Exercise is often problematic for those with histamine intolerance, mast cell activation or mastocytosis, mostly because cardiovascular exercise has been shown to:
- Drive up histamine levels and aggravate allergies in animal studies
- Stress of any kind can cause mast cells to dump unnecessary inflammation into the body
- Exercise can damage muscles, prompting inflammation release to help heal them (this is not abnormal)
- Histamine is created and released during prolonged exercise to prevent fatigue and increase endurance (but thankfully isn’t stored in the body afterwards)
You’ll find all the references for these as well as an explanation of the research I did and wrong avenues I pursued in trying to get my body healthy again in my post on histamine intolerance and exercise where I share research showing that exercise where we use our own weight like pilates or yoga, or lifting weights slowly, are probably our best bet, at least when starting out.
And yet, renowned mast cell specialist Dr. Mariana Castells in Boston, believes it to be an integral part of the healing process, as she shared in my interview with her in the post “Lifestyle changes do work for mast cell disorders:
“In terms of systemic mastocytosis, and some with cutaneous mastocytosis, the most important things is to think about changing the lifestyle and the two most important pieces of the lifestyle are the exercise and the diet – interchangeably I mean, not one over the other,” Dr Castells.
Please don’t think I’m saying mastocytosis and histamine intolerance are the same thing, but they share many symptoms and characteristics.
I am able to exercise again, really do so, like hiking up mountains in 35C/95F heat, doing 1.5 hours of seriously hardcore ashtanga power yoga 5-6 times weekly, as well as finally being able to run and kickbox again. But sometimes we need to exercise a little common sense in our exercise routine and so I was excited to find a great app that helps me measure how much stress my body is under. While you could do all this with a calculator, pen, paper and some elbow grease, I’m saving up my precious minutes to devote to yoga and all the other great stuff that keeps me healthy like meditation (if you’re not meditating yet – you should be, it’s a great way to potentially lower inflammation and histamine levels), so I invested $10 in the SweetBeat HRV app and fished through my storage for the old chest strap I used in my faint-on-the-treadmill-and-scare-the-heck-out-of-the-gym-dude days. Yep, it’s the same one he insisted I get because he was sure I was going to drop dead of a heart attack right there in front of him.
The app basically measures your resting heart rate and then charts it for you, based on a composite of many measures. In the FT article  where I learned about the app, the creator is quoted as saying that the HRV number is “associated with the tone of the vagus nerve”. Apparently research shows that the numbers are decreased by hard workouts and are affected by emotional stress.
So basically, you test yourself in the morning and when the HRV number plummets, you know it’s time to chill your exercise routine, because you’re body is a little stressed out.
In my case, that means going for a much gentler yoga practice, or taking a lovely relaxed long walk instead. I was super happy though to find studies showing that meditation can help speed up the athletic recovery process. One in particular that stood out, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine ,researchers were able to lower blood lactate levels by employing post exercise meditation. Lactate is the stuff that causes the burning sensation in your muscles and can be a big issue for runners.
No matter which exercise you choose, please remember to be kind to yourselves and go slow.
Please remember, even antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods can hurt us, please always exercise caution and consult a medical practitioner before adding new foods.
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