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  • Joan Rothchild Hardin

My Own Struggle with Mast Cells Gone Wild

See The Role of Mast Cells for information about what they are and how they serve the body. The mast cells in my gut gave me a lot of grief about a year after I’d vanquished my Clostridium difficile infection and was back to eating more or less normally – the new normal, trying to eat gluten free but not entirely succeeding. Dining on a lovely vegetable lasagna I’d made with an indulgent amount of cow’s milk cheese gave me acute diarrhea that clearly wasn’t a return of the C. diff. (A C. diff infection has a distinct odor to it.) A GI test panel confirmed this but didn’t identify the cause.

So again I began suffering with chronic diarrhea that went on for a miserable nine months until, fortuitously (though it didn’t seem so at the time) I became sea sick while on another vacation and, in desperation took Dramamine. Much to my amazement, that not only stopped the mal de mer but also gave me a whole day with a well-knit together gut – fortuitously, the day I was on a long flight back to New York from Istanbul. Some research on returning home and I learned that Dramamine is an anti-histamine. So I continued taking it and did some more research on why an anti-histamine would be effective on gut hypermotility – and learned about mast cells.

From the day after I’d enjoyed that wonderful cheesy vegetable lasagna, I felt as if a switch had been turned on in my gut. I’d eat or drink something – anything – and my gut reacted as if Attila and his horde of Huns was at the gate and a full-scale defense needed to be launched to expel the invaders.

A colonoscopy showed beautifully clean colon walls but the tissue biopsies I’d requested found a vast over-production of mast cells, just as I’d expected. Again I was desperate to feel better so reluctantly agreed to add a steroid to my usual probiotics to try to turn the switch off. A course and a half of generic Entocort, a corticosteroid used to treat severe Crohn’s disease, allergies, arthritis, asthma and skin conditions, did the trick . Thermography images confirmed a huge reduction in inflammation inside my gut and chest areas.

I’m assiduously gluten free now. I also stopped eating all milk products, avoid refined sugar and artificial food dyes as much as possible. And continue to take high quality probiotics and other helpful nutritional supplements.

In recent months, I’ve been able to add plain yogurts, goat and raw milk cheeses back into my diet with good results. And I’ve fallen in love with kefir (the plain kind, no added sugar or fruits). It’s not only tartly delicious but is loaded with probiotics. Two other int