MCAS & Inflammation: Using Foods As Tools To Fight It

Most of us struggle with inflammation. It’s as much a part of mast cell activation disease as the allergy symptoms are, at least for many people.

I’ve been struggling with stubborn, recurring inflammation for awhile now and even went through a recent trial run with Singulair in an effort to rein it in.

That was a dismal failure, which isn’t surprising. Most medicines I try make me sick and it usually takes two or three weeks for it to really show up.

Sigh.

I do feel much better overall again, but the inflammation will return. It always does and it comes and goes and can stay gone for days and then stay flaring for days. I think the root cause is my estrogen cycle, after noticing the pattern, basically an “allergic” reaction to my own estrogen.

So I need something that works to reduce inflammation so I thought instead of just relying on a pill, I should take another look at my diet and environment to see if I can eliminate any more inflammatory things, or add a few anti-inflammatory items to see if that helps.

I found a great article over at Health.com. They list a lot of foods that help fight inflammation. I thought I’d run through them here, but you definitely want to read the whole article because it has a lot more information and tips. Remember, we are all different and some of these foods might trigger your mast cells. Proceed with caution!!

Fatty fish – Oily fish, like salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help reduce inflammation.

I know a lot of people will think I am nuts, but I hate fish!! Yes, I’ve had good sea food and no, I wouldn’t eat it if I were on a desert island and starving. I hate river critters, too. No trout or salmon or crawfish or anything. Yuck!!

I can’t be alone in this, although I honestly don’t know anyone who doesn’t like some sort of seafood or fresh fish or whatever. They also recommend fish oil supplements but me and MCAD and pills don’t play well together so unfortunately I can’t use them.

Whole grains – Consuming most of your grains as whole grains, as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta can help keep harmful inflammation at bay.

Thankfully I can have whole, organic wheat flour, where a lot of people with mast cell disease can’t. I do wonder, though, if they are using the right wheat flour. It took me a while to figure out that it was the malted barley they add to almost all flour that is very triggering. Once I switched to a wheat flour that wasn’t mixed with malted barley I stopped reacting.

Dark leafy greens – Studies have suggested that vitamin E may play a key role in protecting the body from pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines..

Oooh, those cytokines are one of the many mast cell mediators that can be making us chronically inflamed so it’s a good thing I do eat a lot of dark, leafy greens. Well, green lettuce mostly. And lots of broccoli. I eat tons of it.

Nuts – Another source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats is nuts—particularly almonds, which are rich in fiber, calcium, and vitamin E, and walnuts, which have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat.

Well I definitely have almonds covered! I drink a lot of almond milk and I eat a lot of peanuts, which they recommend for reducing inflammation.

Walnuts, on the other hand, are very triggering for me so I avoid them.

Soy – Several studies have suggested that isoflavones, estrogen-like compounds found in soy products, may help lower CRP and inflammation levels in women—and a 2007 animal study published in the Journal of Inflammation found that isoflavones also helped reduce the negative effects of inflammation on bone and heart health in mice.

Speaking of things that are very triggering for me, soy is one of my worst mast cell triggers! I’m sure the estrogen effect has something to do with it but I have to avoid it like the plague.

Low-fat dairy – Milk products are sometimes considered a trigger food for inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, because some people have allergies or intolerances to casein, the protein found in dairy.

Dairy — all forms of dairy — is my absolute worst trigger. I’m sure that has a lot to do with being given whole cow’s milk (cream and all!) as a newborn (don’t ask – I have no clue why, either). I have to avoid it, too, like the plague. Corn, as well. It’s a real challenge, believe me.

Peppers – “Colorful vegetables are part of a healthier diet in general,” says Dr. Costenbader. “As opposed to white potatoes or corn, colorful peppers, tomatoes, squash, and leafy vegetables have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins and lower levels of starch.”

I eat a lot of ground black pepper, cayenne and red pepper without any problems. They might even be helping, it seems!

Tomatoes – Tomatoes, another nightshade veggie, may also help reduce inflammation in some people.

Now this is very interesting. I can have fresh, organic tomatoes without a problem at all. I always craved tomatoes, too, over any other food. I love Italian food and we eat a lot of freshly made pasta dishes here.

Garlic and onions – There’s a good reason why these pungent vegetables are known for their immunity-boosting properties.

No wonder I love Italian food, right? I’m just so happy they don’t trigger me. I had to give up cheesecake, I can’t give up spaghetti.

Olive oil – “Anything that fits into a heart-healthy diet is probably also good for inflammation—and that includes healthy, plant-based fats like olive oil,”

We switched from butter to light olive oil for all of the baking, frying and cooking. I eat olive oil every day and love it so I’m glad it’s helping with the inflammation. I do miss my oil, vinegar and garlic bread dip, though. 🙁

Berries – All fruits can help fight inflammation, because they’re low in fat and calories and high in antioxidants.

For some reason, blueberries are very triggering for me but strawberries, if they’re fresh, aren’t. Again, each of us are very different and so are our triggers.

Overall, I am already consuming a lot of anti-inflammatory foods, which is great! Next time I’ll see if I am eating too many pro- inflammatory foods, and see if I can cut them out to see if it makes a difference.

Remember, we are all different so my food triggers may be vastly different from your own but it can’t hurt to eat as many anti-inflammatory foods as possible. Good luck!

 

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