Most chronic urticaria is food-dependent, and not idiopathic

Exp Dermatol. 1998 Aug;7(4):139-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0625.1998.tb00314.x.


Although chronic urticaria is generally thought to be mostly idiopathic, we have recently provided convincing evidence that in the majority of patients, food ingredients provoke the symptoms and sustain the disease. On a diet largely avoiding preservatives, dyes and natural pseudoallergens, 73% of patients experienced remission of more than 6 months duration, starting within the first 3 weeks after initiation of the diet. This response rate is clearly higher than the reported 24% spontaneous remission rate over the same time period. The specificity of the dietary effect was proven 1) by double-blind provocation with pureed pseudoallergen-low versus -rich food and 2) by induction of a clinical response to a 3-week diet low in pseudoallergens, but not to a standard diabetes diet in 3 patients studied in a double-blind crossover design. On double-blind, placebo controlled oral provocation, only 18% of diet-responsive patients reacted to known food preservatives and dyes, but 71% to pureed tomatoes and 44% to their steam extracts. These findings identify naturally occurring pseudoallergens in food as major elicitors of chronic urticaria. In contrast, autoantibodies against Fc epsilonRIalpha have been identified in only about 30% of chronic urticaria patients, and evidence for their truly causative role is still lacking since therapeutic measures work in patients irrespective of the presence or absence of the autoantibodies. For both food intolerance and Fc epsilonRIalpha-autoantibodies in chronic urticaria, the associated pathomechanisms are however still in need of clarification. Meanwhile, the diet-responsiveness in the majority of patients opens new perspectives for the management of chronic urticaria.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diet
  • Food Hypersensitivity / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Urticaria / immunology*
  • Urticaria / physiopathology