Do you experience hypermobile joints, joint instability, or chronic pain? Are you dealing with histamine intolerance? Maybe Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)? If you’ve answered yes to any of these questions, it could be beneficial to explore the connection between mast cells and hypermobility.
What is hypermobility?
Hypermobility, also known as joint hypermobility or hypermobility syndrome, refers to a condition in which an individual’s joints can move beyond the normal range of motion. It is often associated with:
- increased flexibility
- can affect various joints in the body,
- may impact the elbows, knees, fingers, and wrists.
Hypermobility is typically caused by laxity in the connective tissues, including ligaments and tendons, which support and stabilize the joints. This increased joint flexibility can be either genetic or acquired due to factors like physical activity, injury, or other medical conditions.
While some people with hypermobility may not experience any symptoms or issues, others may suffer from problems like joint pain, instability, and a higher risk of injuries. In more severe cases, hypermobility can be associated with conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) or joint hypermobility syndrome, which may involve additional symptoms and complications.
What are Mast cells?
Let’s do a quick review of what mast cells are. Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in the immune system and the body’s response to allergens and inflammation. They are primarily known for their involvement in allergic reactions and asthma, but they also have other important functions in the body.
Key characteristics and functions of mast cells:
Mast cells are best known for their role in allergic reactions. When an allergen (substances that trigger allergies, like pollen or certain foods) enters the body, mast cells release histamines and other chemicals. These chemicals cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as itching, swelling, and mucus production.
Mast cells are involved in the body’s response to injury and infection. They release inflammatory mediators, like histamines and cytokines, which recruit other immune cells to the site of the injury or infection. This helps initiate the healing process.
Immune System Regulation:
Mast cells are a part of the body’s innate immune system, which is the first line of defence against pathogens. They also play a role in the adaptive immune response by interacting with other immune cells.
Mast cells are involved in tissue repair and remodelling. They help to clear away damaged tissue and promote the growth of new, healthy tissue.
Mast cells are found throughout the body, they are particularly concentrated in tissues that are in close contact with the external environment. Such as the skin, respiratory tract, and digestive system. They have specialized receptors on their surface that can detect foreign substances or signals of injury, which trigger their activation.
Furthermore, in some individuals, the immune system can become overly sensitive, leading to excessive mast cell activation and the development of chronic conditions like mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) or mastocytosis. In these conditions, individuals may experience symptoms such as hives, abdominal pain, and severe allergic reactions more frequently.
Overall, mast cells are a vital component of the immune system, but their dysregulation can lead to various health problems.
Mast Cells and Hypermobility:
Mast cells are involved in tissue repair. One of their functions is releasing various chemical mediators, including enzymes, in response to various signals. Elastase is one of these enzymes, and it is produced and stored in mast cells’ granules.
Moreover, Elastase is the enzyme that primarily targets elastin. A protein found in connective tissues like skin, blood vessels, and lungs. Elastin provides these tissues with elasticity, allowing them to stretch and return to their original shape. When elastase is released from mast cells, it can break down elastin, leading to changes in tissue structure and function.
The release of elastase by mast cells is a part of the body’s defence mechanisms. It is involved in processes such as wound healing and tissue remodelling. For instance, in the context of inflammation or tissue repair, elastase can help clear away damaged tissue, making room for the growth of new, healthy tissue.
Hence, emerging research suggests that mast cells may play a role in the development and progression of symptoms related to hypermobility!
How are mast cells and hypermobility connected?
1. Mast Cell Activation:
Some individuals with hypermobility experience increased sensitivity and activation of mast cells. Various triggers, such as physical stress on joints, inflammation, or allergic reactions, can lead to this activation.
2. Release of Elastase:
When mast cells are activated, they release a range of substances, including elastase. The release of elastase can lead to the degradation of elastin within joint capsules.
3. Weakening of Joint Tissues:
Elastase’s action on elastin can weaken the structural integrity of joint capsules, making them more prone to instability. This weakening may result in joint pain, discomfort, and an increased risk of injuries, such as dislocations.
4. Chronic Inflammation:
The release of elastase and other inflammatory mediators by mast cells can contribute to chronic inflammation within the affected joints. Inflammation further intensifies pain and discomfort in individuals with hypermobility.
Dysregulation of elastase:
As already mentioned, it’s not so much about the release of elastase that’s the problem, it’s the dysregulation of the release of elastase and other mast cell mediators that can lead to various health issues. Here are a few scenarios where dysregulated release of elastase can have an impact on joint health:
Joint Hypermobility Syndromes:
Some individuals with joint hypermobility disorders may have a genetic predisposition that makes their joints more vulnerable to injury. Dysregulated elastase release could potentially exacerbate joint instability and lead to issues like joint dislocations, chronic pain, or other joint-related problems.
In rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium (the lining of the membranes that surround the joints). This results in inflammation in the joint space. While elastase is not the primary enzyme involved in RA, excessive inflammation in the joint can lead to the release of various enzymes, including elastase, which can contribute to joint damage and destruction.
Other inflammatory conditions:
Conditions like ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, fibromyalgia or reactive arthritis are inflammatory conditions that can impact joint health. Dysregulated elastase release could potentially exacerbate joint inflammation and tissue damage in these conditions. There are also other conditions that can lead to inflammation such as SIBO, gut dysbiosis, candida or mould (and the oxalates produced by both)
In summary, elastase is an enzyme stored in mast cells, which are critical components of the immune system. While its controlled release is essential for tissue repair and inflammation, dysregulation or excessive activity can contribute to various health problems, particularly in the context of diseases affecting the joints, including hypermobility.
This connection between mast cells and hypermobility is a more recent area of study. As researchers delve deeper into this subject, there is significant potential to improve the management of conditions related to hypermobility. This understanding may lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches targeting mast cells and elastase to alleviate hypermobility-related symptoms. While there is still much to learn about this connection, ongoing research holds promise for improving the quality of life for those affected by hypermobility.
From a mast cell and histamine point of view we can understand the role that they play in hypermobility and can put steps into play to manage symptoms and improve quality of life. We can also work to reduce inflammation from both a gut microbiome and nervous system perspective.
Check out the results from one of my clients Angie achieved in the Happy Without Histamine Method with her EDS, POTS, MCAS and much more.
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