The digestive system is home to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract where food is being digested and being transformed into nutrients for the body to utilize. These nutrients help the body to be functional and make sure that each of the systems in the body like the gut, the immune, the endocrine, and the musculoskeletal system need the GI tract to transport the nutrients so that they are doing their jobs properly. When unwanted pathogens and disorders start to enter the body and cause havoc to the GI tract and the body, it can lead to chronic issues over time like inflammation or even MCAS (mast cell activation syndrome). In today’s article, we will be taking a look at what mast cell activation syndrome is, its symptoms, and how to manage the symptoms of MCAS. By referring patients to qualified and skilled providers who specialized in gastroenterology services. To that end, and when appropriate, we advise our patients to refer to our associated medical providers based on their examination. We find that education is the key to asking valuable questions to our providers. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC provides this information as an educational service only. Disclaimer
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What Is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
Mast cells are large (20 microns), round or ovoid immune cells that are located at the interfaces like the mucous membranes, which are the nose, the mouth, skin, gut, and the bladder. These cytoplasmic granules have “messenger” substances and are “mediators” as they are stored & quickly produced in the body. Mast cells are also found in all organs and tissues while being different in connective tissue and mucous membranes. MCAS or mast cell activation syndrome is entirely different in the body as it is often congenital and it’s an epigenetic disorder that induces somatic mutations in some mast cell progenitor cells.
Research studies have shown that MCAS is seen in various pathologies that include IgE-dependent allergic inflammation and other immunologic and inflammatory reactions from the body. Mast cells are often aberrant and are only a few at birth but will increase with age as instigators. MCAS is rarely serious for infants or a child but it is often resolved and can become worse during the teenage years and adulthood. Other research studies also found that MCAS is a systemic autoinflammatory disease that makes mast cells behave erratically. This is due to the overstimulation of the histamine in the immune system causing the body to have a severe allergic reaction.
The Symptoms & Factors
The symptoms and factors that MCAS can cause in a person vary on how severe the allergic reaction is to the body. Research studies have shown that when a person is exposed to a variety of allergens, the mast cells in the body release mediators that cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction to the body, which include itching, mucus, and inflammation. When a person has MCAS, the mediators will be released too often causing an impact on every single part of the body. Some of the symptoms that MCAS can impact the body include:
- Constitutional- fatigue, fever, weight loss/gain
- Central nervous system- migraines/headaches, brain fog, panic attacks, anxiety, depression, insomnia
- Digestive system- GERD, dysphagia, chest pain, nausea, dyspepsia, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea
- Immune system- poor healing
- Salivary glands- swelling
- Skin – flushing, hives, rashes, swelling, itching
- Pulmonary – dyspnea, asthma, cough
- Extremities – pain, swelling, vasospasm, numbness
An Overview of MCAS
MCAS or mast cell activation syndrome is an autoinflammatory disease that causes the mast cells in the body to be overstimulated due to allergens that have entered the body. Some of the factors and symptoms can cause unwanted problems to the body and the organ systems to develop chronic issues over time. There are ways to manage the symptoms and calm down the mast cells from being overstimulated causing allergic reactions in the individual.
How To Manage MCAS Symptoms
There are ways to manage MCAS symptoms in the body to alleviate them and calm down the overstimulated mast cells. The best way to manage MCAS symptoms is to identify and avoid triggers that can cause an allergic reaction, block receptors of mediators, and inhibit mediator production and release in the body. Research studies have found that even though there is no cure for MCAS, treatments like taking antihistamines can help individuals avoid triggers that can cause an allergy attack. Another way to help manage MCAS symptoms is by doing a food elimination for 3 weeks. What this does is that the individual has to eliminate gluten, dairy, yeast, and other food allergens that can cause a reaction to pop up.
Other research studies have found that consuming dietary fibers and metabolites can help lower the MCAS symptoms in the body. Dietary fibers are beneficial to the body due to being resistant to enzymatic and chemical digestion until they reach the large intestines of the gut. These dietary fibers are then fermented into SCFAs (short-chained fatty acids) and metabolites by gut bacteria. The gut bacteria need these SCFAs to flourish in the gut and protect it from unwanted pathogens like MCAS and cause chronic issues.
All in all, MCAS or mast cell activation syndrome is a chronic autoinflammatory disease that causes the mast cells in the body to overreact and cause an allergic reaction affecting the organs and the body itself. By eliminating the factors and causes of an allergic reaction in the body, a person can begin to heal and figure out what was causing the reaction in the first place. This will allow the body to heal from the reactions that cause the person pain and the individual will be able to live life to the fullest, knowing how to manage their symptoms.
Folkerts, Jelle, et al. “Effect of Dietary Fiber and Metabolites on Mast Cell Activation and Mast Cell-Associated Diseases.” Frontiers in Immunology, Frontiers Media S.A., 29 May 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5992428/.
Medical Professionals, Cleveland Clinic. “Mastocytosis & Mast Cells: Symptoms & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic, 17 Sept. 2020, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/5908-mastocytosis.
Moyer, Nancy, and Erika Klein. “Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS): Symptoms and More.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 1 Oct. 2021, https://www.healthline.com/health/mast-cell-activation-syndrome.
Vacheron, Nathalie, et al. “Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.” Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 8 Apr. 2020, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32282570/.
Valent, Peter, et al. “Diagnosis, Classification and Management of Mast Cell Activation Syndromes (MCAS) in the Era of Personalized Medicine.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, MDPI, 27 Nov. 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7731385/.
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