Leaky gut: the mast cell (histamine), Crohn’s disease connection

leaky gut mast cells histamine

You know how people with mast cell issues have, erm, less than stellar memories? Well, I came across a piece of research last year that confirmed something I already believed, but had no proof to back up; and then promptly forgot to share it with all you lovely people.

In my defence, I spend several hours a day reading research, and what doesn’t surprise me generally doesn’t make it to print (so to speak).

So, for those of you who have been living on another planet for the last few years (or are new to the whole “google is my doctor” cult), leaky gut, or intestinal permeability as it’s referred to by people who worry calling something “leaky” will delegitimise it in the eyes of the scientific community, is a nasty piece of work. It’s basically an inflammation induced breach of the intestinal barrier that’s meant to keep food particles out of the blood stream.

Signs you have a leaky gut [1]

Digestive issues (gas, bloating/IBS)

Seasonal allergies/asthma

Diagnosis of autoimmune disease: RA, Hashimotos’s, lupus, psoriasis, celiac

Mood disturbances: depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD

Skin issues; acne, rosacea, eczema

Food allergies/intolerances

Hmmmm, where else have I seen all of these symptoms on one list?

Oh wait, histamine/mast cell disorders!


Cartoon Basketball with Stop Sign

Since finding (and forgetting about) the research, a couple of great posts have been written on it. In particular, Chris Kresser, Dr Mark Hyman and others are all talking about quercetin as a highly effective treatment for leaky gut [2,3]. This would be, because as studies now show, intestinal permeability is caused by increased mast cell activity in the gut [4].

Dr Hyman goes so far as to say: “We also use herbs like quercetin and turmeric to reduce inflammation and heal a leaky gut.”

You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook

Note: some people with the COMT or MAO genetic mutations may react negatively to quercetin and turmeric [5]. I myself have both mutations and reacted to both of them initially, but am now fine with them. The beauty of epigenetics…I truly believe we can influence the genetic blueprint we’re born with, it’s the cornerstone of my dietary philosophy.  

And get this, people write to me all the time asking if Crohn’s is related to mast cells. Well, I’ve seen some studies…but interestingly, as far back as the 80s, researchers at UCLA proposed that “increased intestinal permeability could contribute to the cascade of events that culminate in active Crohn’s disease.” [6].

Oh my.

I suffered from insanely horrific intestinal issues for most of my life. Basketball stomach doesn’t even begin to cover it. My poor (not so) little tummy has been busting at the seams for most of my life. Though I wasn’t a chubby kid, my stomach really announced itself. My big brother enforced sit ups from a young age; nothing doing. That stomach just wouldn’t deflate. How could it though? My intestinal woes swung from constipation to its counterpoint at the drop of a hat.


Man, you haven’t experienced severe bloating till your mom’s had to carry you screaming from a concert (no mean feat given that I was 11 at this point) and then use scissors to cut your jeans waistband, now so embedded into triple basketball stomach that it has disappeared into it, in order for you to breathe again.


Given that I’m no longer worried about embarrassing the hell out of a boyfriend by sharing even more than I usually do, I’ve decided, that as it’s #throwbacktuesday or thursday or whatever (oops I missed my post date – this’ll have to do), I’ll share with you a photo taken the last time I went off diet. It’s a funny story see, doctors wouldn’t believe me, saying that if I managed to control my symptoms through diet, then I obviously didn’t have a mast cell disorder…

I’ve decided that most doctors are inherently illogical beings when it comes to diet.


 My basketball tummy, taken against a black background. Quintuplets maybe? 

And then one day, I noticed that my stomach wasn’t going all alien on me. Then there was another day, and another, and suddenly the norm was a flat stomach. 

Thing is, I never set out to heal leaky gut.

Because by that point, I had decided to focus on the now. To let go of the reigns, to stop second guessing myself, to give myself a little space to be, to heal, to live life. L-glutamine, bone broth, nasty ass bovine collagen oatmeal – all kicked to the curb.


I’m not holding it in I promise! What my stomach now looks like 99.9% of the time – photo taken summer 2014 (I think!). 

A high nutrient, histamine-balanced quercetin, luteolin and rutin diet, quercetin supplement, positivity and meditation all came together joyously (with a little whittling down of the very high oxalate foods) to give me, while certainly not a washboard stomach, sadly being “pregnant” or “with basketball” since the age of five has taken its toll on my stomach muscles and skin tone, it’s still freaking awesome.

Something else I have noticed is that working out the stomach (something I have avoided like the plague for most of my life for some reason) keeps any hints of bloating in check. I wonder if it has something to do with localised anti-inflammatory activity from the exercise. I have found yoga particularly effective. While yoga does not traditionally work the tummy, the rocket yoga I do (ashtanga yoga’s fun bits all rolled into one and a lot faster) puts an emphasis on building the core so that we can gain strength and balance for our inversions. Here’s me below in August 2015 (I was feeling ropey but still doing the yoga) after a rocket session.

me standing in front of a mirror to show my belly

You better believe that I give thanks to the universe, my dietary philosophy, the years of research and faith I finally put in my being the best judge of what will heal me, krishna, the almighty, you name it, I’ll kiss its feet, for my finally not having to plan my wardrobe, social and sex life around the inflated tyrant that ruled much of my life.

Yes stomach, there’s no better way to put it, you’re now my b*%&@!

Now, you better believe I’m getting back to my sit ups and quercetin rich juicies (more on that in the Anti-Detox and Anti-Cookbooks)


You’ll find recipes full of foods with antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties my books Anti-Recipes and The Anti-Cookbook


[1] http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10908/9-signs-you-have-a-leaky-gut.html


How to Cure Irritable Bowel Syndrome in a Few Days

Can Quercetin Help Heal a Leaky Gut?

[4] http://jem.rupress.org/content/205/4/897.long

[5] http://drbradstreet.org/2011/03/08/dual-role-of-quercitin-as-antidepressant-and-antioxidant-a-double-edged-sword/

[6] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10620-013-2721-y


Check out these other Healing Histamine blog posts


Yasmina was an award-winning broadcast journalist with a decade of experience covering war zones for CNN and the BBC. She devoted her journalism skills to researching and writing about histamine. Click here to learn about her. Each post is carefully and fully referenced with the latest scientific research. Not sure where to start? Here’s a four week meal plan and overall Histamine Reset.

4 Week Histamine Reset

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