I first came across the term "mast cell" when I read an article in the New England Journal of Medicine linking mast cell production to pancreatic cancer. My husband lost his father to pancreatic cancer, and I have tried to read as much as possible about it since it is a genetic cancer. Interestingly enough, mast cells are the cells responsible for causing allergic reactions/anaphylaxis. They also cause inflammation. According to all of the scientists' blogs I read, inflammation is bad news. Really bad. Inflammation= autism, digestive diseases (celiac, crohn's, etc), autoimmune disease, infertility, food allergies, Alzheimer's, cancer, etc.
I recently stumbled upon the website of the smartest man in the world. This guy is a genius. He has published a whole stockpile of research linking mast cell production/inflammation to diseases like M.S., cancer, arthritis, migraines, fibromyalgia, and autism. His research on autism is brilliant. It should be on the front page of newspapers. I highly recommend sifting through his research. It is separated into categories on his site.
What I found particularly interesting about his research is that quercetin (a bioflavonoid found in skins of apples and red onions) has been found to inhibit the production of mast cells and reduce systemic inflammation. I have long known that quercetin is a natural antihistamine. Many people take it to reduce allergy symptoms. I ran to the store to buy quercetin after reading this study from Iran that claims quercetin effectively quells peanut-induced anaphylaxis in rats. I often give it to my food-allergic four-year-old (along with bromelain for absorption) and have seen pretty dramatic improvements in his behavior.
It makes sense that quercetin can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer, and help reduce the symptoms of other diseases rooted in inflammation. If you want to read more about inflammation, here are links to a few of my favorite sites:
cooling inflammation (use the labels to search articles)
dr. sears (the scientist, not the pediatrician)