want a good balance of estrogen to progesterone.
[00:12:26] Vitamin deficiencies can be an issue like copper, which don’t go right on, start taking copper, please. B6, vitamin C, those kinds of the main things that you can relate to the vitamin deficiencies. Mold, which is huge. And I didn’t talk about mold enough in my book. I do in my program because they’ve cut about half of my book out. But mold is an environmental toxin or it’s in the environment, it’s in a lot of people’s homes, they don’t realize it. It’s in a lot of workplaces, it can be in your car, it can be so many places that you didn’t realize. And mold really aggravates our mast cells. It makes them degranulate, they start dumping all these inflammatory chemicals, so not just histamine but others, but let’s just stick with histamine. And then you’re just dumping and dumping and dumping this histamine and the whole time you’re exposed to it. So, let’s say you’re home and you have it in your home and you feel terrible when you’re home and then you notice when you go on vacation, you feel better. And then you come back home and you are starting to feel bad again. That’s something you want to look at. But mold is just really big. I mean, especially in states like Florida where I live, where it’s super humid and very wet, mold is everywhere. That’s I think when I at was my sickest, when I was living in mold, my mast cells were like, “screw you.”
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:13:52] Well, and it’s interesting because again, there’s this genetic susceptibility about 25% of people are more sensitive to mold. So it could be that it’s maybe your second, your third exposure, and then your body has this chronic inflammatory response syndrome. And you know for me, I am one of these special people. And I had like a flood in the basement of the townhouse I lived in, in college,that was one big exposure, and then we had a house when we lived in Washington DC, that we did a bunch of testing and realized the previous homeowners hadn’t disclosed some things, and so there’s the room I spent the most time in during the day, sure enough, so it just can be this cumulative net impact, and so it’s unfortunate that when you write a book, oftentimes the publisher or the editor will cut back on things. And then after the fact, you’re like, “No, this is really very very important.” So about 25% of us are more sensitive to mold than the average person. I too live in a very humid state. I did not believe that Richmond, Virginia was more humid than Northern Virginia, but it is. It’s central Virginia, it is the South. And so, we are constantly doing things to limit mold and growth and all those things in the house.
[00:15:03] You know what’s interesting is when you were talking about estrogen, so touching back on estrogen. So, in perimenopause, this 10 to 15-year preceding menopause, women can have sometimes the highest levels of estrogen in their entire lifetime, so this is sometimes when I start seeing women saying, like, “What is going on? I’m like, getting hives, I’m having all these constellations of symptoms.” Maybe you’re not having them all kind of put together. You’re thinking they’re all actually separate. I was just sharing before we started recording that last year, in the crush of the book launch, I broke out in hives three separate times. It took it happening to me three separate times over two weeks to go. I think maybe I have a histamine problem. In the setting of lots of stress, not enough sleep, probably things going on with the gut, certainly some imbalance of estrogen to progesterone and so this is not at all uncommon to see in middle-aged women and so if you’re experiencing this, just know that it’s not uncommon, but it doesn’t have to be your destiny. Like, thankfully, after I figured out what I needed to do, it never reoccurred. But systemic hives are not fun. I mean, you look like a blotchy mess.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:16:07]: Yeah, they’re not. And when you’re in perimenopause, the closer you’re getting to menopause, the lower your progesterone is going, and your estrogen is going up and down. And that’s why sometimes you’re okay and then sometimes you’re not. And then stress makes us release more histamine. So, for you, you had this combination of things going on, and then you have a few genetic factors, and then you’ve had some old– etc. You know what I mean? It can be a really compiling effect for some people and some people it’s like, “Oh, I was fine and then this happened.” And it’s like one thing, it really just depends. But yeah, what I tend to find is it’s a few things that kind of built up and your body is like, “Okay, I’m really going to start showing you there’s something going on here that needs to be handled.” It’s not typically just one thing.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:16:56] And that makes sense. And then the thing that I found interesting and we now have a lot of physicians that come on the podcast and are talking about net impact of oral contraceptives. Yes, I understand we need them for pregnancy prevention, but the use of oral contraceptives in and of itself can make us more susceptible to these histamine responses as well.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:17:16] And many other things.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:17:18] Let’s talk about those things, because there are still women, and I take a lot of listener questions, and I’ve had a couple of women who’ve said, I’m on HRT, and then they share in their question what they’re taking, and I’m like, no, that’s actually not HRT, that’s oral contraceptive. So, there’s that whole separate issue. But understanding that some of these synthetic endocrine disruptor hormones can actually contribute to these histamine responses.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:17:41] And right, like xenoestrogens too. So the things we get from our makeup, our skincare, our household cleaners, what we’re eating out of, what we’re drinking out of, it’s such a thing that people take lightly. Recently, someone was at my house doing something, I can’t remember what, and they asked if they could use my microwave, and they had a plastic, like a plastic container, and they stuck it in the microwave to eat. And I was like, “I’m sorry, I don’t want to be that person,” but I felt like I had to tell them, you know what I mean? Because it just shows that it’s not still that well known that plastic is a problem. All the chemicals in it and then heating it is an even bigger problem. And I think that there’re some people who are like, “Wow, thank you so much for this information.” And there are some people who think you’re being ridiculous. But it really is true. There really is a problem and that’s why a lot of brands for makeup and cosmetic, I mean, skincare whatever they’re getting on board and they’re finally seeing, okay, we got to take some of this stuff out of here because this is really affecting people’s hormone levels big time. And then the hormone change is affecting people in how many ways, histamine is one of them, but so many ways you know so.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:19:02] it’s interesting, because if you look at the research, as I’m sure you’re familiarized with it, sometimes these endocrine mimicking chemicals can be 1000 times more potent than the hormone itself. It’s like the hormone doesn’t stand a chance. It’s going to get offset on that receptor. And you look at the degree of insulin resistance and obesity and all of these health issues and I just had a male hormone expert on and he was saying the number one and number two reason for low testosterone in men, number one is endocrine mimicking chemicals and number two is insulin resistance. And we could make the argument that for many women it’s the same things. It’s the cumulative net exposure. Maybe it’s not an issue when you’re 10 years old, but by the time you’re 40, 45, 50, that toxin bucket has been filled your entire life.
[00:19:46] I also think a great deal about and I see this pattern with women, especially in perimenopause and menopause, that this hormetic stress piece, if a little bit of exercise is good, more is better, a little bit of fasting is good, more is better. How can exercising trigger more histamine response in the body? Because I think for some people, they have to hear this from multiple experts for it to sink in.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:20:09] Yeah. So, exercise can literally make you release histamine, then add heat and heat can make you release histamine. So, if you’re exercising in a warm environment and you’re over exercising, we don’t want you to stop exercising ever. Even my most exercise intolerant patients, I’m like, you still have to exercise, even if it’s walking around your house for now. But it’s this thing where it’s like, more is better all the time, it is not true. And I used to be a runner, I used to run, and I thought that I felt good about myself for that, I’ll be honest. I was like, “I’m a runner, I can do a marathon,” but now I’m like, gosh, what was I thinking? What was I doing to myself? And I paid for it too. And now I’m a go, go, go type of person, it’s just my personality, it’s hard for me, it was hard for me, I should say, to walk.
[00:21:03] And I still wish I could run for the one thing that made me feel good, like the anxiety wise, it was like therapy, but I’ve really learned to love walking. It’s like my time away from my kids, where I can put on a podcast or a book or talk on the phone to some friend. And I walk and I walk twice a day and I probably get between 13.000 and 15,000 steps a day because I go for two walks and then I’m always moving with three kids and working and all that, but it’s so good for you. But at a certain level, so you got to do– what I always say with exercise, do what you feel good after you did it. If you go to an Orangetheory class and like me, I have to sit in the car for 30 minutes before I could even drive, that’s not your friend. [laughs] That exercise does not like you.
[00:21:56] So, we have to get out of that mindset where it’s pushing so hard to keep up with people and compete with people and all that, that’s ridiculous. And as we get older too our body doesn’t want to run, that’s hard on your body. Walking has so many benefits and weight training. I mean, I’m always going to be lifting weights. I always have been, I always will be because we know there’re 1000 reasons why muscle is good for you. But again, doing that in the right way, like, I’m not going to do HIIT exercises personally. I do a set and I wait a minute and then I go into a next set and I wait a minute and that’s how I work out and that’s what works for me. So, listening to your body and saying, “Okay, my body feels good after I do this, this is what I’m going to do today,” that should be kind of how you figure out what you need to do with that type of thing.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:22:48] Yeah, and I think it’s really important. I feel like I have to apologize when I say CrossFit six days a week, Orangetheory Fitness six days a week does not serve us well north of 35 years old. And inevitably that triggers a few people and they get upset and then they send messages to us and remind us that they are the outlier and it is okay. And I always say, the people that I look at who look healthy, and by healthy, I mean not obsessively, one extreme or the other, are the people that find a degree of balance with their lifestyle choices that they’re making. And I think the one thing that I myself have found is the older I’ve gotten, I like the intensity of being in the gym, but I don’t want to be doing all sorts of plyometrics, I mean, I have zero desire to– It’s not that I will injure myself. It’s that I’m more cognizant of the fact that if I do certain things, I’m much more likely to hurt myself than when I was younger and I was kind of impervious to all these things.
[00:23:41] Now, I know so much of this information is super helpful, but there may be people still listening who are not aware of what the high histamine foods are, the things that they probably need to be more conscientious about. And the really frustrating thing for many of us that have ever had a histamine issue, a lot of it’s the healthy stuff that we encourage our patients to eat. And it’s like, “Oh, wait a minute, these are foods you have to be cognizant, if you suspect you have a histamine problem, these are foods that you need to kind of put on your radar.”
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:24:09] Yeah. So, a lot of people will go keto or they’ll do a Whole30, which are all fine, but those tend to increase, like avocado and fermented foods, which are high in histamine. So, if you are someone who has done that and you’re like, “Gosh, I feel worse,” it could be that rather than the low carb part of it. Vinegars, especially, like red wine, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar is a little bit lower and I do encourage people to try that if they can. Citrus, and not all citrus will do it. So, in my book, I have a yes, no, and a maybe list because I want you to eat more food. So, on the maybe list, I have, like, lemons and limes, whereas oranges might be a problem for you. Lemons may not. Usually limes don’t bother people, but lemons and oranges do.
[00:24:54] So, spinach and if you’re one of those people who has gotten, like, greens powder and most greens powders are spinach based. And you’re like, “I don’t do well in this,” That may be your issue, or you’re making smoothies, you’re throwing spinach, avocado, strawberry, and banana, which is what I used to do in a smoothie and you feel terrible, those are all high in histamine. So, strawberries are the highest berry. Some people will do great with blueberries, raspberries, terrible with strawberries. And then you can get into some spices, like cinnamon, curry, allspice, certain things like that.
[00:25:31] And then there’re some foods that will just liberate the histamine that’s hard in your body. Alcohol is one of those foods. I guess you could call it. But alcohol also reduces that DAO enzyme and so does green tea, black tea, certain things like that, they reduce that DAO enzyme. So, they might not actually be high in histamine themselves, but they just might break down your body’s ability to break histamine down. So, those are the heaviest hitters. And then, like, dried fruits can be an issue. Fish that’s not super fresh, like, any seafood that’s not really fresh can really bother you, so a can of sardines would probably be your worst nightmare.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:26:11] Really. So that wouldn’t be on my radar. Not that I eat a lot of canned sardines. You know I have to be in the right mindset to eat them, although they’re super healthy otherwise for you.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:26:21] Yeah, exactly, that’s like the whole thing, these foods are healthy. Eggplant can be a problem. Tomatoes, sometimes, things that are aged, so you might not do well with leftovers, which is probably the most annoying part of going low histamine in the beginning, because if you’re really acute, you got to cook your food as you’re eating it, and you have to store things in the freezer, you can’t just let things sit in the refrigerator for days and then keep eating it for days because that can really trigger people. But I can tell you that it’s not forever because I eat leftovers all the time, but I couldn’t at one time. And then sometimes red meat, which I eat a ton of, but sometimes red meat is aged for a couple of weeks before you actually get your hands on the red meat, so that can be an issue. There are companies, a few that don’t do that, but most of them do because that’s just how red meat is prepared.
[00:27:16] So, when you get your meat, when you get any meat, you want to thaw it out quickly if you’re going to use it and you want to wash it, not with soap, [Cynthia laughs] with water, you always want to get– because there’s histamine producing bacteria on there, so you want to just wash it off, pat it dry, and then cook it. And cooking quickly, like things with the instant pot. I actually made another book that came out after this book and it was all low histamine instant pot recipes, because the longer you cook your food, the more histamine it’s releasing, so cooking in a crock pot may be a problem, whereas you could do the same thing in an instant pot and it would be fine. So that’s with bone broth, which bone broth has a million benefits, but it also is super high in histamine. If you can cook it in the instant pot then it can be just as beneficial, but it has a lot less histamine in it because of the quick cook time.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:28:13] That’s so interesting, I didn’t know that. And I think for me, when I was tipping off all that histamine response, I was eating a lot of fermented vegetables because my functional medicine doc was like, “I don’t want you to take the probiotic or the prebiotic, I just want you to eat the foods.” And so all those fermented vegetables, which were, I suddenly had to put the kibosh on that. Interesting about alcohol, green tea, black tea reducing the DAO enzyme, which makes so much sense. And since these are relatively healthy foods, it makes a great deal of sense why there’s so much confusion. Do you see any overlap with oxalates? I know that’s not your area of expertise, but I’m starting to see these emerging people that are just seemingly sensitive to everything, Like, they’ll say, “I feel like I can’t eat anything because if I have high oxalate foods, it triggers how I feel, if I have high histamine foods, it triggers it.” I really think it speaks to an overactive immune response and probably the need for some significant gut work.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:29:08] Exactly. Because a lot of people who can’t tolerate oxalates have yeast, I see that a lot. And if people are like, “I can’t eat anything?” And I say, “Okay, why don’t we just remove the biggest hitters of oxalates, like Swiss chard, spinach, maybe sweet potatoes, things like that, just take a couple of those things out and then really just worry about the histamine foods.” So also, again, when you’re looking at a list, a yes, no, maybe let’s eat like look at the yes foods and stop thinking so much about what you can’t have and then let’s work on your gut. And then I tend to see people who can tolerate oxalates again.
[00:29:50] And also histamine, high-histamine foods again, not always, maybe going to where you’re eating tons of fermented foods, and then you ate an avocado and had some bone broth in a day, you might not get there. But if you can get to those underlying drivers, especially if they’re not genetics, this can be temporary. And like you said, yours came and then it went. It’s not like you’re stuck there so.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:30:14] Yeah, well and I think once you’ve had that experience. I’m just very cognizant of what combinations of things I’m eating during the day just so that I don’t tip that off. Now, you kind of touched on some testing, so what types of testing do you like to use in your practice? Really specific to looking at histamine, because you talk about some very specific technical tests that you’re using, but I thought it would be helpful for the listeners to know as well. Of course, this book is a fantastic resource. I was actually just recommending it to several colleagues who had patients that are having histamine issues. I was like, “Use this book.” It’s really very thorough and easy to understand.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:30:53] So I do a really thorough blood panel on everybody. Nothing specific to histamine, but it helps me to see what’s driving it, so really looking at the thyroid, looking at inflammation, looking at homocysteine, lipid panel, that type of stuff, I do all that. And then I do the GI-MAP test, so that’s a stool test, because that is what I find. If I were to pick one thing that’s probably the biggest driver, it’s the gut and many people have issues. I don’t think there’s a GI-MAP test I’ve ran where I’m like, “Well, you’re great.”
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:31:27] [laughs] Very true.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:31:27] Yeah, looking at H. pylori, leaky gut, opportunistic bacteria, parasites, yeast, overgrowth that type of stuff. And I really like to do the DUTCH test because the hormones do play such a big role. So I do those on everybody. And then once we work through that stuff, if there’s anything left, I might then start getting into mold, chronic viruses, because if you think about it, like, let’s take Epstein-Barr for example. If you have a chronic virus that’s activated like Epstein-Barr, if your immune system is being activated like that, then your mast cells are being activated, so you’re going to start dumping inflammatory chemicals, so that can definitely– or Lyme’s disease, it just depends those types of things, so I will do that type of stuff, but I definitely don’t have to a lot, because a lot of the time it’s more stress, gut hormones, food.
[00:32:23] And then once we go through all that, then we make sure you’re really stable, then we start introducing food back in and we’re like, “All right, this is what your body likes, you can do this. And if you’re going to have a really stressful day, maybe don’t eat the extra avocado that day. But if you’re doing pretty well and you feel really stable.” I mean, I eat whatever I want, but whatever I want is healthy food. I’m not going to McDonald’s. I eat low inflammatory because I’m still aware of all this stuff. I didn’t like throw gluten back in my diet once I healed my gut. So, you got to be conscious of keeping– you know being healthy is something you’re working on all the time. It’s not like, “Okay, I’m healthy, I’m done now.” Unfortunately, you know God I wish it was because it would be so much easier. I think once people have become sick and they do feel better, they’re fine with continuing to work on, they’re fine with keeping certain things out of their diet because they feel so good and they want to keep that.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:33:21] I think that’s a really good point. And it really is a continuum whether or not for 12 years I’ve had gluten out of my diet, I put an autoimmune condition into total remission. I’ve not needed medications in 12 years. And so, I really do see the value in being focused on the nutritional piece. And there’s always this reframe because for many patients or clients, they have such a, I don’t want to use the word addiction, but they have such a predilection for certain foods that they really struggle. Like right now, I have a monthly group and they were all posting gluten-free bread recipes, and so they were asking, what do you think? And I said, I think you have to treat bread as like a baked good.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:34:00] Yeah.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:34:01] I think you have to get it as something to use sparingly because Maria Emmerich, who’s been a guest, has this amazing protein-sparing bread that’s made with like egg whites. But I’ve had people tell me they’ll go through two loaves in two days. And I said, what do you think tells you? So, I think we have to treat some of these foods as a treat and something we do sparingly and really eat the foods that are the least processed, that we enjoy the most and do that with regularity.
[00:34:27] I know that one of the things that can be so helpful when we’re looking at testing and we start the elimination diets is supporting detoxification and looking at our livers. And I know in the book you talk about some specific things that you like to recommend to your patients, and do you mind discussing some of those? Because I think these are things that are tangible that people can do proactively that don’t require per se, like they don’t necessarily have to go to their doctor to get guidance on this. In many ways, these are things that people can do from home to help support their bodies.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:34:54] Yeah. And I can say that most people with histamine issues are sensitive, so you’re not going to be that person that can dive into this extensive protocol because you probably don’t detox well. So, supporting your detox pathways is extremely important. And I’m one of those people, I really had to baby my detox pathways before I could get into anything. So, there’s a lot you can do, you can do stuff with supplements or without. So I’ll start without. So castor oil packs, I really like that putting the castor oil packs over the liver really helps with the bile ducts. You’d be surprised how supportive that can be, and it can really help you with those sensitivities. So like people sometimes if they can’t even tolerate one supplement, I’ll start them on that, and then they can eventually tolerate the one supplement, then they can tolerate the protocol for the gut.
[00:35:45] And then try brushing to stimulate the lymphatic system. That’s like, you want to budget friendly, get a dry brush or Epsom salt bath, another really budget friendly, really detox supportive thing you can do. And if you’re too sensitive to sit your whole body in the bathtub, just try your feet or if you don’t have a bathtub, just try your feet in Epsom salt, so those things. I love the infrared sauna. I know not everybody has access to an infrared sauna, but there’re varying degrees of them, you can get sauna blankets, you can get the low EMF tent saunas, which I started with those before I actually bought an infrared sauna, but I can tell you that’s probably been the biggest needle mover for me, making myself sweat, because that’s such an important pathway we need to be able to use and a lot of us can’t sweat.
[00:36:33] And I did a post, it’s so crazy, this post got so many views, and I just said, I used to not be able to go in the heat, now I work out in the heat and it was because I couldn’t handle being hot and being hot really shut my body down, I released so much histamine, but that sauna has really helped me tolerate heat so well and it’s just helped me in so many areas, so definitely infrared sauna. And there’re places you can go to use infrared saunas if you don’t have access to it yourself. And even just sweating, so just sweating, going for a walk or riding the stationary bike, whatever you choose to do to sweat, it can be good.
[00:37:13] And then with supplements, you have to be careful because glutathione is a great supplement. It’s so important in detoxification, but some people can’t tolerate it. Even some people can’t tolerate methylated B vitamins. It can make you feel like, kind of anxious if you’re not ready for it, but those are great tools if you can tolerate those. N-acetyl cysteine is really great, milk thistle is great if you can find them in a blend. Like, I have a blend of that I use, that I love, so those are probably favorites for just supporting the detox pathways. So that and working on any type of trauma or limbic system issues. You can even go on YouTube and look up, like, vagal nerve exercises.
[00:37:58] There’re all levels of how you can do this, you know whether you’re able to spend money or not, there’s a lot of free information online, but dealing with the way we process things mentally and emotionally is huge for this, because if you’re storing a bunch of trauma in your body, your nervous system is going to be on overdrive, you know your sympathetic nervous system is not a fight or flight, so everything is going to seem like a threat to you. So, you go to try to take a supplement and that’s going to be too threatening to your body. So, I really, with my patients, I have them work on those things first with the detox pathways and then we get into working on killing things, pulling things, that type of stuff, but you can’t just go into the pulling and the killing if your body isn’t set up to push things out properly or to handle supplements and that type of thing.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:38:52] I think it’s such a good point that you really have to think about this layered approach. And there are some people who are literally ready to hit the ground running with everything and they do fine. And then there are people who have to do things more slowly. Like, I have a few people in a program and we start a new supplement, like every five days. I’m like, “All right, you take one supplement, you monitor for symptoms, five days later you can set it” and they’re like, “But everyone else is doing this.” And I said, “But that’s not what’s going to serve you and your body.” We have to think about this from a bio-individual perspective.
[00:39:21] I love that you talk about the vagus nerve. For anyone that’s listening, the vagus nerve is the longest nerve in the body, we call it the wanderer. And there’s a lot of ways that we can stimulate this nerve, and it will help get us out of the sympathetic into the parasympathetic. And so, when I get ready to step on stage or do a big talk, you better believe I’m box breathing, I’m humming, I wouldn’t gargle in public, but things that will stimulate that vagus nerve that are completely easy to do, but box breathing is usually what I do kind of discretely if I’m trying to slow my heart rate down and get myself out of fight or flight. I love that you express caution about some of these supplements, because I think that’s the way that our mentality is as a culture. It’s like a supplement is going to fix something, a medication is going to fix everything. And I remind people it’s all this inner work in conjunction with everything else that can be so important.
[00:40:07] I had Gabor Maté on the podcast last year. His book is an incredible resource on trauma. The Body Keeps the Score another great resource. Gabby Bernstein wrote a book last year talking about trauma. I think we’re finally getting to a point where we’re talking about it more and the recognition that there’s Trauma, there’s trauma. We probably all have experienced it, but we all have a very unique way of responding to it. And then to wrap things up when someone is going through a protocol, they’ve removed these high histamine foods, they’re trying to make sense of what they can eat, what they shouldn’t be eating, they’re working on the emotional, the physical, the physiologic, and we’re working on gut healing. Do you feel like there’s this kind of north to south process of– if you have H. pylori, you’re treating that before you’re dealing with Candida? Or is your approach more comprehensive, that you will just hit everything all at once?
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:40:55] It depends on the person I try to get people to where they’ll be able tolerate it first and then we do it together because a lot of things will do both. And with H. pylori and Candida, you do have to do separate things as well. But there are certain antimicrobials that will get everything. They’re more like more broad spectrum, and then there’s more targeted, let’s say, like mastic gum that you’re going to use for H. pylori and some type of antifungal for yeast, the other wouldn’t matter with the other. So, I do it together personally and we always retest after and we make sure it’s gone. So, I’ve had success that way, but we’re really gentle, I mean, we’re still not going crazy, I don’t want people taking a million supplements because then that’s stressful. So really depending on the person I will do it a certain way. And that’s why you can’t really just grab someone’s protocol for something and do it yourself necessarily, if you can avoid that, because you may not respond well to that and that can really set things off for you in a bad way.
[00:42:04] And I did that in college. I was like, I’m learning about this gut thing, and “Oh, I have Candida.” Everyone thinks they have Candida. And I started this huge Candida protocol and it made me so sick, so you just have to be careful. So either not doing it and just working on detox pathways, stress, trauma, foods, the things that don’t cost money, really, or working with someone if you can, and getting that guidance if you’re going to do something complicated like removing mold, removing gut pathogens is the best option. And I do actually, in my book, talk about, I say at the end of everything, if you’re going to do this by yourself, do this. If you’re going to do it with a practitioner, ask for this test or whatever. I really wanted to give everybody the right option so that everyone can try to do this in some form.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:42:57] Well and it’s interesting because usually by the time someone has H. pylori, Candida, significant dysbiosis, they’re fat malabsorbed, their detox pathways, whether it’s Phase 1 or Phase 2 or both, when they’re all kind of in this total lack of alignment and I remind people, I’m like, this didn’t happen overnight. It’s not going to be cured or fixed overnight, so you have to kind of set that expectation. And listeners know this, five years ago, I was in Morocco. Four years ago, I spent 13 days in the hospital. I picked up a whole constellation of fun friends, led to having a ruptured appendix and every complication you can think of. And I remind people, I’m like, even four years later, after six weeks of antifungals and antibiotics, we’re still doing gut work. I mean, I will probably always be doing the work to make sure that I get back to a position where things don’t set me off. Like, I jokingly talk about. I didn’t realize how much oxalates had impacted me and it wasn’t until I pulled them out. So, I think for many of us, it can be, whether it was food poisoning that you’ve experienced or you had a significant untoward event, whether it was a divorce, a move, you lost your job, sometimes it can be-
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:44:00] All of it
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:44:01] -all the above with the pandemic for a lot of people, it can be many things that come together, and so helping people understand it’s not something we snap our fingers and it all goes away, It takes time and diligence. And so I’m so grateful that you wrote this book, because I think it really is an all-encompassing book that people can pick up and use as an incredible resource. Is there anything about histamines that we didn’t touch on today that you think is particularly important? Do you think that women are kind of in a position of– because of the changes that are happening as we’re getting older, through perimenopause and menopause, that you start seeing more women that start to struggle at that stage of life than at earlier stages?
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:44:39] I do and I think if it happens earlier, it’s probably more mast cell activation syndrome. And I also get a lot of moms who, they’re worried about their kids, and they’ll see eczema or things like that. So, we didn’t really talk about that, but a lot of the time, I notice if kids who are given maybe antibiotics at birth or even if the mom took antibiotics or the mom had something going on and across the placenta or whatever, but then their children will be very sensitive to foods and they’ll have some symptoms that they’re worried about.
[00:45:14] So, I work with one-year olds and we work with really little ones, but we’ll do stool testing and kind of see working with food and working with what we can do with the gut, and if you can catch that early, it can really set them up for being okay down the road, because a lot of the times this did start little, like, we did start with that, but we just didn’t know or our parents didn’t know because nobody was talking about this. And then it’s this compounding thing, then you add this, and then one day you’re not able to get out of bed you know.
[00:45:48] That’s what happened with me, I literally couldn’t drive my kids to school, and I was going through a divorce, and I was living in mold, and at the same time– and I was not functioning. But I had all these signs when I was younger that I just didn’t know, no one knew. I was dizzy when I went from sitting to standing, all the time I had POTS didn’t know it, passed out in the heat, would get random hives, like all these things that back then no one would even pay attention to. So, it depends. It can be like that or it can be this thing that’s triggered by a gut thing. A lot of people actually who has had food poisoning will say, “I got food poisoning, I’ve never been the same since,” so, things like that can happen later. So, I say if it happens a little later, it’s probably histamine intolerance. If it happens and you felt off kind of forever and it’s just gotten worse and worse as you’ve gotten older, it’s probably more of a mast activation syndrome picture.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:46:41] That’s really interesting. Well, thank you so much for your time today. I know this is going to be an invaluable resource for listeners. Please let listeners know how to connect with you on social media, how to connect with you your co-hosted Health Babes podcast, for which I’ve been grateful to have been a guest and how to purchase your books.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:46:56]: So drbeckycampbell.com is my website, you can make a consultation there. My books are on Amazon, they’re easier to get. [laughter] But I do have an online program where it’s more extensive than the book. And it’s kind of like a middle step between buying the book and working with my team. And then we do take patients. We work with people all over the world. I mean, we have patients in Australia, we have patients over because we do everything virtually, and we know companies set up all over that we can work with that will send them their tests and it’s great so. And then on Instagram, I’m just @drbeckycampbell and then I have a podcast with my co-host, Krystal Hohn, it’s called the Health Babes podcast. And we have to have you back on.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:47:41] Yeah, I would love that. We’ll have to make that happen.
Dr. Becky Campbell: [00:47:44] Yeah. So that’s where you can find me.
Cynthia Thurlow: [00:47:47] Awesome. Thank you.
[00:47:49] If you love this podcast episode, please leave a rating and review, subscribe and tell a friend.