Trump Bumps, Gut Health & Giving Up Chocolate

I call them my Trump bumps. Just as his presidency churned into mind-melding, bone-grinding gear, I broke out with an unexplained rash. My malady, which causes itchy welts to form all over my body and sometimes blows my lips to Kardashian proportions (Angioedema), is called Chronic Idiopathic Urticaria, a fancy name for hives.hives

For nine months now, these torturous little skin lesions have been my constant companion. To discuss these sometimes pie-size patches, I must first quell the most common myths about them. They are not caused by allergies. I’ve been tested for everything and am among the most un-allergic beings on the planet. They are not caused by stress. Stress hives usually appear only on people’s arms. I do have stress in my life and stress does exacerbate an outbreak, but it is not the cause. They are not contagious. You don’t have to wear gloves if you come to one of my book signings.

As anyone cast into a mysterious health condition, I have been reading about my hives since they arrived. I’ve tried every antihistamine on the market (and found they make the condition worse with prolonged use), and every topical ointment (Sarna and Benadryl Gel are the best but relief is short-lived). Nothing relieves hives. The itch is like having the Chicken Pox twenty-four hours a day.

A couple of months ago, I joined a private group on Facebook where thousands of Urticaria sufferers share the treatments, tests, and diets they’ve tried. There is no cure for hives. There are treatments suggested by traditional doctors (Cyclosporin/ Xolair shots). However, each comes with significant costs (shots are $300 to $2000 a month) and health risks. Cyclosporin is used as an anti-rejection treatment for patients who undergo organ transplants.

Without any other feasible options, I’m working on fixing my gut. What is God’s name does this mean? I asked the same question when a high school, nutritionist friend suggested this could be the cause. My gut has served me well for decades, what could be wrong with it now? Why has it suddenly gone haywire? Why isn’t it one of the organs we can just get rid of?

In desperate need of relief- I started taking a probiotic. A refrigerated version that costs $25 a bottle. It made the hives worse for about four days, and then, I experienced a bit of relief. At least, I think it was the probiotic. It’s hard to know for sure as I have also given up chocolate, wine , shellfish. Chinese food, and cured meats and cheese (which send me into skin-ripping overdrive).

Vitamin D has been tested as an add-on therapy for hives and some in the Facebook group think it helps.  So, I’ve added large doses of D (three times a day) to my daily routine.  I was not sure it was helping until I ran out of the supplement and experienced a horrible breakout. (Ask your doctor about taking large doses of D as there can be adverse side effects.)

Now back to the probiotics. Reading more about gut bacteria, I’ve discovered that many studies prove that our guts are the source of most sickness. Our changing food supply (GMOs/pesticides/hormones) is fueling an epidemic of allergies, autoimmune diseases, and likely my Trump bumps.

In addition to probiotics, I’ve started to read labels and no longer eat most boxed foods. I find that if I eat anything with a laundry list of ingredients, I suffer. I can’t tell you which chemical, preservative, or dye is the worst (although Maraschino cherries and red dye are forever no-no’s since I awoke with a Quasimodo face after plopping a few extra cherries into a Manhattan).

Since narrowing my eating to mostly skinless chicken, meat (from a local source butcher) and veggies, I have fewer Trump bumps, and I don’t take my prescribed laundry list of antihistamines (six different types multiple times a day) unless I get a mouth/throat hive that could hinder my breathing. Yes, I carry an Epi-pen.

My left hand is swollen and covered in hives as I type this. The burning hives on my hands come from the pressure of my palms against the laptop. I get them on my feet as well, when I walk a lot or eat a high histamine food or trigger.  The hell of this disorder is that when I believe I have them under a bit of control, a flair up covers me head to toe and I’m back to the drawing board.

It’s not easy writing about this health issue as I don’t want to come off as whiny. I know there are far worse ailments out there, and that hives will not kill me. However, as there are so many hive sufferers in the world, I  feel it necessary to share my journey to spiritual and physical health.

Blessings for healing,

V.L. Brunskill

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