Are you dealing with chronic urticaria? Check out the symptoms, causes, and how supporting your gut bugs can help…
Urticaria, often known as hives, is a condition that causes extremely itchy, raised welts on the surface of the skin. It can be due to a variety of factors, such as allergies, infections, and medication as well as autoimmune mechanisms. This article focuses on chronic urticaria as this is the type most experienced by our clients at Chuckling Goat. Let’s look at the stats –
- Urticaria affects up to 1 in 5 people at some point during their lifetime. 1https://www.nature.com/articles/s41572-022-00389
- More women are affected than men.
- Urticaria is more common between the ages of 20 and 40 but it can affect children too.2https://www.allergyuk.org/resources/urticaria-and-angioedema-factsheet/
Chronic urticaria, also known as chronic spontaneous urticaria, lasts for more than six weeks, can be recurring, and has no specific trigger or known cause. 3https://gut.bmj.com/content/69/Suppl_2/A16.3
Symptoms of urticaria
- All areas of the skin can be affected.
- Raised bumps (wheals) often with distinct red edges.
- Swelling (angioedema) of the surrounding skin.
- Itchiness (pruritus), sometimes with a burning sensation.
Causes of urticaria
In the case of chronic urticaria, there are various mechanisms leading to the development of symptoms:
- Physical triggers (pressure, cold, heat, sunlight, or exercise) as well as infections, hormonal changes, and medications.
- Autoimmune – certain antibodies trigger mast cells (a type of immune cell) in the skin to release histamine as well as other inflammatory substances. 4https://www.nature.com/articles/s41572-022-00389-z#
- Overactivation of immune cells involved in dealing with allergies leads to an increase in the release of inflammatory chemicals and histamine from mast cells.
- Either way, the effects are similar – histamine causes blood vessels to dilate and become more ‘leaky’ – leading to redness, swelling, and itchiness at the surface of the skin. 5https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2021.691304/full
Gut bacteria and the immune response
Current research is now looking into the presence of certain bacteria species in the gut microbiome of people who have chronic urticaria.
Studies show that people with chronic urticaria have lower levels of beneficial bacteria such as Lactobacillus, Faecalibacterium, and Bifidobacterium. In some cases there is an increase in harmful bacteria (such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and Pseudomonas) that can cause damage to the gut lining, leading to intestinal permeability and inflammation in the skin.6https://gut.bmj.com/content/69/Suppl_2/A16.3 7https://www.jacionline.org/article/S0091-6749(19)31998-0/fulltext
Addressing the root cause – the gut microbiome
There are three ways in which gut health impacts the immune system and skin conditions like urticaria:-
All of these are interrelated and can be improved with changes to diet and lifestyle!
How? We recommend a synbiotic approach – kefir + prebiotics – to help regulate your immune system. The prebiotics provide nourishment for the probiotics, allowing them to thrive and colonise the gut, while the probiotics help to regulate the gut microbiome and support the immune system.
To further support good gut health, we recommend you:
- Eat fermented foods each day: kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and probiotic yoghurt. If you find that your hives/urticaria worsens when consuming histamine-rich foods, we recommend starting on just a tablespoon of kefir daily, increasing by a tablespoon every week, to introduce it slowly into the system.
- Eat a diverse range of fibre-rich plant foods to fuel your gut bugs (pulses, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices). Include as many different colours as possible: plant nutrients such as polyphenols also help to encourage the growth of good bacteria.
- Consider taking our Complete Prebiotic which provides your gut bugs with 18 different types of fibre to digest.
- Support a healthy gut lining by taking collagen.
- Address any stress in you life – cortisol (a stress hormone) can increase the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals, exacerbating symptoms further.
- For an acute case of urticaria/hives, you may wish to consider our Boswellia serrata tincture -‘nature’s steroids’. Read more here – What is boswellia serrata and what can it do you.
Skincare for urticaria
While the synbiotics heal the root of the issue, our natural skincare can help reduce redness and irritation. We recommend our Calm-Down Goats Milk Soap and lotion, unless your skin is very sensitive, in which case you may want to try our Sensitive range. As with any new skincare, we advise patch testing, on an area of skin unaffected by the hives, before applying liberally.
To find out more about how topical probiotics can help the skin read Why your skin needs probiotic lotion
If you’d like to find out more about food sensitivities, read – Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances – what is the difference? or for more information on intestinal permeability read Is ‘Leaky Gut’ a thing?
If you are undergoing treatment for urticaria and/or allergies, please seek the advice of your immunologist before making any changes to your diet.
Any questions? Contact one of our Nutritional Therapists via live chat, we’re available on weekdays from 8am to 8pm.