Mast Cell Stabilizing Foods
Rashes, hives, itching, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, heart palpitation, and digestive issues. If you are experiencing these issues after encountering an allergen, chemical, toxin, mold, heavy metal, infections, or stress, you may be dealing with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS).
Your mast cells are white blood cells found in various tissues across your body. Though they are essential for your immune health, when your mast cells become dysregulated and overactive it can become a problem. Fortunately, with the help of some mast cell stabilizing foods and natural strategies, you can calm your mast cells and reduce mast cell-related symptoms.
In this article, I want to talk about your mast cells and mast cell activation syndrome. You will learn about the symptoms, triggers, and common causes of MCAS. I will share the top mast cell stabilizing foods that can help to reduce mast cell activation and the risk of symptoms. I will also share some other natural strategies to reduce mast cell activation.
What Are Mast Cells
Your mast cells are white blood cells found in various tissues, including your digestive tract, urinary tract, respiratory tract, and skin, as well as, your blood. They play a critical role in your immune health. They help to store inflammatory mediators, including histamine. If you encounter an allergen or other trigger, it will activate your mast cells causing an allergic response and the release of histamine along with other chemicals (1, 2).
What Is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Your mast cells and mast cell activation are essential for your immune health, when your mast cells become dysregulated and overactive it can become a problem. Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is a health condition in which your mast cells release too many chemicals into your body leading to a variety of symptoms. MCAS may develop due to a variety of triggers, including mold, chemicals, toxins, heavy metals, allergens, medications, infections, viruses, food, and alcohol. These triggers can cause your mast cells to release inflammatory mediators, including histamine resulting in unwanted symptoms. It is a complex health issue that involves many different systems in your body causing an array of symptoms (1, 2).
Symptoms of MCAS
Symptoms of MCAS will impact more than one part or system of your body. Symptoms may vary from person to person. Symptoms of MCAS may include:
- Heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure
- Chest pain
- Weight changes, including rapid weight loss or weight gain
- Digestive trouble, including diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
- Loss of appetite or low appetite
- Vision changes
Triggers of MCAS
MCAS symptoms and episodes are always triggered by something. Common MCAS triggers include:
- Allergens, including insect bites and certain foods
- Viruses and infections
- Medications, including antibiotics, ibuprofen, and opiate pain relievers
- Chemicals and other toxins, including conventional beauty, body, and cleaning products
- Heavy metals, including mercury from dental work
- Smells, such as perfumes and other conventional beauty products
- Stress-related triggers, including anxiety, pain, exercise, lack of sleep, and rapid temperature changes
- Hormonal changes, including those related to your menstrual cycle
- Mast cell hyperplasia, a rare condition that may occur with certain chronic infections or cancers
Common Causes of MCAS
There are 3 types of MCAS (26, 27):
- Primary MCAS: Primary MCAS may develop due to a genetic mutation called the KIT D816V mutation. People with this type of MCAS often have mastocytosis, which means that your body is making too many mast cells. Mastocytosis is a very rare condition.
- Secondary MCAS: Secondary MCAS may develop because of an IgE-mediated food or environmental allergen, another immunologic problem, or hypersensitivity to a trigger.
- Idiopathic MCAS: Idiopathic MCAS is a term used when the exact cause of MCAS is unclear or cannot be determined.
To learn more about the triggers and causes of MCAS, I recommend reading my book, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan: Getting to the Root of Migraines, Eczema, Vertigo, Allergies and More.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome vs Histamine Intolerance
I believe that MCAS is the primary cause of histamine intolerance, but it may not be the cause for everyone. But considering the similarities between the symptoms of MCAS and histamine intolerance, you may feel confused.
Are these two conditions the same? No, they are not the same. Though symptoms of MCAS and histamine intolerance can be similar and are both caused by high levels of histamine, MCAS and histamine intolerance are not the same.
If your body has too much histamine and it can’t handle it, you may develop histamine intolerance. This usually happens due to a high-histamine diet. However, stress, poor sleep, environmental toxins, certain medications, and other factors may add to your histamine bucket as well. If your body has trouble breaking down the extra histamine, it will lead to histamine build-up and histamine intolerance.
While histamine intolerance simply means you have too much histamine in your body, you develop MCAS if your mast cells get triggered all the time. If you have MCAS, your mast cells get triggered by mold, allergens, or other triggers, they will release histamine and other chemicals into your body. Increased histamine release from mast cell activation can lead to too much histamine in your body. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms that are very similar to the symptoms of histamine intolerance.
As I mentioned before, MCAS is one of the primary causes of histamine intolerance. However, it is not the cause for everyone. You can have histamine intolerance without MCAS. You can also have MCAS without histamine intolerance. But you may have both MCAS and histamine intolerance. I see patients who have both conditions regularly (1, 2, 3).
If you have both conditions, your body will have increased difficulty breaking down the excess histamine. This can lead to widespread symptoms of MCAS and histamine intolerance. To figure out, whether you are dealing with symptoms of MCAS, histamine intolerance, or both. I recommend working with a functional medicine doctor who is well-versed in both conditions. (Tips: My team and I would love to help you with your diagnosis and treatment. Schedule your consultation here.)
Top Mast Cell Stabilizing Foods
Fortunately, you can stabilize your mast cells naturally and reduce the risk of symptoms of MCAS and MCAS-related histamine intolerance. You may not be surprised to hear that the first step is nutrition. Here are the top mast cell stabilizing foods I recommend:
Quercetin is a plant flavonol that helps to reduce histamine and allergic response while also supporting your immune system. A 2012 study published in PLoS One, quercetin can effectively block mast cell activation (4). It may be more effective for mast cell-related dermatitis and photosynthesis than Cromolyn, a medication for mastocytosis. Quercetin-rich foods include blueberries, black plums, cherries, black currants, cranberries, grapes, apples, broccoli, other cruciferous vegetables, peppers, red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, chicory greens, raw kale, cabbage, raw asparagus, raw red onion, snap peas, sprouts, and many herbs. Since quercetin-rich foods are so diverse, you can easily use them in any of your salads, smoothies, green juices, and cooked dishes.
Raw red onions are high in quercetin. But onions have more benefits. They are known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may reduce the risk of inflammation and symptoms. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, onions may offer anti-allergic, anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties (5). I recommend adding raw onion to your salads, wraps, and sandwiches, and cooked onion to your frittatas, scrambled eggs, stir-fries, baked vegetables, and other dishes.
Turmeric is an Indian spice that is now used all over the world. The benefits of turmeric come from its active ingredient, curcumin. It’s well-known and well-researched for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and pain-relieving properties. According to a 2003 study published in Clinica Chimica Acta, curcumin may help to reduce mast cell activation (6). I recommend using turmeric in your kitchen regularly. You can add it to your soups, curries, vegetable dishes, dressings, salads, and smoothies. You may also make turmeric golden tea or turmeric-ginger tea to reduce inflammation, mast cell activation, and pain. You may also add curcumin supplements to your daily regimen.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. There is something to this. Apples are rich in quercetin which help to reduce histamine. They are also rich in prebiotics, which are fibers that feed probiotics, or good bacteria, in your gut. By helping to balance your gut flora, apples may help to reduce the risk of inflammation and chronic health issues. According to a 2006 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Investigational Allergology and Clinical Immunology, apple polyphenols may act on mast cells, reduce histamine response, and lower the symptoms of persistent allergic rhinitis (7). Apples are a great snack. You can also add them to your green juices, smoothies, or salads. My book, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan has a great apple crisp recipe. You may also add it to any low-histamine sweet bread you are baking.
Brazil nuts are mainly known for their selenium content. Did you know that only two pieces of Brazil nuts a day can help you meet your day’s selenium needs? According to a 2013 study published in Biological Trace Elements Research, selenium may reduce mast cells mediator release and degranulation (8). Brazil nuts serve as a great snack, but you may also add them to your salads, breakfast bowls, or smoothies.
You’ve probably heard about chamomile before. Chamomile tea is well-known for its sleep-promoting benefits. But chamomile is more than just a stress-relieving natural sleep aid. It may be a great option if you have MCAS and histamine intolerance. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, chamomile may reduce mast cell-mediated allergic reactions (9). The best way to use chamomile is by drinking chamomile tea regularly, ideally closer to bedtime. However, you can also find chamomile essential oils to mix things up.
Nettle is a medical plant with white to yellowish flowers and pointed leaves. It has been used as a remedy for joint pain, muscle pain, gout, anemia, eczema, and urinary issues. It may also offer some great properties for mast cell activation and histamine reactions. According to a 2009 study published in Phytotherapy Research, nettle extract may help to reduce allergic rhinitis (10). One of the best ways to use nettle is by making nettle tea. But you can also find it in a supplement form.
Ginger is similar to turmeric and offers similar properties. It is well known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits. It may also relieve digestive issues and morning sickness. Ginger may also help to reduce mast cell activation and histamine reactions. According to a 2020 randomized controlled trial published in BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, ginger may help to reduce mast cell reaction and allergic rhinitis (11). I recommend adding ginger to your soups, green juices, green smoothies, dressings, salads, stir-fries, and vegetable dishes. You may also make ginger tea or try some ginger supplements.
Peachers are delicious, sweet, fiber-rich, hydrating fruits. They may help to support your immune health, digestion, skin, and heart health. They may also help to reduce mast cell activation and histamine reactions. According to a 2010 study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, peaches may help to reduce mast cell-mediated allergic reactions and inflammation (12). You may eat peaches as a snack or add them to your breakfast bowls or smoothies.
Watercress is an anti-inflammatory, fiber-rich leafy green. It may help to calm your mast cells and reduce histamine release and reactions. According to a 1999 study published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, watercress may help to reduce histamine release and related symptoms (13). You may add watercress to your salads, juices, and smoothies.
Pomegranates are very high in antioxidants and help to fight inflammation. They may also help to reduce mast cell activation and histamine reactions. According to a 2009 study published in the Journal of Inflammation, pomegranates may also help to reduce mast cell activation (14). I recommend adding pomegranate to your salads, fruit salads, and smoothies. Pomegranate juice is also delicious and great for your health.
Peppermint is a well-known herb. Among its many benefits, it may be helpful during allergy season. According to a 2001 study published in the Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, peppermint may help to reduce histamine release from your mast cells and reduce symptoms of allergic rhinitis (15). Peppermint tea is a fantastic way to enjoy peppermint. You may also add it to your tabbouleh, vegetable dishes, salads, smoothies, or green juices.
Fiber has many benefits to your health, especially for your digestion. Fiber-rich foods may also help to improve your health if you have mast cell activation issues. According to a 2018 review published in Frontiers in Immunology, a fiber-rich diet may help to reduce mast cell activation and lower the risk of mast cell-related health issues (16). I recommend eating plenty of fiber-rich greens, vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
Other Tips for Stabilizing Your Mast Cells
Beyond consuming these mast cell stabilizing foods, you can try some other dietary and lifestyle strategies and supplementation to reduce mast cell activation and histamine intolerance. Here are my top tips for stabilizing your mast cells, reducing histamine intolerance, and improving your symptoms.
Low Histamine Diet
I recommend following a low-histamine, anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense, whole foods diet. Remove inflammatory foods, including refined sugar, refined oils, canned and processed meat, artificial ingredients, junk food, and highly processed foods. Remove high-histamine foods. Follow a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory, and low-histamine diet rich in greens, vegetables, herbs, spices, fruits, healthy fats, and organic meat. If you are dealing with symptoms of histamine intolerance, I recommend that you follow my 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan outlined in my book, The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan: Getting to the Root of Migraines, Eczema, Vertigo, Allergies and More. Try new recipes. I recommend all the low-histamine recipes in The 4-Phase Histamine Reset Plan and my recipe books, Fifty One Low Histamine Air Fryer Recipes and Low Histamine Cooking in Your Instant Pot. If you want to go a step further, you should join my Histamine Reset Online Program.
Remove Your Triggers
Removing your triggers for mast cell activations is, of course, an important way to reduce your symptoms. Remove or reduce your exposure to anything that may be triggering for you, including mold, chemicals, environmental toxins, heavy metals, and viruses. Avoid tap water and drink purified water instead. Remove conventional cleaning, hygiene, body, and beauty products, and choose organic, natural, and DYI options instead. Invest in a high-quality air filtration system for better indoor air quality. Buy organic food instead of conventional ones to reduce exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and hormones. Stop smoking (or don’t start) and avoid second-hand smoke. Reduce your stress levels. Move your body regularly. Get 7 to 9 hours of sleep at night.
Detoxify Your Body
Once you remove your triggers, it’s time for detoxification. Daily detoxification practices can help you remove toxins that you encounter daily. Drink plenty of purified water, move your body and use an infrared sauna to support detoxification through sweating. Follow a gut-friendly, anti-inflammatory, and low-histamine diet and take some probiotics to support digestion and elimination through a bowel movement. You may try gentle binders to absorb and remove toxins from your intestines (17). You may also try glutathione supplements to reduce oxidative stress and support mitochondrial health (18).
Try Some Mast Cell Stabilizing Supplements
You may also try some supplements that help to stabilize your mast cells and reduce your histamine levels naturally. Some of the best natural mast cell-stabilizing and histamine-reducing supplements include quercetin, curcumin, nettle leaf extract, and vitamin C (4, 6, 10, 19, 20). I also recommend using a DAO enzyme supplement (bovine kidney) to improve DAO enzyme activity and support the breakdown of excess histamine (21).
Try Supplements for Histamine Intolerance
I recommend my Optimal Reset HistoRelief to anyone with histamine intolerance. This is a synergistic blend of nutrients, such as quercetin, nettle leaf, and vitamin C, and Tinofend® that provides natural support to help balance the immune response during allergy season. As I discussed earlier, quercetin is a plant flavonol that helps to reduce histamine and allergic response, effectively block mast activation and reduce symptoms related to histamine intolerance and mast cell activation while also supporting your immune system (4).
Nettle is another potent medicinal plant for mast cell activation, histamine intolerance, and histamine reactions. It may be great for joint pain, muscle pain, eczema, urinary issues, allergic rhinitis, gout, and other histamine or mast cell-related issues (10). Though nettle tea is a great way to benefit from the power of nettle, HistoRelief offers a convenient option to receive support from nettle while benefiting from other herbs too.
Vitamin C is an important vitamin that may support healthy histamine signaling and immune health and reduce mast cell activation and histamine intolerance-related symptoms (22). Though eating foods rich in vitamin C is important, supplementing with vitamin C-containing HistoRelief can optimize your vitamin C levels.
Potassium is an electrolyte that may help to support your immune health and keep histamine at bay. Unfortunately, many potassium-rich foods, like bananas, avocados, and tomatoes, are high in histamine. With the help of this supplement, you can keep your potassium levels normal to support your health (23).
Bicarbonate salts may help to reduce histamine and mast cell reactions. According to a 2000 study published by the Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology, bicarbonates may help to inhibit mast cell histamine release (24).
Tinofend® or standardized Tinospora cordifolia extract contains active polysaccharides. This supplement is clinically shown to reduce histamine reactions, support immune health, offer adaptogenic support, and support your gut and digestive health. According to a 2007 review published in the Annals of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology, it may offer herbal properties for allergic rhinitis (25). Combined with the other ingredients for HistoRelief, it may help to reduce mast cell activation, histamine reactions, and histamine intolerance.
Your mast cells are white blood cells found in various tissues across your body. Though they are essential for your immune health, when your mast cells become dysregulated and overactive it can become a problem. You can calm your mast cells and reduce mast cell-related symptoms with the help of some mast cell stabilizing foods and other natural mast cell stabilizing strategies. Follow my tips to reduce mast cell activation, histamine intolerance, and related symptoms, and reclaim your health and well-being.
If you are dealing with symptoms of MCAS or histamine intolerance, I invite you to schedule a consultation with us. We can help identify the root cause of your condition and recommend a personalized treatment plan to repair your body and regain your health and well-being. Schedule your consultation here.