Resonant Breathing for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Could resonant breathing help you?
When I was at my sickest with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, I couldn’t travel. It wasn’t enjoyable with all the pain I was in.
So, I was thrilled when I started feeling better and could travel again.
Even though I was still sensitive, I’d been doing well. And I was looking forward to a trip with my husband.
We’d just checked into the hotel. They’d recently shampooed all the carpets.
The smell of fragranced carpet shampoo was everywhere. Fragrance, like many chemicals, can be a mast cell trigger.
I’m sure the carpet shampooing had stirred up mold, too.
Like I said, my health had improved. Among other improvements, I hadn’t had an asthma attack in years. So, I’d stopped carrying an inhaler.
Soon after we checked in, a full-blown asthma attack hit me. My lungs felt like they’d closed off. I could barely talk or even walk. I felt myself starting to panic.
I was so worried not knowing where we would stay. Or if I would have to go to the ER because I was having such a hard time breathing.
You’ll read how this story ended a little later.
But I’ll go ahead and tell you it had a good ending. I used a practice called resonant breathing to help me stop this asthma attack.
And, I want to share this practice with you in case it can be helpful for your mast cell issues.
Resonant breathing is a mind-body practice.
It’s a nervous system support I’ve used to help calm my mind AND body.
And resonant breathing free and easy to use!
Keep reading to learn more about:
- What the mind-body connection is
- The mind-body connection and MCAS/HIT
- The many types of stress that may be affecting you
- What resonant breathing is
- How resonant breathing can help with MCAS and HIT
- Other health benefits of resonant breathing
- Calming breathing practices you can try
- Tips for resonant breathing practice
Let’s start by answering the question, what is the mind-body connection?
What is the Mind-Body Connection?
It’s important you know that this blog post is for informational and educational purposes. It’s not meant to treat any health condition or to be prescriptive for anyone. If you have any medical condition, it is critical you work under the care and guidance of a licensed medical provider.
There’s a frequent misunderstanding that the mind-body connection means your ailments are “all in your head.”
“All in your head” implies that you’re making your illness up. That you want to be sick.
I was told this. But this wasn’t true about me.
The “it’s all in your head” myth is just that…a myth.
Here’s what the mind-body connection really means.
Have you heard of Psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology, (Psychoneuroimmunology for short)?
It’s a well-established, scientific field of study.
It’s a long name. But you can see what the different parts mean when you break it down.
- Psycho = mind states
- Neuro – nervous system
- Endicrino= hormone system
- Immuno = immune system
- Ology = study of
Together it means the study of the connections between your psychology and your nervous, hormone, and immune system.
Or more simply, how your state of mind can affect the different systems of your body.
You may also have heard symptoms affected by mind-state referred to as psychosomatic symptoms.
Unfortunately, the word psychosomatic has skewed from its original meaning.
The true meaning of the word psychosomatic doesn’t mean you are deciding to be sick. Or that you’re making it up.
It means that your state of mind is affecting your body on a cellular level. And you may not even be aware it’s happening.
Your state of mind can affect your body in both good and bad ways.
Keep reading to learn more about how your state of mind might be contributing to health issues.
You just read that the mind-body connection is about how your state of mind can affect your nervous, hormone, and immune systems.
One of the biggest ways your mind-state may be affected is through stressful experiences, thoughts, and feelings.
Nowadays, stress for a lot of people is chronic.
In our day-to-day lives, we all have chronic stress at a level that the human body wasn’t designed to deal with. And most of us live at a lightning pace.
Do you deal with any of these stressors?
- Health issues
- Job stress
- Family conflict
- Financial worries
Those are some examples you might easily identify as stress.
But these are examples of stressors, too:
- Rush-hour traffic
- Trying to get the bills paid on time
- Being constantly on-the-go with kids
- getting ready for school
- picking them up on time
- getting them to extracurricular activities
- getting dinner ready
- helping with homework
- getting ready for bedtime
- Working a job where you have to be “on”
- Feeling like you don’t fit in – whether at work, home, school, with friends
- Keeping the house and yard looking good
- Social Media FOMO (fear of missing out)
- Political worries
- Pandemic worries
When you live this kind of life your nervous system never has a chance to reset.
And when it comes to stress, you might be underestimating how much it really affects you.
Stress and Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
Studies have clearly demonstrated stress is a significant trigger of your mast cells.
Unfortunately, stress together with Mast Cell Activation can lead to an unwanted feedback loop.
Here’s more on how that happens.
Some of these mediators can cause brain inflammation. Brain inflammation can then increase the sensations of stress and anxiety.
These symptoms are then processed as an increased sense of distress.
As the sense of distress increases, more chemical mediators get released.
You can see how this cycle keeps feeding itself.
Stress = mast cell activation = stress/sense of distress = more mast cell activation.
And what’s more, the histamine release that comes from mast cell activation can contribute to your overall histamine load.
That’s not good if you are dealing with Histamine Intolerance.
Keep reading to learn more about stress, Mast Cell Activation syndrome and the nervous system.
The Sympathetic Nervous System, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, and Mast Cell Activation
To understand this better, look at how your autonomic nervous system works.
Your autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary actions. Like your heartbeat, breathing, and digestion.
You have 2 divisions of your autonomic nervous system:
- the sympathetic nervous system
- the parasympathetic nervous system
The sympathetic nervous system is the flight, fight, freeze response.
In the sympathetic state, your mast cells release chemicals meant to help you in a dangerous situation.
Histamine, for example, can give you a boost of energy and alertness.
If you were chased by a tiger, that boost would be valuable!
But you don’t want to stay in this state.
Ideally, you’d be in the parasympathetic state about 50-75% of the time. That’s the rest, heal, digest mode.
This is especially important to those of us working to heal from chronic conditions.
However, different things can keep you stuck in the sympathetic mode.
- You don’t take time to unwind and rest
- Your nervous system is dysregulated, like from mycotoxins or bartonella
- You are under chronic stress
- Mast Cell Activation Syndrome
- You suppress normal responses to stress
Did you know that your body may be literally trying to shake off stress? Trembling is a natural response to stress meant to help shift you into the parasympathetic state.
If you are dealing with any of those things listed above, including chronic stress, your body can remain in the sympathetic state.
And you can’t be healing in the parasympathetic state if you’re constantly in the sympathetic mode.
And being stuck in fight or flight means your mast cells continue to be triggered.
With Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, your mast cells are already in a state of over-responsiveness. You don’t need anything adding to this.
So, how do you switch from the sympathetic state to the parasympathetic state?
Nervous system work is one of the key foundation steps in the MC360TM method we use in our clinic.
One of my favorite practices for working on the nervous system is resonant breathing.
Keep reading to learn more.
What is Resonant Breathing?
Resonant breathing is a simple practice. It’s all about a mindful, slow, and steady breathing pattern. Essentially, it’s paced breathing.
You synchronize your inhalations and exhalations to be equal in length.
And you breathe at what’s known as the resonance breathing frequency. That’s around 5-6 breaths per minute.
You don’t need any special equipment or training to do this breathing technique. And you can do it anywhere.
Nervous system practices are extremely important to your mast cells.
When you work on regulating your nervous system, you’re communicating to your mast cells that you’re safe.
You’re telling them that it’s ok to cool down the mast cell responses.
Resonant breathing is one of the best breathing practices for this. It engages the vagus nerve, which is part of the parasympathetic nervous system.
Improving your vagal tone is huge for calming stress…and your mast cells.
Research has shown that resonant breathing has numerous benefits for your mind and body.
I became so fascinated with resonant breathing that I researched it in depth and wrote my Master’s Thesis on “Resonant 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 resonant breathing can be to help the immune and nervous systems.
Look at some of the health benefits resonant breathing has been shown to have next.
Then you can read how to start your own resonant breathing practice.
Health Benefits of Resonant Breathing
Let’s look at just a few ways resonant breathing can have positive effects on your well-being.
Resonant Breathing for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
Resonant breathing may help your Mast Cell Activation Syndrome in more than one way.
Resonant breathing increases the delivery of oxygen to the cells.
Did you know that low oxygen levels can be a mast cell trigger?
Many people do not breathe deeply or fully.
And breathing may become even more restricted if you are experiencing any kind of pain, be it physical, mental, or emotional.
This means less oxygen is getting to your cells.
Regular practice of resonant breathing is an excellent way to increase oxygen in the system.
If low oxygen is one of your mast cell triggers, addressing this can help.
And with less mast cell activation, you’ll have less histamine production. That means you’ll be helping to decrease your histamine load.
Further, you just read that more stress = more mast cell activation.
But think of it this way, too.
Less stress = less mast cell activation.
Giving yourself some time to reset and get into the parasympathetic mode will help ease your mast cell reactions.
Resonant Breathing for Stress Related Issues
You may be surprised at the number of health issues that have been linked to stress.
So, by reducing stress with resonant breathing, you may be helping yourself with these issues, too.
Look at some symptoms stress can cause.
Stress and Musculoskeletal System
- Increased muscle tension
- Tension headaches
Stress and Respiratory System
- Chronic bronchitis
Stress and Cardiovascular System
- Elevated blood pressure
- Elevated levels of stress hormones
- Inflammation of the arteries
- Increased heart rate
Stress and Endocrine System (Hormones)
- Increase in the production of stress hormones
- May contribute to insomnia
- Impaired signaling between the brain and endocrine system which can lead to:
- Chronic fatigue
- Immune disorders
- Adrenal issues
Stress and GI System (Digestive)
- Change in appetite
- Changes in gut bacteria which could potentially lead to SIBO
- Impaired nutrient absorption
And you already read how stress and the nervous system can be linked.
By working on reducing stress through techniques like resonant breathing, you are working on the well-being of your whole body.
DID YOU KNOW?
In acting, actors may need to quickly get into a state of distress to film a scene. The mind-body connection is so strong that some actors use a technique in which they alter their breathing pattern to do this. They take quick, shallow breaths to bring themselves into a state of distress.
So, if your breaths are quick and shallow, you can imagine how this keeps you feeling stressed. But you can train yourself to breathe more slowly. This will naturally relax your body!
Resonant Breathing and Heart Rate Variability
Here’s another way resonant breathing can improve your health.
It can improve heart rate variability (HRV).
HRV refers to the slight fluctuations in the amount of time between heartbeats.
Having good HRV means you have resiliency in your autonomic nervous system.
That means you can shift easily into the sympathetic nervous system response when needed. And then you can switch back to the parasympathetic nervous system response quickly.
More simply, it means you can muster energy to respond to stress quickly. And it means you can calm back down again easily.
A good HRV means you have good adaptability to changes.
However, most of the people in our community with MCAS have nervous system dysregulation.
It may take hours or even days to get out of the sympathetic state.
Some people aren’t able to get out of sympathetic mode at all.
I remember when I had to be careful not to get stressed out because I’d be amped up for a long time. I couldn’t easily shift into parasympathetic mode.
And often, I’d have a flare in symptoms. Like my anxiety, insomnia, and muscle pain would get several times worse.
When I was sick, I also had a hard time mustering the energy to do anything that was at all stressful. Like making a difficult phone call about insurance, for example. I had a hard time properly mobilizing my sympathetic nervous system state.
I needed much better Heart Rate Variability and resiliency in my nervous system.
Resonant breathing is one of the tools I used to improve my autonomic nervous system and my HRV.
This helped with my ability to calm down after stressful events. And it helped me be able to healthfully respond to stress.
So, how can you get started with your own resonant breathing practice?
How to Practice Resonant Breathing for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
You can practice resonant breathing anywhere and anytime. You just need something to keep track of time.
I discovered this practice when reading the book Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body. This book is an excellent read on how psychoneuroimmunology works.
There are 3 main ways you can practice resonant breathing:
- Clock Method
- Phone App
- Video Instruction
All of these are either free or very low cost. Let’s look at each one of these a little closer.
To keep it super simple, all you need is a clock or watch with a second hand. (A digital clock won’t work here.)
You start by breathing in for 5 seconds and breathing out for 5 seconds. This would put your breathing rate at 6 breaths/minute. Resonance breathing frequency is about 6 breaths per minute, so that’s why you’ll aim for this.
When you are first starting, you may have to think of it as practice, though. You may not be able to do 5 seconds in and 5 seconds out in the beginning. And that’s ok.
If you need to, you can start with 2 seconds in and 2 seconds out. Or 3 seconds in and 3 seconds out.
You can try different rates to see what works best for you. And, what feels best to you may change from day to day.
Don’t worry about hitting the exact breaths per minute. Just be mindful and aim for feeling relaxed.
As it becomes more natural, you can fine tune your practice more.
My favorite way of practicing resonant breathing is to use an app on my cell phone.
TIP: If you have EMF sensitivity and prefer to use your cell phone as little as possible, you can use the app on airplane mode.
If you want to use earbuds to help mute outside noise or add some privacy, you can also consider these earbuds for those with EMF sensitivity.
There are a couple good resonant breathing apps available for just a few dollars.
You can use the “Breathing Zone” App on iPhone or the “Kardia – Deep Breathing Relaxation” App on Android (it has a purple logo).
Both of these apps let you set your breathing rate. The app lets you know when to inhale and when to exhale.
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 breathing technique by breathing gratefulness into your heart and exhaling appreciation.
I find using the phone app allows me to relax much more deeply because I don’t have to pay attention to the clock. I just sit back and listen for the cues.
And I tend to have my phone with me when I’m out and about, which makes the app very convenient.
Another way to practice resonant breathing is to pull up a video that makes a tone when you should inhale and exhale.
This works similarly to a phone app but the intervals are already set.
And most YouTube videos are free.
You can experiment to see which videos work better for you. Some have shorter breathing intervals and others have longer intervals.
Don’t force your breath. Just find one that’s easy for you to do.
I’ve put together a playlist on YouTube of resonant breathing exercises for you. Click here to watch.
Next, here are some good starter tips to consider.
Resonant Breathing FAQs & Tips
You are unique. What might be right for one person may not be quite right for you.
Keep this in mind as you begin your breathing practice.
How Long Should I Engage in Resonant Breathing?
I started practicing resonant breathing for 10-15 minutes twice a day. I did it first thing in the morning and then before bed to help with sleep.
But you may find you need to start with 5 minutes twice a day.
Or you may need to start with 2-3 minutes once per day.
Do what feels comfortable. You can always build up slowly over time. Some people build up to 20-30 minutes 1-2 times per day.
When Will I Notice a Difference?
Most nervous system practices take time to shift your nervous system.
I did resonant breathing for a couple weeks before I started feeling more relaxed while I was doing the resonant breathing practice. But during that time, my anxiety returned as soon as I stopped.
I kept practicing, though. At least in those few moments I was getting some relief.
Then a few weeks later, I noticed I felt calmer for several minutes after I finished a session. That motivated me to keep going with it.
And about 3 months in, I felt like a flip had switched.
I didn’t feel anxious and wired all the time. I was doing other things to help my nervous system, as well. But I could see that resonant breathing was definitely making a big difference.
Troubleshooting Resonant Breathing Practices for Beginners
It may be that you initially feel more anxiety when you try breathing exercises like these.
Keep reading to learn why. And to learn some other tips to consider if this happens.
Having anxiety with breathing practices is common when there is ongoing mold exposure.
Your limbic system will try to prevent you from taking deeper breaths if there is something wrong with the air you’re breathing.
If this is the case for you, you may want to check for mold in your environment.
Mold toxicity is the #1 root cause of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome that we see in the Mast Cell 360 practice.
And if you’re exposed to mold, your nervous system is definitely going to register something wrong with the air you’re breathing.
TIP: If you are still living in an environment with mold, you can try practicing outdoors if your air quality is good.
Or you may find that Resonant Breathing won’t work for you until you’re not exposed anymore.
If that’s the case, you can also check out the Nervous System Reboot Course to learn other ways to support your nervous system, too.
I’m Not Getting the Results I Want
I mentioned it earlier, but it is worth repeating.
Remember, resonant breathing is a practice. And you need to practice your practice!
I didn’t notice immediate results. But I kept going and it really worked out for me.
When I say keep going that doesn’t mean push through increasing discomfort or anxiety. There’s a difference.
Pushing through means you feel discomfort and keep doing it anyway. DON’T PUSH THROUGH.
Keep going means keep trying even if you don’t notice results right away. But always be gentle and listen to your body.
If you feel any discomfort, listen to yourself and be more gentle if you need to. Or stop if you’ve had enough. You can always try again in a day or two.
Modifying Your Resonant Breathing Practice
If you are feeling discomfort or anxiety when you try resonant breathing, consider doing less time.
Or consider adjusting how many breaths you are taking per minute.
Pay attention to what your body is telling you.
But if you can tolerate it, resonant breathing may really help you through a mast cell episode. Here’s more about one of the times it really helped me.
The Rest of The Vacation Story and How Resonant Breathing Got Me Through
Remember when I was telling you about being on vacation and having an asthma attack?
At the time of that asthma attack, I’d been working a lot with calming my nervous system already.
I was using several different techniques and practices to do this nervous system work.
One exercise I’d been practicing was resonant breathing.
When I had that asthma attack, I was really stressed out and panicking and having trouble breathing. I didn’t have my inhaler. And I didn’t have access to a lot of the nervous system supports I had at home.
But I did have my phone. And on my phone was an app I’d been using for resonant breathing.
I pulled up the app. I thought that if I could at least calm down and ease the stress and panic, I could think better about what to do next.
I started the deep breathing of my resonant breathing practice.
Well, it was as deep as it could be during an asthma attack. I had to start with short, shallow breaths.
But I was able to ease into deeper, slow breathing. My lungs began to feel like they were opening up. And I started to feel calmer.
So, I kept going. Little by little, my breathing got better.
After about 30 minutes of resonant breathing, my asthma attack stopped completely.
I was amazed!
And I was so relieved that I didn’t have to go to the ER after all. Although, I would have gone if it had ultimately been necessary.
But that time, I didn’t have to go. Resonant breathing helped calm my mind, my nervous system, and my mast cells.
And I know it was my ongoing practice as well as other nervous system work that made my nervous system and mast cells more receptive when I really needed it.
How to Do Even more Nervous System Balancing For Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance
Resonant breathing is a great start for beginners to balance your nervous system. It can also help reduce your symptoms from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.
If you find resonant breathing to be helpful, then you may like doing other forms of nervous system resetting, too.
There are so many ways to reduce stress and stressful mind states.
- Positive physical touch (like hugs)
- Forest bathing
- Calming breathing practices
*Stretching like in yoga is contraindicated if you have hypermobility, which is very common with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.
But there are even more nervous system balancing techniques you can try. Depending on your needs, you may benefit from using a combination of practices that help improve your vagal tone and calm your limbic system.
Nervous system work is a core part of the MC360™ method our practitioners use in the Mast Cell 360 clinic.
You can get learn more about what practices can help with different needs in the Mast Cell Nervous System Reboot Master Class.
In the Mast Cell 360 practice, nervous system balancing is one of the major steps toward regaining health with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Histamine Intolerance or Mold Toxicity.
Have you done resonant breathing yet? If so, I hope you’ll comment and share with our community your best tips!
More Nervous System Support
- Forest Bathing Benefits for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Your Nervous System
- Nervous System Balance is Essential in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance
- Nervous System Course
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