Coherent Breathing: The Mind Body Connection in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
There is a significant connection between mental states and immune responses, especially in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. This greatly affects Histamine Intolerance as well. And no, this doesn’t mean that I’m saying these are all in your head. Far from it! The Mind Body Connection in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance has to do with how stress affects the immune system. It also affects the nervous system and hormones too!
Is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance all in your head?
When I first started studying yoga 20 years ago, I thought that if I could control my mind, I would fix all my health issues. I now know that it is way more complex than that. But working with reducing my stress and calming my nervous system definitely helped a lot. Along with changing the way I eat, getting rid of toxins, and taking the right supplements for my body.
Now I understand that the mind-body connection is more about how mind states can cause stress chemicals that make the immune system more over reactive. Especially the mast cells. When mast cells are over reactive, they produce a lot of histamine (and other inflammatory molecules). This makes Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and even Histamine Intolerance worse.
The Mind Body Connection has actually become a very well-established, scientific field of study. It is called Psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology or shortened to Psychoneuroimmunology. This long name just means the connections between psychology and the nervous, hormone, and immune systems.
How can Breathing help Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance?
Several studies have shown that mindfulness-based techniques and breathing practices reduce stress and help the nervous, hormone, and immune systems. This is good news if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance. It means there is another avenue of helping your body heal and have fewer symptoms. The great thing is that many of these techniques are free or inexpensive to learn!
There are so many ways to reduce stress and stressful mind states. And stress reduction is really important if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance. Some of the possibilities are:
- Calming Breathing Practices
- Positive physical touch (like hugs)
*Stretching like in yoga is contraindicated if you have hypermobility, which is very common with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Coherent Breathing is one of the best breathing practices for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
I want to introduce you to one very simple breathing practice you can do at home. It is very, very effective. I discovered this practice when reading the book Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body. This book is a really excellent read on how Psychoneuroimmunology works.
Coherent Breathing is a very simple practice where you breathe in a relaxed way and at a steady pace. You synchronize your inhalations and exhalations to be equal in length. And you breathe at around 5-6 breaths per minute. The simplicity and accessibility of this technique make this type of breathing easy for anyone to do at home without extensive training.
Research has shown that Coherent Breathing calms the mind and helps balance the nervous system. It also helps increase the delivery of oxygen to the cells. Many people do not breathe deeply or fully. During experiences of pain, breathing may become more restricted. This means there is less oxygen for the cells. Shallow breathing can also increase feelings of anxiety and stress. And this can contribute to more Mast Cell Activation and Histamine release.
Regular practice of Coherent Breathing is an excellent way to increase oxygen in the system. Breathing practices are really important if you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance. This is because low oxygen is one of the root causes in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Low Oxygen can also make Histamine Intolerance worse. You can read more about the root causes in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance here: www.mastcell360.com/freereport
I have all the details for you below about how you can practice Coherent Breathing for yourself. But first, how does coherent breathing work?
How Does Coherent Breathing work for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance?
Mast cells in the brain can release inflammatory molecules, like histamine and other chemicals. This type of mast cell brain inflammation can cause symptoms of stress and anxiety in those with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Higher levels of stress and mental anxiety can cause mast cells to further release inflammatory molecules, like histamine. This causes a cascading release of inflammatory molecules that then increase a sense of distress. As the sense of distress increases, further degranulation occurs. These cascades create a feedback loop of more and more mast cell inflammation.
Coherent breathing can reduce stress and mental anxiety caused by Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. This slows down the feedback cycle and reduces the cascade of brain inflammation.
I used to feel anxious and wired all the time. It was like my nervous system was dialed up. There are 2 main branches of the nervous system: the Sympathetic and the Parasympathetic. The Sympathetic is the fight or flight response. Whereas the Parasympathetic is the heal, rest, and restore mode. My Sympathetic nervous system was always dominant. It affected my sleep and made it very hard to relax. In fact, most people with Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome are Sympathetic Dominant.
Having a Sympathetic Dominant Nervous System makes it hard to recover from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance. This is because the fight or flight mode of the Sympathetic Nervous System is hard on the immune cells like Mast Cells.
Coherent Breathing is one of the ways I calmed my Nervous System back down.
My Experience with Coherent Breathing for Histamine Intolerance and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
I started with practicing Coherent Breathing for 10-15 minutes twice a day. I did it first thing in the morning and then before bed to help with sleep. Within a couple weeks, I started feeling more relaxed during the breathing. But the anxiety returned as soon as I stopped the practice. A few more weeks later, I noticed I could feel calmer for several minutes after I finished a session. And about 3 months in, I noticed it was like a flip switched. I didn’t feel anxious and wired all the time. I was doing other things also to help my nervous system, but the Coherent Breathing definitely made a big difference.
Coherent Breathing really helped me out during a serious Mast Cell episode one time. I checked into a hotel and noticed there was a strong fragrance smell. The carpets in the entire hotel had just been shampooed. I started having a little trouble breathing but hoped it would go away. It didn’t though. My breathing kept getting worse and worse until I was having a full-blown asthma attack. I felt very lightheaded and went to sit in the car while my husband found another hotel for us.
I had stopped carrying an inhaler because it had been years since I had an asthma attack. I’ve really improved that much with my health. But I think the hotel must have also had a lot of mold activated by the shampooing. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to go to a hospital if I didn’t have to. I monitored myself very carefully and started pacing my breath with my Coherent Breathing App. I had to start around 6.5 breaths per minute because of the asthma. But as my body was ready, I was able to slow my breath down bit by bit. It took 30 minutes of Coherent Breathing, but my asthma attack stopped. This was really amazing to me! And demonstrates how powerful Coherent Breathing can be.
Now, I’m definitely not recommending you stop carrying an inhaler or avoid going to the ER if you need to. Coherent breathing worked for me, but it may not work for you in an emergency. Please be smart and do what you need to do to take care of your body.
What I am saying is imagine what Coherent Breathing can do for your Mast Cells and Histamine levels! Especially if you practice it regularly. Coherent Breathing and other forms of relaxation techniques have become an essential part of my healing toolbox for myself and my clients.
I became so fascinated with Coherent Breathing that I researched it in depth and wrote my Master’s Thesis on “Coherent Breathing as a Psychological Intervention to Effectively Modulate Immune Function in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.” I found there was a large amount of research about how effective Coherent Breathing can be to help the immune and nervous systems.
How to Practice Coherent Breathing for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
You can practice Coherent Breathing anywhere and anytime. You just need something to keep track of time. There are 3 main ways you can practice Coherent Breathing:
- Clock Method
- Phone App
- Video Instructions
Let’s look at each one of these.
If you want to be low tech, you can just watch the second hand on a clock. You start by breathing in for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds. This would put your breathing rate at 6 breaths/minute. It doesn’t matter really how fast or slow you breathe. The most important thing is to find the pace that makes you feel the most relaxed. I use this method when I don’t have access to my phone but can see a clock.
My favorite way of practicing Coherent Breathing is to use an app on the phone. That way you don’t have to track the time on a clock. This allows you to relax much more deeply. And there are a couple really good Coherent Breathing apps for just a few dollars! You can use the Breathing Zone App on iPhone or Kardia on Android (it has a purple logo). Both of these apps let you set your breathing rate. And they have different tones you can choose from. The tones let you know when to inhale and when to exhale.
You want to set your breathing rate between 5 and 6 breaths per minute. Experiment to find the breathing pace that is most relaxing to your body. Practice deeply relaxing with your exhalations. You can also incorporate gratitude with this breath by breathing into your heart and exhaling appreciation.
Another way to practice Coherent Breathing is to just listen to a video that makes a tone when you should inhale and exhale. I have a playlist on YouTube of Coherent Breathing exercises for you here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7KTL_3kuo23KOtq_c93YAI9ppJC3P21u
How to do even more Nervous System Balancing when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
I recommend Coherent Breathing as a great way to balance the Nervous System for beginners. It can also help reduce symptoms from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
If you find Coherent Breathing to be helpful, then you may like doing other forms of Nervous System resetting. I also recommend a number of Nervous System Balancing techniques for my clients. I customize the techniques I recommend based on your needs and prior experience with these kinds of techniques.
If you have any trouble with the Coherent Breathing methods, we may need to customize a plan for you.
And if you need help Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance in any way, I’m just a click away.
You can easily schedule a Case Review here. I’ll do a Mast Cell 360 Root Cause Analysis and help you figure out what your specific root factors are in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.
From there, we can target your healing plan so you can start feeling better as soon as possible!
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