Hives treatment: How to treat hives naturally for long-lasting relief
Anyone who has experienced hives knows just how uncomfortable and frustrating they can be.
Also known as urticaria, hives can occur for a wide range of reasons, often rapidly and without warning.
The condition is common, given one in five people will experience hives at some point in their lives.
Hives present as raised, red or flesh coloured, usually itchy welts on the skin, ranging in size from a pinhead to a dinner plate.
In acute cases, each flare or outbreak will usually resolve or fade within 24 hours.
But for people living with chronic hives, episodes continue unrelenting for six weeks or more.
People who rarely experience hives may opt to use antihistamines or avoid any obvious triggers, but for those battling chronic recurring hives, the answer isn’t so simple.
Patients often turn to Melbourne Functional Medicine after they’ve exhausted all of the conventional ways to solve chronic hives without success.
Our skin health expert Rebecca Hughes understands their frustration and desperation for a lasting and effective natural treatment for hives.
And it all starts with education, information, and understanding the underlying cause.
So if you’re still seeking a solution for your battle with hives, hopefully this article can help.
Hives natural treatment: What are hives?
Hives occur as an inflammatory immune response, caused by mast cells releasing chemicals including histamine underneath the lining of the skin. This response creates irritation of nerve endings, resulting in itch and irritation, while blood vessels release fluid causing the distinctive localised swelling of hives.
These itchy welts or ‘wheals’ are usually round or oval in shape, either flesh coloured or pink to red in colour, and can even join to create large areas of raised skin.
They can appear rapidly, change shape, disappear and reappear within minutes. For people with chronic hives however, the condition can persist for weeks or months on end.
Hives can occur for a range of different reasons, and as such, there is a range of different classifications of hives:
- Acute spontaneous urticaria: Spontaneous occurrence of wheals and/or angioedema for less than six weeks.
- Chronic spontaneous urticaria (CSU): Spontaneous occurrence of wheals and/or angioedema for a total duration of six weeks or more. This is synonymous with ‘chronic urticaria’ and ‘chronic idiopathic urticaria.’
- Chronic inducible urticaria (CIndU): Occurrence of wheals for a total duration of six weeks or more, which is inducible by physical factors (touch, pressure extremes). This is synonymous with physical urticaria.
Other types: Aquagenic, cholinergic urticaria, exercise induced urticaria, contact urticaria.
Hives treatment: Who can get hives?
Chronic urticaria can affect anyone, of any age, but hives are more common in women compared to men, and the peak age band is from 20 to 40 years old.
Family history can also play a role, and genetic links have been found.
Despite being an unpredictable condition, there is a common thread of hives causing disruption to other aspects of health and life, including sleep disorders, sexual dysfunction, impaired performance at work and school, and limitations on daily life.
Unfortunately, many people with chronic hives report feeling like these aspects of the condition aren’t acknowledged, and their condition isn’t taken seriously.
It can be particularly frustrating when they seek help and receive conventional medicines which only provide temporary relief.
Hives natural treatment: causes and contributing factors to investigate
There is no one single cause of hives. So when a patient comes to our practice seeking natural support for hives, our practitioners take a deeper look at what is going on for the individual.
Autoimmune disorders: Science is yet to fully understand the etiology of chronic spontaneous urticaria, but the leading hypothesis ties one of the main causes of hives to autoimmune dysfunction, which makes the body release histamine in response to its own immune cells. This theory is backed by findings that up to 40 percent of patients with CSU develop hives as a result of having their own serum injected into their skin. There is also a high prevalence of autoimmune disorders among people with hives, including hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, Sjogren syndrome, coeliac disease and type-1 diabetes.
Infections: Some cases of urticaria develop in response to infections of external organisms and pathogens, including bacteria like helicobacter pylori, streptococci, staphylococci, yersinia, mycoplasma and pneumoniae; viruses including hepatitis, norovirus and parvovirus, and parasites like giardia.
Allergies, sensitivities and additives: People often assume foods or food additives are causing their hives. And while food allergies can trigger acute cases of hives, foods are rarely the cause of chronic urticaria. Instead, certain high histamine foods and inflammatory ingredients may push already elevated histamine levels over the edge. For this reason, our practitioners work with patients to identify their potential food triggers, and eliminate any aggravating foods from the diet.
Gut health: People with chronic hives have a high prevalence of dysbiosis of the gastrointestinal tract and low levels of Vitamin D3. By addressing these two factors with probiotics, supplements and dietary change, we can downregulate the inflammatory state of the body and reduce the risk of hive outbreaks.
Stress: Emotional stress is one of the leading causes of inflammation in the body. It is this inflammatory response mechanism that can trigger hives. Research has found periods of high mental and emotional stress can both precede the onset of urticaria, and exacerbate symptoms after onset of the condition. Integrating stress management strategies and relaxation activities like yoga, meditation and mindfulness as well as healthy sleep habits can all work to assist in restoring a healthy balance. All of these factors are integral to stress hives treatment, along with supporting the body's increased nutrient needs when under stress.
Environment: The dynamic and ever-changing environment around us can be a never-ending source of potential aggravators. Plants, animals, bites and stings, heat, and cold can all contribute to a range of inflammatory skin conditions including hives. Some environmental factors can be difficult to pinpoint, but they’re one of the easiest causes to address by simply removing or avoiding them where possible.
Pressure: As with all skin conditions, it’s important to avoid irritation of hives. Any type of direct pressure, from firm friction to clothes brushing lightly against the skin, can further aggravate the condition. This is particularly true for inducible urticaria, which includes the better known dermographism - a condition which causes the skin to swell in response to touch. People with this condition can even ‘draw’ pictures or words on their skin by simply tracing a finger over it.
Exercise: Many of us claim to have an allergy to exercise, but people with exercise-induced urticaria quite literally do. A combination of heat, sweat, friction and cardiovascular exertion creates the ‘perfect storm’ for aggravating hive outbreaks. Exercise is still an important part of a healthy lifestyle, so our practitioners will look for options to help you stay active, while avoiding further irritation of your skin.
Listen to our skin expert Rebecca Hughes talk about the functional medicine approach to skin health
A natural treatment for hives: the functional medicine approach
Conventional medicines like antihistamines aim to dampen the histamine response and potentially reduce the inflammation and swelling associated with hives after they occur.
At Melbourne Functional Medicine, our practitioners offer a proactive and personalised approach to uncovering, and addressing, the root cause and contributing factors specific to your condition, to help solve hives for good.
Testing: We provide a range of functional testing options to first help establish the underlying contributors, which can include testing for infections, food allergies and inflammation levels in the body.
Treatment options: Our practitioners then tailor a treatment plan including dietary changes, gut health support, probiotics, nutritional supplements, herbal medicines and lifestyle changes to help you address and correct these imbalances.
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