Hair loss is a tricksy beast. One of those things where you don’t know what’s causing it, or what could be a possible cure. But you can prevent it from getting worse; starting with looking after yourself as much as possible. This includes following an ‘alopecia diet’.
You see, by taking active steps to improve your physical and mental health, you might notice that your hair grows back in no time. Imagine! These steps include getting a decent sleep, squeezing in some exercise, and watching what you eat. (Not literally. That’d be weird).
When it comes to the kind of diet that alopecians should follow, there are some dos and don’ts to bear in mind; things to include and things to avoid.
Hi, I’m Emma. I’m an alopecian, I’m not a doctor! Any advice I give is based on my own research and personal experiences with alopecia. I also participate in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program – meaning I may earn a small commission from the Amazon products I link to. But I only endorse ones that I’ve tried or trust! This fascinating Disclaimer Page has more info.
The world is kale-mad right now, and with good reason. It’s because dark leafy greens (like kale, broccoli and spinach) come with all kinds of immune-boosting functions.
Kale, in particular, is great if you have any digestive issues. This is down to its high-fibre content, and the fact that it actually has more iron per calorie than beef! Kale mightn’t be as widely regarded as say, turmeric, for its anti-inflammatory properties – but it should be. Because just one cup of the curly green stuff contains 10% of your RDA of Omega-3 fatty acids; the guys that are great for those with autoimmune disorders.
Dark leafies are rich in calcium too, which is brilliant news for your teeth, your nails and – you got it – your hair.
If you’ve got alopecia, chances are your scalp feels drier than an AA Christmas party. Flaky and parched, it ain’t the best environment for hair follicles to burst forth new fruit. (Or hair, for that matter.)
So give your scalp ‘n’ skin some oily goodness with some healthy fats. Eat plenty of Omega-soaked fish like mackerel and salmon or, if you can’t stand the stuff, take some fish oil supplements instead. (I’ve been taking these supplements for a long time now; if I go off them for even a week I notice how quickly my skin dries out!)
You should also cook with extra virgin olive oil or organic cold-pressed coconut oil whenever possible. Tasty, nutritious, and great for your hair.
While caffeine is actually a great hair growth stimulant when applied topically, it isn’t so good for those of us with hormone problems; specifically, those of us with low or heightened levels of cortisol.
Why, you might ask? Well, caffeine interferes with the body’s natural cortisol levels, meaning this ‘stress hormone’ can cause you to feel overly anxious, upset and stressed out. Now, I’ll admit it – I do enjoy my morning cup of coffee (unfortunately I can’t resist!) – but any more would give me a severe case of the jitters. So cut down the caffeine to a single cup a day, if you can.
If you’ve got an autoimmune condition like alopecia, sugar is probably one of the worst things you could feed it. Why? Well, for one it can cause inflammation in the digestive tract, which can lead to what’s known as a ‘leaky gut’.
When this takes place, your gut wall becomes more permeable, allowing harmful toxins to pass through. And because sugar prevents our white blood cells from destroying these toxins quickly, they’re allowed to linger until they trigger an autoimmune response. This isn’t the best news for your hair because the immune system will then target all ‘foreign invaders’ that it doesn’t recognise, even the healthy cells.
Sugar also brings a heap of problems to our thyroids, our cortisol levels and comes with plenty more issues. So take my advice: cut out what you can.
Great question. I’ll tell you – what’s more, I’ll even tell you why…
Because the seeds contain nurturing fatty acids like linoleic and oleic acid, plus plenty of Vitamins E and K. Sesame oil also promotes circulation, soothes an itchy scalp and gives added moisture to dry or brittle locks. Use the oil in cooking for general health benefits, or warm some up and rub it on your noggin before bedtime. You might smell like a takeaway, but it’s worth it.
Ginger is an anti-inflammatory substance, which is what those of us with autoimmune issues badly need. It also contains magnesium (which helps us relax) and Vitamin B6 (which promotes healthy hair and nails). Eat it as often as you can, and rub some on your patches, too. Tip: Fresh garlic and fresh onion juice are also great natural ingredients to rub on your scalp and to boost circulation! 🙂
Loaded with all kinds of health benefits, turmeric also comes with some anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting functions that are great when we’re feeling feeble. There’s actually a lot of research to show turmeric’s anti-inflammatory capacities, so I drink it with ginger every day. Note: If you don’t want to get yellow-stained fingers by chopping too much turmeric, you could always buy turmeric capsules instead. This brand of supplements contain BioPerine, a black pepper extract that helps you absorb nutrients faster. Plus, get 25% off when you use the promo code VTA25 upon check-out. Yay!
The green champions that between them are fortified with lovely vitamins A, C, E, K and B6… plus a tonne of calcium, iron, magnesium and fibre, too. I enjoy them either as a salad or in a stir-fry (tip: for the kale, massage it for a few minutes in olive oil first!) Most recently, since starting my AIP diet (more on that in a sec), I’ve been adding spinach to avocado, frozen banana and cashew milk and enjoying a green smoothie every morning through my very favourite bamboo straw – which a friend made me for my wedding party! Whatever way you eat yours, you’re getting some green goodness in the bargain.
The above tips involve eating healthily, cutting out harmful foods and ingesting plenty of nurturing ones. But often, for those with autoimmune conditions, that won’t be enough. (Sorry.)
What you might need is a complete overhaul; something that Brenda Leigh Turner from Lean Reset describes as “healing and sealing your gut”. In this great post on overcoming alopecia areata, Brenda talks about how going on an AIP (Autoimmune Protocol, or Autoimmune Paleo) diet helped her grow her hair back in just a couple of months. And since gluten is seen as one of the main culprits in triggering the body’s inflammatory response – which leads to it attacking perfectly healthy hair follicles – the journey begins with going gluten-free.
Brenda’s post was like a revelation to me. Because even though I thought I knew about eating healthily, what foods contain what vitamins etc, I knew very little about the idea of a “leaky gut” or “intestinal permeability”. If you’ve got this condition, it really doesn’t matter how healthy your diet is, as it prevents you from absorbing those nutrients in the first place. So the only way around it is to heal your gut with a cleanse, followed by a supplementation plan and an elimination diet – essentially, to press the ‘reset’ button and give your immune system a fresh start.
It’s fascinating stuff, and it led me to read the even more fascinating book, The Autoimmune Solution, which kickstarted my whole nutrition and autoimmunity journey.
What I’ve learned, after a lot of research on the topic, is that we alopecians might suddenly have “trigger foods”, even when we’ve never seemingly had a problem with them before. They could be making our alopecia much worse and the condition could be reversed entirely if we just knew what foods to eliminate. And how do we do this?
Well, we start off by being pretty strict on ourselves; cutting out dairy, gluten, legumes and unsprouted grains for a couple of months and replacing them with fish, lots of fruit and veggies (but not “nightshades” like peppers and tomatoes), plus taking a good probiotic and gut-healing supplements. And that’s what I decided to do.
Another great question! Like I said, before you can benefit from all the nutrients your new diet can bring you, you’ll need to make sure your gut is in good condition.
When I went to see a Functional Medicine doctor in July 2019, who diagnosed with gut dysbiosis, I realised that mine wasn’t. So I started taking a powerful probiotic and fish oils regularly (among other things), which reduced my inflammation, gave me a massive energy boost, cleared up my skin and even helped my hair to grow (not all of it, unfortunately, but the condition improved a lot).
The following brands are similar to the ones I tried (which I ordered from a UK site). They are:
Psst… Update May 2020: I actually just tracked down many of the supplements I’m on right now. Check them out here:
Note: I actually took even more supplements the ones above – I know, it’s a lot!
These included two different products from a company called Jarrow Formulas, basically ones to help cope with stress and anxiety, called Natural SAM-e (the red box) and 5-HTP (the 100mg one). You can get those ones on iHerb, with a nice discount of at least 5% when you use the code BNT9810. Yay!
Of course, these supplements may not be exactly what you need as they were recommended based on my own test results. But anyone with gut issues would benefit from taking, at the very least, a good probiotic and fish oils.
So why not give them a try for at least a month? Make sure to write down how your symptoms change. You might notice less “brain fog”, a more balanced emotional state and – fingers crossed – an improvement in your alopecia!
I’ll be honest. I tried the autoimmune diet in November 2019 for about 6 weeks and I felt great afterwards. But because I wasn’t sure what exactly the problem was – gluten, dairy or neither – and because Christmas held too many temptations for me, I fell off the wagon again!
But in April 2020, I started the diet again and, after just two weeks, started feeling great! Writing this update, in the middle of May, I’ve really noticed a difference so I’ll try to stick to it. Staying off some of the foods I enjoy can be tough, but my supplements help to keep me feeling strong and healthy!
So, take my advice: Heal your gut first, in whatever way you can. Then load up on those greens, savour the sesame, cut out the caffeine and give sugar a sweet kiss goodbye. Not only will you feel better on the inside, you might just notice some sprouting on the outside, too. Bon appétit!
If you like this post, maybe you’ll like these ones, too:
1. Yoga – Read my review of a special retreat centre on Ireland’s west coast.
2. Meditation – Learn how it can help with hair loss and happiness!
3. Travel – My thoughts on how travel can affect your health.
4. Silly Stuff – Like the bald celebrities I’ve got a crush on.