For healing your dog’s gut, bone broth and fermented foods are good food medicine. You are told that these foods are some of the best healthful choices for anyone seeking to help their dog feel better….aren’t they? Not in all cases!
Histamines are chemicals in your dog’s body produced in response to allergens. Specifically, your dog’s body produces white blood cells called mast cells to release histamines during the inflammatory-immune response to allergens. This is part of a healthy, balanced immune system. Many foods naturally contain histamine, or trigger the release of histamine in the body.
Today’s discussion will focus on the link between histamine overload and inflammation and how to bring balance to your dog’s gut microbiome with the Volhard Gastrointestinal Diet Protocol. However, keeping histamine overload away from your dog is not just about reaction but also about prevention. For that reason, we will also teach you how to avoid high histamine levels in your canine’s food in our next post!
Why might dogs have a histamine overload in the first place? As a canine nutritionist, my goal is to get to the root cause of inflammatory problems like histamine overload.
Here are a few common possibilities:
- leaky gut syndrome
- small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- gluten intolerance
- nutrient deficiencies
- medications (NSAIDS, pain medications, among others)
- methylation impairments
- disorders like mastocytosis, which leads to too many mast cells
What Role Does Histamine Play in My Dog’s Symptoms?
Histamine is an important part of the body’s normal functioning. It’s made in several ways. It doesn’t just come from the diet. That’s important to keep in mind. Changing the diet won’t necessarily eliminate histamine. It will just keep you from adding MORE histamine. For example, if you have a sunburn, you don’t go back out into the sun and try to get a tan, right? You avoid the sun until your burn has healed. Same thing here. If your dog is in histamine overload, you avoid high histamine foods until those levels go down.
Histamine is a chemical, known as a biogenic amine. It plays a role in several of the body’s major systems, including the immune, digestive, and neurological systems. The body gets all the histamine it needs from its own cells, but histamine is also found in certain foods.
Signs Your Dog Is in Histamine Overload
So how do you know if your dog is in histamine overload, and you should change the diet?
If your dog is currently
- feeling sick
- having reduced appetite
- or swelling (welts) … histamine is probably in overload.
Dogs who are experiencing an allergy-like response to histamine-rich foods may have a condition known as histamine intolerance. There may be dogs with genetic traits that increase their sensitivity to histamine. Dogs with mast cell tumors MAY need a low-histamine diet.
While every cancer journey is a tough one, the diagnosis of Mast Cell Tumor (MCT) presents a bigger challenge when it comes to feeding. In some (not all!) mast cell cancers, large amounts of histamine are released in the body, causing irritation and itching. In addition to itchies on the skin, the irritation can also be found in the gut. That can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Certain medical conditions may increase the risk of histamine intolerance. These include:
- gastrointestinal disorders or injuries
- gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- liver conditions
- chronic or extreme stress
- an imbalance in the gut microbiome
Some prescription or over-the-counter drugs may interfere with the enzyme that breaks down histamine, such as:
- heart medications
- pain medications (aspirin, naproxen, indomethacin, diclofenac)
- gastrointestinal medications
There are no reliable tests or procedures that vets can use to diagnose histamine intolerance. However, some will suggest an elimination diet. This involves removing certain foods from your dog’s diet for at least 4 weeks and slowly adding them back in, one at a time. An elimination diet can help you determine whether histamine is the problem.
What Should You Not Feed to Your Dog if You Suspect a Histamine Intolerance?
Generally, foods that have been fermented have the highest level of histamine. Should dogs be on 100% fermented food 100% of the time? It is just unknown if this is a good choice because there is no long term data to tell us in 40 years what those dogs are experiencing. In contrast to fermented foods, fresh unprocessed foods have the lowest levels of histamine.
The following foods contain higher levels of histamine:
- fermented dairy products, such as cheese (especially aged), yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, and kefir
- fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut and kimchi
- fermented grains, such as sourdough bread
- frozen, salted, or canned fish, such as sardines and tuna
What to Feed a Dog Experiencing Sensitivities to Histamines?
So you may only need to modify your dog’s diet for a little while. Once symptoms stop, and your dog is feeling better for a few days or a week, try adding one item back in and see how they do. If they tolerate it, you can continue feeding those few higher-histamine items.
If you see itching, or tummy upset start up again, you can remove those higher-histamine items again.
Rarely, a dog needs to have a low-histamine diet on a regular basis. In those cases, you’ll see itching and other symptoms start up as soon as you stop a low-histamine diet. In those cases, you want to keep a low-histamine diet for as long as necessary to keep your dog comfortable.
Why Does the Gut Matter?
Those dogs who develop “Leaky Gut Syndrome” develop excessive histamine levels in their brain. Histamine is released from mast cells every time an antibody attacks protein that leaks from the gut into the bloodstream. Dogs with leaky gut syndrome typically develop multiple and often severe food allergies. So in order to lower that histamine response, one has to heal the gut.
The dog’s digestive tract is lined with a thick bacterial layer (gut flora) that provides a barrier protecting them from outside invaders, produce natural antibacterial and antiviral substances, regulates the immune system, produces neurotransmitters, and keeps the pH acidic near the surface of the gut wall for protection. Poor diet, vaccines, prescription medications, environmental toxins, chronic stress, and age are just a few factors that negatively impact gut flora.
Microbiome imbalances can also release histamine and trigger symptoms. Problems like leaky gut syndrome, SIBO, and candida overgrowth could be fueling your dog’s histamine overload.
Probiotics can help. In one study, two strains of bifidobacterium suppressed histamine release, and in another, Lactobacillus rhamnosus suppressed histamine receptors.
Note: Certain probiotic supplements, especially those containing prebiotics, won’t agree with you if you have bacterial overgrowths.
Introducing the Volhard Gastrointestinal Diet Protocol
This protocol is divided into three parts designed to heal and seal the gut lining, restore the bacterial ecosystem within the gastrointestinal tract, and rebalance the immune system.
The Volhard GI Diet Protocol involves:
- Changing the Diet
- Adding Functional Food Supplementation
- Holistic Detoxification of the body
Dogs that are experiencing impaired digestion are candidates for this protocol. It is a way for dogs that find it difficult to break down foods into useful nutrients, leading to malnutrition and systemic inflammation. Low stomach acid, impaired liver function, holes in the digestive lining (leaky gut), and an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria disrupt the proper digestive process, potentially leading to serious conditions including autoimmune, neurological, allergies, impaired skin barrier, asthma, IBS, chronic fatigue, and behavioral disorders.
The Rescue diet used in the protocol restricts all grains, commercial dairy, starchy vegetables, processed carbohydrates, and refined sugars. These nutritionally void items are replaced with easily digestible and nutrient dense foods and herbs in order to give the cells of the gut lining and bacterial layer a chance to heal and rebuild.
Feed Foods That Help Your Dog’s Body Get Rid of Excess Histamines
- Increase your intake of foods with vitamin B6, vitamin C, and copper.
- Vitamin B6: chicken, turkey
- Copper: asparagus and liver
- Vitamin C: fruits and vegetables (except for those high in histamine)
- Black cumin (6) and quercetin are also two natural medicines that have antihistamine properties.
Focus on Feeding Fresh Foods
Bacterial growth in foods left unrefrigerated can increase histamine. Eat fresh foods and freeze leftovers immediately in single-serve portions.
For a low-histamine diet, focus on these foods:
- Coconut milk
- Fresh wild-caught fish
- Fresh pasture raised meats
- Fresh organic vegetables (except eggplants, tomatoes, and spinach)
- Gluten-free organic grains
- Non-citrus fresh fruits
All dogs handle nutritional supplements differently and may need additional targeted support. Only choose supplements with the least amount of added ingredients that may aggravate the gut condition.
The essential supplements to complement the Volhard GI Protocol are:
- The Adored Beast Apothecary Leaky Gut protocol
- Essential Fatty Acids - such as the Volhard Krill oil
- Volhard Digestive enzymes
Meat broth versus Bone Broth
Bone broth is the liquid made from boiling soup bones in water. You can use any animal bones such as turkey, chicken, beef, bison, lamb, and even fish bones to create a flavorful, nutritious and healing broth! Typically, you would want to choose bones that have some connective tissue, like joints and tendons still attached and use apple cider vinegar to draw out the nutrients in the bones and have them in the broth upon completion. From a nutritional standpoint, bone broth offers two important things: minerals and amino acids.
In contrast, meat broth utilizes very lean meat which is then cooked for a much shorter period of time. Use low histamine cuts of meat in your broth.
- Histamine levels in meat can be elevated through high stress levels just prior to slaughter, grinding/added processing, and aging. Essentially all other meat on the market today is harvested in a modern slaughterhouse environment where animals are stressed, their meat is then aged (either intentionally or simply as a result of sluggish supply chains), and/or highly processed. Poor cold-chain management (meat becomes warm, accelerating bacterial activity) can also be a major contributor to elevated histamine levels. Low or no-stress harvest and shorter times from harvest to freezer eliminate opportunities for prolonged bacterial activity.
- Food storage and preparation are important for keeping histamine levels in foods low. Especially when it comes to meat. This is because bacteria grows very quickly on meat.
Here are some solutions for the best ways to keep those histamine levels in meats low.
A Final Word
Histamine overload is a serious medical issue, which your dog doesn’t have to live with. You now have all of the knowledge and resources necessary to fight off histamine overload. Be proactive and work to restore balance to your canine’s gut microbiome with the Volhard Rescue diet and our selection of homemade broth recipes. Don’t forget to tune in to our next post on how to avoid high histamine levels in your dog’s food!