Hopefully, no one thinks I’m an oddball for standing, Jamie Pirtle thought to herself in the middle of a work meeting. “I feared I’d nod off — again — if I sat in a comfortable chair,” she recalls. “So I simply didn’t allow myself to sit.”
Barely Getting By
“That was last year, when I was working in corporate management, and brain fog and loss of concentration started affecting my job. I always prided myself on doing my best, but I was no longer performing at my usual level due to the relentless exhaustion. I found myself spacing out and feeling like I was nodding off. I was always asking myself, What was I in the middle of? as I fought to stay awake.
“My tiredness was the result of sleeplessness. Nearly every night, I would wake between 2 and 3 AM and lay awake for hours, watching as the morning light crept into my room, indicating it was time to drag myself from bed.
“It was so frustrating. If I stayed in bed, I would toss and turn, so I finally started getting up and reading or catching up on email or social media. Sometimes, I’d fall back asleep at 5:30 am but the alarm would go off at 6.
“I started scheduling my days around naps in my office, and I kept a mini trampoline beside my computer to hop on to keep me alert when a nap was impossible. The exhaustion made me moody, and I found myself getting frustrated with people quicker than usual.
“My personal life suffered too. I was always making excuses that I didn’t feel well when canceling plans with friends. My husband, Mike, never complained that I wasn’t able to stay awake past an early dinner or take a walk together, but my self-induced guilt and frustration became tough to live with. And I felt like I was totally ignoring my adult children instead of sharing in their lives and accomplishments.
“I began feeling depressed, which led to deep concern that my sleep issues were taking over my life. I have to make a change, I told myself one morning last summer.
“I was sick of feeling tired all the time, so I finally saw my doctor to discuss my sleep troubles. I explained my hesitation to take sleep medicines due to potential side effects and told her I hoped to find natural treatment options for my inability to stay asleep.
“My doctor listened with great interest when I explained I regularly woke between 2 and 3 am every night. She explained that waking up in the middle of the night was a symptom of an overproduction of histamine in the body. I learned that histamine is a compound stored in the body’s cells. When released, it can help fight infections or heal injuries. It’s also part of the body’s sleep/wake cycle and is released around 2 or 3 am every night, as part of the natural circadian rhythm. But too much histamine in the body can cause the middle-of-thenight wake-ups I was experiencing.
“She suggested I have a urine test to measure my histamine levels. When the test confirmed her suspicion, I was elated! I finally had a reason for my tiredness-and an easy solution.
“All the pieces fell into place as the health coach in the doctor’s office helped me understand what was going on. She explained that in addition to being produced in the body, histamine is also found in foods like chocolate, avocados, spinach, aged cheese, and processed meats, and that I shouldn’t eat these foods after lunch, to allow my body enough time to clear any excess histamine in time to get a good night’s sleep. She said that my habit of sharing a few chunks of cheese with my husband when we would make dinner and my love of a bite or two of dark chocolate for dessert were triggering my histamine overproduction.
“I made the histamine diet changes immediately, and less than a week later, I was thrilled to wake up feeling refreshed because I slept soundly all night. As a result, my brain fog and fatigue cleared up almost instantly and my mood improved dramatically.
“The diet changes were tough at first, but I was thrilled to learn I didn’t have to give up foods I love, I just had to adjust when I ate them.
“No longer being tired all day has had a huge impact on my ability to think on my feet and have the energy I need to make it through the day. And the impact the health coach had on my life moved me to start a new career as a certified health coach and my business, HealthyWithJamie.com. Today, I feel better than I’ve ever felt. I have the energy I did when I was a teenager — all thanks to an easy histamine diet change!”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.