I usually love playing B-I-N-G-O, but lately it seems that my body has been stuck in a nightmare-ish game of TOXIC bingo stuck on repeat! And the prize is a whole lotta extra mast cell activation.
Patients with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) are typically reactive to a wide variety of triggers, and it seems that the more that are present in regular or even single high-dose exposures, the lower a patient’s symptomatic baseline can hover in terms of sensitivity to subsequent triggers.
Two patients with MCAS may cite an entirely different list of offending triggers, but nonetheless, the general premise is that the easily-encountered toxic “soup” of everyday exposures can build up
- over time, and
- may build up disproportionally in patients who may be
-genetically susceptible to physiological differences in the ability to process and remove toxins, and/or
-already presenting with high loads of other burdens like viruses, bacterial infections, parasites and inflammatory conditions.
Certain toxins in the above bingo example (such as unclean water) may be avoidable, but others may be trickier in public (such as walking by a cigarette smoker on the streets or entering a building with hidden water damage or remnants of carpet off-gassing from a remodel).
It’s difficult to know where to draw the line in terms of being preventive vs. coming off as a conspiracy theorist. However, reputable sources cite the health dangers of everyday toxins and an abundance of studies have linked them to specific diseases.
Toxin sources include poor air quality, chemicals in drinking water and food sources, exposure to heavy metals such as mercury and aluminum, and exposure to other environmental possibilities such as mycotoxins that come from water-damaged buildings. Toxins can enter the human bloodstream simply by breathing or skin contact/absorption. Toxins are present in nail salons and electronic products and are the by-products of living in an increasingly industrialized world.
There are agricultural toxins, such as pesticides, hormones, and herbicides. There are industrial toxins, such as heavy metals, pollution, and radiation. Household and workplace toxins circulate from building materials, rugs, paint, and cleaning supplies. Toxins are in personal care products, including health and beauty aids (HABAs), perfumes, and cosmetics. Toxins can impact residents who live near fracking wells, power plants, and sources of coal burning. Food toxins, like genetically modified organisms (GMOs), food coloring, antibiotics, artificial flavors, and artificial sweeteners are becoming increasingly embedded into the food supply.1
The danger of pthalates are becoming better known in the consumer world, where they can be present in everything from children’s toys and make-up to plastic containers. Foods may come into contact with phthalates that steep through packaging like lids or plastic wraps, or even in the equipment used in processing plants including conveyor belts, gloves, adhesives and tubing. Vinyl items in the home such as blinds, flooring and shower curtains most likely contain phthalates. Air fresheners contain phthalates, even those labeled as “natural” or “unscented.” 2
Every-day items in the kitchen are hidden toxin sources. Plastic from water bottles, milk jugs, and food storage containers leach into food and beverages. Pizza boxes and popcorn bags aren’t safe either! Perfluorinated alkylated substances (PFAs) are chemicals that improve the durability and heat resistance of pizza boxes, and they been associated with immunotoxicity and low-dose endocrine disruption. 1 Non-stick cookware and Goretex clothing are other common sources of PFAs. 2
There are some pretty alarming statistics out there about the United States toxin regulations (or lack thereof). According to the Natural Resource Defense Council, there are 80,000 synthetic chemicals out there, most of which have not undergone full testing. Only 11 chemicals are banned in the U.S., compared to over 650 in Canada and over 1,300 in Europe. 2
In the U.S., the cosmetic industry’s panel has only evaluated a small portion (about 11%) of the cosmetic ingredients in the FDA. Perfumes in particular are worrisome, as the word “parfum” is not regulated and could potentially mean a cocktail of harmful chemicals. Perhaps more shocking is the fact there are no laws in place to regulate the words “natural” and “organic” on personal care products. 2
Tattoos have been associated with chemical toxicity and the masking of cutaneous disease and malignancy. 3,4 A 2015 review noted that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and phenols are present in black tattoo ink, and it appears that tattoo ink is unregulated and often used for other tasks like printing and painting cars. The dangers of tattoos may not be isolated to permanent options. Paraphenylenediamine is a chemical in temporary henna tattoos that has been associated with severe reactions and even fatalities. 5 Tattoo removal procedures may also pose hazards; a case report noted cardiotoxicity and death in one patient. 6
There’s enough reputable sources on everyday toxins to make one’s mind spin! And if one is exposed to these toxins regularly, it’s easy to imagine how after a few decades (and certainly by the middle-age years), this could very well trigger a number of symptoms and health conditions, particularly if the body has an inefficient or “clogged” toxin elimination system.
Patients with MCAS may be especially susceptible to the effects of toxins. Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, author of “The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health” (published in 2017) describes the detrimental effects of gut endotoxin metabolites, which are small molecules that result from the presence of the wrong bacteria and toxic chemicals in the gastrointestinal system. These endotoxin metabolites circulate through the system and contribute to histamine levels and hives. 1
The ability to remove toxins is especially influenced by mitochondrial function, exercise, glutathione, nutrients, and thyroid function. 1 The liver and gallbladder, lymphatic system, kidneys, and gastrointestinal system are the main organs associated with detoxification. Supporting these systems to do their job more efficiently and addressing root issues are key aspects of healing from a high toxic burden.
The first step in addressing one’s exposure is to remove as many ongoing sources of toxins as possible. Part II of this blog will brainstorm alternatives to everyday toxin product sources as well as strategies to help the body remove the toxic build-up. Hopefully, over time, this can assist patients with MCAS in lowering sensitivity to environmental factors and potentially reducing or eliminating both chronic symptoms and acute reactions. Dr. Pizzorno’s book and the NRDC website are excellent resources for further reading on this topic. 1,2
- Pizzorno J. The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health. Harper Collins. 2017.
- Natural Resources Defense Council website. https://www.nrdc.org/. Accessed June 14, 2018.
- Ly, T., and S. Lee. “If you think you can safely ink, beware of the masking effects of tattoos.” Hong Kong J Dermatol Vernereol20 (2012): 106-10.
- Sweeney, Susan M. “Tattoos: a review of tattoo practices and potential treatment options for removal.” Current opinion in pediatrics18, no. 4 (2006): 391-395.
- Goldenberg, Alina, and Sharon E. Jacob. “Paraphenylenediamine in black henna temporary tattoos: 12-year Food and Drug Administration data on incidence, symptoms, and outcomes.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology4, no. 72 (2015): 724-726.
- Li, Zhen, Huang Zhang, Shu‐Hua Li, and Roger W. Byard. “Fatal phenol toxicity following attempted tattoo removal.” Journal of forensic sciences61, no. 4 (2016): 1143-1145.
This content is Copyright © Mast Cells United and is not intended to diagnose or treat anyone. Always consult your medical professional for any health guidance or advice.