Mastocytes and the Body’s Largest Organ

And now for something completely different: “Abnormal overexpression of mastocytes in skin biopsies of fibromyalgia patients.”  So my first question is what the heck are mastocytes (or mast cells)?  They’re a type of white blood cell that are connected with the immune system.  They play a role in allergic reactions and a host of other things.  A few things that jump out at me when reading about them, however, is their role in the blood-brain barrier, their connection to serotonin and natural heparin, and to immune disorders, in particular, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory disorders of the joints.  As always, I’m looking at an article written about six years ago without a lot of followup.  But here it is:

In short, the authors of this article, Blanco et al, assert that the skin itself is “injured in FMS patients,” and they call it a “papillary dermis disease” which is associated with increased numbers of mastocytes. In fact of the 63 fibro patients they did biopsies on, 100% of them had elevated mastocyte counts, up to 14 times the mastocytes seen in the control group.  What this really boils down to is that mastocytes release chemicals that can cause skin tenderness and pain, but they also release these chemicals into the bloodstream as well, which can reach the central nervous system and cause typical fibromyalgia symptoms.  Since mastocytes are found in the brain and the digestive tract, it sort of makes sense to me that people with fibro (with a very high probability of elevated mastocyte counts) would have trouble with digestion and cognitive functions so often mentioned as part of the disease.

The natural question is as always, what causes this?  Apparently injuries, either physical or chemical (how do you get a chemical injury?) can cause the mastocytes to degranulate and release these chemicals.  Immunoglobulin E (not a favorite word yet because I’m not sure what the heck it is) and “pathogen-derived products…C3a and C5a complement, endothelin 1…and substance P” can all also induce the mastocytes to release their little chemical gems.  Once the process starts, apparently those chemicals can induce further degranulation, and it sounds like a vicious cycle on the cellular level.  Since skin is the largest of the body’s organs, and in the skin of fibro patients there can be 14 times more mastocytes, that gives us a substantial chance to have a chemical imbalance stem from our skin.

Thus there are more connections and ties, but still no neat little bows.  I did find some more current research, published in 2016, that suggests treating antagonized mastocytes for fibro management, but I haven’t read it all the way through yet.  Watch for it in the library, Tsilioni et al.  I’m glad to see current research on this if for no other reason than Blanco et al seem so certain about fibromyalgia being a “dermis mastocyte-associated disease,” which does actually offer some hope for possible treatment options to manage fibro, which I have never heard about before.  So nose back to the ground and keep sniffing…

I wish I could just walk into the doctor’s office and say, test me for this (out comes a 6-foot roll of paper with the tests I want), and give me these things to treat me (out comes a second roll of paper).  Let me be your guinea pig!  You can’t mess me up any more than I am already!


Despite feeling not too bad physically, the mind is definitely fighting me back.  I’m out of sorts, consistently getting out of the wrong side of the bed, cranky, not feeling like myself. It’s a regular occurrence, shifting moods on a dime.  Fortunately, I can go from cranky to laughing as quickly as I can go from laughing to cranky.  Fortunately I’m more often in a good mood than a bad mood.  My life is good, and I recognize that.  I’m grateful for everything I have and am and for all the people around me who support me and let me support them.  And then cynicism sets in when I see inconsideration or aggression or just plain rudeness, thus opening the way for crabbiness.  And for you people out there snickering about hot flashes – no, that’s not it.  Been there, done that.  All done with that.

What does my bipolar psych profile have to do with fibromyalgia?  I don’t know, but I think it may be time to take a look at the psychological aspects of chronic pain/fibromyalgia.  The areas of the brain that are affected by ongoing pain (recognizing the chicken and the egg dilemma) have a lot to do with mood and affect and could be one of the reasons for ongoing problems with depression in people with fibro.  There has been a lot written about it, lots of studies, especially with the tendency to chalk up fibro as a psychosomatic disorder rather than a physiological disorder, so there’s plenty of material out there.

I’ve been tracking mood a little bit with the Captain’s Log, but will try to connect better with both symptoms and eating/exercise.  I’m off on exercising, so there could be a bit of a connection with that and my recent crankiness.  Exercising certainly releases the right chemicals for feeling better psychologically.  I have to admit, however, the last several weeks of exercise have not been beneficial psychologically or physically for whatever reason.  I’m definitely in a downswing.  What’s odd is I’m not feeling that bad from a fibro standpoint.  Usually the mood and the pain go hand in hand.

Plan of action: I’ll work on elevating my mood while I track pain to see if my downturned mood upturns pain.  At the same time I’ll see if when my mood turns up, if pain downturns.  All the while I’ll see if I fall in line with the researchers and what they have to say about it all.  My personal theory as always been that pain – chronic relentless pain – is the source of depression in chronic pain patients.  We’ll see…

Addendum to Food – the Theory

Low or inadequate thyroid levels is highly likely to be involved with the evolution and perpetuation of fibromyalgia, so it’s necessary to see how thyroid can be boosted (again through food rather than supplements at this point).  According to, cruciferous vegetables are necessary.  I’ve got those covered with broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, etc.  Brazil nuts are also apparently good for selenium, which is connected to the production of thyroid.  I can handle that too.  However, then comes the sea vegetables, and my throat closes up and my belly says oh no you don’t!

There are a couple supplements that are recommended, chlorophyll and maca.  I can look into that if sticking with this diet doesn’t make strides.

Finally, a couple things to avoid – gluten, because it increases thyroid antibody production, which essentially destroys thyroid in its tracks.  Second, no soy protein isolate.  I have to check into this because there is no reasoning for it in this article.  Energy bars, like Cliff and Kind would be eliminated if that is the case.  Since processed foods are going to be eliminated (or virtually so), it won’t be too difficult to avoid soy protein isolate.