Making Sense of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Making Sense of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Sep 13, 2022

A recent TikTok video dramatically declared that a 27-year-old girl faced
life-threatening conditions caused by her own hair, sweat, or tears. She deals with
severe bumps and rashes on her scalp every time she tries to grow out her hair, a
slight change in weather could send her into an anaphylactic shock.

Two years after her first hospitalization and several rounds of futile medications,
Natasha Coates was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or MCAS.
Today, she not only survives this condition but is also a decorated gymnast, with
several medals and titles to her name.

So, what is MCAS all about and how can it affect your life? Let’s find out.

What is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome:

A vague and complex immunological condition that often goes misdiagnosed,
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome impacts a network of functions across the
cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, or neurological systems in a way that
can manifest as a variety of symptoms. To understand MCAS better, we first need
to grasp the role and functioning of the mast cells.

Mast cells are a type of white blood cells that are found commonly in tissues all
over the body. Their main job is to protect us from injury, by actively participating
in allergic responses. For example, when there’s a foreign infectious invader or an
allergen alert in the body, mast cells jump into action and release substances such
as histamine, cytokines, prostaglandins, and other chemical ‘mediators’ in order to
eliminate the threat.

While your immune system and mast cells are tackling the threat, you may begin to
feel itchy, congested or even experience irregular heartbeat. These may be common
symptoms that you may have to endure for a short amount of time in order to stay
healthy and protected from foreign invaders and allergens.

However, when your mast cells go into overdrive and begin to release mediators
even for non-threatening foreign bodies, that’s when things begin to go awry.

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome refers to the condition where mast cells turn
overprotective and produce mediators even when there is no allergen or
life-threatening body present in the environment. In this condition, simple things
such as exercise, stress, and taking certain medicines or everyday food items can
throw your immune system into overdrive and initiate allergy-like symptoms on a
daily basis. For those suffering from MCAS, it always feels like ‘allergy season’.

Signs of MCAS:

Symptoms of MCAS are varied and are often attributed to other causes. MCAS
commonly goes undiagnosed since the presentations are so diverse and affect a
number of organs. These symptoms may also have different triggers that make it
harder for medical professionals to pinpoint the actual cause.

Some key symptoms of MCAS include:

– Swelling & Itching

– Inflammation

– Sensitive skin and Rashes

– Nausea

– Flushing of the face or neck

– Diarrhea or Constipation

– Food sensitivities

– Chronic Pain

– Headaches

– Irregular blood pressure

– Abdominal pain

– Anaphylaxis

– Fatigue

Tackling MCAS with a Functional Medicine Approach:

Often, MCAS accompanies other health conditions such as asthma, irritable bowel
syndrome, celiac disease, or mental health disorders. Therefore, it’s crucial to
address the symptoms together and connect the dots.

Here are some functional medicine therapeutic strategies to help tackle MCAS:

1. Adopt a low-histamine diet:

Many foods we habitually consume on a daily basis contain histamine or
histamine-triggering chemicals. People suffering from MCAS may benefit from a
diet that is low in histamine so as to reduce the overall inflammatory burden. Some
high histamine foods you may want to eliminate from your diet are:

  • Alcohol
  • Bone broth
  • Canned food
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate
  • Eggplant
  • Fermented food (kefir, kimchi, yogurt, sauerkraut)
  • Legumes (soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts)
  • Mushrooms
  • Nuts
  • Processed foods
  • Smoked meat products (bacon, salami, salmon, ham)
  • Shellfish
  • Spinach
  • Vinegar

On the other hand, these foods can are on the lower end of histamine content and
can be used in your everyday diet:

  • Coconut milk
  • Egg yolk
  • Fresh wild-caught fish
  • Fresh organic meat
  • Fresh vegetables (except eggplants, tomatoes, and spinach)
  • Gluten-free grains (rice, corn)
  • Herbal teas
  • Non-citrus fresh fruits
  • Rice milk

At MyPureMD, we understand that your diet as an MCAS patient can be very
dynamic, which is why it’s important to work closely with a functional medicine
specialist to keep a track of your symptoms, and foods and modify the diet
accordingly.

2. Determine sources of toxicity

Although MCAS has a diverse set of causes, symptoms can be triggered when one
is exposed to microbes in the environment. For example, research shows that being
exposed to mold for long periods of time can manifest in a variety of symptoms
that can lead to an MCAS diagnosis. Dust, pollen, chemicals in makeup and fragrances, and viral infections are other triggers that may induce an MCAS
episode. People with MCAS need to steer clear of mold-infected spaces and adopt
a toxin-reducing lifestyle

3. Put your worries away and get some quality sleep

Mental health and MCAS have an intimate connection that is often overlooked.
Mast cells are present in the brain and get triggered on various occasions of chronic
stress. Being exposed to long periods of stress can increase the inflammatory
responses in your body while exacerbating your MCAS symptoms. Mast cell
activity can also trigger insomnia in a large population. By keeping stress levels
low and following a regulated sleep schedule, you may be able to reduce the
overall impact of MCAS.

At MyPureMD, using holistic principles of Functional Medicine allows us to dial
in each and every symptom a person presenting with unexplained discomfort may
experience. Together, we can piece the puzzle bit by bit to create the complete
picture and therefore, a perfect plan to tackle Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. If
you are experiencing unexplained symptoms, get in touch with us through a
discovery call today!

September 13, 2022

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