The Difference Between Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

The Difference Between Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
If you're suffering from unexplained allergies or chronic inflammation, you may have mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) or histamine intolerance. Both of these conditions are complex and little-understood, but there are some key differences between them. Here's a quick overview of MCAS and histamine intolerance, and how to tell them apart.

Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is a disorder in which mast cells—a type of white blood cell—are abnormally activated. This can lead to a wide range of symptoms, including hives, fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and difficulty breathing. MCAS is often triggered by an allergy or an infection, but it can also be brought on by stress or certain medications. There is no cure for MCAS, but treatments are available to help manage the symptoms.

Histamine intolerance is similar to mast cell activation syndrome in that it occurs when histamines—chemicals that are released by mast cells—build up in the body. However, unlike MCAS, histamine intolerance is not caused by an abnormal activation of mast cells. Rather, it is caused by a deficiency in one of the enzymes that breaks down histamines. This can be due to a genetic predisposition or acquired later in life due to certain medications or illnesses. Histamine intolerance can cause many of the same symptoms as MCAS, but these tend to be less severe. Additionally, histamine intolerance is not always triggered by an allergy or infection. Often, simply eating foods that are high in histamines can cause a reaction. Unlike MCAS, histamine intolerance can be improved by following a low-histamine diet. 

If you think you might have MCAS or histamine intolerance, it's important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. These conditions can both be debilitating, but with the right care they can be managed. And although they share some similarities, there are also some key differences between them. Now that you know a little more about MCAS and histamine intolerance, you'll be better equipped to discuss your symptoms with your doctor and get the treatment you need.

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