Allergies Beyond ‘Allergies’: Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

May 01, 2019

Allergies Beyond ‘Allergies’: Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

Written by Naturopathic Doctor, Emma Pollon-Macleod


Spring is here (sort of) and with spring usually comes the beginning of seasonal allergies. We are all familiar with the sneezing, itchy eyes, and congestion that pollens and ragweed can induce. However more and more recently people are experiencing allergy symptoms above and beyond what we consider ‘normal’. Full body hives, flushing, redness, heart palpitations, congestion, itchy skin, and even anaphylactic reactions are some of the severe symptoms some people experience on a fairly regular basis. Many of whom have no idea what they are reacting to.  Allergens seem to impact them differently depending on the day making it very hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing these reactions. There also seems to be a huge variety of stimuli that seem to trigger these responses. Many people list certain scents or chemicals as triggers, some report different foods or alcohol, drastic temperatures such as heat or extreme cold, stressful events or situations, bee or wasp stings are also very common triggers. These allergies can be extremely scary and can take a major toll on quality of life.

People report going to allergists and not getting answers as to what they are reacting to or how to get treatment.  These reactions can be difficult to pinpoint and to treat because more often than not they aren’t classic ‘allergic reactions’.  In order to understand what this means we need to go through a little biochemistry.

 

Our body’s allergic response is regulated through what we call mast cells. Just like we have white blood cells and red blood cell this is another cell type that floats around in our blood.  Inside these mast cells are a whole bunch of inflammatory compounds, one of them being histamine. When mast cells are activated by an allergen they explode and all of their inflammatory compounds, including histamine, are released into the bloodstream.

 

A classic type 1 anaphylactic reaction occurs when your body encounters an allergen (eg. peanuts is a classic) and produces IgE antibodies that cause an immediate explosion of mast cells. This floods the body with histamine and leads to swelling, hives, itch, congestion, elevated heart rate, and all the other symptoms of anaphylaxis.

 

The complex reactivity that we are seeing in many people today stems not only from the allergens or stimuli but also from the mast cells themselves. This is referred to as ‘Mast Cell Activation Syndrome’.  This occurs when a person’s mast cells are extremely reactive and responsive to stimuli. Meaning that there are many things that cause them to explode and at any given time they are likely releasing histamine into the bloodstream. Even just a sniff of a strong scent or a sip of alcohol can leave people feeling like they have been run over by a truck.


This condition can be very difficult to diagnose and even more complicated to treat. Of course as a Naturopathic Doctor, we always focus on finding the root cause. It is important for us to identify not only if we think mast cells are the culprit in these reactions but also why these cells are misbehaving.

 

Each individual case is different and involves a multidisciplinary approach. Our brand new, larger, NutriChem facility can accommodate all our innovative treatments to this complex condition.

 

Dr. Emma Pollon-MacLeod ND received her bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry from the University of Guelph then went on to complete a Doctor of Naturopathy at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto.

Dr. Emma has completed the required additional training and examinations to allow her to prescribe bio-identical hormones and desiccated thyroid to her patients when required. 

Dr. Emma's area of focus is in women's health conditions such as recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI), interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS), and hormones. Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS/MCAD), digestive health and skin conditions are also areas of special focus for Dr. Emma.

Dr. Emma is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor. She is registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario and is a member of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors (OAND).

View Dr. Emma on CTV Morning Live: Prostate & Bladder Health

Learn more about Dr. Emma!





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