Chances are, if you’re familiar with the term “histamine”, it’s probably in the context of antihistamines. These are common medications that help to relieve bothersome symptoms of seasonal allergies in the spring and fall months. Yet, the role of histamine in your body extends far beyond allergic reactions and into basic immune function. 

What is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)?

First off, let’s unpack the word syndrome because this is an important piece. A syndrome, rather than a disorder, is an affliction that can come and go spontaneously. So you can be totally fine your entire life and then one day something can trigger MCAS suddenly. And, conversely, you can heal from it quicker than you may be able to heal from a lifelong diagnosis, which is incredibly hopeful. 

With MCAS, your mast cells (the specific type of immune cells that exist in your connective tissue) get overactivated and are constantly on high alert. Since these mast cells are responsible for sending chemical signals (including histamine) to the rest of your body to fight and protect against invaders, this means that they start to release way too many of these mediators. So over time, you end up with a build up of histamine in your body which causes histamine intolerance and a tremendous amount of subsequent symptoms. 

Why does MCAS arise?

While it’s not always the case, there’s usually a trigger that causes your mast cells to go into overdrive. Some common ones are:

  • Stress (emotional and physical)
  • Trauma 
  • Infections (viral or bacterial)
  • Mold exposure
  • Sudden temperature changes
  • Heavy metal toxicity
  • Certain medications that block DAO
  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Insect bites
  • Chemicals
  • Certain foods 

High Histamine Foods:

  • Fermented or aged dairy products 
  • Gluten
  • Fermented foods (sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, kombucha)
  • Alcohol
  • Yeast
  • Cured or smoked fish and meats
  • Citrus 
  • Vinegar 
  • Leftovers
  • Berries
  • Shellfish

How MCAS presents in your body

Once you’re in the thick of it, MCAS can show up as a wide spectrum of full body symptoms that often seem totally disconnected. In fact, an average person with MCAS reports 11 different symptoms. This is why it’s incredibly hard to receive a diagnosis of MCAS because people wind up going to a number of specialized doctors for their separate symptoms yet no one is able to connect the dots. 

Some common signs and symptoms of MCAS are:

  • Digestive issues 
  • Bloating 
  • Runny nose
  • Shortness of breath
  • Brain fog
  • Skin rashes
  • Joint pain
  • Headache 
  • Anxiety
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Dizziness 
  • Reflux
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Low blood pressure  

How to heal from MCAS

Although MCAS is a condition that affects your immune system, a large portion of treatment is focused on regulating your nervous system. Other things that you can do to support your body in this time are:

  • Slow your life down
  • Stop taking all supplements 
  • Add in supplements that reduce histamines (like DAO)
  • Use antihistamines at first if needed
  • Limit high histamine foods 
  • Manage stress
  • Put an icepack on your neck to pump blood to your brain
  • Support GENTLE liver detox (5 min of a castor oil pack a day, dandelion leaves, etc)
  • Drink marshmallow and nettle tea to soothe and calm your system
  • Repair your gut lining 
  • Increase your protein intake
  • Eat enough carbs to nourish your nervous system

For more information on MCAS, histamine intolerance and the conditions that often go along with them, listen to the information-packed episode with Michelle Shapiro, RD, on What’s the Juice or join Michelle’s program specifically designed for people with highly sensitive bodies (HSB): The HSB Hub.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *