Alopecia is the absence or thinning of hair. It may be caused by physical damage to the hair itself or the hair follicle, but is most often the result of changes in the natural hair growth cycle. 95% of hair loss in both men and women is genetic in origin (androgenetic).
Other forms of Alopecia is areatas, an auto immune disease where the body attacks the hair follicles either in patches, the entire scalp of all over body hair.
Causes of Alopecia
- Androgenetic alopecia is caused by a genetic predisposition for certain hair follicles to produce the enzyme 5-alpha reductase (converts testosterone to DHT)
- Any shock to the body’s systems, including starvation, systemic infection, childbirth, thyroid or immunologic disorders, drugs or stress may precipitate a temporary episode of hair loss
- Autoimmune Alopecia (areatas) is a result of molecular mimicry of a foreign cell with the hair follicle cells, this is where the body confuses its own healthy cells for those of a foreign pathogen and starts attacking them.
Risk factors of Alopecia
- Male gender
- Long standing underlying Gut issues
- Stress / shock
- Hormone imbalance
- Other autoimmune disorders e.g. Lupus, vitiligo, thyroid disease
- Atopic allergy
TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR ALOPECIA
- Identify underlying cause
- Support healthy testosterone production
- Investigate and balance Gut microbiome
- Uncover potential autoimmune triggers and rebalance immune system
- Regulate, support and balance HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis
Diet plan guidelines
- Autoimmune Paleo diet
- Include zinc-rich foods to support testosterone production: oysters, seafood, cashews, legumes, pumpkin seeds
- Cold-water, oily fish: high in omega-3 essential fatty acids which are important for hormone production
- Avoid beer: decreases testosterone production
Supplements that support Alopecia
- Zinc – to support testosterone production
- Omega-3 fatty acids -to support hormone synthesis
- Vitamin D (depending on status) – needed for testosterone production
Herbal medicine treatment that supports Alopecia
- Circulatory stimulants to scalp: gingko, rosemary, prickly ash, yarrow
- Silica-containing herbs: horsetail
- Androgenic herbs: saw palmetto, green tea
- Male reproductive tonics: panax ginseng, tribulus, saw palmetto
- Adaptogens: panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng, withania, schisandra
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TREATMENT OF ALOPECIA
The above herbal, nutritional; and dietary suggestions will assist with the support of Alopecia. More often than not underlying system dysfunction will be driving the disease state. From a functional medicine approach, to reverse the disease a multifaceted treatment will be required. This often entails addressing the gut microbiome, infections, parasites and bacterial overgrowth along with the regulation of the adrenal and hormonal systems.
At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine we have substantial experience with alopecia and hair loss in general.
If you are suffering from Alopecia or hair loss we would love to hear from you, how did you get your hair to grow back? Please write a comment below.