If you have itchy bumps on your skin, you may have hives or urticaria. A common trigger is food, and if you suspect that a particular food product causes this issue, you may want to adopt a chronic urticaria diet.
A chronic urticaria diet may help you avoid the causes of your hives. The trick is to figure out which foods cause them, but it's often nuts, chocolate, fish, tomatoes, eggs, fresh berries and milk, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
Adopting a Chronic Urticaria Diet
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), 20 percent of people develop urticaria, or hives, during their lifetimes. If you are one of them, you'll probably want to figure out how to keep this from returning. Hives that recur for more than six weeks or repeatedly flare up are considered chronic, the Mayo Clinic reports.
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Coming up with a chronic urticaria diet may help you stave off flare-ups. Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, a group of three hospitals in Nottinghamshire, England, has devised a guide of foods not to eat with hives. Most of the products listed are high in histamine and tyramine, which may trigger this condition or make your rash worse.
These foods are high in histamine:
Mature cheeses, especially Parmesan and blue cheeses
Alcohol, especially red wine
Pickled and canned foods
Smoked meat products, such as salami
Fish – tuna, sardine, salmon, anchovy fillets
Fermented food products
Beans and pulses
Foods with preservatives and artificial coloring
These can release histamine:
- Most citrus fruit
Some foods contain tyramine:
- Cured/smoked/aged food products like cheeses and meats
- Yeast products
- Soy products, such as tofu, miso and bean curd
Eating a diet based on histamine-reducing foods, which include many fresh fruits and vegetables, may help. Or, you may try eating smaller quantities of foods containing histamine and tyramine.
Read more: What to Eat to Help You Get Rid of Hives Faster
Ways to Manage Hives
In case you have chronic hives, you can reduce or eliminate the above foods from your diet and see if your symptoms get better. You can also get tested by an allergist, who may recommend medications to prevent hives or reduce the pain, according to the ACAAI.
If you have severe hives or if these skin welts continue over several days, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you visit your doctor. This skin condition is usually not life-threatening unless you have swelling in your throat. In that case, get emergency care, states the ACAAI.
If urticaria diet therapy doesn't work, your hives may be caused by other triggers. These often include antibiotics, aspirin, ibuprofen and insect bites or stings. Physical causes like pressure, cold, heat, exercise or sun, allergy to latex, blood transfusions, bacterial or viral infections, pet dander, pollen or even some plants may cause flare-ups too.
Hives may come and go. The ACAAI reports that they may change shape, move around, disappear and reappear. While a chronic urticaria diet may help, you may want to keep a food diary to see if specific foods, rather than any foods associated with hives, are your triggers.
Read more: 10 Facts You Need to Know About Food Allergies
Other Treatment Options
If you and your doctor think that urticaria diet therapy isn't helping, you may investigate other causes. In addition to the above triggers, stress can cause an outbreak, the Mayo Clinic reports. This uncomfortable condition occurs when certain cells release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream.
Non-drowsy antihistamines, like Claritin, Allegra and Zyrtec, can help. Other histamine blockers and anti-inflammatory medicines may also be prescribed. The Mayo Clinic suggests that omalizumab, sold as Xolair, an injectable medicine given monthly, may help with chronic hives.
There aren't a lot of large-scale studies on this condition. According to a small study conducted on 22 adults and published in April 2018 in the Annals of Dermatology, food allergies are rarely the culprit for hives. The food itself or food additives are responsible for about 2 percent of all cases. A histamine-free diet has been proven beneficial.
Another small study in the September 2016 issue of the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology involved 56 patients. Researchers suggest that a low-histamine diet is a low-cost, simple way for people with hives to relieve their symptoms and improve their quality of life.
A review of studies in the September 2016 edition of the journal F1000Research indicated that new medical approaches, including antihistamines and omalizumab, help considerably in treating chronic hives. As the scientists note, food is often a cause of chronic hives.
- Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: "Urticaria and Your Diet"
- American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: "Hives (Urticaria)"
- American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: "Urticaria"
- F1000Research: "Advances in Understanding and Managing Chronic Urticaria"
- Annals of Dermatology: "A Histamine-Free Diet Is Helpful for Treatment of Adult Patients With Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria"
- Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: "A Popular Myth — Low-Histamine Diet Improves Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria — Fact or Fiction?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Chronic Hives"