Another Source of Hives, Itching and Even Migraine
As I have written about in the past I have done fellowship training in the field of allergy, in addition to my ear nose and throat training. The majority of my work in allergy relates to the nose, throat or even the lungs. Many times I am asked to evaluate a patient with allergic-like skin problems such as hives.
Frequently the evaluation of a patient with hives focuses on allergy testing especially to foods. It is certainly well known that food allergy can result in multiple symptoms including, nasal congestion and trouble breathing, asthma, and hives in the skin. Often, however allergy testing does not reveal the source of the skin reactivity.
Recently much has been written about a new type of reaction which has been called histamine intolerance syndrome. Histamine is a chemical within our body that is part of a normal immune reaction to cause blood vessels to swell and get more blood flowing to an injured area. Histamine is often known as a main cause of allergic symptoms in the nose, such as watery drainage or congestion or sneezing. Most of us are familiar with antihistamine type medications.
Some people actually have an overproduction of histamine within their intestinal tract that leads to symptoms of allergies such as hives without true allergic triggers. Normally the histamine produced in our intestinal system is broken down by enzymes so it is not allowed to create an allergic type reaction or swelling. Some patients do not have enough of the enzyme to breakdown histamine. These high levels can cause Inflamed dilated blood vessels in multiple parts of the body including the brain area, causing severe migraine, as well as traditional allergy symptoms.
Interestingly the overproduction of histamine may be due to overgrowth of bad bacteria within our gut. Much has been written about healthy bacteria and our intestinal system leading to overall good health. Due to the overuse of antibiotics and the prevalence of resistant disease causing bacteria, many people now carry bacteria within their own gut that produce large amounts of histamine. Diagnosis of this condition can be difficult but there are a few specialized laboratories that are doing testing for different components of histamine or the enzyme that is supposed to break it down.
The overall treatment for this problem is not more antibiotics. It is to restore healthy intestinal lining and bacteria through use of probiotics as well as avoiding unnecessary antibiotics and diets with large amounts of vegetables and fruits and other essential nutrients.