Whole30 Success Story: Janet W. and Chronic Urticaria (Hives)

We’ve heard more than a few Whole30 succes stories that stop us in our tracks: Jessica O,Summer WBrian M. But today, Janet’s photos are what stopped us cold—you have to see them to really understand the horror she was going through while suffering from this condition for more than seven long years.  We are blessed to have played a role in her recovery, and so grateful that she agreed to share her story with us. Read, be inspired, and share our Good Food word with those who need it.

Janet’s Story

In 2006, I was diagnosed with chronic idiopathic urticaria and angioedema. This is medical-speak for unrelenting hives and facial swelling—like, when your eyes swell shut and your lips blow up—without a known cause. It’s classified as autoimmune, meaning that my body was basically attacking itself.

I had been on high doses of prednisone, unbelievably high doses of antihistamines, costly monthly shots of trial drugs, and other old-school medications to suppress my immune system. All of these medications provided little to no relief, and since 2006, I had gained 50 pounds of medication weight.

I had a spontaneous remission for a few years, but in May 2012 they came back with a vengeance. I had to take my rings off every night in fear that I would wake up with my hands swollen and my rings painfully stuck. I had painful joints. I couldn’t exercise or go for a walk with my family without my feet swelling like crazy. Wearing sneakers was a nightmare.


I had a doctor appointment in March, when it was recommended that I try taking Prograf—an immune-suppressing medication that keeps organ recipients from rejecting their transplant. The side effects are terrible, and the risk of getting sicker or getting an infection (because my immune system would basically shut down) was very real.

I had recently a lot of reading about “leaky gut syndrome” and “clean eating,” and was ready to make a change. During my reading I came across the Whole30. I told my doctor about the reading I had been doing and asked if I could have six weeks to decide what I wanted to do. She agreed, but made me promise to get an EpiPen because my facial swellings were getting dangerously close to full-on anaphylaxis.


I went home, did a ton of research, and went to the bookstore. I picked up It Starts With Food and got started right away.

At my next doctor appointment, I was 20 pounds lighter and so much better. I hadn’t had any facial swelling in a few weeks, and my hives were dramatically improved. I left that appointment with my doctor’s blessing, and without a new prescription.

By July 2013, I was 26 pounds lighter and had greatly reduced my medications. Now, in September 2013, I am off all medications with the exception of the occasional over-the-counter Zyrtec. No more swelling, no more joint pain, no more fear of wearing sneakers or rings….and best of all, NO MORE HIVES!


The Whole30 put me back in charge of my body and my life. I am beyond thankful for the knowledge I have been given through the book and website…you have given me my life back! Regarding the photos, I took a photo journal so that if I was having a bad day, I could remind myself that my worst day now is better than my best day was then. These pictures are before and after, 100% related to the Whole30.  I made no other changes other than following your AIP (autoimmune protocol). That’s it! Incredible!

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  1. says

    We did some website maintenance today, and comments on this post were deleted. Luckly, I saved them in my email folder! I will re-enter them manually.


  2. says

    Author : Lisa Godfrey

    Oh my word.. what a dramatic and wonderful change for you! This is the best testimonial yet to the healing power of eating right! Congratulations!

  3. says

    Author : bonnie

    “I took a photo journal so that if I was having a bad day, I could remind myself that my worst day now is better than my best day was then.”

    This is a great message to people who get frustrated because each day isn’t better than the previous! But the general trend is up up up!

    Thanks so much for sharing – you are a brave rock star!!

  4. says

    Author : Stephina


    This is amazing! I shared your story on my FB wall hoping it will reach the people in my life who need to see it. You are an inspiration. What a beautiful gift you have given yourself.

    Thank you for sharing!

  5. says

    Author : Cindy

    WOW! Over the years I have suffered from strange swelling and hives that could not be explained, but nothing like what you were suffering. So HAPPY that you found an answer and have your health back. Congrats and thank you for sharing.

  6. says

    Author : Sharon

    I have been suffering from undiagnosed hives and swelling for over two years and just discovered it was Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis Autoimmune disease – caused by gluten creating antibodies attacking my thyroid! Hives also caused by tomatoes, citric acid and alcohol – I am normally a very healthy eater but could not figure out what was causing this for over two years and am doing so much better following Paleo and clean eating! Spread the word – so many people are dealing with autoimmune disease and the diagnosis for celiac doesn’t include hives and swelling so it’s hard to track it back to gluten since I don’t have any of the classic stomach/digestive issues that usually help diagnose gluten problems.

  7. says

    Author : SueJ

    This sounds like my story! I have suffered for 7 years with chronic hives/inflammation, a debilitating ailment, to say the least, and they are painful and scary. My doctor and an allergist could not diagnose it, or give me much relief, except to take antihistamines every day, not an acceptable solution for me. I went to a naturopath in May and she started me on a lot of supplements, and changed my mostly vegetarian diet to a mostly Paleo one. In the next few weeks, during a lot of researching things on my own, I came across a reference to the Whole 30 way of eating, decided to give it a try, and am so grateful that I did. It has changed my life and made me so much better. I have eaten that way most of the time since finding it, and the times when I go “off” of it slightly are times when I have problems and start feeling worse. I do need to try the AIP and see if I can knock out the remaining few episodes. I have lost 43 lbs so far and cannot believe how much better I
    feel. I cannot say enough good about this way of eating!!

  8. Annie B says

    God bless you! You look wonderful, healthy, happy and like a weight has been lifted from you. I’m sure that your Whole 30 paved the way for not only your physical health, but also your emotional well being. Well done.

  9. Steph says

    It is just unacceptable that the medical community is failing us so miserably, especially for situations like this that are solved so quickly (it seems) by dietary changes!

  10. says

    Very inspiring story! I’m thrilled to hear of your success through this program. What is your diet like now? Are you continuing to keep all the rules of the Whole30 and autoimmune protocol? Or have you discovered any specific trigger to avoid? I am trying to overcome an autoimmune disorder as well, I have RA. I will remember your story when I feel discouraged as I continue to stay committed to eating for health, not just for satiety or socialization.

  11. Lina says

    As I’m typing my feet itch so bad and burn from wearing boots today. I came across your story while researching this chronic illness of idiopathic hives that’s so awful :-(
    I feel like giving up cause there doesn’t seem to be any more dr to see or any hope. Changing my diet is the last thing left and it know I have to do it! Glad to have found your post and see your results!


  12. Dianna says

    Janet, I am truly sorry you had to experience such painful, scary symptoms. I know the fear and desperation you felt, as I’ve experienced the same painful facial swelling and hives for years. Since I was 7, in fact. I had a six month bout in 1992 after the sudden passing of my beloved grandfather. I was a first year teacher and the stress of it all adversely harmed my health. I was on prednisone for six months and gained over 50 pounds……I’m trying Whole 30 in hopes of a better, healthier me. (I also have MS, another immune system disorder, and was diagnosed in 2004) thanks for sharing your stories and photos.

  13. Wendy says

    Janet! I am so happy for you! I was introduced to whole30 from a friend… I am reading about it so I know the correct way to go about it… I have had to learn about my chronic urticaria by myself as it started over 20 years ago! May 8, 1994!!!! It is Manageable now and response is way less but your pictures took me back to the sheer torture of it when it first began! I am so encouraged to follow the Whole30 and be free of antihistamines!! Thank you for sharing! Wendy