One of the most common questions I see posted online lately is: WTF IS MY BODY DOING?I’m not talking about gut disorders today but instead the immune system and, more specifically, why your body suddenly, out of absolutely nowhere, reacts completely randomly. I’m talking skin rashes, swelling, redness; that seems to have just come out of bloody nowhere!
I experienced this a few years ago and at the time it left me bewildered. Out of nowhere, my hands would swell up, an insect bite would take over my whole leg and I once woke up with lips exactly like Angelina Jolie (actually I quite liked that one.)
So when this topic came up during my nutrition training, I was fascinated. As part of my case studies, I learnt about athletes who suddenly became allergic to latex, those who had operations and had intense hayfever during recovery and many more cases!
Because so many of you asked me about it, I thought I’d share some reasons as to why you might be struggling with random allergies.
Let’s start with the obvious: STRESS DOES CRAZY THINGS TO YOUR BODY. I’m not going to go over this in a huge amount of detail as I covered it in my ‘how stress affects your digestion‘ blog post. However, to summarise, occasional stress is ok but when we’re stressed, we produce cortisol, the stress hormone.
If we continue to get stressed over longer periods of time, then our body cannot keep up with the cortisol levels we need to keep producing. This can lead to adrenal fatigue; in which your body becomes simply exhausted (there’s many symptoms of adrenal fatigue but that’s a whole other post!)
However, an exhausted adrenal system will then release more histamines. Histamines are chemicals released by the immune system which help fight things off.
Sometimes when we’re trying to fight things off, our skin can become red and inflamed. If our adrenal system is exhausted by constantly pumping out cortisol, then it can produce too many histamines. So that’s when our body may overreact to something and allergies occur. This reaction can be helpful as it’s attempting to fight the irritant. We take anti-histamines stop the reaction as they reduce the number of histamines in the body.
Indeed, this is exactly what happened in the case studies mentioned above: the stress of an operation increased histamine levels; causing extreme hayfever. The athletes stressful, hectic lifestyle put pressure on her adrenals; causing her body to produce more histamines and overreact to latex.
*This section of the post contains a small advertisement from Chemist 4 U who asked me to write about my experiences of dioralyte. This was literally the easiest advert I’ve had to include as you know I have already written about dioraylte previously and how important it is for hydration! *
Being dehydrated can also cause problems with allergies. Dehydration is a common issue and it’s not just about drinking more water. When we’re dehydrated (which is actually very common), we can again produce more histamines than needed.
A dutch study showed that dehydration ‘causes a push of histamines which can cause symptoms similar to seasonal allergies.’ So by making sure you are hydrated, you are lessening the chance of this happening and helping keeping your histamine levels under control.
But as I’ve said before, it’s not just about water. For patients with IBD, IBS and stoma patients in particularr, the balance of electrolytes is just as important!
So whilst making sure you’re drinking plenty of water is important, be mindful that an electrolyte balance is vital to prevent dehydration too (and excessive drinking can flush out too many electrolytes). An electrolyte solution contains electrolytes such as potassium and sodium- electrolytes can be lost through your wee when you go to the toilet!
So while you might not need them every day, a Dioralyte solution can be really helpful to replace missing electrolytes-especially if you know you get dehydrated during flare-ups.
Protein Pump Inhibitors
Many of us are given protein pump inhibitors for things like GERD or heartburn. In fact, it’s not uncommon to take these for years at a time. But these medications (such as omeprazole) can also lead to more histamines being produced- which can cause immune reactions.
PPIs can cause histamine intolerance. This can present itself as a flushed face after red wine and itchy tongue after things like bananas and avocados. Long-term PPIs and even antihistamines can lower the amount of histamine in our body to a point that we become overly sensitive to it.
Finally, autoimmune diseases themselves are linked to random allergies. Firstly, taking an immune suppressant may well cause your immune system to ‘overreact’ or react strangely to certain triggers that weren’t an issue before.
Oral allergy syndrome can be more common for those with conditions such as coeliac disease and crohn’s disease, since so much of our immune system is in our gut; it makes sense if our gut is unhappy, our immune system may become overly sensitive too.
Also, it’s worth noting that the gut and skin connection is also very important to consider-so if you are suffering from angry skin it may also be linked to your gut bacteria. Probiotics may well be beneficial for those struggling with things like psoriasis or inflamed skin.
I hope this post has touched upon some of the potential reasons why you might be getting random allergies. As you can see, the immune system is such a complicated thing and this topic of topic could easily fill several blog posts! Do let me know if you have any questions or any experiences with random skin allergies, oral allergy syndrome or histamine intolerance below.
*This post features a small advertisement by Chemist 4 U. All words are my own*