Curing My Tyramine Intolerance: The First 31 Days

Can you cure tyramine intolerance by slowly reintroducing it to your gut? The Rogue Scientist decided to find out... by experimenting on herself.
tyramine intolerance

Most of you know I have tyramine intolerance. For the past 11 years, I’ve eaten a low-tyramine diet. I wrote The Tyramine Intolerance Handbook to help others discover whether they too have this type of food intolerance (I think it’s more common than we realize), and how to manage it.

I’ve learned to manage this thing through diet, and assumed I, and my tyramine-intolerant brethren, would continue to do so indefinitely.

That all changed when I listened to Dr. Will Bulsiewicz interviewed on Rich Roll’s podcast.

Dr. Will said, in a nutshell, that:

  1. Good health requires a healthy gut.
  2. Gut health relies on eating a diverse diet with lots of fiber.
  3. Food intolerance is a GUT problem (your gut lacks the ability to break down certain foods).
  4. And, finally, that the way to cure food intolerance is to train your gut to tolerate the problem foods by re-introducing them SLOWLY back into your diet.

This made some sense to me.

If your gut microorganisms break down foods, and you lack enough of a particular microorganism (or a particular enzyme made by a particular microorganism) to break down a particular food, you get food intolerance. And if you drip feed your gut a small enough amount of the problem food that the microorganisms needed to break it down will proliferate to handle the load, but not so much that you overwhelm the system and get bad symptoms, in theory you could tolerate said food.

In theory.

For 2023, I decided that one of my goals for the year was to put Dr. Will’s assertions to the test… by experimenting on myself.

I’ve kept a (rough, but accurate) log of the high-tyramine foods I ate in the month of January and any reactions I had.

Here, I share that log, along with my conclusions.

TLDR: Dr. Will may be on to something.

Christie’s Tyramine Intolerance Cure Experiment, Days 1-31:

A few things to keep in mind when browsing this log:

My tyramine intolerance isn’t as severe as others’ I’ve interacted with. Which means, before I began this experiment, I could get away with more tyramine consumption with lower risk of a severe reaction than someone who is more sensitive.

For example, I’ve been able to eat foods with moderate amounts of tyramine with no problem, such as Greek yogurt (1 cup), 1-day leftovers, mozzarella cheese (all types), sourdough bread, and cashews. As such, I didn’t record those foods on this list.

There was a time when I reacted (albeit not severely) to the foods I just listed, especially yogurt, but I grew to tolerate them after slowly introducing them back into my diet.

I sought to take on high-tyramine foods in general, but especially foods I’ve consistently reacted to and miss most, like vinegar (it’s in everything), eggs (not high-tyramine but they often bother me), and aged cheeses.

With that, here’s the log:

DAY    TYRAMINE FOOD                           REACTION                                                                         

11 choc chip brownie
  
2
   
31-2 t Tabasco on 2 tostadas
  
4Leftovers from yesterday, 1-2 t tabasco again
  
5More tabasco (1-2t)
  
6~1.5 T soy sauce, 1/2 t rice vinegar, 1/2 t chili sauceDid feel amped up after eating this, especially in chest area. But it wasn’t that big of a deal.
  
7Rest
  
8~1 T crunchy almond butter; 1 t dijon mustard, 2 bites avocadoAte roasted crunchy almond butter before run. Very slow to start to run, lethargic.
  
91-2 T crunchy almond butterFeel weird a few hours after almond butter, strange low blood sugar feeling I used to get from nuts way back in the early days of my intolerance, and just somewhat off, like due to amines but in my chest, not my face. May need to back off a bit.

Felt weird all day, but not bad.
  
101-2 tsp of dijon mustard, ~1/4 c salsa with vinegar in it
  
11Leftovers from last night, 2 t tabasco
  
122 t almond butter; sm glass Brendan’s Irish cream
  
131/2 glass red wine
  
14leftover lentils with green salsa
  
151/2 slice cheddar, 1-2T vegan cheese w/ACV and nutritional yeast, 1t dijon
  
161 T almond butter; 3 eggs, pork ribs with BBQ sauceReacted to the almond butter; felt “chest anxiety”
  
171-2 T almond butter; 1 cheddar slice, leftover ribs w/BBQ sauce
  
18Chicken w/a soy and rice vinegar marinade/sauce
  
191.5 T almond butter; 1.5 leftover chx thighs w/soy vinegar marinade; 1 slice cheddar; 2-3 thick slices avo
  
20Leftovers from last night w/2 slices avo, 1 cheddar slice; chili w/1/4 T worcestershire sauce, tiny bit of dark chocolate
  
21Leftover chili w/2 slices cheddar
  
221-2 T almond butter; 1/8 c Kraft parmesan
  
23Colby/jack grilled cheese; 1.5 T soy sauce, 1/2 T rice vinegarReacted to colby/jack (chest anxiety), but a 35-min walk made it better.
  
242 pickle spears; leftovers w/2 T soy sauce, 1/2 t rice vinegar
  
251 T almond butter; chx sausage, 2 T parmesanReacted to almond butter again. Chest anxiety.
  
26Rest
  
271/2 banana; 1/2 c colby/jack; 1/2 glass red wine; 1-in square of dark chocMild “chest anxiety” reaction to colby/jack again
  
28PB Cliff Bar; sm glass red wine, leftover pork, a few organic cheetos
  
291 pc bacon, 2 eggs, leftover (2-day) pork; 2 T hummus; 1/4 c colby/jack, bit of feta
  
301/4 c colby/jack
  
311/4 c colby/jack; 1 t Tabasco
  

Results

You’ll notice a few things from this list:

  • I started small early on, with small servings of high-tyramine or problem foods, which I ate at only one meal a day. I wanted to eat amounts I knew I could tolerate, but day after day rather than my usual once a week or less.
  • Once I saw I could 1) tolerate that amount, and 2) tolerate that amount day after day without overflowing the bucket, I began increasing the amount to small servings over 2 meals a day instead of one.
  • When I reacted to a food, which happened 7 times over the month, the symptoms were tolerable, which told me I was eating the correct amount.
  • The three foods I reacted to (roasted crunchy almond butter, Colby/jack cheese, and the soy/vinegar sauce I used to cook an Asian dish), I eventually quit reacting to. I’d literally never eaten almond butter before, and maybe that’s why it took longer to quit reacting to it.
  • Note that I mentioned “chest anxiety” often. For me, this feels like “physical” anxiety, like when I’m breathing faster and feel amped up and tense, despite nothing being wrong. This is a milder reaction for me. More severe reactions for me involve facial/sinus aches, mood changes, fatigue, and, worst of all, migraine headaches that last for long periods. All these reactions result from tyramine raising norepinephrine levels.
  • I had a few “rest” days where I ate no problem foods. Early on, I did this to give my body a break, just to be cautious. Later, the rest days were mostly due to forgetting to eat the foods. When you’ve avoided these foods for over a decade, remembering to actually eat them was hard sometimes!

A Good Beginning

I consider this first 31 days a success, more than I ever expected. I was lucky to choose a daily dosage that kept my bucket low enough to avoid overflowing, but high enough to give my gut and body a chance to adjust to these foods it wasn’t used to.

And it’s worked, at least so far.

Update

I was unable to publish these results sooner, as I was barred from blogging while the ethics group at my workplace made sure there were no conflicts of interest. Now it’s March and I have more data. Long story short:

I continued doing this through February and began pushing the envelope with more higher-tyramine foods, such as aged cheese, jamon iberico (cured/aged), red wine, and 2-day leftovers in larger portions. I never went nuts, but slowly increased. No problems, but then…

At the beginning of March, a migraine struck. Messed me up for about 30 hours, with pain and then just bad fatigue. I had stopped tracking my intake, but I hadn’t gone crazy, only eaten leftovers at lunch and dinner. However, I’d had a very stressful day at work, I’d run hard that morning and tired myself out, and a storm had rolled in. It’s possible that the stress and fatigue had lowered my tolerance, and the leftovers and pressure drop from the storm had overflowed the bucket. I honestly don’t know for sure.

Not fun, but that was the first bad headache I’ve had since last November, where too much peanut butter messed me up. (I still haven’t reintroduced PB, lol. Soon!)

Now, I’m still eating tyramine most days but I backed off just a little. The truth is, I don’t need to eat more tyramine than what I’m eating now. I’m not much of a drinker, cured meats are a rare indulgence, and I don’t want the saturated fat that comes with too much cheese.

I’ll let you know how it continues to go.

Will This Work For You?

Again, I started this experiment from a place where I knew I could remain safe. My intolerance wasn’t severe. If you’re extremely sensitive, you’ll have to be far more cautious if you want to try this.

If you decide to try, here are a few suggestions:

First, work under the supervision of your medical provider, especially if you’re prone to severe headaches or blood pressure spikes. I’m not a physician; I’m a scientist undergoing a personal experiment in order to bring more understanding to tyramine and other food intolerances.

Also, if you take monoamine oxidase inhibitor drugs (MAOIs), this will NOT work for you. You have to maintain a low-tyramine diet while on these drugs, no exceptions.

For others, the key here is low and slow, whatever that means for you. Start with a dose you know you can tolerate. If you feel okay day after day, then you’re on the right track.

Be consistent, keep track of every problem food you eat, and once you know you can tolerating a certain amount or frequency, THEN increase. If you react negatively enough to mess up your day, take a break to reset, then try again with a smaller amount.

Don’t get carried away and do too much too soon. You can’t rush this.

I’m told Dr. Will’s book goes into more detail on how to reintroduce problem foods, including for those with histamine intolerance.

Finally, if you’ve tried similar experiments on yourself, with tyramine or any other food, leave a comment. We’d love to hear about it!

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Related Articles and Resources

Dr. Will Bulsiewicz on the Microbiome, Part II: How to Cure Food Sensitivities

Tyramine Intolerance and The Gut, Part I: The Microbiome

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The Rogue Scientist

Christie Hartman is a writer and scientist specializing in science-based health. A biology major as an undergrad, she completed her PhD in behavioral genetics at the University of Colorado Boulder. Before starting her writing career, she worked as a scientist and professor at CU’s School of Medicine, where she studied the genetic contributions to substance abuse and antisocial behavior.

14 thoughts on “Curing My Tyramine Intolerance: The First 31 Days”

  1. Interesting. I’m super sensitive to soy sauce, garbanzo beans, wine, and aged cheese. I think i’ll try a quarter teaspoon of soy sauce to see what happens.

  2. I’ve been undertaking a similar journey with histamine / MCAS after a nasty flare left me only able to eat pureed sweet potatoes last August. Thanks to wonderful doctors, a new medication regimen, and an excellent dietitian, I’ve been able to regain most foods. On good days, with the medication that I take before meals, I can eat high histamine foods, including bacon and hard cheeses, and experience no consequences. If you’re not aware of the resources put out by SIGHI, the Swiss Interest Group for Histamine Intolerance, they have a wealth of resources available – better than Dr. Bulciewicz. I was honestly underwhelmed by his book, which I purchased after reading your blog posts! There’s a lot more biochemistry involved in histamine intolerance than just the microbiome, especially for folks with MCAS. The category of food that is still elusive for me are the liberators: foods that cause mast cell degranulation hours after eating the offending food. Garlic, citrus, and tomatoes fall into this category, among other things.

    1. Christie Hartman PhD

      Interesting. I’m so glad you commented. Yeah, I think histamine intolerance is more complicated than tyramine intolerance because histamine (unlike tyramine) is so prevalent in the body and is important for so many functions. And, like you said, some foods cause histamine release, even if the foods aren’t high in histamine. Even certain activities can cause release. Then when you tack on MCAS, that’s even more complicated. It’s good to know there’s a good resource out there… I will keep that in mind when I write on histamine. And I’m glad you’re better!

  3. Hi there Rogue,
    I very much appreciate you experimenting on yourself. I have also done this, however, I did a 12 week heal and seal gut cleanse as I also believe my tyramine intolerance is due to gut health. I went gluten, diary, sugar, caffeine and alcohol free plus I took digestive enzymes, high quality probiotics, and gut health powders. Sadly it didn’t clear mine up but I am keen to keep researching and trying.
    On the upside my reactions are quite mild compared to others – migraines and fatigue, the first I have just treated with botox and that seems to help a lot.
    And I only have a few trigger foods – over ripe avocado, over ripe tomatoes, fava beans and certain red wines.
    I’ll keep following your journey to see if I can learn more and make improvements.
    Not sure if the above is helpful for you but thought I’d share in case it is or helps others.
    Many thanks and keep up the great work and experimentation.
    SH

  4. I’m nearly 76 and, far as I can remember, I’ve had migraines, both common and classic, most of my life. I know that bright light is a trigger so wear tinted glasses now, which helps, but there seemed to be no accounting for the other occasions where the migraines hit me out of the blue. They will last at least 3 days and I often don’t feel ‘right’ for up to 5 days. I’ve never been a big fruit and veg eater, I generally dislike the taste of ‘green’, but will make an effort with a little now and then. I have to admit to finding food, cooking, and everything related to it, the most boring subject on the planet – but I won’t eat commercial ‘rubbish’ either so have to get into that kitchen! Sometime last year I decided I really must try to increase the veg. I duly got some frozen stuff, including baby broad beans, I don’t like ‘em much but persevered. Every time I had a portion with the evening meal a migraine followed in the morning. Aren’t beans supposed healthy? I looked on line and found that they are high in a substance I’d never heard of or been told about in all my years of visiting the doctor for migraines: tyramine. Recently I’ve been diagnosed pre-diabetic and have started the prevention programme offered by my surgery. Knowing what the prime message would be I sighed and went along. So, as expected, weight loss of 1.5 stone, controlled portions (I’m not a big eater any so this is not a problem) and, of course ‘5 a day’ fruit and veg (big yawn here). However, got started and the weight began to drop – and the migraines, and other symptoms you list, started to rise rapidly. In desperation I researched online and found that, though most sites agree on the main culprits, they disagree completely on certain other foods, which is not helpful. My heart sank as I wondered what on earth I actually CAN eat – that won’t raise either my weight or my blood sugar or give me migraines etc. I was very despondent. Then I found your blog and your book. Eureka! It seems the daily portion of raspberries and the satsuma, recently added to my ‘healthy’, 5-a-day diet are actually causing a lot of my problems. Thank goodness for the internet and finding your so very helpful and enlightening information – not to mention the comfort of discovering that it’s not just me being embarrassingly silly, that there are other people out there feeling the same.The meal suggestions in your book are such a help, most information on eating is so generalised, contradictory and prolific that it’s mind-boggling and you just don’t know where to start. So, here we are, I simply had to send you this to say a heart-felt ‘thank you’. I believe that, once I get going on your advice and avoid the things that will raise the blood glucose, I have at last found a way forward and can, hopefully, lose the weight, reverse the pre-diabetic condition and reduce the incidence of migraine, palpitations, hot flushes and overwhelming fatigue that comes on for no apparent reason. I’ve also ordered in the recommended magnesium an b and c vitamins. The whole scenario around food is not helped by having had my gall bladder removed, aged 27. I recently addressed the on-going digestive problems this causes by taking ox-gall capsules immediately before eating so, maybe, one way and another, this woeful list of aggravations will be sorted out at last!

    1. Christie Hartman PhD

      Amanda: I am SO glad the book helped you! This is what I hoped would happen when I took time off work to write the thing. And I feel you; it’s annoying to trying to solve one health issue (T2D in your case), only to find that the cure causes other problems. Thank you for sharing your story, and I’m glad things are better for you.

  5. Hello! This is slighlty off topic, but I realized in February I was tyramine intolerant, and therefore have cut out and reshaped my diet a lot. There were several “good” foods and supplements I was disappointed to have cut out, and have been trying to find replacements for since. One supplement I haven’t found a replacement for yet is collagen, and I was wondering if you had any suggestions on a version/brand that would be safe for a low-tyramine diet?

    1. Christie Hartman PhD

      I don’t but I think I’ve seen this discussed in the Facebook tyramine group. Worth a search.

  6. Hello Christine,
    I’m so glad you mentioned chest anxiety. I never hear anyone else talk about it. I get winded easier than others and I don’t have asthma or copd. About ten years ago I went gluten free and I had felt more of a difference going up steps than when I quit smoking a few years before that. But it wasn’t a fix and I continued to eliminate foods until I was down to about 10 foods. I finally lost about 50lbs, but I was flexible, had energy, and could lift. It was as if everything was firing correctly. But after about 9 months the diet just wasn’t sustainable, I gave up and tried going just organic, but the stiffness, headaches, and low energy levels came back. So did the weight. I’ve tried a number of things over the years. I’ve come upon a couple of solutions except I have a few lingering issues. When I came upon your website I was in my third week of sweating everyday. Something is going on because I feel better, but still not quite right. So at your suggestion I’ve made a list of my offending foods and I’m going to try small amounts of a singular food before introducing a new food. I started with Kefir and then I will introduce onion. Thanks so much for putting this out there.

  7. Although I have suspected that I am reacting to different seemingly unrelated common foods with heart palpitations and blood pressure spikes, headaches, etc., I am just now learning about tyramine and am very grateful for your blog and book available on Amazon. (Please make it available in print so I can bring it to doctor appointments! I would like to give them copies) I am 69 years old an have been suffering with this with no diagnosis except “labile hypertension” for at least 50 years – seems worse in the past 30.
    A few thoughts I would like to share: I remember learning that one of the Blue Zones (Greece?) strictly does not eat anything stored, only fresh food. Wondering if they have a genetic inability to process tyramine?
    Also remember learning from the original scientists involved in the Human Microbiome Project that the human microbiome is established in the 1st 3 years of life and beyond that it was believed that the body would fight to maintain what was set in those 3 years. So, my question is, is it possible that to some extent the inability to process ingested tyramine comes from an abnormal microbiome due to artificial feeding which became standard widespread practice around the 1930’s? To my knowledge, modern commercial formulas are studied for 6 months before being approved to go on the market. Long term studies are not typically done. The microbiome is also passed down from mother to child, so are we seeing a multi-generational effect of artificial feeding? Not being breastfed human milk at the breast for years instead of weeks or months is a huge departure from our biological norm and should be suspected from interfering with longevity, health problems and especially problems related to metabolic function and the microbiome. Of course, unknown untoward effects of antibiotic and other chemical and biological drug use including vaccines, EMF exposure known to interfere with biology, and environmental pollutants could also play a role. Thanks again for sharing.

  8. menopausal herbalist

    I have been dealing with tyramine intolerance for the past 5 years or so when I came across your book. Some things I had pieced together myself, and some things were helpful to learn (sometimes disappointing, like avocados, bananas, and raspberries having tyramines!).
    A couple of bio-medical advances that would be so helpful are: a way to test a food for tyramine (so many things are ok, until they aren’t, and our bodies are the only test we have right now!), and a way to support MAO-A.
    I am a Chinese Medicine herbalist and have successfully used herbal medicine for myself and many hundreds of patients for so many different health issues … Imagine my utter dismay when realizing that many herbs inhibit MAO! I am wondering if I should just stay away from herbal medicine, or at least those which are thought to inhibit MAO (though this list is growing)? Even a medication I took when younger (Isoniazid) inhibits MAO, I recently learned! Is it at all possible I could have triggered my tyramine intolerance by taking herbal and other medicines that can inhibit MAO?? Also, my tyramine intolerance seems to be getting more severe in menopause – have you heard this?
    Thanks in advance if you have any insight on these issues!

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