“What are Mast Cells?” Street conversation #2.

To return to my conversation when I’ve met someone on the street, we’ve answered the “What is the mask for?” that is inevitably the first question. It’s followed by ‘You’ve got MCAS? Okay…what’s that?” The ‘technical’ answer is here, but that doesn’t help much if you have no clue what mast cells are. 

I went to get my infusion today (currently potassium and vitamin c), and there was a new nurse there. A soon as I said “mast cell activation”, she could immediately understand what I had. The average person on the street has no familiarity with mast cells though. Mast cells are one of the white blood cells; they are the pawns of the immune system. What they lack in ‘smarts’ they make up for in numbers. They are present in every organ in the body. When Mast Cells ‘activate’ they ‘degranulate’. Basically, it means they blow up and send out a barrage of chemical mediators (granules). The best known are histamine and heparin. There are over 20 other chemicals that are released. Scientists are still discovering new ones,  and some ofvthe chemicals they have no idea what they ‘do’ in the body.

Mast cells have a central role to play in fighting against pathogens (bacteria, parasites, etc.), in wound healing, and they are the masters of inflammation. I’ll let that sink in a little bit. Inflammation… There are a lot of acute and chronic illnesses that are inflammatory in nature. Arthritis, migraine, back pain, IBS, etc etc all involve mast cells. They aren’t all caused by MCAS (though I believe many are), but mast cells are one of the steps along the way. I strongly beleive that learning about mast cells can help a very significant number of people, and help tackle these debilitating conditions. 

Mast cells are also central to allergic responses. My mast cells are in overdrive, assuming that everything coming into my body is invading it. I’m allergic to almost everything you can be allergic to, and a few that you ‘can’t’ be. I am sensitive enough that a smell or a touch can set off a reaction. I have, several times, been unable to eat anything without going into anaphylaxis. In 2015 I didn’t eat for 40 days. I lived on water.

 I am not exaggerating. It sounds crazy, but it’s not. 

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