Understanding Mast Cells: An Introduction To Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Mast cells are a vital component of the immune system. They act as sentinels, “sounding the alarm” when a threat is detected and can lead to the release of an inflammatory cascade of molecules in a process known as degranulation. In a healthy immune system, the process quiets down after the threat is assessed and neutralized. 

But in some cases, mast cells can malfunction, disrupting the inflammatory process and creating a range of complications for your health. This phenomenon is known as Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS). It is important to understand the distinction between MCAS and mastocytosis, to assess the potential cause and determine the best treatment.

Differentiating Mastocytosis from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Mastocytosis is a rare condition that is characterized by a proliferation of mast cells that can build up in the body, similar to cancer. MCAS, on the other hand, involves normal levels of mast cells; however, they are overactive, becoming aggravated and releasing their store of inflammatory mediators in response to even the slightest irritant.

Examining the Role of Histamine in MCAS

Often, MCAS is confused with Histamine Intolerance due to the fact that mast cells produce histamine. Histamine Intolerance is often related to an accumulation of histamine within the body, caused either by increased amounts produced or impaired breakdown. While histamine can be one of the primary mediators of MCAS, there are dozens of other pro-inflammatory molecules released during mast cell degranulation, and it is this combination of molecules that creates the spectrum of symptoms associated with MCAS.

Common Symptoms of Mast Cell Activations Syndrome

The influx of inflammatory mediators produced by MCAS can create a range of symptoms, often affecting multiple parts of your body.

These symptoms include:

  • fatigue,
  • poor memory,
  • brain fog,
  • difficulty focusing,
  • mood disorders,
  • migraines,
  • rashes,
  • hives,
  • low blood pressure,
  • heart racing,
  • nausea,
  • bloating,
  • PMS symptoms.
  • demography,
  • Asthma-like symptoms, wheezing, and shortness of breath can also be attributed to MCAS.

Environmental Triggers of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

MCAS can be caused by a variety of environmental irritants, including chemicals, heavy metals, allergens, viruses, and toxins. Toxic mold is a common trigger and is the worst when it comes to MCAS.