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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biopsy Results

My biopsy results for my alopecia diagnosis surprised me!

I got my biopsy results on Sunday and they were………………………….. inconclusive! This was the ensuing conversation with the dermatologist:

“So, is that unusual for the biopsy results to come back inconclusive?”

“No, not at all. They’re often inconclusive.” (What, really??)

“Oh….. So, what does that mean?”

“Well, it is saying you’ve got alopecia, but we don’t know what type. It could be frontal fibrosing alopecia or it could be another type of scarring alopecia. It doesn’t look like alopecia areata as that it more patchy hair loss all over.” (Well, I could have told you that!! So, all we’ve established is what we already knew a month ago!!)

“Right, so what happens now then?”

“I’ll ask the consultant if he wants to do a deeper biopsy, or not.” (Why on earth didn’t he just do a deeper biopsy in the first place if the more superficial ones are often inconclusive??)

“Right.” (I’m going private…)

So, I get home and dig out my private policy details. You may be wondering whether I haven’t used this before now. The reason is that my hair loss hasn’t progressed much (if at all – hard to tell) since July. I was already booked in for the biopsy with the NHS when I realised that I might was covered under a policy my ex husband had taken out. I decided that if I went private at that point, I would only end up having another biopsy, so decided to wait for the NHS biopsy results before I investigated the private route. Granted, the results from a private biopsy would have come back much faster (the NHS results took a month), but as my hair loss had slowed, there didn’t seem to be a rush.

Anyway, I rang BUPA and was given consultants’ names in my area etc. etc. and at the end of the phone call was told there was an excess to pay of £500 on the policy. What?! So, in actual fact, what I’ve decided to do is to press the NHS for a deeper biopsy and take it from there.

So, there we are! I’ll keep moving forward.

See you soon 🙂

Rachel x

 

 

Food Intolerance Test Results

I find out which foods I’m intolerant to in order to halt my alopecia

In an attempt to halt the progression of my frontal fibrosing alopecia, I had a food intolerance test. And the results have arrived! It turns out I’m intolerant to yeast, egg white and cow’s milk, with a borderline intolerance to gluten, wheat, cashew nuts and a few others.
York Test
I’ve decided to cut out only those foods I’ve got a definite reaction to. With intolerances, a reaction means that certain foods cause antibodies to be raised. I suppose this means my body doesn’t like certain substances and is in conflict with them.
So, all keen to remove the offending foods from my diet, I go to the supermarket. After an hour, I’m more or less convinced that there is only a handful of foods in the whole shop that can eat! I’m excluding fruit and veg from this, because there’s loads of those – but there are only so many you can eat! The issue seems more to be finding yeast, egg and milk free snacks and lunch box items. I like foods with a bit of substance! How can you find an alternative for a sandwich, pie or pizza?
On the bread front, I thought I’d go for German pumpernickel (heavy dark rye bread). But I discovered the one in Asda it had sunflower seeds in it. Sunflower seeds are only a borderline intolerance but I thought it best to avoid them just in case. So, I came away with Ryvita and some tasteless flat chia seed wraps. Ho hum.
I’ve substituted butter (sniff – I love butter) with coconut oil. In fact, I seem to use coconut oil for everything. I even bought a cheese substitute that was made out of coconut oil!
Anyway, I’m sure I’ll muddle through. I’m going to have a 6 week break from these foods and reintroduce them gradually. I want to wheedle out the culprits with regard to my hair – or, at least find out if there is any link.
Health kinesiology claims to be able to switch off intolerances and allergies by the way. Always worth investigating.
I’m going for my biopsy results tomorrow, so I’ll let you know what was said.
See you soon!
Rachel x