If you’ve experienced hair loss or been diagnosed with any form of alopecia, you’ve probably asked yourself: what’s the reason? After all, hair loss is just a symptom of a larger problem–sometimes several problems. Stress is typically what triggers hair loss, and it is the unchecked stress response that compounds into other issues like nutrient deficiencies, hormone imbalances, thyroid issues, food sensitivities and even digestive issues. Being that our gut is our second brain and modern science has revealed the gut and brain are connected through the central nervous system, it’s no wonder that perceived stressors (in the mind) can disrupt gut function. Vice versa, poor food choices, pesticides, toxins, gut pathogens, etc. can signal to our brain that there is stress. Bottom line, everything is connected in the body and besides emotional stressors, gut function is largely overlooked in terms of hair loss.
In this post, I explain some other reasons for hair loss that you may have overlooked showing that…Your HAIR LOSS may actually be connected to your GUT HEALTH!
Alopecia Areata & the H. pylori Connection
A 2011 study showed that H. Pylori eradication may be effective in curing Alopecia Areata. In fact, the first known/documented reversal of hair loss was with eradication of H. pylori (helicobacter pylori). Are you familiar with H. pylori bacteria? It is estimated that 50-75% of the population is infected, as it is quite contagious. In fact, it’s thought to spread through unwashed fruit/veg, contaminated water, saliva, kissing, etc.
You might be thinking gross, BUT….don’t forget we are made of a 100 trillion bacterial cells…we’re basically walking, talking breathing H2O + bacteria.
Interesting H. Pylori facts…
—>It is estimated that 4.6 billion people are infected worldwide
—>It is increasingly resistant to antibiotics…triple antibiotic therapy is the usual treatment
—>90% of stomach ulcers are caused by H. Pylori infection
—>50% of gastric cancer patients are infected with H. Pylori
—>65% of H. Pylori patients are also infected with Candida Albicans
—>Acid Reflux (GERD) or Heartburn is the #1 symptom of H. Pylori, but most people are asymptotic
Other noticeable symptoms of H. pylori: anemia (low iron), fatigue, nausea, burping, hormone issues, depression, anxiety, inability to lose weight or unintentional weight loss, gastritis, stomach pain, halitosis, acne, Crohn’s, diverticulitis and malabsorption of protein + nutrients. Woah, right? Now the important take away for hair loss, is the fact that H. pylori makes it very difficult to breakdown important nutrients for proper hair growth, like protein. Hair is essentially 95% protein, so if H. pylori is preventing you from breaking down and utilizing important amino acids for protein formation, this bacteria must be addressed.
Alopecia & Inflammation Due to Food Intolerances
Did you know inflammation can result from things like toxins and food intolerances? Yep! Inflammation is the body’s immune system response to damaged cells, injury, pathogens or irritants (like food sensitivities) and is a sign the body is trying to heal itself. Additionally, having too much inflammation (over a long period of time) in the body is responsible for most chronic diseases like cancer, obesity, heart disease and even hair loss. We need some inflammation to support healing processes in the body. However, unnecessary environmental, dietary and lifestyle practices contribute to a heavier load of inflammation. Eliminating possible inflammatory stressors, like food intolerances/sensitivities, allows the body to properly rest, regenerate and to focus on other aspects of the body like digestion and hair growth.
Interesting note: females are more prone to developing food intolerancess than males. (source)
Alopecia & Celiac
A 1995 study showed the connection between Celiac and Alopecia Areata. In fact, the youngest patient, a 14-year-old boy, who embarked on a gluten-free diet resulted in complete regrowth of scalp and body hair. The study reported, “the association between these two conditions is a real one because the observed frequency of association is much greater than can be expected by chance.” Additionally, this study suggests, “antigliadin and antiendomysial antibodies should be included in the work-up of patients with alopecia areata.” Another study conducted in 2014 administered a gluten-free diet to children with both alopecia areata and celiac disease. “Administration of a gluten-free diet to these patients resulted in complete hair growth.”
Alopecia & Parasites/Thyroid Health/Nutrient Deficiencies…it’s all connected
Did you know that parasites not only interfere with your nutrient assimilation and digestion, but they can also impact your gut and thyroid health? A 2015 study showed that with the eradication of the parasite Blastocystis hominis, a patient’s Hashimoto’s thyroiditis was no longer present. Basically, the patient’s thyroid hormones were normalized and anti-thyroid antibodies declined. Therefore, this study showed that by eradicating parasites like Blastocystis hominis, it can prevent the development of both health imbalances such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and thyroid issues. Moreover, parasites produce toxins in the body that can contribute to hair loss, called endotoxins or LPS (lipopolysaccharides). Even though the parasite may reside in the gut, the toxins they give off can effect the entire body. Another example of a pathogen causing hair loss is Lyme, which is bacteria that causes a tremendous amount of stress on the body. However, once the Lyme is eradicated, the alopecia will reverse.
It’s important to note: a balanced thyroid is greatly important for hair health, specifically T3 (active thyroid hormone).
The connection between hair loss and gut health is one that should not be overlooked. The microbiome–the gut–is conducting 90% of the body’s metabolic functions. Not only is our digestion how be break down and assimilate the nutrients necessary for mood and energy, but it’s also essential for hair health and growth. If our digestive system is imbalanced in any sort of way, whether due to autoimmunity/malabsorption issues (i.e. Celiac), bacterial overgrowth or parasites, it’s important to understand these root issues must be addressed, before proper hair health can ensue. Remove the hidden stressors and optimal hair growth is restored. If you’re interested in running functional lab tests, like the GIMAP, to uncover the above hidden stressors, schedule your session and let’s get to the bottom of your hair loss.