Connecting the dots between histamines, mast cells, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME) & Endometriosis
If you have a premenstrual disorder, or a menstrual disorder, when you go to the doctor’s, at best, they play the prescription game with you, hoping that one pill will take away one major symptom, while 3 more unfriendly symptoms pop up… Leaving you with even more questions unanswered, and still feeling unwell. There are many mysteries and unknowns when it comes to menstrual health, and most run-of-the-mill doctors do not have the answers we’re looking for, but fortunately for us, Functional Medicine does. Functional Medicine practitioners are changing the way we look at health, and curing ourselves of serious medical conditions.
Thanks to the work of Dr. Tania Dempsey, and many other MDs in the field, we understand Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) like never before, and because of this emerging data, we can be empowered and better equipped to heal from the root. This article incorporates the latest cutting-edge scientific journals that explain the relationship between mast cells and our reproductive system, and understanding the why behind our suffering.
So, what are mast cells?
Mast cells are immune cells. When they’re in action, they are protecting us from the toxins coming into contact with our body. For example, when our bodies are exposed to certain chemicals or certain allergens, our bodies switch on the red-alert sign, and our mast cells are activated.
These mast cells can then release histamines, which are considered one of the many types of by-products or mediators of mast cells.
We all have histamines in our body, but if we have a surplus of histamines (perhaps due to the constant activation of our mast cells, and/or inability to clear histamines in our body [histamine intolerance] ) we can start to really suffer.
There are estrogen and progesterone receptors on mast cells, but for the purposes of this article, we will put our focus on estrogen.
So where is the majority of estrogen produced in our bodies?
And what happens when we are unable to clear histamines in our bodies?
The histamines are converted into estrogen, and we know this, thanks to studies done by Dr. Ben Lynch, a leading expert in histamines.
And what happens if our bodies stay in these permanent, flight-or-fight stress responses?
We trigger stress neuro-transmitters, and the vicious cycle starts again.
Stress → mast cells activated → increased release of mediators, such as histamines → increase of estrogen production
When our histamine levels go beyond the normal range, we’re looking at symptoms of chemical sensitivities, food allergies, food sensitivities, insulin resistance (yes, this could be why you’re unable to lose weight!), brain fog, weight gain, bloating… the list goes on, and these symptoms can vary.
Symptoms for MCAS present either as waxing and waning, meaning that they can increase and decrease cyclically, episodically or chronically. You can check out the full list of symptoms here, but do note that you can also experience symptoms at different times of the day, and that the symptoms can change altogether.
What is even more tricky about MCAS is that it can show up for you with or without an identifiable trigger.
Crazy, right? MCAS is like the secret source of pain for many of us, and it’s a condition that is easily overlooked.
Estrogen… friend or foe?
When we are menopausal, estrogen is a fabulous hormone to aid in our well-being, but before that time in our lives, high levels of estrogen can be extremely detrimental to our reproductive health. When we overload our bodies with estrogen, we can suffer from the effects of estrogen dominance, and this occurs when our bodies are not able to clear estrogen.
Estrogen is all around us… Well, estrogen-like compounds are all around us, named exogenous estrogen (E2). These buggers are in our food, water, beauty products, birth control, mold, BPA, the list goes on… and these estrogen-like compounds are endocrine disruptors, meaning that they can severely harm the hormonal balance of our bodies. We are familiar about estrogen’s role in breast cancer, but what about Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
As mentioned beforehand, there are estrogen and progesterone receptors on mast cells, meaning that both estrogen and progesterone can activate mast cells. So, if we have estrogen dominance issues, that retained estrogen can then activate our mast cells.
If we experience prolonged issues with hormonal imbalances, it’s important to get bloodwork done to see how these hormones have played into other possible chronic medical conditions, like Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
Estrogen’s effects to our menstrual health issues
Endometriosis is estrogen dependent, and can be correlated to estrogen dominance, which contributes to the growth of tissues outside of the endometrium.
A recent scientific study shows that endometriosis is a mast-cell driven disorder, and because mast cells are found in the ovaries and the uterus, our sex hormones affect how the mast cells react during the menstrual cycle (!!!).
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and Premenstrual Exacerbation (PME) have a close tie to endometriosis, as estrogen dominance is a common issue with those that have high histamine levels.
Histamines are neuromodulators, which are responsible for releasing feel good hormones like serotonin and norepinephrine.
This all comes full-circle when we consider that depression is one of the most common symptoms in PMDD and PME, and many that suffer from endometriosis also are impacted in their mental health. It has been proven, time and time again through cutting edge research, that whatever our bodies are not able to eliminate become toxic to various organs in our bodies- including our brains.
If you have painful periods, heightened sensitivities to chemicals, foods, etc., mental health that declines in tune with your menstrual cycle, and are looking for answers, and the science behind your suffering, exploring MCAS with your provider can not only validate your mysterious pain, but help provide a clear path in your health journey.
Trauma & premenstrual/menstrual disorders
So what causes are mast cells to react, to go haywire?
When our nervous system or immune system becomes overloaded, consistently, whether it was via a traumatic event, or an environmental trigger, like living in a house with mold, or being in a toxic relationship, our cells get locked into the fear state. Our cells are no longer focused on removing the toxins that need to be cleared.
Instead, our bodies are focused on keeping us safe, which is quite kind of them to do when you think about it… In actuality, our bodies are always doing their very best to keep us safe and alive, and I don’t think we give them enough credit for this!
But when we do have trauma stored in the body, especially via sexual abuse, it can manifest in the reproductive system. As uterus carriers, we have this womb space, this center of fertility, of life, and when we endure trauma to this area, it sends a signal to our body, that this womb is not safe, that we should be fearful of the creative expression of our womanhood. So we hold back. We experience retention, and retention on the cellular level.
Remember, trauma alters our physiology.
Like the Titanic, all it takes is one hit of the iceberg, for it all to come crashing down. We could have a series of traumatic events occur, over the span of several years, and then there can be this one triggering event, big or small that occurs. And it is at this moment in time, that our bodies communicate to us via a chronic medical condition, that something is wrong and it can no longer be silent.
Our pain on the subconscious level becomes conscious, as it manifests into our physical body.
Even if you get yourself out of the flight-or-fight nervous system response (sympathetic nervous system), and you work to switch on the rest-and-digest nervous system response (parasympathetic nervous system), you can still struggle with massive amounts of estrogen left in uterus and ovaries, and that estrogen alone can activate your mast cells.
What can we do to heal naturally from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome?
We first start with truly knowing and acknowledging our own story.
Have you filled out an IFM Timeline before?
This tool is used by Functional Medicine practitioners as a way of learning about the detailed history of YOU. What might be seemingly unimportant like recalling accounts of your mother’s pregnancy might actually be a data point for a Functional Medicine practitioner to use as they connect the dots, leading to your diagnosis.
It’s important that you create the safe space necessary to look at your past, and create an accurate representation of your story, so that you don’t need to keep living in a blurred past, but rather a bright and radiant future of wellness and wholeness ahead.
Functional Medicine Certified Health Coaches are trained to help patients fill out IFM Timelines, and it makes for more productive appointments with your Functional Medicine provider. This is because you’re able to paint a picture for your doctor. You’re able to capture the beauty of you, and your lived experiences, and to be able to do that for yourself, is one of the greatest and most honorable acts of self-love.
Book a Complimentary Functional Medicine Intro Call with Nat here.
Movement for MCAS
Going to the doctor’s and creating a treatment plan is fabulous, but what more can we do on the mental, emotional and spiritual level of MCAS, PMDD/PME and Endometriosis?
It is recommended to work on your limbic and vagal system to treat MCAS, and one of my favorite ways to completely detox on the cellular level is Himalayan Kriya Yoga. What I love about Himalayan Kriya Yoga, is that it naturally works to remove the fear, the limited beliefs, and the negative energy that is causing imbalance and disease in the body.
EFT Tapping is also a great way to stimulate the vagus nerve, and I absolutely love Jennifer Harmony’s approach to holistic and transformative tapping sessions. Check out her YouTube Channel packed with loads of videos here.
Food for MCAS
As a passionate foodie, learning that I had issues with histamines challenged my relationship with food.
However, it also gave me the opportunity to harness my creativity in the kitchen as I adhered to a Low-Mold/Anti-Histamine diet. The Low-Mold/Anti-Histamine diet focuses on eliminating foods that contain vinegar, yeast, are fermented, and avoiding old produce and leftovers that are over 24 hours old, along with some particular fruits and veg.
Click here for a free download of the Anti-Histamine & Low Mold Diet.
If you want to incorporate foods that help your body with detoxing from the root, check out our detox guide, Going Within.
Going Within is filled with recipes that I have developed and used myself through my own healing journey as I traveled the world, featuring polyphenol & sulforaphane (supports cellular detox) rich-foods. This detox guide includes activities that make it more than a recipe booklet, but more of a powerful tool that can transform your relationship with food- bringing the magic back into the kitchen, and the way we consume healing foods.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome is a means to understand the ends. It provides us with new treatment options that can have a wonderful ripple effect in other disorders we suffer from, as we go deeper in finding the root cause of our illness.
Taking the next step in your healing journey can be daunting, but also exciting… The science available to us today provide medical doctors with incredible insight, helping us pin point mysterious illnesses.
Remember: You are not responsible for your illness, you are responsible for your wellness!
So celebrate yourself in every step of this health journey you’re on. Even reading this article, furthering your education on menstrual health is a cause for celebration.
What will you do today to celebrate this win?