When it comes to treating chronic urticaria, getting to the root cause of your symptoms is key to seeing long lasting results. That’s why understanding the connection between chronic urticaria and gut health is an important first step to finding natural solutions that work.
My own story with urticaria began over 20 years ago, before I even knew what functional medicine or gut health was. At the time, I was working a stressful job in the stockbroking markets and managing my hives with antihistamine medications.
Everything was fine for a time…until it wasn’t. I began developing other symptoms alongside my urticaria – allergies, hay fever, asthma. Before long, chronic hives were covering my entire body, and I knew it was going to take more than medication or cream to live a normal life…
Using Functional Medicine to Reverse Your Hives
Once my chronic hives kicked into high gear, I began looking for more natural solutions that could reverse my symptoms, instead of merely managing them. When I discovered functional medicine, it helped me understand how disease can progress in the body if not dealt with at the root cause.
This is a very different outlook than conventional medicine, which approaches disease from the lens of symptom management. Say you visit the doctor because you’re showing signs of a mysterious rash. Instead of investigating why your body is creating the rash, the doctor will most likely pair your rash with a diagnosis, then prescribe you steroid cream to cover it up.
Instead of pushing your symptoms aside, functional medicine aims at understanding the whole person outside of the diagnosis. A functional medicine practitioner investigates things like..
- The environment you live in
- The foods you eat and how they affect your body
- Your stress levels and quality of life
With this understanding, they can uncover what’s causing your chronic hives and support you as you make healthy changes. This is because everything in the body is connected.
If you want to use the power of functional medicine to help manage your symptoms, start asking “why.” Why is your body responding this way? Is there something in your environment you’re reacting to? Was there a particular event that triggered this response?
Symptoms are your body’s way of speaking to you. In a way, they are your greatest gift and teacher, as they provide the opportunity to understand when something’s wrong. Once you make the connection between chronic urticaria and the rest of your health, you can uncover the deeper picture underneath.
And that connection begins in the gut.
Chronic Urticaria and Gut Health
Before we talk about gut health, we have to talk about the immune system.
Because many people understand urticaria as the result of a hyper reactive immune system. And 70% of your immune system lives in your gut. If you have urticaria, you may also experience things like seasonal allergies, asthma, and being sick all the time. If left unchecked, these symptoms can even progress into an autoimmune condition.
In order to understand the root cause, we have to look at what’s causing the immune system to respond in the first place. And more often than not, these issues begin in the gut.
Leaky Gut Explained
The gut forms a strong barrier between your immune system and the rest of your body. Think of this barrier as a castle wall protecting you from the outside world. A healthy immune system’s job is to defend the body through this castle wall. As long as the barrier stays intact, your immune system can easily decide what goes in (nutrients and minerals), and what stays out (viruses, bacteria, and toxins).
Leaky gut happens when this castle wall becomes compromised. As holes start to appear along the wall itself, more things from the outside world begin to sneak past, and it gets harder and harder for the immune system to identify threats. This creates an environment where your immune system becomes confronted by things that don’t belong there, like toxins, pathogensand undigested food particles.
Because it’s not used to seeing these things, it labels these particles as foreign invaders, triggering an immune response. As time goes on, this response becomes more and more pronounced, leading to conditions like chronic urticaria.
Chronic Urticaria and Food Sensitivities
One way you can begin healing leaky gut and balancing the immune system is by identifying food sensitivities. Foods like gluten, dairy, sugar, and alcohol inflame the gut lining, often leading to increased intestinal permeability (or leaky gut). Over time, as more undigested food particles leak into the cell barrier, you’ll develop more sensitivities to certain foods.
Maybe you’ve already been to an allergist or immunologist to see what you’re allergic to, but food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies. They are less commonly tested, and more difficult to identify because they don’t elicit an immediate response.
Let me explain –
When testing for allergies, immunologists look for something called an IgE response. IgE is an antibody that produces an immediate reaction. For example, if you’re allergic to peanuts, eating a scoop of peanut butter could send you to the hospital right away. Since IgE antibodies only make up 0.1% of your immune system, they likely aren’t the primary cause of your chronic hives.
Food sensitivities on the other hand, trigger an IgG antibody response. Unlike IgE, these antibodies make up 75% of the immune system, and can take anywhere from 2 hours to 72 hours before a reaction takes place. IgG reactions also show up differently for everyone. A gluten sensitivity for some could appear as headaches and fatigue, and for others as chronic hives. That’s why understanding and removing common food sensitivities is key to healing your gut, and treating your urticaria.
What About Histamine?
Histamine is another important piece of this puzzle when it comes to chronic urticaria and gut health. But it’s also a piece that many health care professionals get wrong.
Histamine is a chemical released by your immune system to alert the body of foreign invaders. It’s most commonly associated with allergies, anaphylaxis, and you guessed it, hives. This is why many people who have urticaria are told they’re histamine intolerant, and get put on low-histamine diets.
The problem with these diets is they do nothing to address why your body can’t clear histamine in the first place. Each of us produce an enzyme called diamine oxidase (DAO). DAO’s job is to break down histamine and it’s produced in the gut. If you have a compromised gut lining, chances are your body has insufficient DAO levels to clear excess histamine from your body, which can trigger an immune response, and lead to a flare.
Urticaria and Gut Health: Putting It All Together
Now that you understand what leaky gut is, and the role food sensitivities and histamine play in terms of gut health, let’s put it all together.
- Skin conditions like urticaria are the result of a vicious cycle of different immune responses, and 70% of your immune system lives in the gut.
- A compromised gut lining creates food sensitivities and a reduced ability to clear histamine in the body.
- Both of these factors trigger an IgG immune response, which triggers an IgE response, which triggers your hives
- Restoring your gut lining is key to calming your immune system, and reversing your chronic urticaria
Ready to work with someone who knows which steps you should take next?
Learn the exact method I used to reverse my chronic urticaria in my group program Hive-Free in Less Than 90 Days. This is a 10-week high-touch, functional medicine coaching experience that incorporates nutrition and top-down gut repair work to help you further explore how these areas are holding your body back from rebalancing itself.
The program runs every January, April, and end of August/early September. We’ll meet every week for 10 weeks to support each other as you make the necessary changes to become naturally hive free. Learn how you can join the next group cohort here!
Want to start reversing your hives right away? Book a complimentary hive-free breakthrough session where we’ll discuss where you’re at on your chronic urticaria journey, and how leaky gut is holding you back from reclaiming your health.
I would be honored to support you on your journey of becoming hive-free! Book your session here.