By: Matt Cavallo
Spring is in the air. So is pollen. With the pollen, my seasonal allergies are in full bloom. I am still sneezing from the last time I stopped to smell the roses. With my seasonal allergies at their peak, I wondered: is there a correlation between multiple sclerosis and allergies?
When I started my research, I was instantly disappointed. All of the initial research pointed to no correlation between MS and allergies. In fact, a 2011 study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) titled, Association between allergies and multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis, concluded that there was no connection between allergic diseases and MS.
While the initial research suggested no direct correlation between MS and allergies, the deeper I dug, a relationship between histamine and multiple sclerosis started to evolve. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, histamine is a “biologically active substance found in a great variety of living organisms…In an allergic reaction—the immune system’s hypersensitivity reaction to usually harmless foreign substances (called antigens in this context) that enter the body—mast cells release histamine in inordinate amounts.” The definition goes on to explain that the antigens can cause inflammation. After reading this research, my questions became: Does the inflammation caused by these antigens contribute to MS symptoms? And is this partly why I feel worse when my allergies are at their peak?
My questions lead me to research more about histamine and MS. As it turns out there are research studies ongoing exploring the relationship between MS and histamine. A study of histamines and MS on Science Daily found an “unexpected connection between pathways involved in autoimmunity and allergy and suggests previously unrecognized connections between these very different types of immune responses.” The NCBI concluded in a 2013 study, Elevated CSF histamine levels in multiple sclerosis patients, that MS patients had higher histamine levels than the control group and that further exploration was needed.
I am not a scientist, nor am I a doctor. I’m just a guy with MS and bad seasonal allergies. I know that when I feel crummy due to my allergies, that my MS symptoms seem to flare. There are two sides to the argument: one suggests no relationship between MS and allergies, the other suggests that a key immune response to allergies, histamine, may play a role in multiple sclerosis. Until they are able to figure it out, I’m still not going to stop and smell the roses. Hopefully with science and research, one day I will be able to.
*Matt Cavallo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2005. Matt is an MS blogger, author, patient advocate, and motivational speaker. Matt also has his Master’s degree in Public Health Administration. Matt is the proud father of his two sons, loving husband to his wife, Jocelyn, and best friend to his dog, Teddy. Originally from the Boston suburbs, Matt currently resides in Arizona with his family. To learn more about Matt, please visit him at : http://mattcavallo.com/blog/
you are definitely on to something. My allergies kicked in big time yesterday and today I feel like I’m having an exacerbation! I haven’t felt this bad in years.
I just saw this post. I suffered from bad hives for years, couldn’t work out what I was allergic to. Became pregnant for the first time. The hives stopped and I was diagnosed with ms at 5 months after experiencing a tingling sensation and weakness in my legs. Haven’t had hives since. I’m convinced there’s a link.
My allergies have become much worse since being diagnosed with MS. I’m on several allergy medication without a ton of relief, I only had trouble couple times of year until diagnosis. But, have noticed when I have worsening of allergy symptoms I also have worsening of MS symptoms. Have just started putting this together. Had a terrible allergy flare last thursday and now on IC steroid course for MS. Definitely worth looking into, very interesting!
I’ve learn some good stuff here. Certainly worth bookmarking for revisiting.
I wonder how so much effort you place to create this kind of magnificent informative web
I remembered my allergist saying that allergies were tied to immune system hyperfunction. A few years ago i started having MS style discord with my nervous system. I just looked into nerve and thinking problems, and found that MS was also tied to hyperactive immune problems. Funny thing is Benadryl seems to help me with nerve problems. I’m going to get an MRI to see if anything shows up relating to MS. I too think you are on to something.
I hope you’re still checking this blog! Today there is a post on Medpage Today about a study that found immunoglobulin IgA in the cerebral spinal fluid of MS patients and that the level found correlated with the severity of the patient’s disease. The researcher said that she had no idea why it was there; that it was not supposed to be produced in the spinal cord; that it was only known to be produced in mucosal cells, including the lining of the gut. Of course, as I quote below, IgA is associated with allergies to bacteria, viruses, and toxins,
An immunoglobulin produced by B cells that wasn’t previously associated with multiple sclerosis now is, and appears to correlate with disease severity, researchers reported here.
In a small study, cerebrospinal fluid IgA levels significantly correlated with CSF levels of fetuin-A, an inflammatory protein previously found to associate with MS disease severity, Antara Finney-Stable, BS, a research assistant at the Tisch MS Research Center of New York, reported during a poster session at the Society for Neuroscience meeting.
“IgA is found in high concentrations in the body’s mucous membranes, particularly the respiratory passages and gastrointestinal tract, as well as in saliva and tears.
IgA also plays a role in allergic reactions. IgA levels also may be high in autoimmune conditions, disorders in which the body mistakenly makes antibodies against healthy tissues.“
-from Kids Health website
Came across this that will be of interests:
Talks about mast cells and their relationship with MS. Mast cells release histamine throughout the body. There are prescription mast cell stabilizers and natural ones like milk thistle.
I think it is a reasonable speculation. In the presence of nasal congestion will be found adenosine monophosphate (AMP). AMP results from the metabolism/breakdown of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is part of the purine system and is responsible for energy creation inside of human cells. However extracellular ATP, which may occur from a variety of sources, including injury, is capable of traveling to sites within the body and eliciting cytokines and chemokines. This may activate an immune response that is comprehensive. As you, I am neither scientist not physician. I share your curiosity however, and perhaps different allergies, but the presence of MS and its effect on my life is undeniable. Glad to see this.
Fellow MS’er based on MRI lesions. In addition to specific areas of permanent numbness + optic neuritis, I’ve struggled for years with intermittent foggy-headedness (cog fog), vertigo and muscle aches that were all attributed to MS. For unrelated reasons, I started taking a DAO supplement to help my body process histamine, and all of these symptoms went away! Based on some of the research you cite + my experience with DAO supplementation, I’ve been wondering if my MS is actually related to the allergies I’ve struggled with since I was a child. Hopefully this continues to be an area of research once we get past Covid.