Have you been to numerous doctors trying to find the solution to your health issues, just to be told that nothing is wrong and that you are fine and well- even though you don’t feel fine and well? You may have been dealing with allergy-like symptoms for years with no relief and no answers.
I want to tell you about a chronic condition that is often overlooked by healthcare providers. It’s called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and it’s much more prevalent than we thought. If you have unanswered medical issues that are keeping you from feeling your best, read on to see if you could be dealing with MCAS.
First Off, What Are Mast Cells?
Mast cells are part of the immune system that are found in most tissues of the body, especially in areas that come into close contact with the external environment. They protect our body against pathogens and other foreign invaders, and mediate inflammatory responses, healing our body of wounds. While mast cells themselves can signal an immune response, they can release certain mediators that play a role in signaling an immune response as well.
What is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome is when your immune system’s mast cells release an overload of “mediators” inappropriately. While mast cells are needed to protect your body from infections and harmful foreign invaders, issues arise when these mast cells don’t “turn off”. This dysfunctional and overactive mast cell activation causes unnecessary inflammation throughout the body, causing a number of unwanted side effects – big and small. MCAS symptoms may not be apparent every day but can come and go, especially in conjunction with other rising health problems. Because MCAS doesn’t cause abnormal lab results in routine care, it’s often not spotted right away (it could even take years for some providers to figure out).
The Connection With Histamine
Your mast cells release over 200 kinds of mediators. Histamine is one of the more common ones, which can cause symptoms of allergies. While many doctors may put you on an antihistamine mediation, it doesn’t fix the root problem because it just blocks histamine receptors in your body, and doesn’t really reduce the amount. It also doesn’t address the numerous other mediators that get released from your mast cells either that may be causing other symptoms.
Symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Symptoms of MCAS can be very similar to other disorders and conditions, sometimes making it harder to diagnose. Since large amounts of mast cells are found in places where the body comes in contact with the external environment, people may experience more symptoms in these areas, including the skin, respiratory, and digestive tract.
These can include:
- Sensitive Skin
- Airway Restriction
However, you can still experience other symptoms that range from person to person. Some people might experience mild symptoms that just come across as annoying. Others may have more serious symptoms that impact their way of life. If you have any of these symptoms and don’t know the cause, MCAS could be the culprit.
Other symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome:
- Allergy-like Symptoms That Come and Go
- Heat Intolerance
- Food Sensitivities
- Food Allergies
- Hypersensitivity to Certain Environments or Medications
- General Malaise
- Getting Sick Easily
- Frequent Colds or Sinus Infections
- Brain Fog
Health Conditions That Can Enhance Symptoms
Many times, people don’t notice symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome until other health issues arise as well. MCAS can be enhanced with the following disorders/issues. When the combination of health issues are present, that’s when many patients see a noticeable change and reach out for care.
- Autoimmune Disease
- Leaky Gut
- Histamine Intolerance
- Mold Exposure (Read More Here on Mold Exposure)
- Gut Dysbiosis
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Celiac Disease
- Candida Overgrowth
- MTHFR Genetic Mutations
Treatment for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Once diagnosed, patients will be put on an antihistamine diet and mast cell stabilizers. Patients should also focus on optimizing gut health, correct any underlying health conditions or infections, use natural antihistamines, and reduce triggers that set off the mast cell response.
Supplements to Help Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
- Quercetin: Reduces the production and release of inflammatory cytokines
- Green tea: The polyphenol, EGCG, found in green tea can inhibit the production of inflammatory mediator leukotriene C4.
- Curcumin: Widely used to reduce inflammation throughout the body
- Chamomile tea: Can inhibit histamine release from mast cells
- Resveratrol: Decreases the expression of IL-6 and IL-8 (inflammatory markers) as well as inhibits IgE allergy reactions
- Diamine oxidase enzymes (DAO): Breaks down histamine
Incorporate A Low Histamine Diet By Avoiding:
- Leftovers- bacteria on the food can produce histamines
- Alcohol- Histamine is released from your mast cells and the release of DAO (mast cell stabilizer) is blocked.
- Smoked, Grilled, or Fried Meat
- Nightshades (tomatoes and potatoes)
- Fermented Foods
Reduce Inflammation By Focusing On Positive Lifestyle Behaviors
Because MCAS can cause large amounts of inflammation in the body, it’s important to pay attention to your lifestyle behaviors, as this will help reduce that extra inflammation that is causing harm to your cells, tissues, and organs.
Try to include these practices:
- Learn to Manage Stress
- Reduce Exposure to Toxins
- Get Adequate Amounts of Quality Sleep
- Maintain Good Gut Health
- Participate In Moderate Exercise
- Read My Previous Blog on Natural Approaches to Avoid Inflammation
Get Care From A Functional Medicine Provider
As mentioned earlier, many people go undiagnosed for years before knowing how to manage their symptoms. While there is no cure for MCAS, there are many things you can incorporate into your daily life to reduce and manage your symptoms. If you think you may have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, get in contact with a functional medicine provider. Unlike most conventional doctors, functional medicine providers look deeper into your symptoms to find the underlying cause.
Dr. Lisa Ballehr is a functional medicine doctor located in Mesa, AZ. Because MCAS is complicated and often overlooked, it’s best to be treated by a healthcare provider who acknowledges and looks at this chronic disease as a likely possibility. Dr. Ballehr, serving patients in 12 states via telemedicine, will guide you on how to manage your symptoms through individualized care. Because Mast Cell Activation Syndrome symptoms can range from person to person, it’s critical that a unique plan is set in place for every patient. Fill out Dr. Ballehr’s FREE Health Assessment or click here to contact her to get started.