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Managing Dietary Amines and MSG, October 2002

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Buying and Storing Meat

Buying And Storing Fish

Cooking Meat/Fish





Grains and Baking







The Histamine Connection

Candida and other Unwelcome Microbes

Testing for Amines in Vitro

Amines and the Brain


Multiple Chemical Sensitivity


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This article presents guidelines for avoiding dietary amines and free glutamates. In fact you may want to consult these web sites before continuing with this article.

Karl deals with both topics simultaneously, because there is considerable overlap. Foods that are fermented, aged, processed, or overcooked, often contain both amines and glutamates. In fact, you may have trouble determining which chemical you are reacting to. But you should make the effort, because there are important differences. Glutamate responders can eat tuna fish, and amine responders can eat jello. And so on.

As you will see below, it isn't just a matter of avoiding certain foods or food additives, although that is part of the protocol. A long list of rules governs the storage and cooking of meats and grains. You'd think you were reading the Talmud! Indeed, this protocol becomes part of your religion, because the slightest mistake might lead to violent insanity or a savage migraine.

If you find this information helpful, please provide a link to this page from your web site, and tell others about it.

Maintenance of this article, "Managing Amines", has been transferred to myself by Karl Dahlke the Author.  

For Additions or Corrections 
please contact me on  this is most important as there is no other way for this information to be kept up to date.

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Buying And Storing Meat

  • DO ascertain, if possible, time elapsed since meat was killed. The fresher the better! No more than three days in the fridge and one week on ice.

  • DO regard all beef as suspect as carcasses are usually "hung" for a time to increase tenderness and taste.

  • DO be suspicious of tender and tasty meat - it has probably been "hung" for a time after being slaughtered.

  • Do be careful of ground turkey -- some butchers grind the skin in with the meat, and poultry skin is high in amines. Ask whether the skin is removed before the meat is ground. Remember that gravy, stock, broth, and drippings are often high in amines and MSG.

  • DON'T store uncooked meat in the refrigerator for longer than a day.

  • DON'T store uncooked meat in the freezer for longer than two weeks.

  • DO cool cooked meat as rapidly as possible, if it is to be stored in any way for any length of time.

  • DON'T store cooked meat in the refrigerator for longer than a few hours.

  • DON'T store cooked meat in the freezer for longer than a few days. Cooked meat does not (intrinsically) generate amines faster than raw meat, but it is never packaged as well. Water and ice get in and hasten the production of amines. This is sometimes called freezer burn.

  • DON'T carry hot soup or stew in a thermos, as this will form amines quickly.

  • Don't put a meal containing meat in the oven to "keep it warm" for more than a few minutes. Put it in the fridge and re-warm it in the microwave.

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Buying And Storing Fish

  • DO choose fish carefully -fish must be very fresh - no dullness/cloudiness in the eyes. Because of the difficulty in obtaining sufficiently fresh fish, all fish should be considered suspect.

  • Don't buy any fish with dark flesh, such as salmon or tuna.

  • Do make sure fish has been frozen (or served to you) within 24 hours of catch. Twelve would be better.

  • Do eat fresh-from-the-tank mussels or lobsters, available at certain markets and restaurants. Red Lobster (chain) always offers fresh lobster, though it's not cheap.

  • Don't store uncooked fish in the freezer for more than one week.

  • Don't store cooked fish at all. Let someone else eat the leftovers.

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Cooking Meat/Fish

  • DO defrost meat rapidly, in hot water or in the microwave.

  • DO rinse all meat and chicken thoroughly before cooking - amines are most likely to form on the surface of the meat as this is the part that is most subject to warming during transport.

  • Do remove poultry skin and organs before cooking. You can't eat it anyways, so why have it in contact with your meat at all?

  • DO cook meat/fish as quickly as possible - prolonged, slow cooking increases amines.

  • DO Avoid browning meat while cooking - if this happens cut off brown bits.

  • DO use a pressure cooker to cook meat rapidly without browning.

  • DO steam meat (works particularly well with chicken and fish).

  • Do keep a thin layer of water in the pan/griddle when cooking meat on the stove. This helps keep the meat below the boiling point, which avoids the production of amines.

  • Do eat white meat (poultry), rather than dark meat, it's a bit safer. Skinless breasts are ideal.

  • Do avoid the fat, and the drippings that collect during cooking. Lean meat is your best bet.

  • Do cook meat and vegetables separately. When making a stir fry, or stew, or soup, the vegetables can simmer for up to two hours, but the meat should be cooked quickly, in a separate pan. Add meat to each bowl as it is being served. Freeze any leftover meat, and put the vegetable stock in the fridge. (My freezer doesn't have room for the entire pot of stew, and it's a royal pain to thaw it all out the next day anyways.) When you're ready for leftovers, reheat the pot of vegetables, thaw out some of the meat, and assemble bowls of stew as needed.

Keep in mind, some people are so sensitive that they can't eat reheated meat at all, even if it's only been frozen for a couple days. This is quite rare, but I've talked to two families in this situation, so I wanted to let you know.

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Some amine responders react to yeast/mould, even in trace amounts. This may include the B vitamins routinely added to breads and cereals here in the States. Yeast is involved in the production of these vitamins. As of this writing, Australia does not add B vitamins to its rice, so nobody from RPAH is watching for this type of reaction.

Another problem with fortified grains is the conveyance. Some companies use corn starch to spread the vitamins through the wheat or rice, and corn starch often contains MSG.

You may not have candida, but yeasts and moulds could still be a concern. We must borrow several ideas from the candida diet. All food must be fresh, not just the meats. When a can of pairs is opened, it should be eaten that day.

Apples and melons are not good choices for the salicylate challenge, because they harbour natural yeast. Try zucchini and onions and waterchestnuts first.

If you tolerate yeast, and most of us do, you must still avoid yeast extract, yeast nutrients, and autolyzed yeast. These are very high in amines and MSG.

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  • Do avoid all fruits and vegetables that contain amines, as outlined in Fed Up. If you don't already have this book, you can order it through the Failsafe web site, though the folks in North America might find this site more convenient.

    Some glutamate responders, including my kids, can eat almost anything that grows out of the ground, or is freshly killed. We only need avoid processed foods, or foods that have not been cooked properly. However, others must avoid items such as citrus fruits, grapes, pork, etc, as outlined in Fed Up. Eliminate them at the start, then run a controlled challenge. Maybe you'll be one of the lucky ones.

  • Do avoid fruits that harbour natural yeast, especially cantaloupe.

  • Don't eat long-boiled or overcooked fruits, even if the base fruit is amine-free. Currant jam, for instance, contains some amines, while currants do not. Pectin, found in commercial jams, always contains glutamates.

  • You might want to try bananas. They contain a different mix of amines, not like overcooked meats, and you just might tolerate them. Every little bit helps. Same comments for chocolate, in moderation of course.

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  • Wash all fruits and vegetables carefully. Peel potatoes, even if you can handle the salicylates. Farmers are using Auxigro with increasing frequency, and Auxigro is 29% MSG. It should be banned! Click here to learn more about this important issue, and be sure to write your congressmen, and vote accordingly.

  • Do make sure bean sprouts are very fresh. They ferment quickly; you'll be able to tell by the smell.

  • Don't overdo soy, especially you dairy free folks. Soy contains traces of tyramine, ten parts per million. Concentrated soy products are even worse.

    Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology,
    vol. 16, pages 383-388:
    soy sauce = 0.9 mg/ml.
    tofu = 0.8 mg per 100 g.
    soy milk = 0.5 mg per 250 ml.
  • speaking of tofu, don't eat it. It's fermented soy, and contains glutamates.

  • Don't eat soybean extract. This is often fermented, and quite high in amines and glutamates. The same is true for any vegetable extract, and especially yeast extract.

  • Don't eat hydrolysed or autolyzed soy, or even soy protein, which is often newspeak for hydrolysed soy. Hydrolysed protein always contains glutamates. This should not be confused with hydrogenated soy oil, or other hydrogenated oils, which are generally well tolerated. Soy lecithin is also well tolerated, but some do have trouble with it, as it contains traces of phosphatidylethanolamine.

  • Do avoid green peas. These are listed as amine free, but recent studies suggest traces of MSG. In fact this is the only natural food with MSG, and without amines. Try them on a challenge basis. Note that split peas, green or yellow, are free of MSG, and make a wonderful soup.

  • Do be careful of canned legumes that sit around at room temperature for long periods of time. Legumes contain protein, like meat and fish, and we all know what happens to canned fish!
    As the last four items suggest, legumes can cause trouble. Approach them all, even the freshest, with some suspicion. Green/wax/string beans seem to be safe for everyone.

  • Do check cashews are fresh, and store your (raw) cashews in the fridge. Don't cook cashew bits in anything, such as stir fries - sprinkle them on just before serving. Cooked or roasted nuts produce amines quickly.

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  • Don't use a deep fryer, e.g. for homemade french fries etc. After several uses, the oil accumulates amines, and other exotic maillard compounds. Baked potatoes are best. Slice potatoes baked in the oven with a little oil are pretty safe. Sweet potatoes are especially good this way, if you can handle the salicylates.

  • Don't eat any restaurant items that are cooked in oil. This is an immediate consequence of the above. One day you may tolerate a batch of fast-food fries, because they just changed the oil. The next day you might react violently, because the oil has been sitting for several hours, accumulating all sorts of amines and glutamates. Through first-hand knowledge, I know that some fast-food restaurants only change the oil once a day. As a corollary, don't use fast-food fries as your antioxidant challenge, as recommended in Fed Up. You might be reacting to the superheated oils.

  • Some people can tolerate Wendy's fries (despite their antioxidants), but not McDonalds fries, at least here in the U.S. That's because McDonalds fries have beef fat, and Wendy's fries don't. Beef is failsafe, but the beef fat/flavouring is high in glutamates, and the beef protein breaks down at high heat to form amines. Some commercial potato chips also include beef fat. They may be free of artificials, but the beef fat contains glutamates - don't eat them.

    As of this writing, McDonalds is about to change its recipe for french fries - so we'll see what happens. I hope they get rid of the "beef flavouring".

    U.S.A.: McDonalds Wendy's Burger King

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    Grains and Baking

  • Don't eat malted anything, especially malted barley [flour]. This has usually undergone some fermentation to produce the malt. It is often high in glutamates. Malt flavouring is an extract of malted barley, and is also high in glutamates. It drives my son crazy, and it's in everything here in the states.

If you react to malt flavouring, it often indicates a problem with glutamates, rather than amines. In fact several failsafe items, such as carrageenan, gelatine, and corn starch, are hidden sources of MSG. If you can tolerate moderate amines, e.g. an occasional banana or grilled steak, but you react to gelatine and malt flavouring, then MSG is the primary culprit. If you react to fresh pork chops, but not gelatine, amines are the primary culprit.

  • Do be wary of sprouted grains. Most of the breads in the health food store are made with sprouted wheat etc. But how did they get that wheat to sprout? I don't know, but I'm afraid "sprouted", another word for germination, is halfway to malted, and I'm not going to take any chances.

  • Don't eat brown breads, and consider cutting the crust off of white bread. This leaves the maillard amines on the cutting room floor. Croissants are definitely out. Don't eat toast, bagels, or other browned baked goods.

  • If you are in the elimination phase, or running a particular challenge, don't eat any grains that have been heated beyond the boiling point. This means no fried snacks and no baked goods. You can always bring in breads and rice cakes later.

  • Do try various brands of baked goods, but only as a careful challenge. You might stumble upon a bread or breakfast cereal that you can tolerate.

  • Don't eat commercial yeast-free breads! I can't tell you how much frustration and heart-ache we went through in order to find this particular piece of the amine/glutamate puzzle. It doesn't matter if the ingredients are as simple as rice, water, salt; don't eat it.

  • If the bread is thicker than matza, and yeast isn't the rising agent, something else is. But what?

  • My son reacts to French Meadow bread, among others, so I checked their web site and found an interesting page on slow-leavening. It reads in part:

When the natural airborne population of microbes come into contact

  • Do use fresh milk. Past-date milk contains amines.

  • Watch out for low-fat or non-fat milk products. Some of these contain milk solids, which contain glutamates.

  • Don't eat sodium or calcium caseinate, it is high in glutamates.

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  • DO check eggs are fresh.

  • Do keep your fridge at a low setting (without freezing the contents).

  • Don't overcook hard boiled eggs, or store them for more than a couple days.

  • When you cook scrambled eggs, make sure the egg doesn't stick to the pan and brown. Poached eggs are your best bet. This is a recurring theme: keep your food at or below the boiling point.

  • Some have found yellow dyes in eggs, courtesy of the chickens, courtesy of the brightly coloured chicken feed. Contact the farm and ask what they are feeding their chickens.

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  • Don't eat phosphates, pyrophosphates, or any cousins of phosphates! This one is new, hot off the presses. It's not even on the MSG web site, yet, so I'm listing it here.

  • Many people who react to glutamates also react to phosphates. This isn't a certainty, but there's a high correlation. (Amine responders are usually ok with phosphates.)

  • Turns out, my son is a phosphate responder, and didn't that throw us off the track for years. Failsafe says it's a safe additive; in fact most of their recipes call for baking powder, which is half phosphates. No wonder we could never bake anything for this boy, no matter how pure the ingredients. And the soda - well - we were blaming the sugar, and thinking about candida. It was the phosphoric acid all along. As far as I know, all the sugar sodas have phosphates; don't drink them. And the diet sodas have aspartame; don't go there either. Most glutamate responders react to aspartame in a big way.

  • Don't soak anything overnight. Dried beans are failsafe, but if you soak them overnight before cooking, (a common practice), the result is fermentation, and amines/glutamates!

  • Here is a true story, something to watch out for at summer gatherings. We went to a picnic hosted by my wife's brother. He cooked everything, a real break for us. "Grilled chicken?" he offered. I verified there were no spices, then passed it over to my son. (Light grilling does make amines at a low level, but my son can handle these.) "Corn, hot off the grill?" he continued. My son is ok with salicylates, so again I said yes. He ate two ears, then some salad, and some safe cookies that we brought from home. Later that evening I overheard her brother talking to friends. "Yeah, I soaked the corn over night. That's why it stayed nice and moist; didn't get dried out on the grill." Oh my God! I didn't even think to ask. Grains soaked in water at room temperature or above are the worst! The corn spent 18 hours fermenting - generating amines and/or free glutamates. I knew the next day would be terrible. Sure enough, we had to pick up my son from school before lunch. The only good news is, I'm finally able to predict his reactions in advance, (if I am given all the information), and those predictions usually come true. Managing my son's disorder is slowly becoming a science, and less of a mysterious black art.

  • Don't eat corn starch. I know, it's failsafe, but sometimes it isn't! Depending on processing, it can contain free glutamates.

  • If you're gluten free, You've probably discovered the gluten free pantry. Their products are excellent, especially the Old Fashion Cake and Cookie Mix and the Muffin and Scones Mix. I read the ingredients; failsafe right down the line. Yet my son reacts to these mixes, violently. I was sure of rice and potato, and the other additives seemed like a long shot, so I concluded, erroneously, that he reacted to sugar. That definitely sent us down the wrong path for a long time. I now suspect the second ingredient in the list, corn starch. And, the mix contains phosphates, so who knows?

    Other starches are just as unpredictable. Might be safe; might contain glutamates. Be especially wary of "modified food starch", that always contains MSG.

  • Don't eat gelatine. This is high in glutamates. Note that many tablets use gelatine as a base. And if they don't use gelatine, they probably use corn starch.

  • Do avoid fish oils, especially in supplements.

  • Don't drink ice tea. It's listed as Amine free in Fed Up, but it contains caffeine, an amine. Herbal teas may be ok, depending on the flavouring and your tolerance for salicylates.

  • Don't eat anything that is processed with enzymes. The enzymes can convert protein into amines or glutamates, and those same enzymes, which are themselves proteins, often break down and produce more amines. This rule holds even if the enzymes are natural. Bees use enzymes to make honey, hence honey contains a trace amount of amines, enough to bother the super-sensitive. Golden syrup is also produced via enzymes, and contains some amines.

    Sometimes enzymes are deliberately used to promote the maillard reaction. So if you see "enzymes" on the ingredient list, best to back away.

  • A few people react to maple syrup. The sap is boiled for at least ten hours, and this creates traces of amines. However, reactions are very rare. My kids eat it almost every day, and are fine with it. If maple is ok for you, and it probably is, maple candy is a wonderful, safe treat.

  • Don't eat anything that looks, smells, or tastes off. Trust your instinct.

Even the failsafe foods are suspect. And I'm not just talking about gluten and dairy. Some people react to potatoes, eggs, soy, and other failsafe items. One Mom reported her child was "so much better" on the dairy challenge. This is because he was reacting to the soy in soy milk, which went away when they brought dairy back in. eating foods in rotation can sometimes help you spot this form of "friendly fire" from your "friendly foods." After all, if you eat white potatoes every day, and you react to them, you'll never be well, not even for a day, and you won't know why.

  • Don't blame the last meal. Sometimes my son is a perfect angel when he sits down to dinner, and is demon possessed as he leaves the table. Don't be fooled by this sudden transformation; he is probably reacting to something he ate yesterday. Amines can take 24 hours to provoke symptoms, less if all the hours are spent awake.

    For some reason, food compounds are flushed out of the intestines and into the blood stream when a new meal is eaten and the digestive system becomes active. I documented the same phenomenon when dealing with my wife's IBS, which is completely unrelated to this story. She ate a meal, and symptoms appeared immediately, so naturally I blamed that meal. It took me a long time to get past this somewhat reasonable bias.

  • Do run the salicylate challenge as soon as it is safe to do so. You have so many restrictions, you'll need all the help you can get! If you find soy/legumes are a problem, and you're not sure about eggs, dairy, or gluten, and you don't want to risk any baked goods, and you can't eat any fried snacks, some carrots and asparagus and yams would sure help round out your menu. There are plenty of amine/MSG responders, my kids included, who can handle salicylates.

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    Tap water contains chloramine, NCl3, which is often (mistakenly) referred to as simply "chlorine". An occasional glass of tap water is ok, but you should drink distilled water most of the time. Boiled tap water, e.g. for cooking, is fine, since chloramine is a volatile compound.


    Showers and baths can be a problem due to the chloramines described above. If you already have amines in your system, the chloramine vapours from the hot water can trigger a headache or asthma attack. The risk is mitigated if the curtain and bathroom door are left open. Privacy must yield when a person's health is at stake.

    Showers are generally safer than baths. Less water is used (hence less chloramine is released), the falling water keeps the air moving, and you can learn to get in and out quickly. You may want to turn off the water while washing hair etc.

    Regular Colgate toothpaste seems to be ok. Many other brands are also acceptable, but some contain amines, so be careful. Lightly scented soaps and shampoos shouldn't cause too much trouble, unless you are already loaded down with amines.

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    Any drug that is an amine should be considered unsafe. This includes all decongestants and cough suppressants. Contac 12-hour, for instance, contains two amines, and will send an amine responder up the wall. Before taking any drug, check the last five letters of the chemical name of the active ingredient, e.g. dextroamphetamine. If it ends in amine, you're probably, but not always, in trouble. Dextromethorafan is also unsafe, even though it doesn't end in amine. Similarly for pseudoephedrine. pseudoephedrine

    As you can see, the chemical name is only an approximate indicator. Some amines are locked up, internal to the molecule, and other non-amines produce amine metabolites in the body. As a more reliable indicator, any drug that interacts with MAO inhibiters is unsafe. After all, the A in MAO stands for amine. Check drug interactions in your drug guide, or ask your pharmacist.

    Tylenol and Benadryl are ok for mild aches and allergies respectively. Be sure these meds are plain, not supplemented with other cold medicines, and not coated with dyes or flavours. Note that Benadryl is intended to treat allergy symptoms, but some say it helps with the runny nose of a cold. Others say it doesn't. It does make you sleepy however, and if that's what you're aiming for (at night), then maybe it helps after all.

    Use nasal sprays to relieve congestion. Try a pure saline solution first. If this doesn't help, ask for Spray-Tish, or any spray with active ingredient Tramazoline Hydrochloride. Be sure the nose is clear of liquid before applying the medicine, or it won't help.

    Applying the same purity disclaimer, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are ok. Codeine, found in Tylenol III, seems to be an acceptable pain killer, though there are questions regarding its use with children. Codeine can also act as a cough suppressant, and this is important, as all true cough suppressants are verboten. For persistent coughs try nebulized Atrovent. Atrovent is a synthetic atropine and is an asthma medication. It often works very well for coughs of all kinds, even coughs not related to asthma - no one knows why.

    Do not treat asthma or croup with steam! Hot showers, and even humidifiers, send chloramines into the air, and make the symptoms worse. (A humidifier is ok if you use distilled water.) When our child has asthma we place her in a sitting position in a chair or bed and turn on the TV or radio, giving her something else to think about, so she doesn't panic. We wrap her in a blanket; warmth seems to help. sometimes a heating pad can be applied directly to the chest. If necessary, use inhalers, as prescribed by your physician, though I have yet to see a dramatic improvement from these asthma medications. Benadryl can be a life saver - it literally kept our daughter out of the hospital during a severe asthma attack.

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    The Histamine Connection

    If you think there is random noise in your data, noise that makes it nearly impossible to figure out which foods are safe and which foods are not, you're probably right. Your child may be reacting to something in the air, something you can't track at all. The following is taken from various pages under

    When a person is exposed to an allergen, a complex chain of events begins in the body's immune system. Several conditions must occur before allergy symptoms such as a runny nose or sneezing arise. Playing a main role in the development of these conditions is a substance called `histamine.'

    What is histamine?

    Histamine is a naturally occurring chemical found in several types of cells throughout the body. After it is released, it helps to control many body functions by attaching to receptors located on blood vessels, membranes, and glands. Histamine is also stored in `specialized cells' called mast cells and basophils. During an allergic reaction, these allergy cells release histamine. The histamine then attaches itself to blood vessels, causing leakage of fluid, which in turn leads to nasal congestion. The histamine also attaches to mucus-secreting glands, causing increased production of mucus. When histamine attaches near nerve endings, it can cause itching and sneezing. Ultimately, the release of histamine leads to `acute' allergy symptoms such as itching, swelling, redness, watery eyes, and a runny nose. Histamine can also allow the release of other chemicals that further fuel the allergic reaction, worsening allergy symptoms hours after exposure to the allergen.

    How do antihistamines work to relieve allergy symptoms?

    `Antihistamines' are medications that block histamine from attaching to cells, thereby reducing the itching, swelling, redness, and change in mucus production that histamine may cause.

    Once a day CLARITINŽ does not cause drowsiness when taken at the recommended doses, which is common with all over-the-counter and some prescription antihistamines.

    Checking with, histamine has a formula of C5H9N3. (I can't convey the structural formula here.) It's a very interesting molecule - no oxygen, and hydrogen poor. A nasty little amine to be sure.

    If you don't suffer from amines, all this may not be very interesting, but if you do, this is extremely relevant. It means your body can manufacture its own amines in response to allergens. This is separate and apart from any amines you might ingest. And a few milligrams of histamine might be enough to affect behaviour, even though it does not produce any overt allergy symptoms such as a runny nose. With no reason to think otherwise, you might decide that a challenge failed, simply because the pollen count was high that day. conversely, you might be tearing your hair out in frustration, because you know you served entirely safe foods, yet your child is having a reaction. If you are in North America, you might want to sign up for the daily pollen report from That way you can track some (certainly not all) of the environmental allergens, and correlate this data with your symptoms.

    We administer Benadryl liquid, dyphenhydramine hydrochloride, when our kids are showing allergy symptoms. That seems to keep the histamines at bay. Benadryl improves our kids' nasal congestion and behaviour simultaneously. It's not a miracle cure, but it helps.

    Here's what a migraine sufferer has to say about antihistamines.

    I am a migraine sufferer and have been since I was 6 years old. I recently changed Doctors, and she gave me an Antihistamine called Vomex[A], a Suppository with working ingredient 150 mg Dimenhydrinat. I never get warnings with my migraines. They just show up and within 10 minutes I am vomiting and crying from pain. I stuff a Vomex[A] up and lay down for an hour then take paracetamol and most of the time my migraine goes away within an hour. Funny how an antihistamine helps me so much but then again I am ultra-sensitive to amines. A small piece of chocolate will put me in bed. The Vomex[A] works within 10 minutes for me and also calms me down so that I can get rid of the headache. Only use the suppositories as the tablet's have junk in them.

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    Candida And Other Unwelcome Microbes

    When my son first went failsafe he got worse, much worse. And I'm not talking about withdrawal symptoms; it went on for weeks! violent insanity, and a horrible alcohol smell on his breath and skin, like stale beer. So my first experience with failsafe was not positive, and I went off in other directions. We finally went back to failsafe a year later and made real progress, but what went wrong the first time?

    I didn't know it at the time, but my son had raging candida. The sugar and starch that are prevalent in the failsafe diet fed the yeast. These nasty organisms ferment food, by definition. By-products and partial metabolites include all sorts of amines and glutamates. My son was reacting to every meal, because the microbes were churning out toxins in response to everything he ate. I kept looking for patterns, and there were none.

    If I had it to do over again, I would start him on a low amine low sugar diet, and perhaps garlic supplements and/or other candida remedies. I say "low sugar", rather than "low carbohydrate", because there isn't much of the failsafe diet left if you take away grains and potatoes. Besides, recent articles recommend such a protocol, restricting simple sugars and permitting complex carbohydrates. If only I had known.

    A year later his candida was gone, and the failsafe diet brought real improvement. We never treated his candida with supplements and probiotics, and we didn't reduce his carbohydrates to the low levels recommended in the Crook Book, (though we were forced to cut back on simple sugars for a time). Yet the candida went away, and we're not sure why. Perhaps because his diet was additive free for so many years, or perhaps his immune system gradually improved under the failsafe protocol. I don't know. But if you have any unwelcome guests in your digestive tract, you're going to react to everything, because the food is fermenting inside you.

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    Testing For Amines Invitro

    One of the amine responders on the Failsafe discussion list employs a commercial test kit to help her establish the amine content of various foods. It's not perfect, but it's better than testing everything invivo. :-) Her explanation follows.

    I use an Ammonia Test kit, intended for aquaria. Not all ammonia test kits are of use for testing for the presence of amines in foods, but some are. To test for amines the kit must be one that detects both free and bound ammonia (total ammonia). Detecting bound ammonia causes "false positives" when testing aquarium water, and so is not the best for that, but is wonderfully useful for testing foods for amines.

    My test kit (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals) uses a Modified Nessler Reagent (that's what it says on the label) and therefore tests for both bound and free ammonia. Amines have ammonia molecules bound up as part of their structure; the reagent breaks the amine bond, freeing the ammonia and making it available to react as ammonia in the water added to the food sample. This gives me a rough idea as to the presence or absence of amines in the food. However, I suspect that the amount of fat in the food and the solubility / suspendability of the food also affects the result.

    Despite this limitation the results I have obtained using it do seem to tie in very nicely with reactions from the various super amine responders (including me) in the group.

    If you're not sure which kit to buy, I recommend the AquariumPharm test kit. The AP test kit is very simple to use. I add a small piece of the food, preferably ground or mashed up, to about 2.5 ml of distilled water and then shake well in the test tube so that the food is mixed as well as possible with the water. The water must be distilled water as tap water will usually contain chloramine or other impurities which may result in a false positive on the food. The neutral pH of the distilled water is also important as an acid pH may result in the reagent not working. I then add 4 drops of the reagent and shake well and wait about 5 minutes for the results to develop. Many foods show a result even as you are adding the reagent.

    Because the reaction depends on colour - that is the sample turns yellow, orange or brown if ammonia (from amines in the food) is present - some foods cannot be tested easily. For instance I haven't tried to test beetroot. When I have tested foods that are dark in colour such as carob (which contains some amines BTW) I have set up two test tubes with the sample of the food and water and added reagent to only one so that I can compare the sample I've tested to the control sample. This can be the only way to be sure that a change in colour has in fact occurred.

    If you think you're doing something wrong, because everything you test seems to have at least some amines, you're probably doing everything right. The amine-free foods can be counted on one hand: white sugar, white rice, and very fresh chicken - that's about it. Assuming you want more variety than that, eat the foods that elicit only a modest colour change, several minutes after the reagent is added.

    I have tried this test kit, but I've found it difficult to use, and the results inconclusive. As stated above, almost everything reacts, to some degree, so it's hard to tell. Oh well - there's the information.

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    Amines And The Brain

    I ran across an interesting article in the 21st July 2001 issue of Science News. The authors link some of our favourite amines, e.g. tyramine, to serious mental illness. Of course there is no mention of reducing dietary amines to ameliorate the problem.


    Remember, it's not always the food. Amines and migraines go hand in hand, yet some migraines can be caused by external forces. Several people report that any physical pressure on the head can produce a migraine. They avoid hats, helmets, headbands, even barrettes. I guess that puts a damper on motorcycle riding (helmets required by law) - not that you could handle the exhaust fumes in any case.

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    Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

    Speaking of exhaust fumes, be on the lookout for strange smells or other airborne chemicals. Perfumes, solvents, tars, industrial chemicals, new cars, new furniture, new carpeting - they can all evoke symptoms. The out gassing is worse on hot days. If possible, leave new carpeting, curtains, furniture, etc, outdoors for a few days, to "vent". Stick with pure cloth upholstery, rather than synthetics. This is the world of multiple chemical sensitivity, MCS, and I'm afraid it is beyond the scope of this article. My kids don't have MCS, and I'm eternally grateful.

    Actually that's not quite true. My daughter always developed an asthma attack after she smelled strong perfume. I could set my clock by it - and I'm talking about a pretty serious attack. We tried to keep her away from artificial fragrances, but then exercise in cold weather brought it on. So we kept her indoors on cold days, but then she started having smaller asthma attacks for no apparent reason. The list of triggers was getting longer and longer. Fortunately this form of MCS disappeared completely when we took her off of amines. Her reaction to airborne chemicals was secondary; her reaction to amines was primary. She can now walk down the perfume aisle in the store and sniff all the samples with no ill effects.

    That's just one anecdote, but others have also reported a drop in MCS when they cut back on amines and/or salicylates. Of course some people will always be sensitive to these chemicals, no matter what they eat.

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