I’m not anti-pharma, I’m on a medication vacation

Close view of female doctor holding with care red heart

I was recently forced to pin this post to a Facebook group:

“PHARMACEUTICAL SHAMING”: demonising pharmaceuticals and scaring people into thinking they will not heal if taking medications. While we are focused on natural healing via diet and other methods in this group, please refrain from the “pharmaceutical shaming” of folks taking prescribed medications. It is firstly dangerous to dispense medical advice but also very upsetting when people are told they will not heal if taking them. Therefore kindly please bear in mind that we all start somewhere and not everyone can just flush their meds down the toilet, nor should they. It goes without saying we are not qualified to advise anyone on tapering off meds.

I’ve probably just made a few heads explode right now. And a few more will pop off after hearing that: I’m not anti-medication when it comes to histamine intolerance and mast cell activation, or others for that matter. While it is true that for a time I became virulently anti-pharmaceuticals, in the same way I swore to never again touch my beloved Yves Saint Laurent mascara, or deign to be in the company of those who polluted my environment with perfume, I have realised that living in the real world requires some compromise, especially when both health and sanity are on the line.

You know those fanatical Facebook group members who attack anyone who dares stray from the party line on bodily purification of histamine? I was an ascetic, determined to be the purest of the pure, no histamine would sully my temple of a body. My majestic 114.5lb/52kg weighing sagging skin draped on whittling 5’10/1.78m frame bones. No, I was strong, pure, determined, I admonished those who dared dream of anything beyond the suffocating confines of the histamine list bequeathed to me. While I admit to still being a junk/processed food Nazi, I have mellowed in pretty much every other way.

Sure, perfume is made up of dozens of many harmful chemicals [1], but if I don’t want it to pollute my environment, I’m welcome to go back living under my duvet, completely terrified of the world around me.

That said, thankfully I no longer experience the very scary reactions to perfume that I used to…which I believe were caused by a hyper active amygdala in my case.

Those were fun years. I’m sure SO many people miss my nasty comments about their poison adversely affecting my health, the pamphlets kept on the ready for just these occassions. I’m certain folks really missed my dinner time haranguing when I (rarely) joined friends for a meal, resolutely nursing my glass of water (after demanding the waiter rinse it again and then going to the bathroom myself to rinse it yet another time because everyone knows dishwashers leave toxic residue on the glass), bitching because they only have tap water and I can smell the chlorine in it. I’m sure the FB group members on whose lovely recipes I left a barrage of “you’re so lucky you can eat that” and and “you’re eating poison” comments, truly felt my presence lacking in the brief stint where I became intensely convinced that computer EMF waves were causing my mast cells to degranulate.

I’m not getting into any discussion about whether this is true or not, just sharing my thoughts at the time. 

“Wow – you can eat cherries? You’re SO lucky – I’d puke my guts out if I did – they’re SO high histamine, they’re on every list, not just mine. Enjoy the cherry pie though!!!!!”

You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook


Ok so I’m slightly embellishing there but that was the gist of many a comment I left in the early self-righteous days.

The reasons for not being anti-meds is simple:

1. Though there’s very promising natural research out there, I don’t know of any doctors yet willing to inject us with garlic or turmeric to treat cancer.

2. The treatments we so often read about are mostly tried on animals and we don’t know if that will translate to humans.

3. The concentrations used in studies are far beyond what we can absorb naturally from these foods.

4. Safety – I take care to buy from only certain companies, but who knows what we’re really being given in most cases.

5. Most supplements and natural treatments have not gone through the same testing and safety procedures as medicines. So while meds can have very nasty side effects, at least we know about many of them and can watch out for them. Not so much with supplements.

6. If I was unable to control my symptoms naturally, I would surely want something to help me do so. If you’d like to learn more about how I used diet to turn my life around, check out this online workshop. 

7. I do not rule out a future where a life event comes to pass that would require medication. In this case I would seek a balance between a natural and medical approach.

The simple fact is that if medication had been offered to me in the years I was desperately trying to nail down a mast cell activation diagnosis, I would have taken it. I did take antihistamines for decades without knowing what was wrong with me. But by the time I was finally offered sodium cromolyn, one of the most commonly prescribed medications for mast cell activation, I had discovered that I could control my symptoms through diet and lifestyle changes alone.

I do however take Neuroprotek, a quercetin supplement created by mast cell researcher Dr. Theoharides at Tufts. His research shows that quercetin is at least as powerful a mast cell stabiliser as sodium cromolyn. Please do not try any supplement without checking with a doctor. 

While I do believe there is a time and a place for medication, I don’t necessarily think it’s forever in all cases. But my belief that (over)medication so that one can continue to engage in detrimental behaviours is in many cases unwarranted. If we need medication so that we can eat anything at all, to use anything at all on our bodies, so be it. But it’s my hope that in these cases exercise, psychotherapy, dietary changes, meditation and a concerted effort to find happiness in life, despite the horrific health situation, are employed in an effort to change what’s going on in the body overall. I’m very excited whenever I get emails from folks who have achieved a balance in life between the natural and medical and especially if they go all natural, safely.

I’m not saying a positive attitude can heal us of everything, but if we manage to make our peace and find some happiness then maybe we can be alright with wherever. How joyous to  make the most of whatever we have and spend it enjoying family and friends. I was the most negative, depressed, angry sick person I have ever known. I rained down pain on myself and those who loved me.

My lowest point came when I ceased to be able to communicate with people on a human level. I became so wrapped up in my own pain that I had to drag them to my level to stay connected. And so one day in an ambien, mood stabiliser, xanax, antidepressant, and histamine daze, I busted my lady shave razor open and carved into my legs. I then walked into my best friend’s room, bleeding all over her carpet.

“Understand me” I begged in my mind. Her response was the best I could have hoped for. I don’t know what would have become of me if she had screamed and cried and begged me to get to a hospital. Realising it was a superficial cry for help, she just looked at me, silently communicating to me the futility of trying to drag her to my level. And I understood. I could either continue my descent into hell, finding new companions on the way, or I could try following the (gluten free) breadcrumbs back to friends, family and sanity.

I know she was distraught and fearing for my sanity, but once again, she was the voice of reason and I am still upset with myself for this encounter. 

And so I end this post with a piece of gentle advice. Because a lot of this illness is feeling sorry for ourselves and making everyone around us as miserable as we are, try to maintain relationships with at least a few who love you but won’t take your crap. Though it’s painful to be with the carefree or militantly happy souls when we’re in the doldrums, slipping free of the anchor dragging us into the murky depths of despair, for even a moment in their company, we may come to accept things aren’t as bad as we think. Or it simply doesn’t matter that they are.

To that end I’ve created an online workshop to share the techniques I used on myself to help retrain my brain not only for healing, but also to accept that some days it doesn’t matter if I can’t accomplish all that I would like to. Some days it’s just ok to be.

You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook


———- REFERENCES ———–

[1] http://davidsuzuki.org/issues/health/science/toxics/fragrance-and-parfum/



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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