Imagine a life filled with mysterious symptoms that is multiple pages long, unexplained “flare-ups”, a constant battle with inflammation, countless visits to the ER, multiple CAT scans & MRI’s, biopsies, 15+ doctors, gaslighting and so much more. This was my reality for nearly four decades until I finally received a diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, or MCAS.
Recently, when I shared some low histamine recipes on social media, I was flooded with questions about what a low histamine diet is and how it's connected to MCAS. In this article, I'll take you on a journey through my experience with this rare and elusive condition, shedding light on how a low histamine diet can be a powerful ally in the fight against MCAS and its debilitating effects.
In a previous blog here, I mentioned that I struggle with multiple chronic illnesses and mast cell activation syndrome is one of them. Although only recently “clinically” diagnosed, the diagnostic odyssey, which is the process from starting to test and investigate to see if you have a disease, started in 2017, I've struggled with this disease my entire life. There are MANY reasons why it took almost four decades to receive a diagnosis and treatment for this disease that crippled my life, which I'll dig into in an upcoming blog about the diagnostic odyssey. For now, below I share an overview of what led to the diagnosis, what mast cell activation is and how a low histamine diet could help reduce inflammation in your body.
First, what is mast cell activation syndrome? According to Mastocytosis Society Canada, simply put, and trust me, there is nothing simple about this disease or disorder, however you decide to classify it, it affects all systems of the body in particular the skin, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, bones and bone marrow, lungs, gastrointestinal system, eyes and blood. Mast cells are part of your white blood cells and they are responsible for fighting infection but they are also responsible for responding to allergic reactions.
As outlined in webMD, Mast cell activation syndrome is a condition that causes mast cells to release an inappropriate and uncontrolled amount of chemicals into your body. This causes allergy symptoms and a wide range of other symptoms. Researchers aren’t entirely sure what causes MCAS and the triggers that induce flare-ups for each patient can vary, from foods, stress, exercise, temperature changes, infections, fragrance or venom. The long list of symptoms also vary and stretch from mild to life threatening. An exhaustive list of symptoms is published on the Mastocytosis Society Canada that you can view here.
As mentioned above, one of the triggers for MCAS patients can be foods, and more specifically, high histamine foods. Through the testing phase of the journey one of the challenges is eliminating high histamine foods, which can cause inflammation due to an overabundance of mast cells being released. Through the Fibro Fog, has an informative list here of low histamine foods. By first eliminating high histamine foods from your diet you can reduce the amount of histamine being released by your mast cells which causes inflammation and therefore reducing the amount of inflammation throughout your body.
A low histamine diet can be helpful for someone who has minor allergic response to foods or environmental substances and experiences symptoms such as itchy skin, sporadic facial flushing, abdominal cramps, gas or bloating, and itchy ears. However it’s important to note that having a histamine intolerance is significantly different than someone with MCAS and if you think you’re experiencing either, consult with a medical professional.
Given that the list of high histamine foods is long, the best place to start is by eliminating fermented, pickled, processed foods, cured meats, alcohol, aged cheese, and refined sugar. These foods contain the highest levels of histamine and are sure to get those mast cells firing. By starting with eliminating these foods you’ll know if a low histamine diet will be beneficial for you.
When exploring low histamine recipes, Leslie Langevin a Nutritionist from Vermont has a great cookbook titled, “The Anti-Inflammatory Kitchen Cookbook”. It includes more than 100 healing, low-histamine, gluten-free recipes and she shares detailed information about MCAS and the benefits of a low histamine diet. This book is packed with reference materials, helpful lists, supplements to eat and avoid and so much more, it will be the cookbook you reference often.
In conclusion, embracing a low histamine diet can be a valuable tool in managing the complex symptoms of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, offering hope for a healthier, more comfortable life. By understanding the intricate relationship between histamine and MCAS, individuals can take proactive steps toward relief and improved well-being.
In my upcoming blog, I’ll share more information about MCAS including the diagnostic odyssey and the numerous reasons why it took so long to receive proper treatment for this debilitating and rare disease. In the meantime, if you have any questions drop me an email to connect.