If you suffer from a mast cell activation disorder (MCAD) such as mastocytosis or mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS you may benefit greatly by taking quercetin, even over cromolyn. I recently found this bioflavinoid in my search to improve my own struggle with an as yet diagnosed mast cell condition and have been very impressed with the initial results. In this post, I will discuss the properties quercetin possesses, what’s been found in laboratory testing regarding the supplement, my own experiences with the supplement and whether it might be right for you.
What is Quercetin and how does it work?
Quercetin is a flavinoid. Flavinoids are powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds with mast cell inhibitory actions. Mast cells are immune cells critical in the pathogenesis of allergic, but also inflammatory and autoimmune diseases through release of histamine, as well as many pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-8 and TNF. Quercetin can effectively inhibit secretion of histamine, leukotrienes and PGD and is actually more effective than cromolyn (the only prescribed mast cell stabilizer) in inhibiting IL-8 and TNF release from LAD2 mast cells stimulated by SP. Moreover, Quercetin reduces IL-6 release from hCBMCs in a dose-dependent manner. Quercetin inhibits cytosolic calcium level increase and NF-kappa B activation. Interestingly, Quercetin is effective prophylactically, while cromolyn must be added together with the trigger or it rapidly loses its effect. In two pilot, open-label, clinical trials, Quercetin significantly decreased contact dermatitis and photosensitivity, skin conditions that do not respond to conventional treatment. In summary, Quercetin is a promising candidate as an effective mast cell inhibitor for allergic and inflammatory diseases, especially in formulations that permit more sufficient oral absorption (Weng & Zhang).
Quercetin is also a powerful anti-viral. New research on the role of quercetin in preventing viral illness was presented in February 2007 at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in Charlotte, N.C. Another study conducted at Appalachian State University in N.C. demonstrated that quercetin reduces viral illnesses and helps maintain mental performance in individuals under extreme physical stress (Needs). As an antioxidant, it prevents and cleans up cellular oxidative stress, has powerful mood enhancing properties much like an MAO-I and can help with issues such as chronic fatigue and cognitive dysfunction.
How It Helps
Once you begin taking quercetin, you’ll notice changes happening in stages. While I felt the immediate boost of quercetin’s antioxidant powers at work through added physical and mental energy, improved mood and mental clarity, it took a good 2-3 weeks before I began to notice any real improvements in my allergic symptoms. I’ve provided a week by week breakdown below.
- increased physical and mental energy from day 2
- mast cell headache stopped around day 4
- Blood pressure came up by end of week, reducing need to supplement with oral rehydration salts (ORS) daily
- Heart rate stabilized, EVEN DURING EXERCISE
- Skin grew somewhat firmer, more elastic and youthful looking and not as dry
- Eyes started focusing properly, vision became clearer
- increased nasal drainage occurred for a few days as inflammation cleared
- I began having a harder time falling asleep
- Interstitial cystitis (IC) symptoms reduced, but still having 1-2 accidents a week.
- Able to go out and eat without taking benadryl, but still wearing mask on high pollen days without payback
- Increased sense of smell and taste
- Improved mental clarity and concentration
- Sleep issues persist
- Stomach functioning better, less heartburn, pain, upset. More regular bowel movements, less abdominal discomfort
- Continued firming of the skin
- Bone pain disappeared
- Loss of light sensitivity, can open curtains wide, don’t need to dim devices anymore
- Soreness in breasts that I’ve lived with for decades disappeared
- Brain Fog continues to decline, aphasia and language problems greatly reduced, easier access to short and long term memories
- Sleep issues persist and anxiety levels are climbing
- IC/Bladder problems ceased, span between urination now 4-6 hours, vs 2-3.
- Exercise time has almost doubled. Working out 90 minutes 5x week with no payback, building muscle faster.
- Digestion seems to be running almost normally. Waking hungry, getting hungry every 4-5 hours, had to increase calories to what an average sedentary person would eat, rather than disabled.
- Starting to feel manic and triggered (PTSD symtoms) due to loss of sleep. Went off of MAO-I to see if it helps.
- Spent 5 hours on my feet in 77 degree weather!
- No longer need to supplement with ORS unless doing extremely strenuous activity or out in heat sweating all day.
- Able to go outside on low pollen day without mask, all day without too much payback (1-2 days, vs. 1-2 weeks in the past)
- No longer reacting to the heat/sun
- Still struggling somewhat with sleep and mood, but it is improving slightly. May take weeks to get old MAO-I out of system so it’s no longer competing with Quercetin, if this is the problem.
What It Hasn’t Helped
Entering week 6, I’m still having a lot of problems reacting to food, almost any kind of food. I have a very short list of what I can eat. I’ve probably complicated matters by going a little nuts with my food choices at the festival we attended on Saturday, too. My understanding is the tummy and food reactions can often be the last frontier, so I’m not surprised I’m still struggling with this and frankly, the quercetin may not be enough to completely clear things up, or may not until after pollen counts have come way down for a while. I could increase the dosage I’m on, but until I get my head around why it’s causing a flare in my anxiety/PTSD and how to address that component, I don’t really want to risk it, because I don’t enjoy inhabiting that very dark place where I’m plagued constantly by the nightmares of years of abuse, neglect and rape. It is not unlikely that I will need a combination of quercetin and cromolyn to fully address all of my symptoms no matter how much I’d prefer to take the all natural route.
There are also some diet issues that I suspect I have that may never change regardless of what medication I’m on. I suspect that I have mycotoxin allergy or sensitivity and may never be able to eat these kinds of foods and of course I have plenty of genuine allergies, fructmal (fructose malabsorption, though I don’t care for that term because it leaves out all the other carbohydrates I can’t process), and occasional slow gastric emptying, which is a pretty good indication that I might have gastroparesis, so it’s likely there’s no supplement or drug out there that’s going to give me back a normal diet and perfectly functioning digestion.
How to Take Quercetin
Quercetin is best taken with Vitamin C or Bromelain, which helps with absorption. The quercetin complex I am taking has both, along with some calcium, rutin and citrus bioflavinoid. Recommended dosage is 500-2000mg per day, divided up into 2-4 doses. For example, a daily dose of 500mg may be taken as 125mg four times a day (Mast Attack). I am currently taking 500mg twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, as I’m trying to take it earlier in the day to try to avoid the sleep issues I am having.
My list doesn’t cover subluxations and dislocations because while I haven’t had any of the doozies that I usually get during flares, I still get them everyday. Being that I have EDS, this is simply how life is and more than likely no supplement will ever change that. For this reason, I couldn’t possibly address this the way someone with a mast cell condition alone could.
While the sleep issues are somewhat problematic because they trigger my anxiety/PTSD, these symptoms are so far still pretty mild, if a bit concerning if I can’t get them under control. I will come back to update you about it (feel free to ask in the comments, if I have not as brain fog still sometimes wins out). It’s also the only negative in a sea of positives. The level of energy I feel from taking quercetin rivals the energy I felt before I became ill and got my first diagnosis of fibromyalgia, back when I was working out almost every day and was on weight watchers back in 2007 and my bowels haven’t run this smoothly since before I can remember, so long as I stick to a very strict diet of about 20 items. I was amazed that it improved my skin’s elasticity, given that I’m a zebra, and it even shrank the size of my nose (I guess it was always inflamed and I didn’t even realize it). The return of a closer to normal return of cognitive function is an amazing blessing, providing me with much more time to work, create and interact with others on a higher level than I’ve been able to in years. The reduction in pain due to inflammation and my IC is no joke, either.
I feel freer to move and enjoy life and even though I’m struggling some with the symptoms of PTSD, my overall outlook and disposition are much closer to the “real me.” I feel like it may give me a real chance at having a life back and definitely confirms for me just how much mast cell was contributing to my overall disability. I’m really looking forward to my appointment with the mast cell specialist and getting further assistance with this issue to see how we can further improve upon these changes. I definitely recommend quercetin for mast cell conditions and even for use in EDS, POTS, autoimmune and other inflammatory diseases, given the powerful reduction in cytokine production, pain relief, boost to cognitive function and immune boost it provides.
Five Month Update
It’s early December now and I’m happy to report that quercetin has indeed continued to work its magic. In just the last few weeks, I’ve retested a few things and I’m happy to have them back in my life, such as coconut oil and bananas. I no longer have to fight with break through bouts of heartburn and I’m having far fewer mystery reactions. I can also leave the house without needing to recuperate for days, which is a major win. I’ve even been able to get away with eating out without any serious repercussions, but I’m trying to keep this activity to a minimum to allow my body to heal. What I’m hearing from other patients is that if I ever want a chance at a semi-normal baseline again, this extreme deprivation gives me the best chance. So far, it seems to be working. So I’m going to keep up with the low histamine diet and mask and keep taking my quercetin and other MCAS meds without attempting to step down, for somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-2 years. I will continue to report in, but I wanted to let you know it is working and I continues to make headway in this battle with MCAS.
Regarding my flare in PTSD and anxiety symptoms; if quercetin was responsible for the issues I was initially having dropping my MAO-I did the trick. I was only on 15 mg mirtazipine, about enough to help me sleep and provide a very slight, anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effect, but I suppose combined with the quercetin, it could have been enough to throw things out of wack which my ultra-sensitivity to psych meds. I haven’t heard anyone else complain about this that wasn’t on an MAO-I.
Finally, I switched to taking quercetin in pure powder form. I was looking to save money, but I actually think I ended up boosting its effectiveness: Because it’s not water soluble, I started mixing it in healthy fats to consume it, and I suspect this is helping my body to absorb it better. I put it on a biscuit with some grass fed butter, toss it in with my quinoa breakfast bowl with the olive oil, I put it in my coffee with some almond milk, or in my cereal… you get the picture.
Looking for other effective treatments for MCAS, MCAD or mastocytosis? Check out my comprehensive guide: MCAD: Medications and Treatments