Chronic Fatigue, histamine & mast cells

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Chalk up another one to a dysfunctional immune system – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Researchers recently proved (for the first time), that the condition is not psychosomatic (yeah, thanks for calling us hypochondriacs all these years). This wasn’t news to some: according to NHS funded researcher Dr. Theoharides, CFS is one of many mast cell linked conditions that he has known to be linked for years. It wasn’t so long ago that narcolepsy was pegged to an imbalance of brain histamine levels.

Scientists in Australia have found that immune cell receptor abnormalities are behind CFS debilitating symptoms. So basically a receptor defect, which is really a problem because there are many cells and so many receptors to mess with, can’t transfer calcium from the cell to the outside. The discovery of abnormal calcium cells coincides with where CFS pain usually happens, in the brain, spine, pancreas and stomach.

To date there’s still no cure for CFS. Doctors and researchers have been telling folks it’s all in their head and that all they need is more exercise (yes, I’m referring to the PACE trial debacle). The researchers say they believe that it affects from 1%-2% of the population (presumably Australia they mean?).

According to Dr. Theoharides, director of Immuno pharmacology and Drug Discovery at Tufts, CFS is a complex disease involving the nervous, hormonal and immune systems with symptoms that include fatigue, sleep disturbances, malaise, muscle aches, migraines, gastrointestinal complaints, and cognitive problems. Viruses and inflammatory cytokines (like those in mast cells which contain histamine) play a role. He says that the stress hormone CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone) activates brain mast cells (which contain histamine and other inflammatory mediators), and that this causes blood-brain-barrier disruption. His research shows that there’s a relationship between the mitochondria, calcium and mast cell activation.

As someone who has literally fallen asleep on a plate of food, I can attest to the narcolepsy-histamine link. It all depended on how long it would take me to eat. If I had a short meal, I might make it to the sofa before falling into my food coma, but a long one meant face-in-food for dessert. The weird thing was I wasn’t actually asleep.

My eyes were forced closed, all movement would have to cease, and I’d be aware of the world around me, but incapable of interacting with it. The experience was more like something out of a nightmare where you’re paralysed but still able to be hurt. It’s apparently called syncope.

I’d lie there in a weak panic, feeling my heart beat slowly ebb away, as I begged my thoughts to magically reconnect with my voice to tell people, hey, I’m actually awake! Don’t be fooled, I’m not asleep. But no matter how hard I tried to convey this to people, they were all convinced I was dreaming it all up.

Symptoms like these were only manageable by eliminating scores of healthy food. Once I was stable however it took me a long time to work out how to add nutrition back – here’s how I did it.

Whether it was a histamine-narcolepsy link, or a mast cell-CFS one, I ended up spending about a year mostly in or on bed, and desperately trying to make people understand that my inability to climb a flight of stairs at times isn’t a lack of cardio fitness (mine could always be better but it’s still good) but rather a result of my mast cells having a temporary bout of madness.

Interestingly, Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Michael Van ElZakker has a hypothesis he’s working to prove, that an infection of the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the stomach, can cause a prolonged “sickness response”. This human response to illness involves extreme fatigue, probably to force us to rest up and isolate us from other humans to not spread the virus. He believes that in some cases the vagus nerve, which is responsible for signaling the need for this response, remains on high alert, which keeps the body stuck in this more.

You can read my interview with Dr. Van ElZakker here. 

 A review of fourteen separate dietary and supplement interventions were published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, but found that most studies showed no particular measurable benefit of them. Improvements in fatigue were found in response to NADH and Coenzyme Q10, probiotics and high polyphenol rich cacao.

For me personally, because my fatigue was a result of my mast cell issues, stabilizing them with Dr. Theoharides’ quercetin Neuroprotek supplement and a great diet really helped. But we all have different root causes and severity of symptoms.
Click here if you’d like to learn how I did it.

It’s finally here! Man Food – a high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredient filled book geared towards guys, women who love to work out, yoga like they mean it, or just load up on healing nutrients. Features my personal shopping list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods.

The Anti-cookbook and all liquid Anti-Detox Book, don’t treat any conditions, but feature a plethora of the high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredients that have been instrumental in helping me feed myself on a limited diet. The Anti-cookbook features a four page list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods and comes in regular and Paleo.

The Low Oxalate Cookbook features antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes.

Don’t miss the Low Histamine Beauty Survival Guide for non-toxic beauty tips, the skinny on histamine releasing (mast cell degranulating) beauty ingredients, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory beauty alternatives and the top brands natural brands I’ve found.

Take a peek at my other low histamine and antihistamine cookbooks for more high nutrient recipes


Theoharides, Theoharis C. “Brain mast cells and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.” Grantome. NIH, 01 July 2012. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Appold, Karen. “UCLA Researchers Find Clue to Narcolepsy’s Cause.” Sleep Review. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Campagnolo, N., S. Johnston, A. Collatz, D. Staines, and S. Marshall-Gradisnik. “Dietary and nutrition interventions for the therapeutic treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome/myalgic encephalomyelitis: a systematic review.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (2017): n. pag. Web.

Cooper, Luke. “Queensland Scientists Make Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Breakthrough.” Huffington Post Australia. The Huffington Post, 21 Feb. 2017. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.

Rehmeyer, Julie. “How bad science misled chronic fatigue syndrome patients.” STAT. STAT, 29 Dec. 2016. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.


Check out these other Healing Histamine blog posts


Yasmina was an award-winning broadcast journalist with a decade of experience covering war zones for CNN and the BBC. She devoted her journalism skills to researching and writing about histamine. Click here to learn about her. Each post is carefully and fully referenced with the latest scientific research. Not sure where to start? Here’s a four week meal plan and overall Histamine Reset.

4 Week Histamine Reset

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