Mast cells are an essential component of the immune system that play a crucial role in the body’s response to injury, infection, and allergies. They are widely distributed throughout the body, but particularly in tissues that are in direct contact with the external environment, such as the skin, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract.
Mast cells contain a range of granules filled with mediators, such as histamine, heparin, and proteases, which are released upon activation. Mast cell activation can occur in response to a range of stimuli, including allergens, physical trauma, infection, and certain drugs.
When mast cells are activated, they release a range of inflammatory mediators that cause an array of symptoms, such as itching, swelling, and redness. These symptoms can be mild to severe and may affect different areas of the body, depending on the location of the activated mast cells.
Mast cell activation can lead to a range of conditions, including allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczema, and anaphylaxis. In addition, mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is a condition that results from the abnormal activation of mast cells, which can lead to chronic symptoms that are similar to allergic reactions, such as hives, itching, and gastrointestinal distress.
The diagnosis of MCAS can be challenging, as the symptoms can be non-specific and can vary widely among patients. However, some diagnostic criteria have been proposed, including the presence of typical symptoms, elevated levels of mast cell mediators in the blood or urine, and response to treatment with mast cell stabilizers or antihistamines.
Treatment of mast cell activation disorders involves identifying and avoiding triggers, as well as the use of medications that stabilize mast cells or block the effects of inflammatory mediators. In addition, some dietary and lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding certain foods and reducing stress, may also be helpful.
In conclusion, mast cell activation is an important process that plays a crucial role in the immune system’s response to injury, infection, and allergies. However, when mast cells are abnormally activated, it can lead to a range of conditions, including MCAS. Proper diagnosis and management of mast cell activation disorders are essential for improving patients’ quality of life.
At Phoenix Rising Integrative Medicine, several tools are used to help support those with mast cell activation from a holistic perspective, including NAET, acupuncture, nutrition, functional medicine, and more.
Akin C. Mast cell activation syndromes. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017;140(2):349-355.
Bonadonna P, Zanotti R, Müller U. Mast cell activation syndrome: a novel condition with an expanding spectrum of clinical manifestations. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015;135(2):AB152.
Afrin LB. Diagnosis, presentation, and management of mast cell activation syndrome. Mast Cells. 2016;4(1):e125.
Valent P, Akin C, Escribano L, et al. Standards and standardization in mastocytosis: consensus statements on diagnostics, treatment recommendations and response criteria. Eur J Clin Invest. 2007;37(6):435-453.