Mast cells are white blood cells found throughout the body. Mast cells are found in the connective tissues, the skin, the lining of the intestines, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, and reproductive system.
Mast cells are long-lived cells located at junctions in the body. For example, they can be found right on the border of blood vessels, or the edge of the gastrointestinal lining. Mast cells live very close to the border of organs such as the heart. This location allows the mast cells to release substances into the body.
Mast cells are very reactive cells. They respond quickly and release chemicals into the lymphatic channels or the bloodstream, depending on the location of the mast cells. The chemicals released by mast cells include histamine, cytokines (including interleukins), and other compounds with potentially powerful effects on the body.
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The chemicals released by the mast cells initiate responses in other areas of the body. This is different from other white cells, such as neutrophils, which tend to have more localized effects. Mast cells can be beneficial to the body, but when there is excessive release of chemicals by these cells, a syndrome called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) is one of the possible results. Essentially, the mast cells are overreacting to a perceived “threat” in the body. The excessive chemicals released by the mast cells can then trigger multi-system symptoms. The symptoms triggered by mast cells can be life-threatening at times. For example, MCAS can trigger anaphylaxis.
In my experience, there are more and more cases of mast cell disorders. Many people believe that the increased rates of mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) are related to environmental toxins, molds, stress, and overpopulation. I would agree. I also link MCAS to a poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle.