If you are one of those people who feels like no modality you try, no supplement you take, no healer or practitioner you seek out brings improvement…..this article just might be for you.
I have so many people reach out to me these days who are just so tired……tired of spending every dime on new treatments, exhausted from thinking that next product will be “the one.”
Now, obviously the content of this blog may or may not apply to you- but for those whom are stuck in a cycle of relentless symptoms and have unexplainable inflammation, all the time, this article is surely worth reading.
Particularly if you are that person who is oh so sensitive to EVERYTHING- be it pharmaceuticals, natural botanicals, most if not all supplements, and especially foods, then I invite you to greatly consider the topic of histamines and mast cell activation syndrome.
A growing population of my patients are dealing with this, often undetected. Once identified and treated, improvement can then become a real thing.
Guess what 3 things are off the charts high in histamines?
1. Bone Broth
3. Probiotics (non soil-based)
Some folks are ingesting these things in the name of healing on a very consistent basis, making no correlation with increased symptoms.
I don’t like to reference myself too much in my blogs (as I like to just offer information) but just ten years ago when I was very ill, I began making bone broth every week. I would let it simmer for 2 days. Little did I know that this lengthy cooking time was only increasing the histamine content exponentially. I also had no idea I was dealing with a histamine overload.
Eventually, I figured it out- with every cup of broth I drank, I began getting more and more facial flushing and itching. This is no longer a rare condition.
Our planet has become a cesspool of toxins, our livers are overwhelmed and our cells are irritated and over-stimulated. This creates the perfect storm for histamine sensitivity.
For those that have a genetic predisposition towards issues with mast-cells……chemical exposure and infectious microbes (lurking everywhere) can wreak havoc.
However, it is treatable. Quality of life can indeed return. I am here to inspire, uplift and guide.
What Is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
Let’s begin with mast cells- these cells are a huge component of our immune system. No one really writes about this topic better than Dr. Neil Nathon, so let me just quote him:
“Though not present in large numbers, as are the better-known white blood cells (such as neutrophils, lymphocytes, and monocytes), mast cells function as a critical bridge between the immune system and the nervous system. This is not merely a metaphoric connection, but an actual, structural bridge that physically connects the two systems.”
Mast cells are essentially the messengers between the two systems. Their biggest function of all is to orchestrate the immune system’s work where it comes to toxins and infection. Obviously, this is by no means a small responsibility. We absolutely need our mast cells to be functioning optimally for our immune system to thrive….to have a natural, strong defense system. In Chinese Medicine this is called “Vital Qi.”
There is no tissue in the body where mast cells cannot be found. They are specifically large in number in tissue in our orifices, as these areas constantly come into contact with infectious pathogens- think sinus and throat. However, they are also pretty dense in places like the GI tract, respiratory tract, and skin.
Mast cells can make hundreds of different types of substances in response to being stimulated. They become overwhelmed with ‘granules” which appear under a microscope as little round dots around the cell. These granules contain material that can signal danger from an incoming toxic threat, made up of 3 main things: histamine, serotonin, and tryptase. Histamine is the one we are clearly focusing on here, and is at risk of posing the most trouble.
So, when a mast cell is stimulated in an organic fashion and doing its job correctly, it releases some granules when disturbed by a toxin. This triggers an appropriate immune response and keeps pathogenic microbes and such at bay.
The caveat is when a person’s immune system is overloaded with infectious microbes and has genetic susceptibility to a vulnerable immune system………then these mast cells go crazy.
It might resemble a security guard up all night guarding the fortress after 3 double mocha Frappuccino’s and 4 Red Bulls- a wired and tired spaz. So they start doing what any hyperactive being would do, they start overreacting to everything and anything. Just as the guard then jumps at the sound of a cricket and thinks an intruder is lurking around every corner, so does the mast cell similarly respond.
The mast cell begins reacting to every bite of food, florescent lighting, even chemicals such as their partners cologne/ perfume or conventional cleaning products. When truly over-stimulated, there is really nothing these agitated mast cells won’t respond to. These reactions are anything but pleasant, causing symptoms from A to Z, every patient with different expressions.
Mast-cell activation syndrome is often triggered by one or more of these 3 things:
- Mold Toxicity
- Infections such as Lyme or Bartonella
- Viral Infections
The Depth of Complexity
Life becomes hard. Doctor’s think these patients are crazy and need a shrink. Friends begin to see them as hypochondriacs. Going to grocery stores or shopping at a mall becomes a daunting task….because they never know what they are going to be exposed to.
*It is important to note that mast cell activation syndrome and the symptoms that ensue are very different than classic food allergies. While food allergies bring consistent reactions to the same foods, mast cell issues bring much inconsistency symptomatically. A person with mast cell issues deals with “flares.” This means sometimes they are mostly ok, and other times they find themselves reacting to everything.
Yet you’ve got Dr. Axe and Dr. Meyers preaching about just following this protocol or that protocol, just remove gluten and don’t forget your collagen or bone broth. Such generic protocols.
And it honestly makes me want to scream, because the average patient these days has such a complex set of issues, that just taking their probiotics and their collagen is going to do NOTHING…..well, it could actually make them way worse being that bone broth, collagen and non soil-based probiotics are extremely high in histamines.
And for this type of patient, that’s simply throwing fuel on the fire, to put it mildly. It is absolutely the WRONG thing.
Don’t get me wrong- these Doctor’s with substantial on-line presence, do indeed have a lot to offer….but they are more of a cookie-cutter approach, and their content is so generalized that it simply doesn’t apply to more than half the people drawn to them.
With bio-toxin illness on the rise, with geo-engineering taking place in our skies and heavy metals falling on us and the soil, with lyme disease or its co-infections found in literally almost everyone, with EMF’s hitting us hard every second of every day….do you think that just taking a probiotic and cooking up some bone-broth is going to cut it?
I wish I could say that this syndrome is “rare.” It is not. Poor mast cells are harder at work than ever. It is estimated to be found in 10-15% of the population. I estimate that over 50% of the patients that seek me out are dealing with this and are lost because they’ve tried everything and nothing works.
I cannot help but pause as I write this, and feel sadness for what we are up against. But, I digress. Histamines.
How Symptoms Show-up
Symptoms happen immediately after eating (within minutes); this includes flushing, wheezing, sneezing, increased heart-rate, itching, or swelling. Abdominal symptoms involve gas/bloating, diarrhea, cramping and nausea.
Light, touch, sound, smells, foods, chemicals and electromagnetic fields (EMF’s)
Wheezing, shortness of breath, “air hunger,” and bronchitis
Rashes (especially itchy ones), flushing and hives often associated with taking hot shower
Post-nasal drip, congestion, sinusitis and tickling sensation in throat
Light-headedness, weakness, dizziness, vertigo, fainting, palpitations, swelling that moves around, high blood pressure
Pelvic Pain, bladder pain, cystitis, vaginitis, prostatitis
Muscle and joint pain that doesn’t respond to drugs- resembles fibromyalgia
Headaches, tremors, tics, seizures, spasms
Anxiety, depression, mood swings, brain fog, difficulties with focus, memory and concentration, insomnia, panic attacks
Burning, sandiness or dryness in eyes, trembling of eyelids, loss of clarity
Fatigue, temperature dysregulation, weight loss or gain
Diagnosing Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Diagnoses can be very tricky. When these mast cells are activated, the substances they release come out so incredibly quickly that they are in and out of the blood stream within minutes. Yes, minutes!
Of course, the repercussions of their hyperactivation last a while, but identifying elevated levels of these materials is almost impossible. The most advanced testing (cold centrifuges) and immediate processing cannot be done by routine labs. There are indeed a handful of tests that can contribute to diagnosis……but they are not extremely valuable. They are merely a tool that can lend to support diagnosis, really.
The most accurate diagnosis it seems is just to rely on clinical skills and implement treatment. Then, if treatment brings some resolution of symptoms, we are on the right track.
Treatment requires stabilizing mast cells to reduce amount of histamine being released. To do this, I recommend several supplements, and we monitor which brings relief from symptoms by trying one at a time.
Over the Counter Anti-Histamines
H1 Receptor (10 mg at bedtime):
Claritin is a great first option for many, and it can sometimes very quickly confirm that the patient is in fact dealing with a histamine issue because after 3-7 days of use they feel so much better. It is important to try a combination of both H1 and H2 histamine receptor blockers (Claritin being H1) for optimal results.
Zantac or Pepcid (20 mg twice daily):
Adding an H2 histamine blocker along with H1 can sometimes make a huge difference
Quercetin as a natural compound considered a ‘flavanoid.’ This simply means it is a plant pigment, commonly found in high numbers in things such as red wine, onions, green tea apples, berries ginko and buckwheat tea. It is the most popular all natural anti-histamine. This is ideal, however, more people than you would think have an adverse reaction to quercetin. I have always wanted quercetin to work better than it really seems to clinically. For some, it really does work. For most, it seems to do very little. Then for about 15 % of folks, they get gastric side effects and/or headaches that out-weigh any benefits. Again, it’s all just trial and error. A good starting dose for those that tolerate it well is 500mg. Up to 1500mg can be taken daily and is usually required for major histamine issues. For those that react negatively, a dose of just 50mg can be administered- sometimes this seems to go OK, and I have seen patients be able to gradually increase dosage as the body seems to ‘adjust.’
I carry this product in my shop, because I have seen it become gold for a select group of patients. It is a very simple product made by Xymogen and has been the top product of its kind for a long while. It is only one ingredient- the enzyme diamine oxidase. This enzyme does one thing; it breaks down histamine. This means the patient can continue indulging in high histamine foods (more to come on diet), without the repercussions of a histamine flare. This is huge for some.
A Very Successful Pharmaceutical
This is an excellent mast cell stabilizer and comes with low risk of side effects. A small percentage of people report headaches and stomach pain. It is a chromone complex that acts by inhibiting the release of chemical mediators from over-sensitized mast-cells. It comes in 100mg vials; best to start with a very small amount and increase as tolerated.
For those that don’t respond well to any of the above suggestions, I suggest patients give this a try. Very simple to administer and is absolutely effective- no guess work.
Low Histamine Diet
For those suffering from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, it is suggested to follow a low histamine diet. This can be found with a quick google search. For some, tweaking diet to low histamine foods does absolutely nothing, while taking the supplements and/or drugs makes a profound difference.
For others, eliminating high histamine foods changes everything. Again, it never ceases to amaze me how unique we all are, and how individual our roads to healing.
Even those that don’t respond epically to dietary changes, I do suggest removing things that are off the charts high in histamines like bone broth, collagen, and probiotics and leftovers in the fridge. These things have very condensed amounts of histamines.
Allison Vickery, holistic health coach specializing in histamine issues, is one of the best resources out there. You can find incredibly insightful blogs on this topic, low histamine cooking recipes and more.
Histamine issues are complex and often elusive in nature. If you suspect mast cell activation syndrome, seek out a practitioner that is well versed in this subject. Experiment with Quercetin and other anti-histamine supplements to see if stubborn symptoms begin to dissipate.
If histamine overload is indeed a problem- once appropriate treatment is found, inflammation will naturally begin to resolve.
For those that have been stuck in endless cycles of mysterious patterns of intense, often debilitating symptoms with hypersensitivity to everything…….histamine issues should always be explored.