Illness and Hair Loss

How being ill might affect hair loss and alopecia

This week I’ve been suffering with flu symptoms. I’m obviously well enough to sit up now and type this, so I think I’ve had the worst of it, but during the last few days I’ve been literally flat on my back in bed. I’ve been shivering and dizzy with a high temperature and vomiting. I’ve now got a bad cold and a hacking cough, accompanied by a vicious sore throat. As I’ve been lying in my sick bed, I’ve been wondering whether a bout of illness like this is likely to cause more hair loss for a sufferer of frontal fibrosing alopecia.

Although I’ve been inspecting my pillow for strands of hair, I think that illness is unlikely to cause any immediate, out of the ordinary hair loss. Longer term, I know that illness, stress or any other trauma to the body can trigger hair loss, including (and possibly especially) for FFA sufferers. My first bout of hair loss was triggered by extreme stress over a few months. My hair fell out over a period of two or three weeks from my hairline, across my forehead and above my ears, leaving me with a sparse covering in this area. Hair loss which occurs after stress or illness (or pregnancy, for that matter) is called telogen effluvium, a non-scarring alopecia. According to my GP, this is what happened to me, although the dermatologist told me that I’d more likely got a scarring alopecia, and that because the hair loss was from the front and sides, this was a clear sign it would be FFA. Yes, I’m still very confused about that!

A low level of illness, such as the virus I’ve currently got, is not likely to see my hair fall out dramatically over the next few days. What it might do is contribute to weakening the hair follicles, which could lead to a bit of shedding in a few weeks or so, I suppose – and if it does, I’ll report back. But I actually think being ill has been quite good for my hair. I  washed it for the first time this morning since getting ill, so for six days I left it, giving the natural oils a good chance to coat the hair shaft. And it feels to be in pretty good condition. This time of year doesn’t do hair any favours, as confirmed by my hairdresser the other week. Bad weather and central heating all take their toll on the healthy look and feel of hair. Not washing it quite as frequently definitely seems to help, but better not to have to leave it unwashed because you are ill. I wouldn’t wish this virus on anyone!

Hope everyone’s staying well and warm. Roll on the spring!

Rachel x

 

 

Red Clover and Hair Growth

The benefits of red clover for alopecia and hair growth.

I read recently online that red clover can help prevent/slow down hair loss in menopausal and post-menopausal women.

Red clover is apparently a rich source of isoflavones, which are water-soluble chemicals that act like estrogens, helping to prolong the anagen cycle of the hair follicle (the growing cycle). It also contains other beneficial nutrients, such as calcium, chromium, magnesium niacin, phosphorus, potassium, thiamine, and vitamin C.

Red clover is a perennial herb from Asia and Europe, also known as a cow clover, meadow clover, purple clover, and trefoil. It is the red and purple flowers of this plant that are dried and used to make the supplements. When you consider that red clover is used to treat skin inflammation, among other disorders*, it stands to reason that it would help with alopecia – which in the case of scarring alopecia at least, is caused by skin inflammation.

*In case you’re interested, red clover is also used to treat respiratory problems, whooping cough and premenstrual and menopausal symptoms like hot flushes, pain and breast tenderness.

Apparently, according to a source online, you can take red clover supplements, drink it as a tea or rinse your hair with it. However, I notice on the webmd website it says that there ‘isn’t enough information to rate the safety of red clover when applied to the skin’.

Here’s the list of side-effects from the webmd website https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-308-red%20clover.aspx?activeingredientid=308&

I’ve been taking red clover supplements in the form of capsules for the last couple of weeks. I’m only taking half the recommended dose, and it’s very early days, but I’ll obviously report on any benefits.

See you soon

Rachel x

Update on Food Intolerances

How my food intolerances have affected hair loss – or not.

I had a food and drink intolerance test in September, which identified that I was intolerant to yeast, cow’s milk and egg white, with a borderline intolerance to gluten, wheat, cashew nuts, sunflower seeds ( and a few other foods).

The diet I followed for the next couple of months was extremely strict and I found there was not much to eat that I could buy from supermarkets. I suppose anyone with time (not many people I imagine) would make their own food – and I know of people who do this. But September onwards was massively busy for me, and so I simply ate a very restricted (and quite boring) diet.

I was supposed to follow the diet for 3 months and then reintroduce the foods I was intolerant to back in gradually to see if there was any reaction. I followed the diet for about 2 and a half months in the end (fell off the wagon at Christmas, inevitably!) Seeing as I was really only trying to establish whether or not my hair stopped receding, then I’m not sure I noticed any changes, as the rate of recession is only very slow.

So, no major conclusions from cutting out foods I’m intolerant to, as far as hair is concerned anyway.

I still try to avoid cow’s milk as much as possible, but I occasionally have it, and when I do, I notice I clear my throat a lot. I had 3 cups of tea with cow’s milk in yesterday at work, and I’m clearing throat every few seconds today. I’m thinking that if a small amount makes that much difference to me that I can detect, there’s a possibility that it’s having other effects on me that I can’t detect.

I think that avoiding cow’s milk means I don’t get enough calcium n my diet, so I take calcium supplements. My nails are not half as good as they have been (they are all split), so maybe I’ve not been taking calcium consistently. I’ve noticed for years now though that my nails are always rubbish in February through to about April, and I’m fairly sure this has to do with central heating. Might be wrong on this one, but there’s definitely a seasonal pattern. I also had this flu-type virus that went round and I’ve not felt great ever since.

I also try to avoid bread still, but I’m not too strict about that either. Instead of taking sandwiches to work for lunch, I now usually take mackerel in tomato sauce (from a tin) with watercress and rocket and either cherry tomatoes or avocado. I’ll have a normal meat, veg and potatoes dinner at tea time, for example, and won’t have pizza with my daughter, but will have an alternative. When we have pasta, I do normal pasta for my daughter and gluten/wheat free pasta for me.

In other words….. I’ve cut down on the foods I’m intolerant to, but as I’m not sure they are affecting my hair – and I have no other major symptoms – I’m not excluding them.

Hope that was useful, anyway, to someone.

Rachel x

 

Back to Dermatology?

How I decided whether to go back to the dermatology clinic or not.

I realise I haven’t posted for a while, so a quick update on events for you…

I’ve been to see my GP twice since I blogged last. The plan was to take stock of how fast my hair is receding (or not) and then decide whether or not to have a referral back the dermatology. The up-shot is – I’m really not sure what my hair is doing. It looks like it has receded slightly more to me – and I can tell because I can still see the mark where I had the biopsy back in the summer. But actually it is only slight and in some areas, I think I see some new hairs – possibly. So, based on that, it’s definitely not worth bothering with a dermatology appointment. I’m glad because it’s a hassle and, although I’m sure they know their stuff, they don’t give much away – which I find a bit daft when a bit more information might help to solve the problem for me. I only found out at the second GP appointment, the other day, what the details of the results of my biopsy were. The doctor showed me the report, which said that the biopsy showed I had ‘mild chronic inflammation’. How on earth chronic inflammation can be mild I’ll never know. There was some more information, but as the scanned copy of the report was such poor quality, neither the GP nor myself could make it out. I think what it was basically saying though was that because the sample of skin used for the biopsy was so small, the results were inconclusive as to whether it was alopecia or not – which I had already been told by dermatology.

Until the NHS can afford to invest in proper systems (IT and communication systems), we, as patients, are stuck with a lack of information, unfortunately – unless we create a fuss, of course – a time-consuming and frustrating tactic (I speak from past experience).

I’ll update you on the rest of the goings-on and things I’ve tried to slow the rate of hair loss in the next few posts.

Bye for now!

Rachel x

Other People’s Hair

When I realise that no one notices your imperfections anyway.

One thing I’ve noticed since starting to lose my hair to alopecia, is other people’s hair! It’s one of those things isn’t it? If you are pregnant then you seem to notice lots of other pregnant women, and if buy a silver Ford Fiesta then you suddenly notice many other silver Ford Fiestas on the road. It’s the same with hair. If you are losing hair, you see a vast number of women with thinning or receding hair everywhere you look. Were these women always there? Of course they were – I just hadn’t noticed the fact they had less on top before. Even women I know quite well – friends and acquaintances – I’m now detecting bald spots, wide partings and sparse sections of hair that I swear weren’t there a couple of months ago!

So what does this mean? Well, it obviously means I’m quite unobservant generally, but then that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Because if I’ve never noticed other people’s hair loss, they, more likely than not, won’t notice mine!

In other news – my receding hairline has slowed down and rather than put myself through another biopsy to determine the exact type of scarring alopecia  I have (frontal fibrosing or otherwise) – either on the NHS or privately (with an eye-watering excess of £500 to pay) – I’ve decided on the following plan. My GP suggested having a consultation at the surgery in a few weeks time to take stock of the situation and see at what rate my hair is receding (or not, as the case may be). If I’m losing hair at a worrying rate, then I’ll be referred back to the dermatologist for a deeper biopsy, and if not, then I’ll leave it for the moment with a view to restarting the dermatology process all over again in the future, should I need to.

See you soon

Rachel 🙂

 

New Hairs

I appear to be sprouting some new baby hairs!

I’m fairly sure (she says tentatively) that I have some new hairs growing in my bald spots. Basically, when I scrape my hair off my forehead, the areas where I was receding to points either side of my fringe seem to be less pronounced. I’m not entirely sure, but I no there are a few baby hairs (finer, softer ones) around. I’ve tried to take some photos so you can see, but it’s not the easiest selfie to take and I realised that it was my son who took the photos last time. Anyway, Here’s how it looked before:

Hair loss on my forehead
Hair loss on my forehead

And here’s how it looks now:

Forehead 2     Forehead 4

The photos (not the best quality, granted) are of both sides of my forehead and it certainly looks to me like the baldy bits have been filled in a little bit. I’d say that over the tops of my ears, the hair loss is just the same as previously.

On my last appointment with the NHS (No Hope Service) dermatologist, she said that the biopsy had not been able to determine which type of alopecia I had. However, she said she was certain it was a type (like frontal fibrosing alopecia) where hair loss is permanent. Explain the new hair growth then!

Hairs have also returned to other parts of my body, including my eyebrows. They’re not exactly full, but they are slightly less sparse than before and there are even some hairs inbetween my eyebrows now, like before my body hair fell out in July.

I’ve slackened off on using the Dermovate steroid lotion, as the dermatologist said to use it 2 weeks on and 2 weeks off. It’s also been 2 weeks since my last Indian head massage, due to lack of time – but I’ll get back on track on Friday. I’ve had the last of my 3 initial acupuncture sessions, and my next one is in December to maintain the good work. I’m taking my supplements and applying my essential oil blend the night before a hair wash – leaving it on overnight. I’m washing my hair in sulphate and parabens-free shampoo and conditioner. I’m sticking rigidly to my yeast, egg white, cow’s milk, wheat and gluten-free diet. I’ve also started going for a walk at lunchtime for half an hour to get some exercise in – as I’m sure that will help too.

All good!

Bye for now 🙂

Rachel x

 

 

Poo

How the number of bowel movements I have per day is relevant to my hair loss!

It may not be the nicest topic, but I think it’s relevant to my hair loss, so bear with.

A couple of weeks ago I received the results from food intolerance test. Today, I had a telephone consultation with a nutritionist. It’s a service the food intolerance test people  offer and I’d successfully managed to put it off thus far, thinking I was doing fine. I’d sussed some foods out that didn’t contain my 3 main reactive ingredients – yeast, egg white and cow’s milk. But oh, how wrong I was! Just a couple of minutes into the conversation, it seemed that most things I’d been eating were off limits. Whoops!

Bowl of fruit - healthy eating help alopecia

Firstly, she told me to exclude the foods I was borderline reactive to – these include gluten and wheat – as well as those foods I was very reactive to.

Me: “Ah yes, I have been doing that. I’ve been avoiding gluten, so I’ve been eating rye bread.”

Nutritionist: Sharp intake of breath. “There’s gluten in rye – you can’t have that….or spelt and barley.” (Oh dear)

Me: “I’ve been doing well avoiding cow’s milk. I’ve been having soya milk.”

Nutritionist: “Mm, well ok. Better to have almond milk though as soya products are hormone disruptors.”

I was also dismayed to hear that peanuts and alcohol of any kind were not advised while my ‘gut is healing’, that gluten-free could only really be achieved by baking your own bread, that any kind of chutney/vinaigrette/mayonnaise (i.e. food made with vinegar) is out of bounds, as well as most things shop-bought. Even carton juices are a no-no for me!

Instead we talked making pancakes with bananas, using chia seeds instead of eggs (no, I don’t know either!), ghee (pardon?), rice, millet, quinoa and oats.

Despite the nutritionist’s strict dietary plans for me, she really was very helpful. One thing that cropped up in our conversation (and this is the point of my post), was bowel movements. I said that with the modifications I’d made to my diet so far (obviously not as many as she would have liked!), I had noticed a distinct increase in the number of bowel movements I had per day – I mean some days I would go 5 times! She said that a normal number of bowel movements per day is 2 to 3. Well, this was news to my ears! I’d only ever gone once a day at best – some days not at all. The nutritionist said that I’d been suffering from constipation. This would have been caused by eating the foods my body is intolerant to. These foods would have caused irritation in my stomach lining and so foods would have been constantly maldigested. She said that malabsorption can also cause bloating, joint pain and a whole host of other symptoms. So, 2 to 3 times eh? Who knew?

ANYWAY…. back to hair. The nutritionist said that every physical condition we develop is related to what we put in or on our bodies – and toxins in our foods, toiletries etc. can do a lot of harm. She said that when you heal your gut, everything else falls into place. She said that alopecia is an auto-immune disorder and that there is a link to intolerances. Mm… interesting…

I’ve had chicken and vegetables for tea.

Till next time 🙂

Rachel x