The Air You Breathe Could Be Triggering Your Mast Cell Activation Syndrome – What to Do About It Now
With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, you and I are fellow canaries in the coal mine.
If you aren’t familiar with this saying, it comes from a real practice that took place in coal mines years ago.
Miners would send canaries into the mines ahead of them to test the levels of toxins in the air. Canaries are much more sensitive to dangerous gases.
If the canary fainted, or worse, didn’t make it, the miners would know not to go into that mine.
With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, we’re the canaries who are super sensitive to toxins in the air that others don’t seem to notice. But the truth is, those toxins are affecting everyone.
It’s just that we sensitive canaries are the ones who get symptoms quickly from those toxins.
Why is this? Because your mast cells sense not just everything you swallow, but also every molecule of air you breathe.
With MCAS, your mast cells are over-responsive. This is why you’re that sensitive canary! And there can be a lot of pollutants in the air that can trigger your sensitive mast cells.
These various types of airborne toxins cause your mast cells to sound the DANGER alarm. Then, your sensitive mast cells will start releasing inflammatory mediators to try to protect you.
This results in mast cell flares. It’s why you can feel poorly around things like mold, smoke, gasoline, paints, or even perfumes.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- What exactly is in the air that can be triggering your mast cells (HINT: mold, viruses, dust, VOCs, forest fire smoke, and more)
- What can you do to improve the air quality in your home (Some steps don’t cost a penny and take less than a minute!)
- What you can do if your air quality needs extra help
I’ve been that canary for most of my life. And it took me years to identify the triggers.
Improving the air quality in my home has been a major step in my own healing process and that of thousands of other mast cell “canaries”.
Before there was much information available about MCAS, I spent a lot of time (and money) figuring out what works and what doesn’t work as well.
I want your road back to health to be so much easier, so I hope this blog post will help with that!
Before we look at some of the best ways you can improve your air quality, let’s break down what air quality is.
What is Air Quality and the Air Quality Index?
If you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance, you want to get those mast cells calmed down from their over-reactive state. One way to do this is to reduce triggers. Reducing triggers can reduce flares.
One of your possible triggers is invisible to the naked eye. It’s the air you breathe.
More accurately, it’s what’s in the air you breathe.
Have you noticed that you feel worse around fragranced products, even just walking through a store or in a friend’s home? Or smoke from a fireplace or forest fires?
This is probably all related to the toxins in the air you’re breathing. A lot of toxins in the air means your air quality isn’t very good.
Air quality refers to the concentration of the major pollutants in the air. These are the pollutants that pose potential health risks. The Air Quality Index is a measurement of those pollutants.
There’s also something called Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). This measures air pollutants in your indoor spaces like home and office.
All of these toxic pollutants can trigger your mast cells.
If your mast cells are triggered, they start pumping out inflammatory mediators that make you feel terrible.
Today, we’ll look at some air quality issues common in most homes.
- Contaminants in Dust (Including from Forest Fires)
And one more thing…Viruses. Viruses technically aren’t measured by the Air Quality Index, but they are certainly harmful if you breathe them in!
For some, toxins in the air can make it hard to do deep breathing for practices like resonant breathing.
Let’s take a closer look at how these can affect your mast cells next.
How Does Air Pollution Affect Mast Cells?
The most serious mast cell trigger I see in the Mast Cell 360 practice is mold spores and mold toxins. So, let’s start there.
Mold is the #1 root cause of MCAS I see here in the Mast Cell 360 practice. And mold has become more common than many people realize.
A 2007 study found 47% of all homes in the US had water damage issues leading to toxic mold. With increasing extreme weather (flooding in particular), that percentage is likely higher now.
Further, 85% of commercial buildings were found to have significant issues leading to mold. Even schools are notorious for mold problems.
Molds and their toxins can disrupt your body in so many ways.
Studies have shown mold can:
- severely dysregulate mast cells
- cause increases in histamine levels
- cause general dysregulation of the immune response
- contribute to autoimmunity
- act as a hormone disruptor
- lead to nervous system dysregulation and sensitivities
- clog up detox pathways
That’s just a short list of the problems mold can cause.
And when dealing with mold, the body can also enter what’s known as cell danger response. In cell danger response, your body will try to keep mold from spreading. It does this by shutting down different pathways.
All of this leads to mast cell activation.
When it comes to the Air Quality Index, mold falls under a category called Particulate Matter (PM). PM includes pollutants like mold, dust, pollen, soot, and more.
If you are looking at anything referring to air quality, you might come across the numbers PM2.5 and PM10. This refers to the size of the particle.
Here’s why those measurements are important.
Both PM2.5 and PM10 are inhalable. That means these particles are getting into your lungs, and in some cases, even your bloodstream.
Multiple studies associate particulate matter with serious lung-related health conditions and mast cell activation.
You may remember that any kind of illness can cause mast cells to respond. After all, that’s their job. So, it isn’t a surprise to see mast cell activation alongside serious conditions.
Mold is so common in homes nowadays that many people are affected by it.
Related Article: How To Detox Your Body from Mold with MCAS
There’s another trigger in your home that is likely more common than you realize, too. VOCs.
Let’s look at that next.
Have you heard of off-gassing? It refers to the release of airborne chemicals — VOCs.
VOCs are toxic and can be 2-5x higher inside than outside.
VOCs can come from:
- new furniture, carpeting, flooring, cabinets
- fragrance in candles and plug-ins
- conventional cleaning products
- car exhaust from attached garages
I’m guessing you have most of these things in your home right now.
VOCs are one of the top 10 toxins in the home to watch out for.
That’s because the EPA states that high concentrations of VOCs stay in the air long after the initial exposure.
So, that “new” smell of new carpet or a new car? That’s off-gassing. And those compounds can linger for months or years.
These toxins may result in mast cell triggering health effects. Some of the common symptoms related to VOCs are:
- eye, nose, and throat irritation
- damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system
- suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.
And once again, the mast cells are going to want to fight off those toxic invaders.
Toxins = increased mast cell activation.
Toxins can also hide in dust. And you might be surprised just what makes up dust…
Let’s look at that next.
Dust and Forest Fires as Mast Cell Triggers
Dust might seem harmless enough, but it can be really toxic. It’s one of the things that makes up the Particulate Matter (PM) we talked about earlier. And remember, PM is inhalable. That’s why it poses a problem.
Mast cell activation in the respiratory tract can also result in:
- airway constriction
- an increase in mucous (can lead to sinus problems)
- inflammation and inflammatory conditions like asthma
You may have heard that dust is mostly made of dead skin. Kinda gross. However, most of the dust in your house comes from outside.
It’s tracked in as:
- dirt on your shoes
- airborne particles
- fibers (like from your clothes and carpets)
- bug parts
Airborne particles resulting from wildfires, landfills, or construction sites also make up dust.
Wildfires are more and more common these days. That’s bad news for wildlife. It’s also bad news for air quality.
Wildfire smoke contains two types of air pollution. One is the particulate matter (PM) you read about earlier.
The general term “dust” includes a lot of different substances…including particles from wildfires. Remember that these PM are inhalable and getting into your lungs and bloodstream. And they are going to trigger a mast cell reaction.
Your mast cells will see these PM as invaders and start to fight them off.
The other way wildfires are affecting your air quality is by producing VOCs. Gases found in wildfire smoke can include carbon monoxide and ozone, too. Both can be lung irritants.
And did you know that any kind of dust holds toxins from the environment?
It turns out that scientists have found all kinds of toxins in the dust they’ve studied from people’s homes. Even pesticides outlawed years ago have been found in the dust they’ve studied.
So, you definitely don’t want to be breathing in dust and all the mast cell triggers that might be in it!
Next, let’s look at something that isn’t technically measured by air quality. It does affect us all though…especially these days.
I’m talking about viruses.
Now more than ever, viruses are on our minds. You hear a lot of suggestions about precautions to help reduce the spread of viruses…especially when it comes to being indoors.
Being indoors with others who are sick makes it more likely that you’ll catch a virus. It’s likely much worse when there isn’t good air purifying happening, so the viruses linger.
Simply put, when you are near someone who is sick, you’re breathing in what they’re breathing out. And if they’re sick, they’re breathing viruses that you’re at risk to breathe in.
When you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, getting sick is often a bigger deal for you than for other people. You can stay sick longer and have worse symptoms.
This is why you want to reduce your chances of getting sick as much as possible.
So, what can you do to breathe cleaner air and reduce your mast cell triggers?
Keep reading for some steps you can take.
Easy Steps to Take for Cleaner Air
Addressing air quality is another big step in turning down your mast cell activation. The more you can do, the cleaner your air will be.
Here are some easy steps toward cleaner air:
- Take Your Shoes Off – Wipe your shoes on an outdoor mat, then leave your shoes in the entryway or garage. This reduces the dirt, pollen, mold spores, lead and more that you are bringing into your home.
- Improve Ventilation
- Circulate air by opening your windows on clean air days. (Note: you don’t want to do this on poor air quality days or if you are in an area experiencing wildfires.)
- Check that gas heaters and stoves are venting to the outside – often these are just venting back into the house.
- Run a fan – for better air circulation in areas that generate a lot of moisture like bathrooms. This can help reduce mold growth.
- Change the filters – on central heating and cooling systems regularly. I change mine every 2 months.
- Choose Non-Toxic and Fragrance-Free Products – Regular cleaning and beauty products contain some of the same toxins being found in dust. Reduce these types of contaminants by choosing non-toxic and fragrance-free.
- Reduce VOCs
- Use no VOC paints and choose natural fibers for flooring.
- Look for non-toxic furniture options. Just do your research on the companies. I’ve seen many companies “greenwash”!
These are all great steps to take. But there’s one more step that can address a lot of these issues at once. Good quality air purification systems.
How to Help Your Mast Cells With Air Purification Systems
Air purification systems can tackle a lot of airborne toxins.
You may already use a unit with an UltraHepa™ filter like I do. These professional grade air purifiers can trap particles as small as .003 microns. That range includes most viruses and mycotoxins.
The filters work by trapping small particles, so they aren’t circulating in the air you breathe.
But they don’t kill any pathogens. They also don’t reduce additional mold growth.
That’s why HypoAir got my attention right away.
The air purifiers from HypoAir kill germs in the air and on surfaces. And they help prevent regrowth of mold.
This is great news if you are dealing with VOCs, forest fires, PM2.5, viral exposure, AND if you are still working on mold remediation.
I’ve been using their filters for months and am noticing a big difference in the quality of air in our house.
I’ve had numerous clients pair this with their UltraHepa™ filter, too. I’ve received good feedback from people who said their symptoms went down.
Here’s some of the other positive feedback for HypoAir:
- Helpful for dealing with ongoing mold exposure while still working on remediation
- Reductions in number of viral infections passed between family members
- Improvements in chemical smells from off-gassing
- Less smoke smell from forest fires
And I’m also really liking these units for travel.
They are compact enough to make them packable, and they just plug into an outlet.
I had to travel to Florida recently for some specialty medical procedures. Exposure to mold in Florida is almost a given.
I did the best I could in finding a low mold place, but I still smelled mold in the rental house. I was glad I took my HypoAir units with me. Running them for a few hours reduced the mold smell significantly.
Of course, the best practice would be to limit mold exposure. But these systems can be very helpful if you don’t have a lot of great options.
And knowing that these units kill surface germs gave me extra peace of mind in a place that I didn’t clean myself.
My favorite options from HypoAir are:
- The Air Angel
- The Whole Home Purification System
Here’s what I like about these options.
The Air Angel
This is a portable unit, so I really like it for travel and for cars. It plugs right into your car’s power outlet if you get the car adapter.
Why do you need an air purifier in your car?
Cars often grow mold, especially in areas with humidity that stays over 50% for a few days at a time.
New cars are also terrible for off-gassing serious levels of VOCs. My husband’s car is still off-gassing and he’s had it about a year now. When he got the Air Angel, we both started noticing a big difference.
Its portability also makes it great for travel. Even if you use good travel tips and tricks, you don’t have full control over the environment you are staying in. The great thing about this system is it deals with both airborne and surface contaminants.
That means your air is clean and even high-touch surfaces like doorknobs are sterilized, too.
The Air Angel is highly effective against:
And it addresses odors and VOCs, too.
Whole Home Purification System
The best option if you own your home is installing HypoAir’s Whole Home Purification System on your HVAC system.
This is going to do the best job filtering your entire home. After trying the smaller units and being impressed, we upgraded to the Whole Home system.
The whole house units remove mold, viruses, bacteria, and allergens. It also neutralizes VOCs, formaldehyde, and other types of chemical gases.
These units have been shown to inhibit mold growth, too. They also sanitize surfaces and reduce the spread of germs in your home.
It can help with odors as well. And you get a cleaner and more energy efficient HVAC!
Unlike the Air Angel, the whole house units do require some installation.
It’s pretty easy, though. My husband was able to install ours himself. If you aren’t handy, any HVAC installer should be able to install it for you quickly.
Check out my interview with David Milburn of HypoAir:
What About Maintenance?
Maintenance for all these units is minimal. None of the units require filters that need to be changed! That’s great news since buying filters every month can get expensive.
They do require replacement cells either every year or every other year. These cells are reasonably priced, though. For example, for the Air Angel, if you bought one fancy coffee drink a month for a year, you’d spend more than you would for the replacement cell.
And the cells are easy to change. Most people will be able to do it themselves.
So, how do these products work differently than other types of air purification systems? They use these innovative technologies:
- Polar Ionization
- Germicidal UV (UVGI)
Here’s how those technologies work to rid your home of airborne contaminants and mast cell triggers.
HypoAir Technology Kills Contaminants
Now, you may be asking: why am I pairing HypoAir with my AirDoctor rather than just replacing it? If it kills germs, isn’t that enough?
For less sensitive people, it may be. However, for those who are severely allergic to mold or dust, you may want to use HypoAir alongside an UltraHEPA™ filter unit. Here’s why.
HypoAir will break down toxins and particles to destroy them. This tech is so effective that it is used in medical facilities like hospitals.
But especially for the sensitive “canaries”, you still want to capture the neutralized molecules for the best air quality. This is where the UltraHEPA™ filter comes in, if you can pair the Air Doctor type of filter with HypoAir.
And that’s why I’m using both types of systems.
So just how does HypoAir kill toxins?
Here’s a look at how these three innovative technologies differ from what else is on the market.
1. Polar Ionization
Many ionizers on the market generate negative ions.
The negative ions merge with particles with positive ions to form heavier particles that settle out of the air and onto surfaces.
So, really, these contaminants can still be in the room. They just aren’t floating in the air you breathe. At least, until you stir them up again.
And in this process, these negative ionizers produce ozone. Ozone can be a lung irritant.
Some people won’t be affected by the level of ozone produced by these. But in my experience, the sensitive population doesn’t do well with negative ionizers because of the ozone.
Now, you’ll see that some of the HypoAir units produce ozone, too. So, what’s the difference? Why am I not concerned?
This unit puts out only .02 parts per million. That measurement is so incredibly small that you’d get more ozone exposure in a National Park.
The amount of ozone put out by HypoAir units is far less than what’s emitted from negative ionizers.
It’s such a tiny amount that even my sensitive clients aren’t having any issues.
That’s because polar ionization uses both positive and negative ions. This helps reduce the ozone output. It’s also what breaks down contaminants to a point where they are no longer harmful.
This type of technology provides broad spectrum coverage for both what is in your air as well as on surfaces.
This is especially good news if you haven’t been able to get out of mold yet or want to kill viruses.
AHPCO is short for Advanced Hydrated Photo Catalytic Oxidation. It’s based on tech used by NASA to address air quality in deep space!
How this works is complex, so here’s a very simplified explanation:
It uses a type of light energy to make special ions that break apart microbes and pollutants in the air.
Studies prove it works amazingly well against viruses, bacteria, and mold. It can kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces like door handles, countertops, and walls.
It’s also been shown in studies to work very well for allergens, VOCs, and odors.
The last tech to cover is UVGI. This is short for Germicidal UV. Here’s what that does.
This is a disinfection method that uses ultraviolet light.
It kills bacteria, viruses, and mold in the air as it moves through your unit.
It’s just one more layer of germ killing that you’ll get with the HypoAir filters.
All of this tech has been backed up by studies, too.
What do the studies show about HypoAir effectiveness?
There are 15 years’ worth of laboratory and university studies on the HypoAir technology.
Studies have shown that HypoAir technology was able to effectively destroy these:
- SARS-CoV-2 viruses
- E. coli
- C. difficile
- Enterococcus faecium bacteria
And they have all these studies available on request. I love that kind of transparency in a company!
Now, there is one more product they offer, but it’s not one of my top recommendations. There are some instances where it might be a good add-on, though.
It’s the Germ Defender.
The Germ Defender is HypoAir’s smallest and least expensive unit. It’s mainly for bathrooms or small bedrooms. It covers about 100 sq ft.
It only uses the Polar Ionization. So, you don’t get the benefits of the AHPCO and the UVGI.
It does help with particulates. It is less effective for VOCs than the other units. It also can help with bacteria, viruses, and mold, but not to the level of the Air Angel or Whole House units.
If you are on a very limited budget, though, this may be a good option for you.
Ready to Get Cleaner Air?
I have been very pleased with my units. I hope you’ll try them so you can get some relief from airborne triggers, too. And here’s the good news if you still aren’t sure if it’s right for you.
And even though these are some of the better priced purifiers I’ve seen, you may still want to spread out your payments. They offer financing through PayPal Credit.
They have great customer support and are happy to answer your questions.
Want even better news? You can use coupon code mastcell360 to get 10% off your purchase!
Have air purifiers made a difference in your mast cell activation? We’d love to hear about it below!
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