Thinning Hair? You Could Be Suffering From an Autoimmune Condition


Hair loss has multiple causes. One such cause is an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata which affects about 6.8 million men and women of all ages in the U.S..

Autoimmune illness occurs when inflammation leads to tissue destruction and your immune system mistakenly targets your own tissue. In alopecia, your immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing you to lose hair. There are several forms of alopecia areata which differ from one another in the degree of hair loss & the location of hair loss. Depending upon the severity of your autoimmune response, you may lose hair which later grows back or you may lose hair and experience no regrowth.

Once you have an autoimmune illness, you have a higher chance of developing other autoimmune conditions. If you already suffer from an autoimmune illness such as eczema, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease or Hashimoto's thyroiditis, your hair loss may truly be autoimmune in nature.

While the exact cause of alopecia is not known, you can address the inflammatory drivers of this autoimmune condition. One or more of the following factors may lie at the root of your autoimmune condition:

  • Toxins

  • Infection

  • Chronic stress

  • Food sensitivities

  • Digestive Disorders

  • Hormone imbalances

  • Blood sugar imbalances

Your first step is to identify the underlying inflammation. Research is now examining the link between alopecia and inflammation in the gut. It's essential to start looking here because the majority of your immune system is located in the gut. When gut inflammation occurs and doesn't resolve on its own, the lining of your gut can become leaky - allowing toxins, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and undigested food particles to enter your blood stream. The presence of these foreign substances can send your immune system into overdrive and set the stage for an autoimmune condition.

If you suffer from digestive issues, testing for food sensitivities or imbalances in the bacteria in your gut is an important part of identifying the source of your underlying inflammation. Ask your healthcare provider if you should be tested for possible food sensitivities and what additional steps you should take to allow your gut to heal after removing those trigger foods from your diet .

Latent infections and toxin burdens may also put you at risk for developing an autoimmune response. Ask your healthcare provider about laboratory testing to detect any latent infections, toxins, and hormone imbalances that may be triggering your immune system to overreact. Examining and addressing these areas enables your healthcare practitioner to chart your path back to wellness.

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take now to reduce the inflammation:

  • Increase your intake of foods that decrease inflammation:

  • Broccoli

  • Blueberries

  • Coconut oil

  • Green leafy vegetables

  • Olives, olive oil

  • Wild-caught salmon

  • Flax seeds & Chia seeds

  • Bone broth

  • Walnuts

  • Avoid consuming foods that increase inflammation:

  • Processed/refined foods/Foods high in simple carbohydrates/sugar

  • Includes processed cereals, breads, pastas, crackers, chips

  • Foods that contain corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup

  • Fried foods

  • Cooking oils & foods that contain these oils that promote inflammation like:

  • Vegetable oil

  • Canola oil

  • Corn oil

  • Peanut oil

  • Sunflower oil

  • Safflower oil

  • Soybean oil

  • Anything & everything with trans fats

  • Hydrogenated oils like vegetable shortening or margarine

  • Eat a balanced diet of whole foods that promotes a stable blood sugar. Elevated blood sugar is a major driver of inflammation. By consuming healthy carbs like vegetables and legumes along with clean sources of protein and healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, or nuts at each meal, you can stabilize your blood sugar.

  • Take Steps to Reign in Stress. Chronic stress plays a significant role in driving the inflammation that can set you up for an autoimmune condition. Here are few things you can do today to become more stress resilient:

  • Take a deep breath.Take a few minutes right now to breathe from your belly. Deep breathing not only increases your intake of oxygen and helps release tension, it helps your body move out of the fight or flight mode and into the rest & digest mode.

  • Make sleep a priority. Your body regenerates while you sleep.Try going to bed a little earlier - set an alarm on your phone, if necessary, to remind you to wrap up your evening activities and get to bed.

  • Take a walk outside. The next chance you get today, take a break from your work or daily routine to go on a short walk. Movement, coupled with some fresh air, will help you focus better on the challenges at hand.

If you suffer from hair loss and would like to know what steps you can take to address its underlying causes, please contact us today.

References

American Autoimmune & Related Diseases Association

Borde A et al. Alopecia Areata and the Gut-The Link Opens Up for Novel Therapeutic Interventions.Abstract Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2018 Jun;22(6):503-511.

Fasano, A. Leaky Gut and Autoimmune Diseases. Abstract Clin Rev Allergy Immunol, 42 (1), 71-8 Feb 2012.

McElwee, MJ et al. What Causes Alopecia Areata? Exp Dermatol. 2013 Sep; 22(9): 609–626.

Zielinski, MR et al. Fatigue, Sleep, and Autoimmune and Related Disorders. Front Immunol. 2019; 10: 1827.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen and before using nutritional supplements.

~ Dr.Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket,Massachusetts ~

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