MCAS & Intestinal Permeability: Is Mast Cell Disease Just A “Leaky Gut”?

The Disease / Thursday, April 27th, 2017


I’ve had several people ask me if I thought I might have a “leaky gut” rather than mast cell disease.

To be honest, I have wondered that myself at times, too!

After all, my problems in life started in my intestines as a newborn. To this day I struggle with symptoms in my intestinal tract whenever I am triggered and foods are some of my worst triggers.

I finally had an upper and lower GI scope done last year that found diverticular disease to go along with the GERD and IBS I already knew I was suffering from. They didn’t say anything about finding a leak in my gut, though (whew!).

Of course I shouldn’t joke about it. If my immune system is being triggered because my intestines are compromised and allowing wayward food proteins through, it’s a pretty big deal and something I need to fix before it makes me even sicker than I already am!

I did a little research and found that there is, indeed, a connection between so-called “leaky gut syndrome” (or intestinal permeability) and the development of various diseases, including several auto immune conditions:

For decades a variety of pathological states have been associated with abnormal permeability. Many of these are a consequence of intestinal epithelial damage that is associated with disease but not involved in a causal manner in the genesis of disease. However, in several autoimmune conditions it appears that increased permeability is a constant and early feature of the disease process. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly apparent that in some conditions increased permeability is critical to the development of disease as if it is abrogated the disease does not develop. This is particularly true in type 1 diabetes.

I have granuloma annulare, which may be tied directly to my MCAD or another, unknown auto immune disease, and while mast cell disease isn’t technically an auto immune disease, that doesn’t mean that mast cells don’t play a role in what alternative practitioners have labeled “leaky gut syndrome”.

There’s some pretty good research all in one place in this article I found at the National Institute of Health’s website here. In it the researchers are saying things like:

…these studies indicate that mast cell–mediated intestinal permeability promotes oral antigen sensitization and subsequent predisposition to intestinal anaphylaxis.


Treatment with mast cell stabilizing agent cromolyn sodium blocks intestinal permeability and protects against antigen sensitization.

So there’s obviously a cause and effect going on here. Meaning mast cell disease can cause “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability and our mast cell stabilizing medicines, particularly cromolyn sodium, can help to stop it.

But is it enough??

I personally found that once I got on the oral cromolyn sodium a good majority of my intestinal symptoms resolved themselves, even the worst ones. I was finally “normal” for the first time in my life down there.

The problem is, I am still easily triggered by foods and have to be on a very strict diet, which I really, really dislike, so now I’m wondering if there’s something else I can do to fix my “leaky gut” so I’m not as reactive to foods.

Interestingly, I found this in the  advice toward the bottom of the Histamine and Tyramine Restricted Diet, also known as the Mast Cell Disease Diet Guideline:

Supplements are necessary for most of us. Probiotics, Prebiotics, Omega 3-6-9 and Ester C have been reported as extremely beneficial and helpful in limiting reactions to foods, even those on the restricted list. We suggest the Canadian brand SISU supplements of Dophilus Plus and Citrus Free Ester C taken daily. Alternatively, many patients report Jamieson supplements as safest and most effective. Note about Omega supplements – ensure it is derived from FLAX and NOT from fish.

It matches up with a lot of the advice on how to fix a “leaky gut” and I’ll be doing more research into this subject for myself and also to share here, of course.

Watch this space!

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