The mast cell is a type of white blood cell that is part of our immune system.   Responsible for fighting infection, mast cells are in almost all body tissues.  Mast cells are also found in our brains. It is there that they react to emotional and stress signals.  They are especially numerous in the skin, lungs, digestive tract, urinary tract, and the nose and eyes.

Mast cells are here to perform a defensive role against foreign invaders and release more than 200 chemicals, many of which we have no means of testing.  Chemicals, like histamine and tryptase that come from these cells may cause the symptoms of allergic reactions like hives, facial flushing, runny nose, wheezing, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bladder symptoms, skin numbness and tingling, and/or chest pain. Inflammation (a response to an injury or foreign substance) occurs in order to remove detrimental factors.  Too much inflammation becomes destructive in many respects.  In addition to allergies, mast cells may contribute to fatigue, confusion and difficulty concentrating, neuropsychiatric problems and neurological diseases.  It is important to target inflammation when it is in excess; we can help you do this in order to overcome unwanted symptoms.

If you become stricken by significant illness, you can develop a mast cell reactivation which results in multiple new allergies you never previously experienced.  It is not uncommon for mast cell activation to cause histamine intolerance, the two syndromes are often interchanged and confused.  As part of this, you may begin to react to many foods.   We offer testing to determine which foods might trigger mast cell symptoms.

Many health care providers only recognize mast cell hyperactivity as rare syndromes affecting mast cells in the bone marrow, but this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Mast cell activation syndrome is a newly evolving diagnosis and has been compared to the bulk of the iceberg.  We can help you sort out your triggers and manage your reactions in order to treat your other health conditions.

Denise M. Kearney, MD, MS