Chronic hives, also known as urticaria, is a troubling condition that is difficult to assess correctly and responds poorly to treatment efforts in the conventional medicine setting. The good news is that it is quite responsive to functional medicine investigation and intervention.
We have found three factors to be commonly associated with this illness: dysbiosis, nutrient deficiencies, and stress. This is no mystery actually (regardless of conventional medicine’s reluctance to embrace these factors as important causes of illness). These factors influence each other almost as a single problem. For most of our clients, chronic stress hormone elevation results in a compromised Gut Associated Lymphatic System (GALT), a critical component of our immune system to protect the body from invasion in the gut. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is a powerful immunosuppressant and leads to a diminished capacity of the GALT to maintain the proper environment for the healthy bacteria that we nurture and that nurture us. The resulting altered gut ecology results in overgrowth of bacteria that release toxins and these toxins can have powerful effects on the immune health of the skin through mechanisms that are poorly understood.
The compromised gut has trouble absorbing nutrients and we find nutrient deficiencies (or insufficiencies) in about 80% of our patients with Chronic Hives. Nutrient testing is somewhat complex and simply testing B12 or magnesium levels in the blood serum sheds little light on sufficiency status.
These gut mechanisms that affect skin may be understood as a heightened sensitivity to “other” in the immediate environment of the person suffering from the hives. It appears that both the gut and the skin take on a super sensitivity such that innocent factors that represent no real danger to the body are tagged as dangerous and trigger an overreaction of the immune system. This results in the release of immune cytokines that in turn lead to the degranulation of mast cells which release large amounts of histamine into the skin. This is what causes the swelling, itching and redness that can be so unsettling to the person suffering from chronic hives. These symptoms often lead to poor sleep, inability to concentrate, mental fog, and sometimes quite extreme fatigue.
The good news is that there are a number of interventions that can be used to alter each of the factors contributing to the ongoing release of histamine. Our team of practitioners ~~ including a dietitian, stress resilience coach, functional medicine physician trained in exploring and resolving the origins of the chronic stress reaction ~~ is well suited to provide holistic treatment that can lead to the resolution of symptoms. Call our office today — or fill out our contact form — to schedule a welcome call to learn more about how we help individuals with chronic hives.