February 7

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Bottom line – What You Need to Know About Hashimoto’s Hives

Learn about the correlation between Hashimoto's and chronic hives. And what you can do to help ease the symptoms and recover your skin health.

By Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS, LDN

February 7, 2022

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There are a lot of not-so-fun symptoms that come with Hashimoto’s. Many of these symptoms start well before the diagnosis comes. That’s because it takes what seems like forever to get the actual diagnosis. As a reminder, there’s no medical treatment for Hashimoto’s so doctors are often slow to diagnose because it doesn’t change their approach. 

But one symptom that can be difficult to handle and control is Hashimoto’s hives. Hives aren’t a super prevalent side effect but it is one that I’m seeing more and more. So let’s chat about why they happen and how to ditch this awful condition!

After reading this article, you’ll understand why Hashimoto’s and hives are linked. You’ll also feel relieved because you’ll know what causes Hashimoto’s hives and how to stop yours from “popping” up all over causing intense itching leaving you feeling extremely uncomfortable.

Chronic Urticaria

Hives can happen at any point in life. I think most people are aware of this. I also think that most people have had hives in some form at some point in their lives. This is because most have either encountered poison ivy or oak. Or have been bitten by a mosquito and developed an itchy welt. These are all forms of hives. 

Chronic urticaria is a condition in which someone develops long-lasting hives on their body. This can be referred to as Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria or Chronic Spontaneous Urticaria. Basically, this means that someone breaks out in hives for a period of 6 weeks or more for no apparent reason. 

Now, there can be triggers to hives. Some with hives struggle with heat or cold being a trigger. When exposed to extremes of either, their body will break out in hives. For many, heat is a more common trigger than cold. But it can certainly happen with cold temperatures as well. If you live in extreme environments, this could be a common trigger for you. 

You also don’t need to have an overt trigger. Meaning, you can develop hives with what seems like nothing provoked them. They just appeared!

Now, I don’t necessarily believe that hives happen for no apparent reason. There is always a reason. And we’ll get into that in a bit. But first, let’s take a look at the immune system as a whole to help you better understand the immune system’s role in hives. 

What Causes Hives

You have two primary branches of the immune system  – innate and adaptive. The adaptive immune system comes into play when talking about long-term immune health. Basically, building immunity over the period of your life to different things that could cause an immune response. 

Chickenpox would be part of the adaptive immune system. When I was a kid, I had chickenpox. My body fought off the virus and then built up an immunity against chickenpox. It remembers the virus and is ready to mount a defense when it encounters it again in the future. 

Now, I could always get chickenpox again should I become immunocompromised. But as long as I’m healthy, I’m almost guaranteed to never get chickenpox again. This is how vaccines work as well. My kids had the chickenpox vaccine. Measles and polio vaccines are a part of the adaptive immune system. Think of adaptive as acquired. 

Your innate immune system is for immediate reactions. This is the part of your immune system that is called into action when you encounter a new virus or allergy that your body doesn’t like or doesn’t have an adaptive immune response to. Think of innate as immediate. 

Innate and adaptive work together to shield your body from pathogens and viruses. The innate immune response happens in the first several hours of an “attack.” And the adaptive response comes behind it in the coming days. 

There are many different types of cells, tissue, and immunoglobulins that play a role in the immune response. Most are familiar with immunoglobulins E (IgE) and G (IgG). IgE is specific to allergies. A food allergy or an environmental allergy such as ragweed or various types of pollen. IgG can also be an allergy but most often it’s a sensitivity. Or better yet, a learned response to a previous exposure. 

We often equate food sensitivities with IgG. You eat a particular food once and are okay. But the more you eat it, the more you notice that your body doesn’t like it. 

Mosquitos and Hashimoto’s Hives – An Example

All forms of hives are triggered by an immune reaction. Let’s look at a mosquito bite, for example. I think it’s safe to say that almost everyone has been bitten by a mosquito and developed an itchy welt. Some actually have no reactions to mosquitos. I’ll explain why in a bit.

When the mosquito lands on your skin, it pokes its stinger into your skin breaching your immune barrier. The mosquito uses the stinger (which contains saliva) to pull out some blood. The saliva can activate both the innate and adaptive immune responses in the body. 

The immune system releases immunoglobulins in response to the saliva. The body can release both IgG and IgE to the mosquito saliva, depending on your immune system. 

Once the immune system is activated, an inflammatory response occurs. The inflammatory response releases mediators. These mediators are meant to protect the body and help the immune system fight off the offender. In this case, the mosquito saliva. 

Mediators cause symptoms – not the immune system. 

There are four major types of mediators with a bunch of different reactions within those mediators. One major type of mediator is vasoactive amines. Histamines fall into this category. When histamines are released, the body responds with:

  • Watery eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Breathing troubles 
  • Sneezing
  • Hives

These are the symptoms that most people equate with an allergic reaction. These symptoms are linked to both IgG and IgE immunoglobulins in response to histamine. 

Here’s what it looks like for simplification:

  1. A mosquito lands on your skin and bites you.
  2. Your innate immune system responds by releasing immunoglobulins (IgE, IgG, or both).
  3. Your inflammatory response occurs in response to the immunoglobulins by releasing histamines.
  4. Symptoms occur. 

This process happens each time the immune system mounts a defense against anything. It could be food, stress, viruses, bacteria, etc. And not everyone is going to have the exact same response. Some people don’t react to a mosquito bite at all because their immune system doesn’t see the saliva as an offender OR they have an adaptive immune system response to the saliva. 

Thyroid Disease and Hives

Now, how does the thyroid play a role in hives? I never thought you’d ask! 

The thyroid doesn’t specifically release immunoglobulins or activate the immune system. But what it does contain is thyroid peroxidase (TPO) and thyroglobulins (TGs). Everyone’s thyroid contains these compounds. Both TPO and TG are important in ensuring the thyroid releases ample amounts of T4 and T3 to keep the body balanced. 

If you want to learn more about how the thyroid works, you can check out my 2-hour workshop on Maximizing Your Thyroid Function

The immune system comes into play when your body creates IgG antibodies towards TPO and TG. If you have Hashimoto’s, these are the antibodies that are routinely tested for diagnosis. Your immune system is mounting a defense against these enzymes found in your thyroid. 

Basically, your immune system sees your thyroid as an offender. 

How to Stop Hashimoto’s Disease Hives

Remember, hives happen because of histamines, a type of mediator, that’s released by the inflammatory system in response to an immune reaction. 

Antihistamines can help because they’re suppressing those mediators thereby suppressing the symptoms that come with those meditators. But taking antihistamines long-term brings on other complications. 

For instance, many antihistamines are also acid blockers. This means that antihistamines are suppressing the production of stomach acid each time you take them. Is this helpful for acid reflux? Sure. But you need stomach acid. If you have low stomach acid, you’re likely not absorbing:

  • Calcium, iron, and other minerals
  • Proteins that you’re consuming
  • B vitamins, mainly B12

Stomach acid plays an important role in all of those actions. Stomach acid is also the first line of defense against food-borne illnesses. If you take away the stomach acid, you’re missing an important part of protecting your immune system. 

So, antihistamines can help in the moment but shouldn’t be the long-term answer. What is the answer? Working towards Hashimoto’s remission.

Here is what needs to take place in order to calm the immune system so that histamines are no longer released:

  1. Remove your trigger foods that are triggering your immune system.  
  2. Manage stress because stress activates the immune system.
  3. Repair your sleep because sleep struggles increase cortisol, which activates the immune system. 
  4. Change your fitness routine. Say good-bye to HIIT and other extreme types of cardio as they cause more cortisol to be released, which activates the immune system. 

Working towards healing your body will help you recover from hives. It’s 100% doable! 

180 Seconds with Sunny

I do a podcast for each new blog. These podcast episodes are 3-minutes long to help you learn quickly and not spend more time listening to people drone on! You can always listen to the podcasts on each blog. But I’d love it if you could give me a follow! And perhaps leave a review on your favorite podcast platform (Apple, Google, Spotify, etc). 

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Podcast name: 180 Seconds with Sunny

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