Defining and Treating Alopecia Areata-Medically Speaking

Experiencing any type of hair loss (medically known as alopecia) can be a scary and stressful experience.  Alopecia can be caused by many medical conditions, including Alopecia areata.

What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease that affects 2% of the population and triggers the autoimmune system to attack the hair follicles, which results in hair loss.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Alopecia Areata?

Anyone who has Alopecia areata may experience the following syptoms:

  • Hair loss during a short period of time on a specific side of the head-either the left or the right side

  • Hair loss that leaves small, round, smooth patches in one or more areas of the scalp, which is referred to as diffuse alopecia areata

  • Hair loss covering the entire head, which is referred to as Alopecia totalis

  • Hair loss over the entire body, which is referred to as Alopecia universalis

  • Hair loss within the beard, which is referred to as Alopecia areata barbae

  • Grow Exclamation Point Hairs, which is when the area that has been affected grows hairs in the shape of an exclamation point.  These hairs get the name Exclamation point hairs because the hairs become more narrow along the length of the strand closer to the scalp and look like an “exclamation point.”

 What Causes Alopecia Areata?

The specific cause of alopecia areata is still unknown; however, most agree that it is probably caused by genetics.  The good news is that while, some might have a genetic pre-disposition to getting alopecia areata, there are things that they can do to possibly stop the onset or effectively treat the condition.

How Do You Treat Alopecia Areata?

As with most chronic conditions, diet plays a critical role in building the immune system, which ultimately leads to better health. The following changes to your diet just might be the solution:

  • Control Your Insulin Levels- A study conducted by The Lancet, which is a highly reputable medical journal, has shown a correlation between insulin levels and the onset of hair loss in men.  Below, I have listed four of the most important ways to control insulin levels:

  • Eliminate or reduce your consumption of whole grains and starchy foods-whole grains can increase insulin resistance in some people.

  • Eliminate or reduce your consumption of sugary desserts-they have a high glycemic index and can increase the risk of developing diabetes.

  • Eliminate or reduce your consumption of fructose found naturally in honey, fruits, and fruit juices-Studies have linked these sugary substances to insulin resistance.

  • Eliminate or reduce your consumption of simple carbohydrates like refined white flour products, which includes crackers, cookies, cakes, and bread, etc…These foods increase your risk for developing diabetes.

  • Increase Your Vegetable Intake:  Plant based diets are a must for optimal health because vegetables like broccoli, cabbage and other green leafy vegetables contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that promote a healthy immune system and hair growth.

  • Increase your Omega 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin D Levels:  Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin d3 are excellent for regulating your hormonal levels, which is paramount to great health and hair.

  • Reduce Stress Levels:  Stress increases cortisol levels in the body. While low levels of cortisol can be beneficial in “fight or flight” situations, chronically high levels can wreak havoc on your overall health and ultimately, your hair. Stress negatively impacts your body in the  the following ways:

  1. Suppresses the thyroid function

  2. Create blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia

  3. Lowers immunity and inflammatory responses in the body

As noted above, insulin resistance, chronically high cortisol levels, and low vitamins and minerals in the blood are linked indirectly to hair loss.  Once they are managed, optimal health and hair growth can be achieved.