Testing an Autoimmune Diet

Food for thought... and hopefully hair.

Girl with Alopecia eating brocolli

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I’m really interested in the link between gut health and autoimmunity. And I’m curious to know if the autoimmune diet I tried back in 2018 could’ve actually made a real difference to my alopecia – if only I’d stuck to it!

So I went to see a Functional Medicine (FM doctor) when I was home in Ireland last summer (2019) to explore this link further. 

What I wanted to find out

  • Whether my gut health could be affecting my hair.
  • If inflammation could be causing the chronic daily headaches I’ve had for 2 years.
  • If the same factors might have contributed to the depression and anxiety I’ve had on and off for years, too. (I know. Not fun.)

The doctor ran some tests on my microbiome and diagnosed me with gut dysbiosis. She told me that this can lead to autoimmune conditions, plus mental illnesses such as brain fog, anxiety and depression – due to its effect on our neurotransmitters. I can relate to that.

What the doctor advised

  • A 5-day gut cleanse. During this time, she told me to only drink smoothies made from water and “medical food” – a protein and vitamin-rich powder called UltraClear Sustain from Nutri Advanced – to ensure I’d still get all the nutrients I need.
  • An elimination diet for at least 30 days. This would include cutting out dairy, eggs, wheat/gluten, alcohol, sugar, soy and soybean products. Yikes… but she DID say I could have one coffee a day. Yay!
  • A supplementation plan for at least 30 days. My range of goodies include this Vitamin B formula plus Vitamin D with K, this Magnesium blend, plenty of raw ginger and turmeric (if you don’t like that, try these) and a very special probiotic that I swear by called FloraMend Prime Probiotic from Thorne Research. I also have to take a lot of fish oil daily – at first, I took Wiley’s Alaskan liquid but then, thankfully, came across capsules instead…which is much better than the liquid stuff!

Want to see how it goes?!

After a false start (see comments below), I started this diet in April, 2020. And I’m posting weekly progress reports about it on my Facebook page

So make sure to join me there, and see how I get on!

Note: I will be writing up a full case study of the diet, plus doing a proper video on my YouTube channel (as soon as I set it up properly!) over the coming weeks. Watch this space… 😉 

Lady Alopecia Signature

16 Responses

  1. Hi Lady Alopecia,
    I want to start out by thanking you for taking the time and effort to create a safe space to discuss alopecia in women. I love your way of writing and your balanced honest reviews!
    I started losing hair at the age of 15 or so, and things have been going on a gradual downward spiral for me (through 2 postpartum sheds, Covid, stress, etc). It took me a long time to realize the harshness of my situation. Now I have started supplements, serums, yoga, etc.
    My daughter has started experiencing mild hair fall just before covid happened. During complete lockdown (as was the case in the part of the world where we lived) we could not do much to head out or consult any doctor. She is only 12 years – and she has lost quite a bit of her thickness, her scalp even shows. Could you recommend safe and gentle products that I could use for her? We are Lacto-vegetarians (no meat/fish/eggs) – would you suggest any diet and lifestyle changes that may be helpful?
    It gives me nightmares sometimes, as to where am I going, and what can I do to prevent it – any helpful advice would be much appreciated!

    1. Hi Phoenix,

      Thanks for such a lovely and thoughtful message…I really appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback, it means a lot to hear my posts are helping people!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your ongoing hair loss. Having got it myself for the first time when I was 11, I can totally relate to the challenges of being a teenager with alopeica, and how frustrating it is to watch the situation get even worse with age. Changing hormones certainly don’t help, especially in the postpartum period as you mentioned! I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. But good on you for seeking a holistic approach to help you manage it!

      It’s so sad to hear about your daughter’s hair loss, now. My daughter is only 2 but I’m already imagining what it would be like if she gets it (she has auburn curly hair, like I once did) and how I’ll explain it to here. I think awareness is the best way forward, being open about our own hair loss will help to normalise it for them. I’ve actually written a short e-book for parents of children with hair loss…safe ways to treat it, some tips for chatting about it and helping the kids cope, etc. If you’re interested, you can download it here.

      To answer your question, I would recommend Pura D’Or…it’s one of my favorite sulfate free brands, they make some great oils that you could use in DIY treatments to support hair growth (I include a few in that guide) and they make this kids’ version, too. Revita is also suitable for kids, it’s another of my top brands and the one I use personally. In general, an anti-inflammatory diet can help a lot. The one I did before (AIP) was quite strict but it really brought down my inflammation.

      The most helpful thing would be to reduce or cut out gluten and dairy…good that you don’t eat eggs anyway, as they can be a trigger food. (But so can soy, which might be more difficult for you to eliminate). I talk more about the impact of gut health on hair loss here, I hope it’s helpful!

      Keep me posted with your progress, and wishing you and your daughter all the very best.

      Love Emma / Lady Alopecia xxx

  2. Hello.
    About 4 months ago, my daughter found a bald spot, about 1 inch diameter, on the top/back of my head. It grew to 3 inches dia in just a months time. It is now 5 inches. I also found spots on each side of my head that are 2 inches dia.
    My new hats, which I found on Amazon, are my best friend, as they hide the spots and keep them out of the sun but also help my anxiety over losing my hair.
    I found your site and you have been such an encouragement.
    I started cutting out sugar, dairy, cutting back on coffee, gluten, and processed foods.
    No hair growth but I feel so much better and I think I can handle the loss of hair much better.
    My problem is, I am not sure where and what to go to to help with the hair loss.
    There is so much out there. The dermatoligist prescribed shampoo and a liquid to put on each spot twice a day. But, something in my does not want to use meds. I am a huge fan of going without meds if at all possible.
    One lady told me to use her stuff that she sells but it would cost me over $400.00.
    This farm girl cannot afford that.
    You encourage me so much and reading others post help too.
    I wil keep searching and reading.
    Thank you for helping a fellow alopecia get through life, as different as it is now.

    1. Hi Deb,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and I’m very sorry to hear about your daughter’s alopecia (and yours, too). May I ask how old she is? It’s never an easy thing to go through but especially when you’re young, it can be a very scary thing. I’m so glad she has you to support her through this…even if it does mean that you’re also experiencing it, at least you can share and process the condition as it unfolds.

      I’m very glad to hear your alopecia hats are providing you with some comfort, too – if you are ever interested in light and hypoallergenic bamboo headscarves, I sell a collection of those (plus cotton ones) on my site also.

      Thank you for your kind feedback – I really appreciate it! And it’s great that you’re feeling better since making those dietary changes. It will take a while to see results as if there’s internal inflammation/gut issues going on that needs to balance out first. Plus, it depends where you might be on the hair-growth cycle. But stick with it if you can and I sincerely hope you see a big difference!!

      I totally understand what you mean about not knowing where to turn. Personally, I didn’t have great experiences with tricologists/dermatologists as they just prescribed steroid creams or injections (with harmful side effects) without taking into account what was actually the root cause. So I think it’s good to go with your instincts and hold off on medication (if you can!) in favour of a more natural, holistic approach. Have a look at some oils you can use or natural shampoos to support growth (some of my favourites in this post). There are even some homemade treatments you can try. Of course, nothing is guaranteed but the things I mention above can reduce hair loss and promote growth in a far more natural way. And they’re a lot cheaper than what that lady quoted you before!!

      I would check out the above posts and if you still feel like you’d like to speak with a professional, perhaps look for a nutritionist, naturopath or functional medicine doctor instead. They will support full body health to get to the root cause rather than just addressing the symptom of hair loss. Often it’s a hormonal imbalance so it could be worthwhile getting those checked too (but a good FM doctor will advise you on what tests to get).

      I really hope this helps you and your daughter! Take care and wishing you both all the very best.

      Emma / Lady Alopecia 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing the info. My son who is 13 year old is suffering from AA from April 2020. He has lost 50% of his hair. We have cut down on processed foods and sugars. It is difficult to follow strict diet with his age. We are trying our best with this regard. Can you please let us know whether we can have oats, rice or finger millet instead of wheat?
    Also, he is having fermented milk known as Kefir.
    We have been advised to use Dithranol cream. Also, planning to take help of Shmuel Gonen’s (Hair Up) treatment. Any advice on the diet and the treatment please.

    1. Hi Shash, thanks for writing in and I’m very sorry to hear about your son. I know what it’s like to get it at such a pivotal age (I was 11) and it’s a very scary thing, particularly as a teenager. You’re doing the right thing by cutting down on processed foods and sugar – and I know it can’t be easy at his age but avoiding these things (and gluten/dairy) even for a short period like a month or two, can make all the difference. I talk more about that in this post on nutrition.

      As we all have different things going on with our gut though, I’d recommend taking him to a nutritionist to assess what’s going on in his case. I had gut dysbiosis so I had to cut out certain things and take specific supplements; he might need a different plan though. Still, in general, I’m hearing great things from other alopecians who are trying an AIP diet! When I first did a very strict version of the diet (in 2018, based on the advice in this great book) I couldn’t have any kinds of pulses, grains or beans (so, no oats or rice)…now I’m doing a more relaxed version that seems to work for me! In the one I’m on, I can have oats, rice and millet, yes. But in smaller amounts – really, fats and proteins are the essentials!

      I don’t eat any dairy, gluten, soy products, peanuts, corn, or sugar…processed foods and eggs are kept to a minimum. I eat lots of avocado, cashew butter and sweet potato/pumpkin, which bulks things up. I’m not sure why you were advised to use Dithranol cream – isn’t that for psoarisis? However, I haven’t used it personally so I can’t say for certain.

      Regarding the Hair Up treatment – I’d exercise caution as I can’t find a list of ingredients for this product…it just says 100% natural but doesn’t disclose what these are! I’ve had success with Nioxin (read my full review here) or for another natural option, try Shapiro MD, which is made by dermatologists. But of course, it’s your call! If you’ve heard good things about the Hair Up treatment, by all means give it a try. I just would be a little wary of how little it actually discloses. Right now, I use Revita shampoo and it’s working quite well for me – getting soft white fuzz back but I know the diet helps a lot, too!

      I hope that information helps! Please feel free to join my newsletter also, to keep up with the latest developments! Take care, and wishing you and your son all the very best,


  4. I was diagnosed with Alopecia Areta 16 years ago, and a year ago my doctor recommended taking Allegra. He said there were a few studies that showed it improved some peoples condition. I started taking it, and it’s been working. It’s not a 100% cure, if i don’t take it regularly i start losing hair the next day. But when i start taking it again it takes a few days or even a few weeks to start working. Thought i’d pass along the information 🙂

    1. Hi Laura – thanks so much for your comment! You’re the second person I’ve heard to mention Allegra, actually…one lady contacted me through my FB page and asked if I’d heard of it for alopecia. It was the first I’d heard of it so I couldn’t offer much advise (other than the fact I’ve read research into antihistamines for hair loss and they can be effective). Since you can vouch for it also, I’m curious to try! Did you notice any bad side effects though? Personally, I’m wary of taking anything that I’d have to continue using every day as I’m not sure about long-term effects of using antihistamines – but it’s wonderful that you’ve found something that works for you! It could be a nice idea for anyone whose hair loss is triggered by allergies. 🙂

  5. Thank you for the kind words 🙂 Of course, please go ahead and share, thanks for asking! Yes I have joined your newsletter, and looking forward to your yoga classes as well.

    You are such an inspiration, keep doing what you are doing! Take care xx

    1. Hi again! Thank you for sharing that, what a lovely site – and I look forward to listening to your music! I’m so sorry to hear about the suddenness and severity of your AU though, you’ve obviously had an incredibly intense few months. Well done you for recording your experience, I’m sure it’ll prove invaluable for others going through a similar thing. Do you mind if I share your website on my Facebook page, actually? Also, feel free to join my newsletter if you like. I’m in the middle of developing a special “yoga for alopecia” course (starting in November and hosted online, obviously! 😉 ) if that would be something you might be interested in. Take care in the meantime and I hope the immunotherapy helps – also that you get headache relief, I’ve had them chronically for over 2 years now so can appreciate how horrible it is!!

      Lots of love to you xxx

  6. Thanks for sharing Lady Alopecia! Googling “AIP Diet and Alopecia” got me here finally – and been reading through your articles for hours now – really great stuff in here, I wish I’d come across earlier! I tried AIP for a few weeks – and gave up last week. Felt hungry all the time, and so difficult to find the alternative food i.e. squash plantain cassava where I live, and if you are vegan protein intake is a bit of an issue. At the same time I feel like I might want to try it again when the time is right, and I am 80% determined on calling it quit on all medical treatments (starting topical immunotherapy next week) so your experiences will definitely be of much help for me. Looking forward to your articles/YouTube updates!

    Sharing is caring – please see below for my alopecia experience if you like 😉

    1. Hi Shino, Thanks so much for your lovely comment! I’m really glad you’re finding value in my site. I hear you on the AIP thing, it was tough at first but I’m doing a more relaxed version now that lets me have beans, pulses, nuts and seeds. I still find that I need to soak everything for a long time though and to never buy the canned stuff – my gut is much happier that way! I do eat meat also, so I had more choices. I guess what you could do in the meantime is to really avoid processed foods, sugar, alcohol and ESPECIALLY gluten/wheat (so, so inflammatory!)…plus soy products (if you can). I’m sure that doing that in itself will make a big difference, and I give some supplement tips in this post if you’re interested. 🙂

      I tried checking out your link but it didn’t work? Sorry about that, I’d love to read about your experience if you wanna try again… Best of luck with the topical immunotherapy, wishing you all the best!

      Lady Alopecia x

  7. I recently found two patches. I’m so grateful for your blog.

    I have read the medical medium thyroid book and a few articles on AIP diets. Curious how it’s been going I didn’t see anything on YouTube! How similar is the diet in 2018 to this one???

    1. Hi Kiran,

      Thanks so much for your comment – I’m really sorry to hear about your patches, too. And I hope you can find some info here that helps! I must apologise, I still haven’t gotten around to posting videos yet, as I actually got married in February so temporarily suspended the diet as I knew it would go out the window! 😉 I had been seeing a lot of success with it though in terms of digestion, mood etc and a little regrowth. The diet I tried in 2018 was quite similar but with more supplements – it was from Amy Myers’ book, The Autoimmune Solution, which I uncovered after reading a brilliant article on the link between gut health and hair loss. More on that here. But basically, they say similar things – that if you have any kind of autoimmune disorder like alopecia, you’re more susceptible to other autoimmune stuff (maybe thyroid issues too) and that reducing inflammatory foods (gluten, dairy, eggs, tofu and sugar) is a good idea. I promise I will get around to doing the videos soon though once I can get my supply of supplements sent again! 🙂

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