Have you ever had skin that itched so bad and the itch wouldn’t go away? Have you ever had hives from an unknown trigger? Chronic hives, also called chronic urticaria, causes an itchy, red rash on the skin. Many times people will go to their providers to be placed on oral or topical steroids and antihistamine medications. Sometimes the hives disappear and never come back, but for some people, they stick around and pose a great discomfort to their daily lives. When this happens, people usually live off of antihistamines. There are serious risks to long term uses of certain allergy medications. Anticholinergics, such as Benadryl, have been shown to increase the risk of dementia.
As a provider, when my patients come in and say they have these skin issues, I go back to the basics and see what could be causing the outbreaks. Conventional/Western medicine calls most hives idiopathic (unknown) and a lot of people never get to follow up with why this is occuring with them. Typically, any time our immune system (our gut) is inflamed, weakened, or damaged, effects can show up on the skin as itching, hives, rashes, dry skin, etc.
Food Sensitivities & Additives: Food sensitivities can damage the gut and repeated exposures can cause skin irritation. I had 4 patients come to me within a two week time span (the Universe will group similar patients for me at times) that had chronic itching. Before this time, I think I had seen one person in practice with this problem. They each had their Vitamin D levels tested and had a 154 food sensitivity blood panel completed. Their results were all very similar. They had low vitamin D levels and they had sensitivities to ‘healthy’ foods that they were regularly consuming. Eggs, coffee, chocolate, wheat, dairy, beans, nuts, some fruits/veggies, herbs, spices and condiments were common on these lists. People typically think since they are eating healthy foods that they are safe, but each of us has body compositions that are different, and because of other exposures in the gut lining (infections, chemicals and toxins), these seemingly harmless foods can be major triggers.
Looking at medications and supplements is important as well. There can be many additives and fillers in these products, it is really important to learn what you are ingesting, and know what fillers are used in the products. One of my patients was on birth control for many years, and she found one of the common fillers was a major trigger to her. Each day she was putting an inflammatory agent into her body unknowingly. A lot of over the counter supplements will have cheap and unnecessary filters as well, this is why it is best to purchase trusted supplements that have pure, clean products, such as Select Balance .
Vitamin D Deficiency: UNMC Department of Internal Medicine, published a study in the Feb. 2014 edition of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. The two-year study looked at the role of over-the-counter vitamin D3 as a supplemental treatment for chronic hives. Researchers found after just one week, the severity of patients’ symptoms decreased by 33 percent for both groups (one group taking 600IU and 4,000IU respectively). At the end of three months, the group taking 4000 IUs of vitamin D3 had a further 40 percent decrease in severity of their hives. It is important to get a Vitamin D 25–hydroxy Test prior to taking Vitamin D3 to know what your levels are at. It is best to have the help of a provider to get this testing and dosing completed. Typically my standard patients are on Vitamin D3 2,000 IU in the summer and 5,000 IU in the winter. The sicker the patient, the higher their dose tends to be.
Histamine Intolerance: This is for a whole other article due to its complexity! Histamine is found in all cells of the body and is in many foods. Histamine is an essential inflammatory component of the immune and neurologic systems. Histamine causes a variety of symptoms depending on where it is released and what receptors it binds to. I recommend trying a low histamine diet if this resonates with you and for my patients that have true histamine intolerances, I work with them on dosing high amounts of specific B vitamins and DAO supplementation to help them remove any ‘built up’ of histamine in the body.
Itching is not fun! As always, don’t forget that you are the master of your body. If you have symptoms that are affecting any part of your daily life, keep searching until you find answers. Don’t let a drug mask symptoms that can be helped by finding the underlying cause.
Stephanie Grutz, ARNP, FNP-C