Do you feel like you are always inflamed, and that’s affecting several organ systems in the body? Or have you already discovered that you have a problem with histamine?
In Mast Cell Activation Syndrome(MCAS) part of the innate immune system becomes hyper-sensitive, releasing histamine and other chemical compounds that affect every organ in the body. This can progress until you seem to react to everything, including a growing list of foods, and chemicals in the environment. In some cases, you may even be reacting to drinking water!
People with mast cell activation can present with a wide variety of symptoms which can fluctuate and vary in severity. It’s important to note the vast array of possible symptoms as mast cells exist throughout the body:
- Itchy skin, eyes, ears, and nose
- Food sensitivities
- Increased anxiety and depression
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Fatigue or Irritability
- Throat tightening or swelling of the mouth, throat, face
- Nasal congestion
- Digestive discomfort
- Sensitivity to a wide variety of stimuli including chemicals, foods, light, sound
- Interstitial cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
- Brain fog
There is typically a constellation of complaints articulable to mast cell over activation. We would expect this to affect two or more organ systems, that includes the skin, cardio-vascular system, respiration, gastro-intestinal system, vision and/or anaphylaxis.
You may have noticed these symptoms increase when you eat foods that contain high levels of histamine or foods that stimulate the release of histamine. This includes wine, chocolate, fermented or left over food and tinned fish. This is commonly known as ‘histamine intolerance’, but a more accurate term is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
A low histamine diet only reduces the amount of histamine that you are taking in from outside your body. There is also the histamine produced by your mast cells within your body. MCAS includes consideration the mast cells are releasing their histamine containing load – we will consider the causes of MCAS later in this post..
What is Mast Cell Activation?
Mast cells are an immune cells that bridge the gap between the immune and nervous system. Their basic function is to co-ordinate the immune system’s activities that deal with toxins or infectious agents.
When the mast cell is stimulated, it releases the granules it contains (including histamine) into the bloodstream. This is part of the way our immune system is supposed to work. However, if a person’s body is overloaded with toxins or infectious agents, the mast cells become activated. This can also be described as hyper-reactive or trigger happy and can give rise to the many symptoms we’ve talked about with little provocation.
The body of these individuals can then become so overly stimulated, that it doesn’t know where the next attack is going to come from and is now constantly on alert and overly reactive. The body reacts to ordinary stimuli such as foods (that were ok to eat before), light, sounds, taste, touch, chemicals or stress.
What causes Mast Cell Activation?
Mast cells can become overly activated when there is some sort of ‘threat’ within the body. This can include:
- Inflammatory gut environment due to parasites, bacterial imbalances, Candida
- Inflammatory environment due to toxins overloading our body’s capacity to clear them. Possible causes include
- Mold toxicity
- Heavy metal toxicity
- Lyme disease and co-infections
- Prescription Medicines – many of which impact the mitochondria.
- Viral infection
- Blood sugar imbalances
- Nutrient deficiencies (such as zinc, magnesium and Vitamin D)
The mast cells have become overly reactive as the immune system is actually trying to heal the body and protect itself from these threats. We can use natural compounds such as Quercetin, Butyrate, and Vitamin C to stabilise the mast cells.
Firstly, we need to stop adding insult to injury and remove the ongoing threat. I won’t go into detail on treating each of these threats here as each needs its own post, but here’s an earlier post I wrote on healing the gut.
The body returns to health when stressors are less than body’s capacity to deal with them.
Even as we treat these threats, the body may not return to a state of natural health and vitality. We should ask what is getting in the way? Why has the body become stuck in this state of over-zealous reactivity?
Obstacles to Healing
The path to true healing looks very different from the path to sickness. We need to consider more than medications and supplements which are primarily concerned with slowing the path to sickness or treating symptoms (yes, supplements are all too often used for this purpose).
What is getting in the way of the healing process? What is blocking it?
Is it our lifestyle?
Our diet or a food reactivity?
Unresolved trauma or current psychological stress?
Is it the affects of toxins in the body, poor detoxification, or past or current mold exposure?
What’s preventing your body from returning to balance, and a state of vibrant energy?
Considering each of the pillars of good health and the foundation of mindset, emotional, psychological, and spiritual wellbeing supports an environment in the body conducive to healing . The cells within our body will then receive the signal that the environment is safe, rather than a threat. When our cells are not overly stressed, the organs of our body function as they should and we are well with natural energy.
This is where Functional Medicine shines. It helps us identify the underlying imbalances in the body, such as gut bacterial imbalances, which most often have emerged from a mix of poor sleep, poor food choices, excess stress and/or lack of emotional wellbeing.
Here, I’ve gone slightly off the track of MCAS and histamine specifically here, but this directly applies to these conditions – especially they as they are concerned with the Mast cells throughout the body and the many possible reasons for their over-stimulation.
If you would like support through this process, please get in contact as this is our specialty!
Our body runs on a 24-hour cycle, or circadian rhythm, that are part of the body’s internal clock. The circadian means that processes, including the healing processes, happen at certain times of the day. Our mast cells also run on this rhythm!
Active processes, such as alertness, movement, and action, are scheduled for the day, and restorative processes during the night. These restorative processes include sleep and detoxification and are essential for the body to stay healthy or to heal.
If your lifestyle or choices disrupts your circadian rhythm that the capacity to heal will be impaired. I see many people in my practice that have poor sleep that is affecting their health.
By making sleep a priority and getting sun light in the morning we can start to re-train this rhythm. Many people also notice that emotional or psychological stress leads to a flare of symptoms.