Hives, eczema, rashes, itchy skin, swollen eyes, and anxiety could be in response to a healthy diet and not a traditional allergy.

The Case:

  • Karen is 31 and eats a very healthy diet.
  • She started to experience eczema, rashes, and itchy skin as well as anxiety.
  • Doctors prescribed topical steroids and antihistamines but these only masked the symptoms.
  • Here condition escalated to swollen eyes and hives on her face.

The Investigation

When I met with Karen I suspected that her diet was to blame for her condition even though she was eating really healthy. I just knew there was something in her diet that was causing the problem; something was causing a histamine reaction. But, I also suspected it likely wasn’t a traditional food allergy.

I brainstormed  with my partner at Complete Nutrition and Wellness, Beth Mosher. She’s a clinical nutritionist who has been studying nutrition and how it relates to health and human development for almost 20 years.

I knew that together, we could solve this health mystery. We knew that it wasn’t a specific food allergy or sensitivity so we had to look at how else food could be impacting her.

Allergic Reactions can be to Components of Foods

Some people may have traditional tests that prove they are not allergic to a certain food but that does not necessarily mean that they won’t have an allergic reaction to a component of this food. Certain components of foods, particularly plant foods, produce histamine reactions.

High Sulfur Foods

Sulfur is found in a variety of foods in varying degrees. Leafy greens have a high amount of sulfur, especially spinach and kale. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli also contain sulfur. Protein can contain sulfur, specifically eggs and shrimp. Fermented foods including pickled foods, beer, and wine also contain high amounts of sulfites.

Sulfur Can Cause a Histamine Reaction

Many foods contain sulfur and while some sulfur is important for the body to function optimally, too much can create a backlog. When the body tries to metabolize this backlog of sulfur it can produce substances that create a histamine reaction. This can manifest as itchy skin, hives, swelling, or eczema.

Genetics Also Plays a Role

Not everyone who eats sulfur-rich foods is going to have this histamine reaction. Every body is different. One person may eat a diet high in sulfur with no adverse reaction because they are not predisposed to it genetically.

Sulfites Can Build Up in the Body

Sulfites can be quite toxic when they backup in the body (because they are not being properly processed) and can be converted into ammonia. Symptoms like hives, itchy skin, swollen lips and eyes, and eczema can appear to come out of nowhere. People who have not changed their diet at all might not think that food could be the cause because nothing has changed. However a diet (like the paleo diet) can cause sulfur build up overtime, which can reach a point where the body can no longer metabolize it and the result is a histamine reaction.

Early Signs of Sulfite Buildup

Sulfur generally produces a histamine reaction including hives, rashes, and itchiness around the eyes. However, a sulfur buildup in the early stages can present as headaches, itchy skin (without hives or rash), or digestive issues. Feelings of anxiety can also be a symptom of sulfur overload as metabolizing sulfur can release ammonia which in turn elevates cortisol (the stress hormone). Reducing high sulfite  foods and managing sulfur in general when these early signs show up could help reduce the chances of a full histamine reaction.

Detoxing Sulfite Overload

When detoxing the body of excess sulfites, it’s a good idea to take Epsom salt baths every day or every other day. Place a cup and a half of Epsom salts in a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes. This helps the body metabolize the backlog of sulfites and get the toxins out. Charcoal tablets may also help to absorb the ammonia and carry it out and molybdenum can help the SOUX enzyme process sulfites more efficiently.

Testing for Sulfite Overload

There are a few tests that can be done to prove the skin irritations are caused by a histamine reaction caused by sulfur overload. One is an organic acid test done through urine. There are also genetic tests that can be done. However, most people prove out the cause by lowering their consumption of sulfite rich  foods and seeing if the symptoms subside.

We Need Sulfur

Many high-sulfur foods are extremely healthy and our bodies need sulfur. However, if it is not processing it into sulfate (do to a blockage in the pathway caused by a buildup) then we need to address that. It’s important to find a balance and to be aware of the warning signs that there might be a backlog of sulfites in the system.

Mystery Solved

Our suspicions were confirmed with Karen after we ran an organic acid test. What we found was that despite eating a lot of sulfur-rich foods (like green drinks and veggies), her body was not converting that into sulfate which meant that her body was instead, creating ammonia. This led to her skin issues and likely released cortisol which could explain her heightened feelings of anxiety.

It might sound crazy for a nutritionist to say, but the prescription was for her to decrease her green juices and other sulfur-rich foods. She also took regular Epsom salt baths to help with the detoxification process. Her body (and skin) responded within a week to these changes.  Now she’s careful about how much sulfites and high sulfur foods are in her diet.

Eliminating Health Mysteries

For Karen we were able to find that missing piece of the health puzzle and help her regain her healthy skin. Do you suffer from unexplained allergic reactions like hives, eczema, rashes, itchy skin or swollen lips or eyes? Could this be the missing clue for you or someone in your life?

Links:

Thanks to my guest Beth Mosher. You can connect with her on our website www.CompleteNutritionAndWellness.com

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