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Allergic to exercise?

by (5232)
Updated about 22 hours ago
Created March 21, 2011 at 4:57 AM

I know, I know. I sound like a lazy bum.

But: I'm allergic to exercise. It has a fancy-pants name, called exercise-induced urticaria [ever-reputable wiki link: link text]. I find that some days, just walking across campus is enough for me to break out in hives and wanting to scratch my legs off. However, other days, I'm fine.

I've read that diet influences the allergic reaction, but I've been unable to pinpoint anything specific that's triggering these hives. I don't want to be dependent upon antihistamines either, just to leave my house.

I've broken out in hives in baggy shorts, snug jeans, flowy skirts, the works, so I don't think it's my clothes doing it. I find it happening less now that I'm Paleo, but I had a minor outbreak about two weeks ago, which reminded me of how obnoxious this condition is.

Has anyone ever heard of it? I'd love to learn how to manage it, and maybe learn how to prevent any further eruptions. Any input would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks! :)

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50 · January 09, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Now that I've been Paleo for 7 months, all of my allergies except this one disappeared. It doesn't seem to be as bad as before though, so maybe in a few years my body will reverse this condition :)

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5232 · June 15, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your notes with me, CaveMan_Mike! I'm going to pore over them now. I skirted around the idea that it might be a histamine intolerance due to other factors triggering me in the past, but for some reason, I didn't pursue it further after that. I found recently (past couple months) that certain fruits and veggies trash my body and thus subsequently stopped eating them, and I realize now in retrospect? My hives haven't returned! I definitely appreciate your input here and will explore it further! :)

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5232 · June 15, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Wow, that sounds really dreadful, Ireande. Your hypothesis is interesting and definitely worth looking further into. Thank you for posting! I hope you're able to find relief.

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5232 · June 15, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Yikes, I'm sorry that you have to deal with this, too. I appreciate you sharing your experience with me, though!

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1074 · January 10, 2012 at 4:54 AM

maybe due to the loose skin from initially losing fat?

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5232 · August 28, 2011 at 7:11 PM

That's possible, Alchemille, as it most often occurs when my body temperature goes up. I haven't had it happen in a while, but I'll monitor it closely and see what triggers it next time. Thank you! :)

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422 · August 28, 2011 at 7:39 AM

Could you be allergic to your own sweat? It sometimes happens to my husband too...

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24538 · July 09, 2011 at 8:41 PM

This happened to me when I started riding a bicycle everywhere, and then went away after a few weeks. I just chalked it up to sweating out whatever toxins I had in my system, and my skin hating it. But I think the answer above might paint a more accurate picture of what was going on because the itchiness was primarily on my legs.

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5232 · March 21, 2011 at 4:19 PM

It is possible that I've been exposed to wheat. My fella eats gluten, and I do prepare his meals, and I'm not always careful about washing my hands or wiping down surfaces between preps. Thank you for the link, Paola! I'm checking it out now. :)

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5232 · March 21, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Thank you for your reply, Hannah! That's fascinating, that it's so common. It's good to know that it's not just me . I agree, the temperature outside does not play a role in the itchiness factor, nor did my garments. It could be chilly out or warm and I'd be an itchy, hive-y mess. :)

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5232 · March 21, 2011 at 4:14 PM

All year 'round, Paul, unfortunately. Ouch, that person has my sympathies; that looks painful!

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2065 · March 21, 2011 at 3:01 PM

I'd like to add something after reading the wiki text. It states that it could be related to sweat, heat or constrictive clothing. I experienced the itchy legs no matter if my legs were bare, if it was 80 degrees or 50 degrees. These factors didn't effect me.

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571 · March 21, 2011 at 9:54 AM

Is it only around spring time or the whole year? Because my allergies always flare up on spring and i try to take it easy around this time to prevent itchiness on my skin. My whole immune system is going crazy when it's getting warmer. I hope your skin doesn't look that bad: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/5/57/Urtikaria_Fuss.jpg/230px-Urtikaria_Fuss.jpg

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6 Answers

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2065 · March 21, 2011 at 2:58 PM

Kaz- Yes, I have a lot of experience with this. My sister and I both had the same problem for years and could never figure out what it was. We would try to go for walks or jogs and we would be itching the skin off our thighs after 5 minutes. A dermatologist told my sister it could be a reaction to adrenalin, even though she tried to tell him she did not get it with other activities that produce adrenalin- just walking, jogging and running.

We chalked it up to an unsolved mystery and decided we were "allergic" to exercise too ;). Then I had a roommate in college who was a big runner. She ran cross country throughout high school and she would try to get me to go running with her.

Well, the first time we went I was itching like mad after 5 minutes. I thought she was going to think I was crazy, but no, she said this always happened at the beginning of the season for cross country. All the girls would go crazy with itching legs until about 4 weeks into the season.

Her coach said that it's caused by the movement that the fat tissue on their thighs created as they ran. It caused the itching sensation on their skin. At the beginning of the season they were not as toned from so much time off and they had a little extra fat moving around. My legs are much more toned and muscular now and I never get the itchy leg syndrome anymore. I know this is sort of an unsatisfying answer scientifically speaking, but it turned out to be true for me. Hope this helps!

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2065 · March 21, 2011 at 3:01 PM

I'd like to add something after reading the wiki text. It states that it could be related to sweat, heat or constrictive clothing. I experienced the itchy legs no matter if my legs were bare, if it was 80 degrees or 50 degrees. These factors didn't effect me.

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5232 · March 21, 2011 at 4:17 PM

Thank you for your reply, Hannah! That's fascinating, that it's so common. It's good to know that it's not just me . I agree, the temperature outside does not play a role in the itchiness factor, nor did my garments. It could be chilly out or warm and I'd be an itchy, hive-y mess. :)

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24538 · July 09, 2011 at 8:41 PM

This happened to me when I started riding a bicycle everywhere, and then went away after a few weeks. I just chalked it up to sweating out whatever toxins I had in my system, and my skin hating it. But I think the answer above might paint a more accurate picture of what was going on because the itchiness was primarily on my legs.

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1074 · January 10, 2012 at 4:54 AM

maybe due to the loose skin from initially losing fat?

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3280 · June 14, 2012 at 1:28 PM

You might want to consider Histamine Intolerance.

Basically, your body can process a finite amount of histamines; think of the capacity as a bucket. If you fill your bucket by eating foods that contain lots of histamines, or foods that liberate the histamine already stored in your body, you can provoke classic histamine symptoms (sneezing/wheezing/rash/hives) with a small amount of food, environmental factors (like pollen), or even exercise. It's kind of like "the straw that broke the camel's back". Don't focus on the straw and conclude you have a dire reaction to the straw (e.g. exercise.) If you reduce your dietary consumption of high histamine foods, you might find you don't get such a bad reaction from the environmental factors.

I've done about 50 hours of google research on histamine intolerance in the last 2 weeks. I've been saving notes & clippings in this evernote notebook. I just made it public if you want to browse my raw notes.

https://www.evernote.com/pub/pcguys/histamines

When I'm done my research, I'll create a blog post which contains the summarized results of this research.

Let me say that about 2 months after starting paleo, my hay fever symptoms got terrible, and I started breaking out in hives. After careful analysis of my diet, I realized that I was eating a ton of high histamine foods EVERY DAY: e.g. spinach, avocado, V8 tomato juice.

I just started a paleo low histamine diet and my allergy symptoms have vanished, as did my rash.

One thing I've experienced about hives/rash: even after removing the offending foods, it takes 2-3 for the skin to return to normal. One mistake I made 3 years ago when I first had the hives is making a change, not seeing a change in a week, and then concluding the change had no effect.

BTW, some people get help from taking supplements of the enzyme which the body uses to breakdown excess histamine. Search for histame (the product name).

Also, I seemed to be having a histamine reactions to multi-vitamins. Contained in my evernote notebook are references to B6, copper & vitamin C being helpful to squash histamine reactions, but another b-vitamin provoking histamine release. I think it was niacin, but you should double-check.

Please let me know if you find this helpful.

Good luck,

Mike

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5232 · June 15, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your notes with me, CaveMan_Mike! I'm going to pore over them now. I skirted around the idea that it might be a histamine intolerance due to other factors triggering me in the past, but for some reason, I didn't pursue it further after that. I found recently (past couple months) that certain fruits and veggies trash my body and thus subsequently stopped eating them, and I realize now in retrospect? My hives haven't returned! I definitely appreciate your input here and will explore it further! :)

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1304 · March 21, 2011 at 10:38 AM

There is a connection between allergy, exercise and wheat. See for example this article, in case you missed it (Dr. K provided the link in a recent question):

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704893604576200393522456636.html

I know that you have eliminated gluten from your diet, but is it possible that you have inadvertently been exposed to wheat?

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5232 · March 21, 2011 at 4:19 PM

It is possible that I've been exposed to wheat. My fella eats gluten, and I do prepare his meals, and I'm not always careful about washing my hands or wiping down surfaces between preps. Thank you for the link, Paola! I'm checking it out now. :)

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609 · June 14, 2012 at 3:58 PM

I've had cold urticaria since I was 19. One day I didn't have it, the next day I did. I was misdiagnosed with lupus at first and went through a barrage of blood-tests and other diagnostics before an immunologist told me I was allergic to cold temperature.

Some people grow out of it, some don't. It sucks but there's nothing I can do about it that I'm not already doing (living as clean as I can). I get hives when I exercise because of the change in temperature (even if it's 30 degrees - celcius - outside, the cooling effect of the sweat causes hives).

I feel your pain.

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5232 · June 15, 2012 at 6:15 PM

Yikes, I'm sorry that you have to deal with this, too. I appreciate you sharing your experience with me, though!

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50 · June 14, 2012 at 2:11 AM

I have gone through the same kind of allergy!! It is terrible! I mostly get it when I do something that involves a repetitive movement like jogging, running, walking for a long period, etc. I always thought it was just because I wasn't completely in shape like Hannah said but I didn't really pin-pointed it as an allergy until I had children and it started getting triggered when I was breastfeeding. The itch was unbearable and only occurred while I was doing it. I also started to notice at the gym that after any class, everybody was covered in sweat (wet shirts and all) except me. I was as dry as when I went in. So my theory is that the areas in my body that have a higher temperature are the ones that start showing redness, hives or feel very itchy. I probably can't regulate the temperature in my body and without sweating I'm unable to cool it down. I have had some really positive changes over other issues when I started doing Paleo but I haven't tested it for this allergy specifically. Hopefully this might help too! Knowing that it is an allergy definitely helps since you can avoid any scenarios that can trigger it.

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5232 · June 15, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Wow, that sounds really dreadful, Ireande. Your hypothesis is interesting and definitely worth looking further into. Thank you for posting! I hope you're able to find relief.

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50 · January 09, 2013 at 3:35 PM

Now that I've been Paleo for 7 months, all of my allergies except this one disappeared. It doesn't seem to be as bad as before though, so maybe in a few years my body will reverse this condition :)

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8933 · June 14, 2012 at 3:19 PM

I think this is just hypoglycemia, weakening your immune system. It's pretty difficult to stabilize blood sugar, but eating a lot of fruit helps.

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