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

 

The Menopause & Hair Loss

A look at how the menopause might be a factor in my frontal fibrosing alopecia.

I realise that in this blog I haven’t yet mentioned my age. I’m 51. I understand from what I’ve read that frontal fibrosing alopecia is a condition that typically affects post-menopausal women (although the condition is rare). Having gone through the menopause relatively early at 47, I’m definitely in the post-menopausal category. I’ve also read that FFA is possibly a hormone-related condition, although the exact cause hasn’t yet been determined. This would be consistent with the fact that it affects post-menopausal women. Menopause causes your estrogen and progesterone levels to significantly drop.

Up until this point I had been congratulating myself on how well I’d done with my menopause – only a year or so of night sweats, a bit of brain fog and a couple of years of HRT and it was all done and dusted with no lasting issues. Then early last year, I noticed that my right eyebrow had lost a lot of its hair and that the outer part of it was practically missing. I put it down to stress at the time, as I was experiencing a lot of stress in my personal life.

I didn’t really notice any significant hair loss from my head until this year when lots seemed to fall out at once. I’m not sure whether this is typical of FFA, which I thought was slow and progressive hair loss over time. Anyway, a lot fell out at once in July this year and since then has not grown back, as presumably the hair follicles have died. This has left my hair quite thin on the sides of my head above my ears.

Hair loss over my right ear
Hair loss over my right ear
Forehead 1
Hair loss on my forehead
Other ear
Hair loss over my left ear

At the same time a lot of my hair came out, I noticed that my body hair (on my arms and legs above my knees) seemed to have disappeared too. These parts of my body felt strange being totally smooth. These hairs do appear to have grown back now, but are finer and softer than they were before – and are almost imperceptible. My underarm hair seems to have gone much finer and softer too. The hair on my face has also been affected. My face feels totally smooth and I can’t see any hair on it, apart from a couple of strands of hair – one that has always grown from my chin and one that has always grown from my right cheek. These hairs used to be quite thick, but now they feel soft and thinner, like the hairs that have grown back on my arms and legs. Another thing I have noticed is that a few weeks ago I had no hair at all between my eyebrows (I always used to have a bit of hair here before a lot of my head and body hair fell out in July). Some of this has grown back, but again it is much softer and finer and you have to look very closely to see it. I have been putting my essential oil blend (see previous post) on my eyebrows, so this might have something to do with the regrowth.

My mum has said that hair loss is typical of the menopause and that lack of body hair is not unusual. From what I’ve read it relates to lack of estrogen. Obviously something else is happening as well though to bring on FFA, and it sounds like much more research needs to be done to find out the exact causes and symptoms of this condition.

Till next time 🙂

Rachel x

How I Am Coping With My Hair Loss

10 Positive Ways I Have Found To Cope

Sometimes my hair loss seems like a bad dream I will eventually wake up from – but that’s not happened yet. It’s still early days for me, I know, with a part diagnosis last week and biopsy results still pending, but I have to remain positive for the time being. I still have to go to work, pick up from school, go to the supermarket, meet up with friends etc. etc. I can’t (and won’t) let it defeat me.

So, following on from my last post about my feelings towards my hair loss, here is a list of 10 ways I have found that help me deal with what is happening:

  1. I count my blessings – Sounds corny but it works. There are sooooo many things I am very grateful for and happy about in my life. There really is always someone worse off than you.
  2. I look after myself – I’ve started going to bed on time, eating super well and relaxing when my body’s tired (something I’ve never been able to do in the past). When I wake up in the night and start worrying about my hair (or anything else), I listen to a meditation (there are some great ones on YouTube) and I practice deep breathing. I stop working earlier in the evening and make sure I spend time with friends and family. I surround myself with positive people when I feel low. I go out and indulge my hobbies (e.g. singing in a choir).Healthy eating to help with frontal fibrosing alopecia
  3. I have altered my self-talk – When I’m down, I speak to myself as I know my friends and family would, and give myself the advice I know they’d give. I’m kind to myself. N.B. This is one of the most important things I have done and has made a big difference to how I feel.
  4. I have told people about my hair loss – I can imagine that some people don’t mention their hair loss to people until they absolutely have to or can’t hide it anymore. In fact, I read somewhere that nearly half of women (42% or some such figure) even hide it from their partners! For me, I’d much rather tell people. Once it’s out there you don’t have to worry about constantly covering it up. You don’t have to explain why you’re wearing a scarf or your hair looks scraggy etc. You can just be yourself. Most people I have told have been lovely about it – and have offered advice or told me about other people they know with a similar thing. I don’t think people judge you in any way for something like this – what’s to judge anyway?
  5. I have experimented with scarves – Wearing a scarf to cover up the front of my head is about the extent of this at the moment, however, I have ordered some chemo caps from Amazon just so I have them at the ready should I need them (see point 9).Chemo caps to disguise frontal fibrosing alopecia
  6. I have told my hairdresser – I told my hairdresser yesterday so that when I go back in to the salon, he knows my issue already and will be ready to help. I decided today that my hair is looking so thin all over that having it cut short is probably the best option at the moment.
  7. I have listed all the positives of having this condition – Yes, there are some! I think they’ll form the basis of a separate blog post as there are quite a few.
  8. I realise that this condition is not as bad as other things I have dealt with in my life – I recognise that if I was strong enough and brave enough to face some really tough times previously (which I did), I can certainly cope with this.
  9. I have worked out how I would feel about the worst case scenario – The worst case scenario would be that I go completely bald or that my hair is so receded or thin that I can’t not wear some sort of headwear. I have thought long and hard about how I would feel about this (because after all, it’s all to do with how we feel about things, as the condition only really affects me and no one else). After much thought, I have concluded that it wouldn’t be a disaster. Worse things happen to people and I don’t need hair from a practical point of view.
  10. I have investigated a few options for the worst case scenario – And there are lots! If I have the information and I know what the options are in advance, I can feel there is a safety net for me. So I have found out that there are wigs, toppers, an intralace system, scarves, turbans…… and just being bald!

See you next time 🙂

Rachel x