MCAS or Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, is an over-reaction of our mast cells. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell which play an important role in our immune system. They are present in most of our tissues particularly; connective tissue, skin, intestinal lining, cardiovascular system, nervous system, and reproductive organs
Mast cells release chemical messengers in response to foreign bodies and injury such as; histamine, interleukins, ATP, prostaglandins, cytokines (such as TNF-alpha and interleukin 4), reactive oxygen species (H2O2) and enzymes such as tryptase, when activated. In a person who isn’t affected by MCAS these chemicals will act beneficially to protect and heal the body, but in a person with MCAS these same chemicals are constantly and inappropriately triggered and end up having negative effects on the body. Their main actions include; increased permeability of blood vessels (inflammation and swelling), rashes and itching skin, contraction of smooth muscle (stomach cramps and heart palpitations), and increase mucous production (congestion, sneezing, etc).
Mast cells play a major role in immune activation, development of autoimmunity and many other disorders, such as POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). MCAS occurs when mast cells are constantly poked and prodded, by invading foreign bodies, until they switch on permanently causing a range of distressing and sometimes debilitating symptoms.
The onset of MCAS is often sudden, affecting both children and adults, sometimes in family groups (as there may be a genetic component), mimicking many other conditions and presenting a wide-range of different symptoms that can be baffling for both the patient and practitioner.
MCAS may be triggered by a variety of different foods, mould (possibly from water damaged buildings), medications, supplements, hormones, heat or cold, environmental toxins, tick borne infections (it is often connected to Lyme and Lyme-like disease), physical injury, exercise, chemicals, fragrances and physical or emotional stress. There is thought to be a connection with CIRS (chronic inflammatory response syndrome).
It may involve the skin, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory and neurological systems.
Many sufferers struggle to identify their triggers and continue to discover new triggers for many years after diagnosis.
Symptoms of overactive mast cells may include:
- skin rashes/hives
- food sensitivities
- allergies including anaphylaxis
- abdominal pain
- weight gain or weight loss
- wheezing/shortness of breath
- nasal congestion/mucous
- heart palpitations
- POTS – Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome
- high or low blood pressure or fluctuating between the two
- anxiety, difficulty concentrating, brain fog
- red, itchy eyes
- hormonal imbalance and exaggerated hormonal symptoms such as intense PMS and menopausal symptoms
Treatments for MCAS
Treatments are dependant on what the symptoms are for each individual. In most cases an histamine lowering diet is important; check out this link; Histamine Levels and Allergies
There are a number of supplements that may help minimise or manage the symptoms both naturally and with pharmaceuticals, again depending on what the symptoms are. Some of the most effective natural mast cell stabilisers include; quercetin and vitamin C (I’m not talking about over-the-counter vitamin C tablets though, it needs to be therapeutic dosed vitamin C such as liposomal C).
Reducing or increasing excretion of histamine is also very important and if there is an issue with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, it is critical that this is addressed.
If any of this sounds like, make an appointment to come and see me – we may not be able to fix it (unfortunately no-one can), but there’s plenty we can do to manage and minimise it’s effect on you.