Bacon – the beloved breakfast food that has become a staple in many households. But for those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance, bacon may not be the best option.
Why? Because bacon is high in histamine. In fact, many cured meats are high in histamine, making it difficult for those with these conditions to find low histamine recipes.
But fear not, there are alternatives to satisfy your cravings without compromising your health. In this article, we’ll explore the world of histamine and how it affects our food choices, specifically when it comes to bacon.
So, is bacon high histamine? Let’s find out.
Is Bacon High Histamine?
Yes, bacon is high in histamine. This is because it is usually smoked and cured, which increases its histamine levels. The same goes for other cured meats like salami, pepperoni, lunch meats, and even hot dogs.
Histamine is a chemical that is naturally produced by the body and is involved in the immune response. However, some people may have a sensitivity to histamine or have conditions like Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance that cause them to have an excess of histamine in their bodies.
When these individuals consume high histamine foods like bacon, it can trigger symptoms like headaches, hives, digestive issues, and more. This is why it’s important for them to avoid or limit their intake of high histamine foods.
Understanding Histamine And Its Effects On The Body
Histamine is a signaling molecule that is naturally produced by the body and is involved in a wide range of physiological processes. It acts as a bouncer at the club, helping the body get rid of allergens or other harmful substances that are bothering it. Histamine is produced by mast cells, which are immune cells that express a variety of receptors on their surface.
When the body detects an invader, immune cells called B-cells make IgE antibodies, which act like “WANTED” signs that spread throughout the body, telling other immune cells about specific invaders to look for. Eventually, mast cells and basophils pick up the IgE’s and become sensitized. When they come in contact with a target invader, they release histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. This causes blood vessels to become leakier, allowing white blood cells and other protective substances to sneak through and fight the invader.
While histamine’s actions are great for protecting the body against parasites, an overreaction of the immune system to harmless substances can cause histamine to become our foe. This is what happens in conditions like allergies, where the immune system overreacts to allergens like pollen, pet dander, or dust. The release of histamine can cause symptoms like sneezing, tearing up, itching, or swelling.
In addition to its role in allergies, histamine also regulates a plethora of other physiological processes such as secretion of gastric acid, inflammation, and the regulation of vasodilatation and bronchoconstriction. It can also serve as a neurotransmitter.
Consuming high histamine foods like bacon can trigger symptoms in individuals who have a sensitivity to histamine or conditions like Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance that cause them to have an excess of histamine in their bodies. It’s important for these individuals to avoid or limit their intake of high histamine foods to prevent symptoms like headaches, hives, and digestive issues.
The Link Between Histamine And Mast Cell Activation Syndrome/Histamine Intolerance
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and Histamine Intolerance (HIT) are two conditions that are closely linked to histamine. MCAS is a condition in which mast cells, a type of immune cell, release too many inflammatory mediators like histamine. HIT, on the other hand, is a condition in which the body has difficulty breaking down histamine.
Both of these conditions can cause a wide range of symptoms like headaches, fatigue, itching, flushing, and more. Consuming high histamine foods like bacon can exacerbate these symptoms and make them worse.
Unfortunately, following a low histamine diet can be challenging as there are very few primary data sources available that accurately detail which ingredients are high in histamine or other amines like tyramine. Additionally, some foods can act as histamine liberators or DAO blockers, making it even more difficult to navigate the diet.
However, there are several low histamine meat options available these days that can offer several health benefits. Meat is nutrient-dense and a good source of essential vitamins and minerals like B12, creatine, DHA, and heme iron. These nutrients play important roles in maintaining nerve and brain function, muscle strength and endurance, immune system balance, and preventing iron deficiency and anemia.
The Histamine Content Of Bacon And Other Cured Meats
Processed meats like bacon, salami, pepperoni, lunch meats, and hot dogs have been salted, fermented, cured, smoked, or otherwise processed to improve their shelf life. This processing can lead to an increase in histamine levels in the meat.
Histamine levels in dry sausages should be only 1 to 2 mg/kg, which is the physiological muscle histamine level. However, when contaminated by undesirable microorganisms or the addition of starter bacteria, histamine concentrations in such meat may even exceed 100 mg/kg. This means that the histamine content of bacon and other cured meats can vary greatly depending on the processing methods used.
Moreover, safe residue limits for potentially harmful substances like histamine are currently defined only for a specific group of foods. The limit for histamine is legislatively specified only for fish and processed fish. Little quantitative information is available concerning the histamine content of meat products such as fermented/ripening sausage and cured meat varieties which have the potential for it to develop.
It’s important to note that processed meats are not only high in histamines but are also a Group 1 carcinogen, which means there is evidence they can cause cancer. Therefore, it’s recommended to limit consumption of these meats in your diet.
In addition to bacon and other cured meats, histamines are present in many other foods, especially those that have been aged. Foods with the highest histamine levels include aged cheeses, yogurt, sour cream, wine, sauerkraut, pickles, soy sauce, and vinegar. Histamines can also be found in some fresh fruits and vegetables like spinach, tomatoes, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, eggplant, and citrus fruits. They can also form in meats that have been ground, cyovac’d, canned, smoked, frozen, and stored in the refrigerator after being cooked.
Low Histamine Alternatives To Bacon
If you’re looking for low histamine alternatives to bacon, there are plenty of options to choose from. Eggs, for example, are a great low histamine food that can be used in place of bacon in your breakfast dishes. They’re versatile and can be prepared in a variety of ways, such as scrambled, boiled, or poached.
If you’re looking for something with a similar flavor profile to bacon, you could try using turkey bacon or uncured, unsweetened bacon. These options are lower in histamine than traditional bacon and can be found at most grocery stores.
Another option is to use smoked salmon or lox in place of bacon. Smoked salmon is a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and it has a similar smoky flavor to bacon. You could also try using tofu bacon, which is made from marinated and baked tofu slices. It’s a vegan-friendly option that’s low in histamine and can be used in a variety of dishes.
In addition to these options, you could also experiment with different herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals. Paprika, cumin, and turmeric are all low histamine and can be used to add a savory flavor to your dishes.
Tips For Managing Histamine Intolerance While Enjoying Bacon And Other Foods
If you have histamine intolerance but still want to enjoy bacon and other high histamine foods, there are some tips you can follow to manage your symptoms:
1. Limit your intake: While it may be tempting to indulge in a bacon-heavy breakfast or lunch, it’s important to limit your intake of high histamine foods. Instead of having bacon every day, try having it once or twice a week.
2. Pair with low histamine foods: When you do have high histamine foods like bacon, try pairing them with low histamine foods to balance out your meal. For example, you could have bacon with some scrambled eggs and avocado.
3. Choose fresher options: If you’re going to have bacon, try to choose fresher options that haven’t been sitting in the fridge for too long. This can help reduce the histamine levels in the meat.
4. Cook it well: Cooking bacon well can also help reduce its histamine levels. Boiling or baking bacon is a better option than frying or grilling it.
5. Consider supplements: Some supplements like quercetin can help relieve the symptoms of histamine intolerance. Talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian about whether supplements might be right for you.
While it may be challenging to manage histamine intolerance while still enjoying high histamine foods like bacon, following these tips can help make it more manageable. Remember to listen to your body and adjust your diet as needed to manage your symptoms effectively.