young woman breathing, nervous system balance

How to Balance Your Nervous System with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome

A big part of my healing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and Histamine Intolerance was from working on nervous system balance. You might also see this called nervous system regulation.

When I say a big part, I mean at least 50% of my healing.

When I was really sick with MCAS and Histamine Intolerance, I didn’t have a lot of bandwidth for stress. This was 1 big clue I had nervous system dysregulation.

Even routine tasks wiped me out.

One day, I had a dentist appointment. Just a routine cleaning. Then I had to stop at the grocery. And I hit traffic on the way home.

I got home and started to unload the groceries. And I felt fried. I couldn’t even think anymore.

I crashed. That many activities in one day wouldn’t be a big deal for most people. But for me, it was too much.

After this, my husband came home and wanted to go out to dinner. I just started crying. I couldn’t stop myself.

I was exhausted. Even the thought of going out again overwhelmed me.

Have you felt like that, too?

There were other common signs I had a dysregulated nervous system like:

  • Startling easily
  • Weak gag reflex
  • Trouble relaxing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trouble handling change
  • Feeling wired after too much conversation
  • Not tolerating supplements
  • Reacting to foods
  • And more

If that sounds like you, keep reading to learn:

  • Why nervous system balance is important
  • 2 common misunderstandings about nervous system work
  • 4 main steps for healing
  • Signs of nervous system dysregulation
  • The connection between body systems, mind, and mast cells
  • How your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) gets stuck
  • 2 free ways to help activate your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)
  • Top clinic suggestions for nervous system supports

The Missing Piece in How to Balance Your Nervous System

I started taking yoga when I was 19. And I went on to become a yoga therapist and a seasoned meditator. I also did a lot of counseling and personal growth work.

I loved these things. And they helped. But I was still having trouble relaxing and calming down from stress. 

I was already doing:

  • Yoga and meditation
  • Supplements
  • Clean foods
  • Filtered Water
  • Forest bathing
  • Resonant breathing – a type of breathwork
  • Air purifiers

And I was still bed-ridden most days.

But once I finally figured out the missing pieces, I turned my health around. And you can, too!

The missing piece for me was targeted nervous system balancing practices.

I’ll talk about what those are. Before we go further, though, there’s something I want you to know. There are 2 major misunderstandings I hear a lot when it comes to nervous system balancing.

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. 

Misunderstanding #1 with Nervous System Balance

Misunderstanding #1 is that nervous system balancing programs will cure any health issue.

This simply isn’t true for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.

When people are told this, they end up really frustrated. They work hard and give 100% to a program. And naturally, they are frustrated when they don’t see the results they expect.

Nervous system balance is a HUGE deal. But it won’t get rid of things like mold toxins. Those have to be addressed too.

Related Article: How To Detox Your Body from Mold with MCAS

The other misunderstanding is about making the opposite mistake.

Misunderstanding #2 with Nervous System Balance

Another big mistake is only working on foods, supplements, and environment. This won’t work either.  

And this is where people spin their wheels for years trying this supplement and that supplement. This protocol and that protocol.

You probably know what I mean if you have a cabinet full of supplements that made no difference.

I have a “supplement graveyard” cabinet of literally over 300 failed supplements. This is because I trial everything on myself first to see if it works.

What this means is, if you skip nervous system balancing, you can stay stuck for a really long time.

But there are ways to get better! Let’s take a quick look at what’s important for healing with MCAS next.

The 4 Major Steps to Healing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance

I tell my clients there are 4 major steps to healing with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.

These are:

  1. Nervous System Balancing – Parasympathetic balance, vagus toning, and limbic rewiring are all important.
  2. Identifying and Addressing the Root Triggers – You have to find out what is causing your symptoms and work on addressing all the root triggers. Mold Toxicity is a huge one.
  3. Foods and Supplements –Targeting the right foods for your body. And adding the right supplements at the right time in the right order.
  4. Cleaning up the Environment – Making sure your environment is free of mold and other toxins. Basically:

All 4 of these parts are essential to healing when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance.

If you’ve been chronically ill, you might not see results if you don’t do all 4 of the steps above. 

I’ve seen this over and over with my clients with MCAS or Histamine Intolerance.

Did you notice nervous system balancing is first? Let’s talk about why.

Why is Balancing Your Nervous System an Important Step?

For me nervous system balance was 50% of my healing process. I see this in the vast majority of clients in the clinic, too.

See, when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, your mast cells go haywire. That basically means they are working overtime on high alert. They get tired and hyper-responsive to things in your environment. 

Your mast cells are trying to protect you. But when you develop Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, your mast cells can’t tell the difference anymore between what’s safe and what’s harmful.

This means instead of just protecting you from toxins, viruses, molds, and bacteria… they start trying to protect you from EVERYTHING!

That’s when you start having issues with what should be “safe” foods and supplements.

Like a client I had, “Frannie”, who was having major reactions even eating carrots.

Or like “Adelaide” who was flaring up every time she tried quercetin, curcumin, or a little bit of B vitamins.

You need to help those mast cells calm down so you can eat healthy foods and take the kinds of supplements you need.

And to help your mast cells calm down, you need to literally reboot your nervous system.

Some people just need to do a little nervous system rebooting. But other people need to do a lot.

I put together a short quiz that can help you understand how haywire your mast cells are. Your results will help you see what kind of work you need:

>>> Click here to take the Mystery Symptoms Quiz

Next, let’s take a closer look at signs of a dysregulated nervous system that needs rebooting.

Signs of Nervous System Dysregulation

As you read earlier, a dysregulated nervous system can keep you stuck. And working on balancing your nervous system can help you heal.

This is especially important if you have any of these:

  • Reactions to foods
  • Reactions to supplements
  • Mold toxicity
  • Lyme
  • Epstein Barre or other chronic illnesses
  • Medical traumas
  • Major stressors

And, if you have 1 or more of these symptoms, you definitely want to work on your nervous system:

  • Startling easily
  • Weak or overly strong gag reflex
  • Trouble relaxing
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Light or sound sensitivity
  • Sensitivity to tags in clothes, hugs, or certain textures
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Startle easily
  • Trouble with the smell of gasoline, paint, or fragrances
  • Trouble handling change
  • Feeling wired after too much activity
  • Any type of immune disorder

These stressful situations in the last 7 years also increase your need to work on nervous system balance:

  • Divorce
  • New significant relationship
  • New additions to your family
  • Death of a loved one
  • Witnessing violence
  • Surgery
  • Overworking
  • Moving
  • Retirement
  • Financial concerns
  • Toxic relationships
  • Losing a job
  • Starting a new job
  • New relationship
  • Feeling isolated
  • Worries about political changes
  • Worries about safety

And trauma dysregulates your nervous system, too. This can include:

  • Experiencing or witnessing physical, sexual, emotional, or mental abuse
  • Childhood neglect
  • Sudden loss of a loved one
  • Witnessing a traumatic event
  • Bullying, harassment, or abuse at school or work
  • Military Trauma
  • Having a family member with a serious illness or injury
  • Significant childhood medical issues (like surgeries)

Related Post: How to Heal from Trauma with MCAS

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that can lead to dysregulation.

But before we look at tools for balancing, I want you to know the basics of how and why it works.

How a Dysregulated Nervous System Affects Your Body

In biology and anatomy classes, we’re all taught that the immune system, hormone system, and nervous system are separate things. That’s not really how the body works, though.

This is kind of like learning about your pinky finger and your thumb as completely different things. And never learning they are connected by your palm!

But for the past 40 years, this understanding has been changing in published research. 

This research says the nervous, immune, and hormone systems, and stress levels are all connected.

In fact, you can’t even truly understand the immune system without looking at hormones, the nervous system, and the role of stress.

This is an established field of medical study these days. But many doctors still don’t know much about it yet.

This field of study has a really long name. It is called psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology. Or psychoneuroimmunology for short.

I know. The word psychoneuroimmunology is still a bit of a mouthful!

But what it means is simple.

  • Psycho – means mind states
  • Neuro – means nervous system
  • Endicrino – means hormone system
  • Immuno – means immune system
  • Ology – means the study of these things

So, psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology simply means your state of mind significantly changes your immune system, nervous system, and hormone system.  

It also works the other way around.

This is important, so we’ll dig a little more into that next.

Your Mind, Immune, Nervous, and Hormone Systems are All Connected

As you just read, everything is connected!

Problems in your immune system can cause problems in your nervous system, hormones, and mind state.

Changes in hormones affect your nervous system, immune system, and mind states.

Related Post: Estrogen Dominance and MCAS

Plus, problems in the nervous system mess with your immune system, hormone system, and of course your mind.

For example, this is why many people with chronic illness get depressed—their immune system makes their nervous system, hormones, and mind states get out of whack.

Research suggests links to conditions like MCAS and anxiety.

So, getting your mast cells calmed down can help a lot of things! It can improve both your physical health and your mental health. These systems are all interconnected.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Mast Cell Connection

I knew intuitively from working with my own health that this connection of all the systems was extremely important.

That’s why I did my Masters’ research on this topic: Psychoneuroimmunology in Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

That research was about how when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, your mind, immune system, nervous system, and hormones are all linked. And it was also about how to get them back in balance.

Here is how this affects mast cells.

Mast cells are in every part of your body except your retina. This includes in your brain.

And there are mast cells at every nerve ending!

Your mast cells and nerves are in constant communication with each other.

This is how the immune system and nervous system are linked—through mast cells. Isn’t that cool?

You just read that mast cells are a necessary and helpful part of your body. So, what goes wrong with MCAS?

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Your Autonomic Nervous System

Your nervous system is a complex network connecting all the parts of your body.

Your brain and spinal cord make up your central nervous system. All the nerves coming off your spine make up what is called the peripheral nervous system.

And the peripheral nervous system is made of up 2 parts called the sensory nervous system and the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

The ANS is responsible for involuntary actions like your heartbeat, blood flow, breathing, and digestion. And this is the part of the nervous system I want to tell you about.

Your autonomic nervous system is also made up of different systems.

The 2 that affect Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance are your:

  • Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – fight, flight, or freeze
  • Parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – rest, digest, heal, restore

The 2 systems work like a seesaw. When one goes up, the other goes down. And they are both important. But both do different things.

Let’s take a look at the sympathetic nervous system first.

Your Sympathetic Nervous System is Stuck

The sympathetic nervous system is the part of your brain that reacts to threat or danger.

Think about how you feel when someone cuts you off in traffic. When you fall. Or get into an argument.

That is your sympathetic nervous system kicking in.

Your body prepares to:

  • Fight – Your body revs up to physically fight the danger.
  • Flight – You run away from the danger to escape.
  • Freeze – When your fight or flight responses aren’t options. Think of it like rolling over and playing dead, like an opossum. But humans can do it, too.

This reaction comes from a part of your brain that can’t think. It can only react.

So, your nervous system will often respond the same way to a minor stressor or a major stressor. It will be the same if you get stuck in traffic or if you are attacked by a tiger. 

The sympathetic response is needed when we’re in danger. But then, it should switch back to the parasympathetic system for rest, digest, heal, and recover.

But living in modern culture with traffic, bills, news, overall health worries, conflicts—we are surrounded by stressors all the time. And that means we spend most of our time in a sympathetic dominant state.

This process can be a big problem for people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance.

If you have stress all the time, it is called chronic stress. Trauma can also create a chronic stress response.

This chronic stress hammers your brain with distress and anxiety.

Which raises the sympathetic state of your nervous system activity. Which in turn keeps activating your mast cells.

And when your mast cells are activated, they release mediators (chemicals) that create inflammation. Inflammation makes your nervous system have even more of a sympathetic response.

It’s a big loop.

And it affects more than just your mast cells and nervous system health.

Let’s take a closer look.

The Sympathetic Nervous System, MCAS, and Stress Hormones

Remember you read earlier that psychoneuroendicrinoimmunology means your nervous, immune, and hormone systems are all connected to the state of your mind? And vice versa.

You just read above that you can get stuck in a sympathetic nervous system loop that affects your emotional state, too. Causing even more feelings of distress and anxiety.

This fight, flight, freeze response also causes your brain to release chemicals called stress hormones. These chemicals cause your muscles to tense, your heart rate to increase, and your breathing to change.

One of these stress hormones is cortisol. It’s involved in your body’s immune system actions and reactions.

Since mast cells are part of the immune system, they are triggered into action by the cortisol.

The mast cells start to release inflammatory chemicals in your brain and throughout your body. Which causes the release of even more stress hormones. And this produces more cortisol, which activates your mast cells again.

This activating and re-activating of your mast cells by stress continues in a feedback loop.

This can happen for anyone. But when you have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome or Histamine Intolerance, the loop causes even more inflammation in your tissues and organs. And this triggers symptoms.

You might experience:

  • Hives / itching
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Digestive issues
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • And more

Related Post: What Are Mast Cells? MCAS Symptoms

Whew! You can see how stress can keep Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and Histamine Intolerance flared up!

So, what can you do to stop this feedback loop that fires up your MCAS and Histamine Intolerance Symptoms?

Let’s look at that next.

Engaging Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

You already know the sympathetic (SNS) and the parasympathetic (PNS) parts of your Autonomic Nervous System act like a seesaw. One goes up, the other goes down.

So, to stop the feedback loop that is activating your sympathetic nervous system and mast cells, you have to get your parasympathetic nervous system involved.

The parasympathetic is what interrupts the fight, flight, or freeze reaction triggering your mast cells.

Your parasympathetic nervous system is the rest, heal, digest, and restore response.

This means, you need it to work to be able to heal.

The parasympathetic nervous system:

  • Relaxes muscle tension
  • Slows down breathing
  • Improves digestion
  • Improves immune responses
  • And so much more!

It encourages a relaxation response and a state of well being.

When your parasympathetic nervous system kicks in, your brain stops flooding your body with stress hormones. And then your mast cells stop firing.

The parasympathetic also helps you detox. And most of all, you need it to restore and heal your body.

But how do you know it works?

How I Know Parasympathetic Nervous System Balance Calms Mast Cell

How do I know this actually works? Well, there are volumes and volumes of studies.

But I also see it every day firsthand (pun intended).

My first symptoms when I’m in a flare are swelling, redness, and pain in my fingers.

I’ve done experiments where I start thinking stressful thoughts to see what happens in my fingers.

In the experiment I’ll think things like:

  • I’m never going to get my gut better.
  • I’m never going to get foods back on board.
  • I should never have traveled abroad since that’s where my gut issues started.

If I let my thoughts spin like this, within 2 minutes my fingers start swelling, hurting, and turning red. This is from mast cell activation.

But—get this. When I shift into my parasympathetic nervous system state, the swelling in my fingers starts to calm back down within 5 minutes!

It’s that powerful.

If it’s doing this just for your fingers, think of what activating your parasympathetic system can do for your whole body!

For people with MCAS and Histamine Intolerance, it is vital to get your parasympathetic nervous system engaged.

This is so your hyper-responsive mast cells can slow down or stop.

Let’s take a look at some of the things that can help you engage your PNS now!

Ways to Balance Your Parasympathetic Nervous System

There are many, many options for working with your nervous system. Some work better for people with MCAS than others, though.

Let’s start with an easy one.

One simple first step is to pay attention to your breathing. Make sure you are not holding your breath. Some people tend to hold their breath when they feel stressed.

It helps if you can relax and just invite your breath to slow down.

Then, try breathing in to a count of 4, then breathing out to a count of 4.

Slowed breathing helps to engage the parasympathetic. And engaging the PNS can help you feel calmer.  

See if over time, in a relaxed way, you can gradually breathe in to a count of 10. And breathe out to a count of 10.

Read More: Resonant Breathing

Once this is going well, you can try what’s called Box Breathing or Tactical Breathing.

This is where you:

  • Breathe in for a count of 4.
  • Then relax and pause your breath for a count of 4.
  • Then exhale for a count of 4.
  • Then staying relaxed, pause the breath for a count of 4.

You can repeat that multiple times.

These breathing methods are a good start. But I haven’t seen these or deep breathing alone balance the parasympathetic nervous system.

I tried myself for years to use physical activity, like yoga, and breathing. But I needed more.

So, you’ll probably need some other tools, too.

My Favorite Tools to Help Balance Your Nervous System

As you know now, nervous system balance helps set the stage for rest, healing, and recovery. It helps with detox. It helps calm down mast cells.

No matter what program you choose, there are 3 main areas you need work on together for your nervous system to reboot and start healing. This was the piece I was missing!

Related Post: Haywire Mast Cells Block Healing

These areas are: 

  • Limbic system regulation 
  • Parasympathetic and sympathetic balance
  • Vagus nerve signaling 

I can’t cover everything in one post. So, I go into more depth on all of this in my Mast Cell Nervous System Reboot Master Class.

But here are 3 of my favorite tools for nervous system work.

Primal Trust

Primal Trust, my favorite nervous system balancing program, covers all 3 of those areas above! I love that about it.

Primal Trust Academy

Dr. Cathleen King, DPT, developed Primal Trust after she used these principles to heal herself from years of chronic illness.  You can watch her interview here.

>>> Use code 10MC360 for $10 off your first month off Primal Trust Academy


My team and I all love the NuCalm app because it’s one you can just turn on, sit back, and relax with! Or even play while you’re asleep for added benefits, if you are at a point where you tolerate it.

You can watch my discussion about NuCalm and sensitivities with David Poole here.

Enjoy a 7 Day free trial of the Sleep Suite Journey.

Use code MC360 when you sign up and get your first 3 months for only $9.99 (that’s $20 in savings per month)!

>>> Check out NuCalm’s Sleep Suite Journey here

Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve by Stanley Rosenberg 

There are wonderful exercises for vagus nerve support in this book. He gives you baby steps in Part 2 to try.  

Accessing Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve Book

>>> You can order your copy of Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve here

Calm Your Nervous System, Calm Your Mast Cells

I hope this has given you a better idea of how the nervous system and mast cells work together. And how important working on nervous system balance is in healing from chronic illness, especially MCAS.

It’s still part of my daily self-care!

If you’re not sure what you need, or what might help, you’re not alone!

I spent years figuring this out and trying lots of different tools and techniques. I don’t want you to have to do that.

And what works best for each person is a little different.

Do you want help putting together this often-missing piece of your healing puzzle?

I wish I could work with everybody 1:1, I know this isn’t possible, though. I’m just one person. This is why I put together a special class for you called the Mast Cell Nervous System Reboot.

In the class, you start with a quiz and basic evaluation of your nervous system. Then you’ll build your personalized framework where you can add whatever tools suite you best.

I share a number of free tools you can start right away.

And for those with more than just mild nervous system dysregulation, I help you decide which other tools to add in based on your level of needs.

I also guide you on how much time to spend, and how often.

And I show you in more depth how working with specific parts of your nervous system can make a huge difference in calming food sensitivities, supplement reactions, improve your quality of life, and help you get miles down the road in your healing journey.

You can find the Mast Cell Nervous System Reboot Master Class here:

If you try it, I’d love to hear about what you noticed. Just post a comment below! 

More Mast Cell Information Basics

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