Functions of the human body are the result of complex actions, and the roles of various organs, tissues and cells. Mast cells, despite being commonly associated with allergies, are vital in contributing to multiple functions in the body. From managing the blood-brain barrier, defending against pathogens, healing to building immunity, mast cells have a specific role to play. Reports project that 17% of the population suffer from a condition known as MCAD (Mast Cell Activation Syndrome), with varying degrees of severity which impacts health and quality of life. Let’s take an indepth science backed look at the condition and learn all about the mast cell activation syndrome diet. This is essential to understand if a special diet will really work towards controlling or managing the condition as claimed by a large number of individuals and specialists.

What is MCAD and is the mast cell activation syndrome diet effective?

Mast cells are present in the body as part of the immune response to fight the entry of harmful foreign bodies. MCAD, acronym for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome refers to the condition where the mast cells are over active and triggered even when harmless substances enter the body. As a result of this overactive/hyperactive response, individuals suffer from various conditions and symptoms without even having been exposed to harmful foreign substances. Before we look at the mast cell activation syndrome diet it is important to learn more about the syndrome, which includes the symptoms that are likely to be experienced by individuals suffering from the condition.

Common symptoms of MCAD

The common symptoms of MCAD include any or a combination of any of the following symptoms that can occur in the body.






Other symptoms


Nasal congestion


Racy heart beat


Red eyes, itching, watering



Swooning, fainting

Flushing of the skin


Hoarseness of breath

Cramps in belly

Swelling beneath skin

Confusion, tiredness


Itching skin

Itching nose, sneezing and running nose

There are rare cases of individuals experiencing anaphylaxis, which is a potentially life threatening condition. Patients are known to go into what is called as anaphylactic shock where blood pressure drops suddenly and dangerously. Other conditions associated with anaphylaxis include a narrowing of the airways, which causes extreme difficulty in breathing. This condition can rapidly develop and the symptoms can manifest in a matter of minutes from the time the body responds to allergies. There are recorded instances of individuals going into anaphylactic shock in seconds. This condition can occur when the individuals mast cells wrongly activate despite the absence of harmful foreign substances.


Suggested diagnosis for MCAD

These are some of the easily recognizable symptoms that can relate to the condition. As we begin to look into the mast cell activation syndrome diet and its importance in dealing with the condition, here is a look at the various diagnoses presently in use to determine the condition. One of the pre-requisites presently followed during diagnosis is to determine if the patient exhibits symptoms that affect two or more of the organs (from table above). Additionally, it is to be established that the symptoms are not attributed to other known conditions in the patient.

Diagnosis includes the elimination of other probable primary/secondary diseases related to the symptoms. These symptoms include urticaria, wheezing, diarrhea and flushing (detailed list shown above in table). The purpose of diagnosis is to determine if the patient has elevated levels of mediators that are responsible for the condition. These mediators include serum tryptase, and N-methylhistamine. The elevated levels of mediators during two episodes need to combine with what is called as a negative workup for mastocytocis. The biochemical evidence of MCAD is required for confirmation of the condition. Other commonly used diagnoses include the observation of results from drugs that are intended to target the mediators. Similarly, results seen from mast cell activation syndrome diet are also used to determine if the patient has MCAD. However, confirmation is always the result of proper diagnosis.

One of the reasons for this method of diagnosis is to eliminate the possibility of other diseases that could be responsible for similar conditions or symptoms. For instance, pheochromocytoma, autoimmune diseases, estrogen/testosterone deficiency, IBD, and other allergic reactions are also possible reasons for similar symptoms. Diagnosis includes skin examination to determine the presence of cutaneous mastocytosis and urticarial pigmentosa.

How effective is mast cell activation syndrome diet?

One of the methods of treating the condition includes changes in diet and lifestyle. Patients with the condition are typically expected to change dietary intake. This could include a balanced diet and the maintenance of the right weight levels. Additionally, patients are expected to ensure that vitamins and mineral levels are maintained through the right diet. A large number of specialists recommend a special mast cell activation syndrome diet which is often touted to be effective in tackling the condition. However, it is important to note that a special diet under the supervision of specialists and a dietitian is the only way to pick a balanced diet.


Claims of low histamine mast cell activation syndrome diet

It is not safe to choose what is called as the low histamine mast cell activation syndrome diet. This often involves abstaining from food products such as fish and cheese that are reportedly high in histamine content. The idea behind such diets is to reduce the intake of histamine which triggers the response in the body. However, it is tough to fully identify the histamine content in such foods, because the histamine levels are attributed to various factors. The best option is to choose a regimen than includes a balanced diet under the direct supervision of a dietitian and a specialist. The basic changes that need to be made in diet include the need for restricting the fat intake, salt, and sugar levels. The right calorie intake through diet needs to be ensured to maintain the right weight. Any patients are known to lose weight as a result of poor nutrition. Balanced diet includes the need for consuming a variety of foods under the supervision or direction of a specialist.

Recommended health tips as part of mast cell activation syndrome diet

Patients are recommended to consume food thrice a day, and consume snacks thrice a day. This is to be timed in such a way that some food intake occurs with a gap of three hours between meals/snacks. The idea of a balanced diet is to ensure that individuals get three types of food as part of the dietary intake. The use of multivitamins are recommended to supplement the dietary intake. This is especially important in the cases of individuals who are unable to eat sufficiently or fit in three snacks and three meals in a day. The ideal mast cell activation syndrome diet is intended to give individuals adequate nutrition and if there is a shortage, individuals are recommended to use supplements to boost the nutrition levels. Here it is important to note that diets need to be balanced and should not follow unsubstantiated claims or suggestions of removing specific food groups from the diet.

Options for managing MCAD

Presently, while there is no cure for MCAD, a combination of actions help to manage the condition. In addition to a balanced mast cell activation syndrome diet there are other options presently used for managing the condition. The use of antihistamines are one of the methods employed to tackle the condition – H1 and H2 antihistamines block the mediators from triggering the symptoms associated with the condition. Corticosteriods are used to manage the conditions arising from MCAD, such as wheezing. However, this is intended to manage the symptoms and not for managing the underlying condition itself. Other options include the use of mast cell stabilizers for inhibiting the release of allergic mediators, which help to prevent the symptoms. One of the more common examples is disodium cromoglycate which is used to prevent various allergies and respiratory complications. Another popular option is leukotriene modifiers that inhibit the activity of leukotrienes that are present in omega-3 and omeg-6 fatty acids. The mechanism of action of leukotrienes involves binding to receptors or inhibiting the production of leukotrienes. To sum up, MCAD can be managed effectively through a combination of mast cell activation syndrome diet, treatment options such as antihistamines, mast cell stabilizers, corticosteroids and leukotriene modifiers. Diet needs to include all three food groups and should not rely on ill-advised and unproven methods of abstaining from certain food types, with assumptions of keeping out high histamine food products.


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