Leftovers and histamine, with a bowl of homemade chili

Have you ever made a big pot of chili?  The meat, the tomatoes, the beans and then the spices - cumin and chili powder and cayenne and garlic and onion powder.  You get the idea.  Get all of it bubbling away and it makes the entire room smell warm and cozy.  The first bowl always tastes amazing…but have you ever noticed it tastes better several hours later or the next day?  All of those spices really start partying with each other and the overall taste is different.  It's harder to pick out one flavor and instead they all create one amazing, heavenly flavor which simply is…chili.  

Obviously, I love a homemade pot of chili.  But here is the problem - it really is best when it is, technically, a leftover.  

When we're talking about histamine intolerance and low-histamine diets, leftovers get vilified.  And for good reason, they do cause a problem for those of us with histamine intolerance because the longer a food sits, regardless of how much histamine it started with, it develops more.  And this is a concept about which I always get questions.  What is the why and how of histamine and leftovers?

Histamine and Tyramine - The Super-Villians 

Ultimately, it's all about biogenic amines.  (Sounds like something from the Marvel Universe, right?!)  Biogenic amines are compounds like histamine, tyramine, cadaverine, putrescine, and others.  (Can you picture them all as super-villians?)  Just by looking at names like cadaverine and putrescine you get an idea of the characteristics of these compounds.   

These compounds are formed by bacteria which break down the amino acids in foods, especially in meats, fish, vegetables, cheese and wine.  This isn't a matter of poor food preparation and there isn't much you're going to do to ultimately prevent their formation.  You and I both know if we leave any foods, cooked or not, in the refrigerator long enough, they go bad!

Who reacts more to biogenic amines?

The problem with biogenic amines is they can cause significant health reactions in people, depending on the dose.  And keep in mind, every person is different and their threshold for reacting to different triggers is going to be different.  That's why you need to trust what your body is telling you, even if someone like a healthcare provider says it doesn't make sense or their tests tell you there is nothing wrong.  Another little gold nugget - there is cross-reactivity between the different compounds, too.

If you have allergies, food sensitivities, histamine intolerance or any other kind of hypersensitivity-related health concern, I would encourage you to do your best to avoid foods high in histamine and tyramine.  (And who wants to knowingly eat putrescine?!)  And that includes leftovers.  

How to save your leftovers from certain death...

Above I mentioned there isn't much you're going to do to 'ultimately' prevent the formation of biogenic amines in your foods…but there are some proactive steps you can take to slow the process:

  1. Buy fresh meat and fish and freeze whatever you're not going to prepare within 24-48 hours.  Canned meats like tuna, chicken and salmon are sneaky - they are so easy but they start with high levels of histamine.  Go fresh when you can!
  1. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables and learn how to recognize when they are over-ripe.  Over-ripe means the item is past its peak and may have higher levels of biogenic amines.  One of the most frustrating fruits is the avocado.  It has a narrow window of wonderfully ripe…and then it quickly accumulates histamine.  
  1. When you make your big pot of chili, or any other meal that just tastes better when made in larger quantities, package in single-servings and freeze.  When you're ready to enjoy that heavenly chili again, pull it out at meal time and thaw on the stove or in the microwave.  Try to avoid thawing in the refrigerator.  

Keep in mind the goal is to decrease your overall dose of histamine and triggers over the course of a day.  The more you learn about your triggers and your unique threshold, the more Food Freedom you have!  

And isn't that really the goal??

Sixty-Second Self-Care Tip…

There's an app for that!  

A great resource to help you figure out some of the high histamine (and tyramine) foods is the Food Intolerances app.  It's a freebie, although you can buy into it for more access, like the high tyramine foods.  Sometimes making things as easy as possible is the key to making it happen.  This app is pretty stinking easy!  Need a little more info?  I did another post on it here, including a quick video tour!  

And if you'd like a free guide with 7 steps to minimize histamine intolerance, click here!  It's all self-care…that stuff you can do for you and your wellness journey.


60-second self-care, histamine, histamine intolerance, leftovers, self-advocate

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