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Why 'An Apple a Day' Doesn't Keep the Doctor Away With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

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Every doctor and nutritionist and health guru will tell you to eat more fruits and veggies, preferably organic and non-GMO. While I am all for this type of diet, it’s not always helpful for people with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS).

Having MCAS means your body inappropriately releases histamine and other inflammatory substances causing allergic-type reactions. These reactions can be serious, even deadly. Even worse, for many of us with mast cell disorders, food is a big trigger. Certain fruits, vegetables and meats can be very high in histamines, making them off limits. Also, fragrances, extreme temperatures, medications, stress and on and on and on. All of these can be triggers. Most of us are on restricted diets. I can only eat two or three fruits and maybe four vegetables at most.

It’s very frustrating to have to keep explaining to the medical community, nutritionists and naturopaths why you can’t follow their “miracle” diets that are supposed to make you better.

I was talking to a “healer” recently and he told me that he put his father on this special diet and his arthritis improved significantly. Do I believe him? Absolutely. There is a lot to be said for the kinds of stuff we put in our bodies and our health. It seemed, though, that it was hard for him to understand that I cannot just eat a big, fresh, organic salad every single day. I cannot drink green shakes, take supplements or juice my way to health since one grape can land me in the emergency room. It’s a very hard disease to understand, as the nuances are many. This is why we need more education and advocacy for rare conditions.

There are varying degrees of limitations with MCAS. Some people take medications that help them a great deal, they watch their diet carefully to avoid triggers, and they have a decent quality of life. Others’ cases are so severe, they need to be placed on a feeding tube. The rest of us fall somewhere in the middle.

We are hyper-sensitive to foods, environment, scents, soaps and temperatures. There are only a limited number of foods we can eat — some of them may be healthy, some of them not. We pop antihistamines all day long, carry an EpiPen and obsess over food labels. We live hyper-vigilant lives.

So, while I fully support eating healthy, unfortunately it isn’t always going to help us “masties” feel better. We all know that saying, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Well, for me, it’s “An apple a day gets me a trip to the ER.”

Hopefully, health practitioners will be able to understand that painting healthy people and people with chronic or rare conditions with same brush does not serve us well.

Each of our differences with our bodies deserve unique attention and care.

Originally published: May 31, 2019
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