If you’ve been struggling with chronic hives for a while, you’ve probably tried every cream, medication, and diet recommended by your doctor to relieve your symptoms. So…why haven’t they worked? Because they don’t address what causes chronic hives in the first place.
I struggled with chronic hives for over 15 years. No matter what I did to try and identify my triggers, nothing seemed to make sense. I’d been to allergists and dermatologists, and they told me I was allergic to dust, pollen, grass…even my own pets! How was I expected to lead a normal life when I was allergic to my own environment?
That’s why when it comes to treating your chronic hives, the first step is understanding your triggers. Once you learn what causes chronic hives in the first place, you can begin to make lifestyle changes that support your health.
What causes chronic hives?
In order to heal your chronic hives (or chronic urticaria), the first place to look is the immune system. When your immune system becomes overburdened or stressed, it releases a signaling chemical called histamine. Histamine’s job is to trigger an inflammatory response that puts the body on high alert. When in normal range, histamine can help protect the body from foreign invaders like viruses and bacteria. However if histamine levels become too high, it’s common to experience symptoms like hives, allergies, asthma, and eczema. I like to describe this concept as your histamine bucket.
Your histamine bucket is determined by what’s triggering your immune system. If you live in an environment that’s filling your histamine bucket day after day, over time your bucket will overflow. That’s why hives, like other chronic health symptoms, are most common in middle-aged people because it‘s a condition that develops over a period of time.
When working with clients to treat chronic urticaria, there are three areas I see triggering the immune system most – diet, environmental toxins, and stress. Understanding the role each of these plays in your health is key to reversing your symptoms and finding relief.
Is your diet causing your chronic hives?
The food you eat plays a critical role in how often your immune system releases histamine. For this reason, many people with chronic hives choose to go on a low-histamine diet to decrease histamine levels in the body.
Although low histamine diets can help relieve your symptoms in the short term, they do nothing to address why you’re being triggered in the first place. These diets are also restrictive and complicated to follow, making them a poor long-term solution.
Instead of focusing on a low-histamine diet, I recommend prioritizing an anti-inflammatory diet filled with high-quality whole foods. Common foods like gluten, dairy, sugar, and processed junk are known for inflaming the gut lining. And since 70% of your immune system lives in the gut, gut health plays a key role in reversing chronic hives.
When you have leaky gut, undigested food particles pass through the gut lining into the immune system, where they’re labelled as foreign invaders. This situation often triggers an immune response, leading to elevated histamine levels filling your histamine bucket.
That’s why identifying any food sensitivities, allergies, or intolerances you have is an important step in healing your chronic hives.
Are toxins causing your chronic hives?
Although cleaning up your diet is a great first step for healing your chronic hives, it likely isn’t the only thing filling your histamine bucket. Environmental toxins in your home, personal care products, medications, food, and water as well as endogenous toxins all contain potential chemicals causing your immune system to respond.
Some of the most common toxins I see with my clients are:
- Endogenous toxins: toxins released by our own bodies (eg. metabolic or bacterial waste)
- Infections: such as bacterial, fungal or parasitic are all forms of toxins
- Glyphosate: A weed killer found in conventionally raised wheat, produce, and processed foods
- BPA: a chemical used to manufacture plastics
- Over-the-counter medications: Advil, Tylenol, and other generic painkillers that inflame the gut lining & compromise DAO production
- Mould: Mycotoxins found in damp or damaged homes
- Phthalates: Endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in plastics, solvents, and personal care products
- Heavy Metals: Commonly found in mercury, lead, and arsenic from exposure to air, water, and soil pollution leading also to food contamination
- Food additives: Found in processed foods to extend shelf life and enhance flavour
You can reduce your exposure to these toxins by choosing to buy organic, reading product labels, and investing in air and water purifiers for your home. The Environmental Working Group’s website is a great resource for diving into each of these topics.
Is stress causing your chronic hives?
Once you’ve cleaned up your diet, and reduced your exposure to toxins, the last area to focus on is chronic stress. No matter what way you look at it, stress plays a huge role in your health, making it a common trigger for those of us dealing with chronic hives.
Stress causes a number of biochemical reactions in the body, starting with an increase in blood sugar. When your blood sugar is elevated, excess glucose is sent to your liver. Over time, your liver becomes taxed by all the glucose it’s having to store and clear away. This creates a burden on your body’s natural detoxification process, further exacerbating your hives.
Stress also produces an increase in cortisol, your body’s “fight or flight” hormone. Elevated cortisol creates a ripple effect through the rest of the body, leading to hormonal imbalances, poor sleep, compromised digestion, and even weight gain. Managing cortisol levels with stress-relieving practices can support your body’s systems, reducing your chances of experiencing a flare.
How to treat what’s causing chronic hives naturally
As a functional medicine coach, I use a root-cause approach with my clients to treat their chronic hives. I use the 5 R’s of functional medicine to help identify potential triggers, and restore their body to health.
The first step is to remove what’s triggering your immune system in your diet. This means eliminating common inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and sugar, as well as investigating which foods you’re sensitive or intolerant to.
Many people don’t realize the difference between food allergies, food sensitivities, and food intolerances. A food allergy is when a certain food triggers a dangerous and immediate immune response. Typically you know if you have a food allergy and have already cut that food out of your diet.
A food sensitivity is when a certain food creates inflammation or digestive discomfort. Unlike allergies, food sensitivities can take up to 3 days to trigger a response. They’re often the result of a leaky gut and can sometimes go away when you heal the gut lining.
A food intolerance is when you lack the enzyme to break down certain foods altogether. Even if you heal your gut, it’s likely you’ll still have to avoid this food. Each of these things causes inflammation in the gut, leading to chronic hive symptoms.
In my 30-Day Reboot program, I walk you through a safe and effective elimination diet to help you uncover your food sensitivities, as well as my proven detox rituals to help your body release accumulated toxins. This nutrition program is the perfect place to start if you haven’t already been working on nutrition changes for a while and are looking to calm your angry hives FAST..
Replace & Reinoculate
After we remove everything that your body isn’t tolerating, we address nutrient deficiencies by adding in as many nutrients as possible. However, many issues I see clients come up against during this phase are not being able to digest and assimilate the nutrients properly.
To address nutrient deficiencies, we ensure we address the most common reasons for a breakdown in digestive function for example, poor stomach acid or digestive enzyme production.
Once we’ve worked on ensuring that you are digesting foods better, we can focus on repairing the gut. We do this by incorporating gut-healing foods and introducing some high-quality supplements like probiotics.
My Heal Your Gut program is a great option for those who have done the work to remove their food sensitivities and triggers, and are ready to repair their gut from top to bottom.
The final step in treating your chronic hives is bringing balance back to the body through stress management and lifestyle changes. Rebalance is all about committing to this new, healthier version of you for the long term. There are lots of ways to manage stress and practice a healthier lifestyle. It’s important to explore which ways work best for you.
Now that you understand what’s causing your chronic hives, it’s time to take action. Learn your next steps with a FREE hive-free breakthrough session. On the call, we’ll discuss we’re you’re at on your chronic urticaria journey, and what’s holding you back from reclaiming your health.
Book your free session here.