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TMJ & MCAS: Are They Connected?

Starting in early October, maven Tracey Reed has been sharing with us her journey towards deciding to and preparing for elective jaw surgery, in the hopes of addressing what's at the root of her Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. Check back on earlier blogs for the lead up to today's post.


Today I am sharing my theory on how bottle feeding, and the subsequent altered development of my teeth and jaw has been one of the triggers for my MCAS.

Please keep in mind that this is my theory. I’m a total research geek, so I’ve looked for research and it just doesn’t exist yet for me to know if what I’m going to share with you has implications for other people with MCAS.

Let me start by saying that the research does support the idea that bottle feeding contributes to obstructive sleep apnea, and that lack of oxygen (hypoxia), which happens with sleep apnea, is a trigger for MCAS. If you want to read about that check out Are You Getting Enough Oxygen When I Sleep?

But I’m getting enough oxygen while I sleep – at least my sleep study says so. There has to be something else to explain the connection.

Here is my thought process on the TMJ-MCAS connection:

  • Mast cells keep you safe. As immune cells, this is their job.

  • When you don’t feel safe (for whatever reason) your nervous system signals this to your mast cells. This is known as “cross talk”. Check out our post A Battle of Nerves for the low down on “cross talk”.

  • This “cross talk” sensitizes your mast cells. Your mast cells are now more sensitive to all kinds of possible triggers. Your mast cells are just doing their job to keep you safe. They have gotten the message that you aren’t safe and are doing their best to protect you. This is really at the heart of a lot of MCAS.

  • My airway is narrow (from altered jaw development), so I have difficulty breathing during sleep.

  • My brain perceives this difficulty and that information comes in through the amygdala (the part of the brain that processes emotions) where it asks “Am I safe?”. My brain doesn’t feel safe when I’m having difficulty breathing, so brain wave activity changes to a state of wakefulness. These events are called Respiratory Effort-Related Arousals (RERAs).

  • Every night, my mast cells get the message from my nervous system that I’m not safe. They are being sensitized every single night.

Here’s my thought process on how surgery will help:

  • Surgery that will open my airway so I can breathe normally

  • Normal breathing will help me feel safe.

  • My brain will stop sending the message to my nerves that are sensitizing my mast cells.

  • My mast cells should become less sensitive.

It sounds like it should work. I know I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

The bones in my jaw are misshapen due to all the degeneration that has happened, so my menisci don’t sit properly in the joint. I will need a lot of rehab and time to regain bone in my jaw. It will never be a structurally sound joint due to the change in structure, but it should be much better than it has been.

I will need to do a lot of work to help calm my nervous system. I’m not expecting that since my brain will feel safer, that my nervous system will automatically follow suit. I will have to commit to my mindfulness practices and maybe add some new ones.

What are your thoughts on my theory? Do you agree or disagree? Hit us in the comments below here.

If you have MCAS and TMJ issues, I would absolutely love your feedback on this. Please comment and let me know if this makes sense to you, or if you are dealing with something similar.


Since the start of October, Tracey has been sharing her journey as she is in line to undergo jaw surgery in an attempt to reduce the strain on her mast cells, contributing to her diagnosis of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. The surgery, originally scheduled for early November, has been pushed to the new year.

You can follow Tracey’s journey here on the blog, as well as on Instagram and Facebook where she'll be posting regular check-ins and updates along the way.

All this talk of TMJ stuff and pain got you thinking holy Hannah, this is me!, then might we recommend you join us in our Online Community. We share lots of downloadable resources, information, recipes. There's even a master class to help you make that Histamine Connection. It's totally free! Click here to access this free community!

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1 Comment

Christina Ballew
Christina Ballew
Oct 29, 2022

I totally think you have a good idea! Ive wondered the same with my stuffed up sinuses and narrow deviated septum of a nose. I am highly sensitive dealing with mold in my home (going to move) and this aggravates a whole cascade of mast cell issues. My health is very poor until I move out of this home.

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