A surprising cause of chronic hives

Itching for knowledge

Q: I keep coming down with hives, and I have no idea why. I hate having to take antihistamines long-term like this. Nothing I do seems to help. Do you have any idea what could be causing this?

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Dr. Wright: Hives (or, for the technically and semantically inclined, urticaria) are relatively small, reddish bumps that can occur anywhere on the skin surface. Hives itch, sometimes intensely, but usually will go away uneventfully within a few days.

Over-the-counter antihistamines usually relieve the itching, at least partially. Most of us never get hives; those who do have usually one or two episodes, but some individuals get hives over and over again.

Last year, I worked with a 62-year-old man who had an experience similar to yours. He’d had hives most of the time for more than five years. Jim (not his real name) said he’d given up antihistamines because they mostly make me sleepy and don’t stop the problem, anyway. The dermatologist he’d seen sent him to an allergist, but that didn’t help much, either.

As a first step, I recommended he have a gastric analysis done, explaining that nearly everyone suffering from chronic recurrent hives tested at Tahoma Clinic since 1976 has been found to have moderate to severe gastric hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid). Taking replacement hydrochloric acid with pepsin with meals almost always eliminates the hives, although it does take two to four months.

The connection between low stomach acid and chronic recurrent hives was relatively well known and described in medical journals in the early and mid-20th century, but like many other non-patentable treatments has been almost entirely forgotten. But some things don’t change: It works as well in the 21st century as it did in the 20th.

As is almost always the case with chronic hives, Jim’s test disclosed severe gastric hypochlorhydria. Along with recommendations for other problems found, I advised him to use five to six of the 10-grain (650 milligram) betaine hydrochloric acid capsules with each meal. Approximately one month later, Jim was back, reporting that the hives were more than 50 percent gone.

Six weeks later, the hives were entirely cleared up. As expected, his levels of energy, strength, and endurance were also all improved, as the supplemental betaine hydrochloride with pepsin improved his digestion and assimilation of protein and amino acids, minerals, and other important nutrients.

If you suspect low stomach acid could be behind your hives, work with a doctor skilled in natural medicine to find the right treatment for you.