What is Alopecia?
Alopecia areata is commonly referred to as hair loss but is an auto-immune condition which causes hair to fall out in patches. It can occur at any age and usually falls in round, small patches on your scalp. It is not uncommon to lose hair on other parts of your body including eyebrows, eye lashes and beard.
Sometimes your chest and / or back hair may fall (this is referred to as Alopecia Universalis). And sometimes, your hair may fall out across your whole scalp which is known as alopecia totalis.
Hair can regrow in areas affected by alopecia, as the loss does not get rid of the hair follicle. However this can take months to years, and may not happen at all.
What causes Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia is an auto-immune illness which occurs when the immune system abnormally attacks itself and damages the hair follicles. An auto-immune condition causes your immune system to mistakenly identify healthy cells as foreign viruses or bacteria, and your body adapts to get rid of this “invader”. This means alopecia is commonly associated with inflammation, and can be associated with other medical problems.
People who suffer from auto-immune conditions such as Lupus are likely to suffer from alopecia. And those who suffer from alopecia are likely to develop other autoimmune conditions including Lupus, Vitiligo or diabetes [source].
Alopecia is also commonly hereditary, with 20% of people having a family history of this condition [source].
What are the Symptoms of Alopecia?
The main symptom of alopecia is a small, coin sized patchy hair-loss on your scalp, but can also appear on your eyebrows, beard or other areas.
Initial symptoms may include hair loss that you notice when showering or on your bed when waking up. This can develop suddenly, but in some cases the hair can grow back as the follicle may not be damaged.
Alopecia spreads by joining with existing patches which have fallen out and gives the appearance of significant hair loss. And in some cases, this can result in significant hair loss which is characterised by the following terms:
- Alopecia totalis – which means overall loss of hair on the scalp
- Alopecia universalis – which is characterised by loss of hair on the body including eyebrows, eyelashes and hair on your back or chest.
You may experience an intermediate mix of both, where hair is lost on the scalp, eyebrows, beard and maybe body.
Can Alopecia be Cured?
Generally, across the hair/medical community the consensus is no. Alopecia cannot be cured.
Depending on the extent of the hair loss, you may be fortunate to regrow your hair within 6 months to 1 year, but it does mean this area is susceptible to future hair loss. Where hair loss was significant (i.e. total hair loss), there is less chance of natural regrowth.
However, while there is insufficient knowledge on this condition – we do know it is an autoimmune disease characterised by inflammation.
There are things we can do to possibly reduce the amount of inflammation in our bodies and on our scalp, which may help prevent or reduce the severity of this condition.
What are the natural remedies to treat Alopecia Areata?
It is important to understand that alopecia is an autoimmune condition, and as yet – the community has little understanding why autoimmune diseases occur in the first place [source].
However there are natural remedies to help protect against, or control inflammation which we can adopt into our lifestyles. Ayurvedic medicine may also assist by reducing your oxidation and inflammatory levels.
Foods with high sugar or refined ingredients may increase inflammation in the body. If you are drinking alcohol, consuming fast-food or otherwise eating foods which may contribute to increased inflammation and oxidation, it may trigger sensitivity to your hair falling out, particularly if you suffer from an autoimmune condition.
Anti-inflammatory diets should be adopted and can consist of eating foods rich in greens, such as Broccoli and Spinach. Adding fruits and soya or beans can help provide your body with natural anti-inflammatories. As can supplements such as Turmeric.
Other alternate therapies to treat the condition (and inflammation in particular) include acupressure – which can help relieve the body of stress and strengthen your nervous system to potentially restore balance internally.
Other foods which may help with reducing inflammation include:
Blueberries, in particular, are full of vitamins and antioxidants which can help fight inflammation and control your immune system.
Broccoli and other dark green vegetables are rich in vitamin K which can help fight inflammation.
Dark Chocolate contains antioxidants and rich in vitamins and minerals which can reduce inflammation and provide antioxidants to your system.
Ginger is rich in antioxidants and ant-inflammatories. It is usually helpful for those suffering with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases and may help reduce inflammation brought along by alopecia.
Full of catechins which reduce inflammation, green tea is a potent natural food which helps reduce inflammation and could reduce the effects of alopecia.
Turmeric is a staple food in Ayurvedic remedies and a well-researched anti-inflammatory. Try adding to alternative milks (dairy should be avoided as it can induce inflammation) every night. Or, take via supplements.
Massage Hair Oils
Coconut oil contains anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties which can help reduce inflammation and provide moisture to your scalp.
Castor Oil is another oil rich in antioxidants and inflammatory properties, which has been used to help fight skin issues such as dermatitis and psoriasis. It also helps reduce infections in your scalp by reducing inflammation and remedying the underlying disease contributing to the inflammatory response.
We suggest blending the two oils and creating a super-nourishing mix using equal parts coconut oil to castor oil.
Alopecia can result in difficulty managing your emotions, as it can lower your self-confidence which may lead to stress and emotional concerns, further compounding hair loss.
While Alopecia is not curable as defined by scientific study, we can control the inflammation and our immune system by feeding our bodies vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which keep us brimming with health.