Okay, in my last post I talked about how my hives have been getting better. I want to tell this entire story of what has happened, what I’ve figured out, and exactly what I’ve done step by step. I’m also going to tell you about my “hypothesis” that I’ve been testing. No details will be spared! However, this is going to take some time. I have so much to tell. I will try to post nearly every day until you know the full story.
But so that everyone can understand my full reasoning and experience with this, let me start at the beginning.
My Brief Recap of Cholinergic Urticaria Thus Far
Okay, so I got this when I was 18 years old (I’m 28 now). Out of nowhere, I suddenly started getting this odd prickly/itchy sensation when I got hot, embarrassed, etc. I had no idea what was going on, and this continued getting worse and worse. After a month or so, I went to the doctor. Of course, they tried several things (mostly antihistamines and a steroid shot), but nothing really helped. You can read the extended details of my “cholinergic urticaria story” if you want.
My hives continued for several months, getting progressively worse. Then, around early summer, my hives got better and better, until the point where I started sweating naturally. After this, my hives vanished without a trace for about 2-3 years. Life was good, and I nearly forgot about those months of torture.
Then, after I moved out into my apartment, by body went haywire. Suddenly, I started becoming intolerant to a lot of foods. I developed these odd rashes (which at the time I thought was ringworm!). Then, I noticed I started to get that “itchy thing” again (my hives). This got progressively worse as time went on.
The rashes got so bad and I was trying everything to stop it. I was trying corticosteroid cream, anti fungal cream, and even diluted bleach (don’t do that!). The steroid cream would make the rash get slightly better (only because corticosteroids crush your immune system’s response), but it would come back. Eventually, through much experimentation, I realized my rashes were mainly due to milk and some food intolerances I had developed out of nowhere. This was so odd because my entire life I have never had issues with food allergies at all.
So I cut those out of my diet, and the rashes cleared up within a few weeks. The only problem was, my hives were still there! Since my rashes improved with diet, I naturally assumed that diet must somehow be connected with cholinergic urticaria. So I tried my best to eliminate foods I knew upset me. Despite my efforts, my hives didn’t improve.
But about this time, my hives weren’t severe. I would say maybe a 4-5 on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being most severe). I mean, I could have an attack, and then I would be fine for the rest of the day. I could even exercise occasionally, and after an attack, sweat would usually come out. So my hives were frustrating, but manageable.
Over time, my hives started to get a little more serious. I was still eating a lot of food at this time (but avoiding certain ones like milk and dairy). So after a few months of dealing with my hives, I decided there MUST be something going on with the food I am eating. I went on an extreme “allergy elimination diet.” Basically, I cut 100% of all foods out of my diet except for white rice with diced tomatoes in it.
This diet was very hard, but I suffered through it. I managed to make it about 1-2weeks on this diet, and what happened during this time was odd. The first week was pretty much normal. But by the end of the second week, I could feel that my body was changing. My hives got much less severe. In fact, I felt like I was being cured. I could do sit-ups for a much longer time before I would get prickly at all, and even then, it wasn’t as painful.
I also felt better physically. For example, before when I was in my bed with the covers on me, my body always felt sorta “irritated.” As if I was on the verge of hives any second. But towards the end of this diet this feeling wasn’t there. Like my whole body had reduced some inflammation or something.
But there was a problem: This diet was so hard to stay on. After about 2 weeks, I started eating more veggies/lean meat. But I was still eating VERY lean. So after about 2-4 weeks of eating rice/very lean veggies, and a little meat, I caved in. I went back to eating my old ways. I felt dramatically better, and my hives were much less of an issue. In fact, my hives stayed this way for a few months.
So I kept eating bad, and of course, my hives slowly got worse and worse. I ate more and more junk food, even a little dairy and milk here and there, etc.
I Learned A Little Trick Through All This
Through all of that diet experimentation, I had learned a little trick. The trick for my body was this: I could eat dairy in small moderation for a few days, and then stop. This way, it wasn’t enough to cause the rashes to come back, and I could still eat my favorite foods from time to time. I also learned this trick: Whenever my hives got pretty bad, I could go on an extreme “lean food diet” to make the symptoms get dramatically better.
So for maybe a year or two, I kept this up. I would eat junk food, bad meals, pizza, etc. Whenever my rashes showed signs of coming back, or my hives started to get really sensitive, I would back off and eat lean a couple of weeks. I would do this back and forth. I would eat bad a few weeks/months, and then eat lean for a few weeks. It worked like clockwork.
It was also frustrating, because I couldn’t understand why my hives got better, but wouldn’t go away 100%. I kept wanting to think that diet was somehow involved, but I couldn’t pinpoint anything. I mean, I just couldn’t pinpoint a certain food causing it. All I knew was that when I removed a lot of foods and ate super lean, my hives got better (although it took a couple of weeks).
When My Hives Changed For The Worse
So like I said, my hives were manageable, and I could use “the trick” to make my symptoms improve when they got bad. I still hated having hives, but at least I could deal with them. That all changed in the summer of 2010 (last summer).
Things had been going well. My wife and I bought our first house, and we were excited to do a little landscaping. So all spring, we were planting flowers, adding mulch, mowing the yard, etc. Throughout all this, my hives were only minimally bothersome. Many days, I could go straight into sweating and not be bothered at all. Other days, I would get really itchy for a minute, but then the sweat would come out.
So like clockwork, I would go outside, endure a little itching, and then be on my way for the rest of the day hives-free and sweating normally.
Suddenly, this stopped. By early summer, my hives went from about a 4-5, up to about a 9. I had never felt anything like it. I distinctly remember walking outside one day about a month after our main landscaping. It was hot, and we were going to do some more work. I started working, and my hives started to itch.
So I thought to myself, “okay, no big deal. I’ll be sweating a minute from now.” I told my wife while we were working, “Hang on, my hives are coming out. Wait a second until they are done.” The only thing is, they didn’t stop this time. I kept scratching, but they didn’t show any signs of stopping. I waited and waited. They kept getting worse.
Eventually, they got so bad, that I ran for the house, ripped off my shirt and clothes, jumped in a cold shower, and was scratching myself frantically. My skin was BLOOD RED from head to toe. I had THOUSANDS of tiny pinpoint hives from head to toe. This was very unusual for me.
Not only that, but I tried to do work again. Same thing happened. I tried again later. Same thing happened. Severe hives every time.
The Hives Stayed Severe All Year
For the entire summer, my hives were bad like never before. I couldn’t do ANYTHING. My poor wife had to mow the lawn, trim the weeds, and more. I was practically housebound. I was a prisoner in my own body.
When I did even the slightest physical activity (or went into a hot room), my hives went nuts! They have been like this since the summer (up until a few days ago). I was depressed, miserable, and hopeless.
Here’s what’s weird: After my hives started being this severe for the first few days, I instinctively thought, “Aha, I need to clean up my diet.” So I fasted for 1-2 days. I then ate really lean foods for a week or two.
Nothing happened. My hives were just as severe as ever. I couldn’t believe it. The ‘trick’ had always worked before, but not this time. So after failing with my “trick,” I resumed to my normal diet, but I made 100% sure to cut out all gluten, milk, excessive sugar, etc.
Nothing helped. As you all probably know, I also tried many things throughout this time period. I was so desperate that I went to the dermatologist (waste of time). I tried new antihistamines. Didn’t work. I pleaded for a steroid shot hoping that would do something. Nothing. I tried vitamins & supplements. Nothing. I tried a low histamine diet. Nothing.
I also tried everything to sweat and exercise. Sauna suits in my bathroom while exercising with a heater. Nothing. 100 degree days driving in my car after the greenhouse effect. Nothing. Sweat would not leave my body. Instead of sweating, my skin would be flooded with flushing redness and thousands of prominent pinpoint hives.
My wife was really worried when she saw my body after an attack. I had a few attacks that were so severe, I almost felt as if I was going to pass out or go into shock. I felt dizzy and terrible.
Every single activity I did was tremendously hard. I had to take breaks every 5 minutes doing even the slightest task (even in 20 degree weather).
A Little Good News About My Hives Emerged, But Not For Long
After suffering severely with cholinergic urticaria for months, with a debilitating case of it, I finally got to try Allegra. As most of you know, Allegra (the antihistamine) used to be available by prescription only. Since this was cost prohibitive (and I didn’t know if it would work), I didn’t bother with trying to get it from a doctor. But it finally came over the counter in March 2011.
So I tried this, and it worked quite well. The first couple of times I took it, it pretty much stopped the hives in my normal daily routine (so long as I didn’t do anything physical). It continued to work well for about a week or two. Then, I had to replace my patio door that was leaking, and some other heavy “grunt” work. I knew my hives would be a major challenge.
So I started a new antihistamine regimen. I had to add 2 zantac (an H2 antihistamine) a few hours after taking my Allegra. This also worked quite well at stopping the hives. I would get a little prickly, but I could manage it. I still didn’t sweat. (NOTE: Please dont’ take anything on this page as medical advice. I am only sharing my experience, and please talk to a doctor for any medical advice). This antihistamine combo may not be safe for everyone (or even me!).
But here is the problem: For some reason my body adapts REALLY fast to antihistamines, and they quickly lose effectiveness. They literally work for about 2-5 times at most, and then they quite working. Case in point: Now when I take an Allegra, nothing happens! My hives were soon no longer responding to the Allegra, and only slightly working with the Zantac plus Allegra. Sigh.
But it is around this time that I started to notice something. This something that I noticed, would eventually lead to my latest hypothesis, which I feel is the reason my hives have gotten better. What was it that I found out? Keep reading…
A Brief Overview Of My Body & Health
I’ve always been athletically skinny. What I mean is that I was skinny, but had muscle. Kinda like your average basketball player. I was always active, and always playing sports. I loved playing baseball as a teen, and often made the “all stars.” I was pitcher by the way =).
I was also into exercise and fitness. In high school, I really got into lifting weights. I always had trouble “bulking up” though. My friends and I were really into it. We all had our own muscular features that were good. Some of my friends had great arm development. Some had huge lats (those muscles that give the “V” shape on the back). I always had good “abs.” That was my best feature back in the day.
In fact, my abs were really defined at that point, and I had literally almost no body fat on them. When my friends would look at my abs, they would lift up their shirt and say the old joke, “I can do better than your 6-pack…I’ve got a keg.” Then they would pooch out their stomach really big.
I was always perplexed by that, because I couldn’t do it! If I exhaled and pushed as far as I could, my stomach wouldn’t budge. It was just flat as a board, and when I flexed, you could see nearly every muscle.
My Bodybuilding Aspirations
After my hives went away the first time (in that 2-3 year time period), my life returned to normal. I was in good shape, but I always wanted to be able to really “bulk up.” I wanted big muscles, not just skinny athletic muscles. But I always struggled to do this.
Don’t get me wrong–I didn’t want to look like today’s professional bodybuilders. These guys look hideous! They look like steroid/HGH freaks, and in my opinion, that is NOT appealing at all. Instead, I wanted bulky, but nice looking defined muscle. Like the bodybuilders back in the day, or like many male models these days.
So I finally got serious about bulking up during my hive free time period. I invested a few hundred dollars in some equipment, and I went to work. I made some great gains in the first few months. But after about 6 months, I hit a plateau. I couldn’t gain any weight or muscle. I started eating like crazy. Any time I could eat (even if I wasn’t hungry), I would eat. Junk food or healthy food–it didn’t matter–I ate it 24/7.
After another month or two, I started getting discouraged with my exercise routine, and I was in school and working (which made it hard to work out). After intense working out for nearly 8 months (all bodybuilding–no cardio), I gave up. A few months after I quit exercising, I also moved out of my house around this time, and that is when I moved into my apartment.
Since my apartment was only a tiny 1 bedroom, I essentially had to give up exercise. I also was working part time, and going to school part time, so I was cramped on time. As I said in my previous posts, soon after my wife and I moved into our apartment, the hives and rashes started.
My Eating Habits
As I said, I wasn’t exactly a healthy eater since my teen years. Starting around 16-17 years old, I would buy half-gallons of rocky road ice cream, and it would be gone in 1-2 days. I would buy bags of M&M’s, and down the whole thing in a day. I guzzled down soft drinks. Slammed pizza & hamburgers, and even had contests after school with my friends at Mcdonald’s to see who could eat the most burgers.
“Who cares?” I thought to myself. After all, I was SKINNY, and I could eat anything I wanted because I was blessed with SKINNY genetics and great abs. Ha-it was great to be me (or so I thought)! So I slammed any food I wanted. I would down some pizza with a soft drink, then snack on some ice cream, and then more ice cream later. Life was fun and delicious.
I ate this way from about 16-17 years old and up.
The Dirty Little Trick My Body Has Been Playing On Me
So in my last post I was talking about how I could slam burgers, fries, ice cream, and pretty much any food I wanted. I never read a nutrition label, and I ate what I craved without care for nutrition or anything like that. I just ate what tasted good.
I have been eating like this since I was 16-17 years old for the most part. Even when I cut out dairy and so forth, I still ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and the only time I’d read a label was to see if it had milk in it.
But throughout all this, my body was hiding “the secret” I was talking about in my last post. What was it? Let me explain.
As I mentioned in my last post, some of the bigger guys in my school could often pooch out their stomach really far. It almost looked as if they were pregnant. I always thought it was funny looking. But I couldn’t do it myself in high school. My abs were flat as a board.
It wasn’t until recently that I noticed I could do this. Especially after a meal. I could pooch my stomach way out. It was really weird because I could easily draw my stomach back in, and even flex my abs a bit (which are now not nearly as impressive as they were 10 years ago). I thought to myself, ” Wow, that is really weird how I can do that now too.”
I didn’t think twice about it at first.
One day I was bent over and looking in the mirror after a meal, and it hit me like a ton of bricks: I LOOKED PREGNANT, but not REALLY fat. Just kinda a big stomach. When I pulled my stomach in a bit, I looked fine! I mean, I was skinny by nearly all modern standards. Sure, I had a small amount of fat over my abs at this point, but not much.
This perplexed me, and I assumed that maybe I had a lot of gas in my stomach, or maybe I was just bloated from my food. So I brushed it off. After all, I couldn’t be fat! I was always skinny. I was mister abs in high school. And I could still flex my abs now and see them a little bit. My arms were defined. My legs were defined. So I couldn’t be fat. Right?
The Bombshell of My Skinny Life: My Body Was Cursed
As I looked at my stomach some more in the mirror, and flexed it in and pushed it out, I became so intrigued by this that I decided to start googling it. So I fired up the computer, and I started searching, “Why does my stomach stick out,” and other related queries.
This is when I found out my curse. The whole time I had been slamming cheeseburgers and ice cream through the years, and laughing at how I never gain an ounce– my body was secretively doing something–it was making me fat. The joke was really on me the whole time.
But it wasn’t just the “normal” fat that you think about. Oh no. My body was much more sinister than that. Instead, my body was storing deadly fat in a hidden place. Behind the facade of my ab muscles, and tucked away where no one can see it (not even me), my body was storing the MOST DEADLY fat you can imagine, and it was doing it all around my organs.
My friends, I had the dreaded “V” word: I had VISCERAL FAT–and LOADS of it. And I can thank my genetics, because I store fat here far faster and far more abundantly than any other area of my body. My former blessing is now my current curse.
Learning that I had visceral fat set me on a path where I would find out some shocking information. After I found out this information, and looked back at my history and hives, many things started to jump out at me. But I want to save some for the next few posts.
Stay tuned–In the next post I am going to reveal some surprising information and continue this series, and eventually I will reveal the hypothesis, experiment, and exactly what I have done to get from severe hives to sweating again…
Keep reading the next article about Visceral Fat.