Alopecia + Auto-Immune

Understanding Alopecia and the Stages of Hair Growth.

I changed my diet and I’m still losing hair! This is a common phrase we alopecia folks say to ourselves. There is more to hair loss than just diet, though diet is a HUGE factor in how I re-grew my hair. Your hair has its own hair growth cycle and understanding how that works can help put your mind at ease when you notice the strands and tears coming down in the shower.

What are the stages of hair growth?

Hair growth has four stages where your hair follicles either shed, rest, or grow. Losing hair is actually a very natural part of that hair growth process. In fact, we lose hair so we can replace it.  On average during a normal hair growth cycle, we can lose anywhere from 50 to 100 strands of hair a day. If you have alopecia it feels like every strand counts.

While changing my diet was a major factor in what helped assist my hair regrowth, it was not instantaneous. From the time I noticed the first small coin sized bald patch until the time it was at its worst was a period of four months of shedding and continual loss of hair. See gorgeous picture below. PS- that pic of my pretty hair up top was actually me when I had this patch underneath….Incognito alopecia areata.

alopecia areata

Understanding that my hair wasn’t going to skip a cycle phase or say it was sorry and start to re-grow immediately, helped my overall mental health and well-being in any matter associated with my hair.

 

Anagen Phase…is my favorite phase.

This is the active growth phase. It can last between 2-7 years and will determine how long our hair will be. What a bitch. She is also the longest phase. Most of our hair is in the anagen phase.

Catagen Phase:

This is the phase where your hair takes a breather and stops hair growth for a period of 3 weeks. It is an intermediate or transition phase for our hair. Back to middle school, we go. The hair follicle will convert to a “club hair” which are hairs that have a bugle at the end of the follicle. This club hair acts as a wedge to hold the hair in place and cuts the follicle off from its blood supply and cells that produce new hair. The club hair will stay in place until the hair follicle becomes active again and starts producing new hair fibers which eventually push those old club fibers out of the hair follicle.

  • If you are in a hair loss state- there can be an increase in club hairs present.

Telogen Phase:

The good old telogen phase is also known as the resting phase. Your hair growth will take a vacation for approximately 2-4 months. Enjoy your vacay you lazy bunch! The amount of hair in this cycle is actually limited which is approximately 10-15 percent of your hair. At the end of this phase, the old hairs fall out and leave a new follicle in its place that is ready to repeat the cycle and enter the Anagen phase.

  • If your hair enters the resting phase too early it can cause excess shedding and thinking. (Alopecia much?)

The end of this resting phase is called…

Exogen Phase:

This is a normal phase of hair growth (unless you have alopecia and then it becomes the terrifying phase) and hair loss. During the exogen phase, 50-100 hairs can fall out on a daily basis. This is the phase where signals for shedding or shaft release are given and the process of release are then executed.

In a scientific finding I found on the internet (yes I sure did say that)..17 patients with alopecia areata were found to have premature entry of anagen follicles into the telogen phase. After re-entry into the anagen phase, hair growth appeared to be halted. Hair follicles then prematurely returned to the telogen phase and repeated until the “disease” activity subsided. Remember when I said above “If your hair enters the resting phase too early it can cause excess shedding and thinking”…see science.

Click to see the review from the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

hair-growth-cycle-anagen-catagen-telogen-phases

*I borrowed this picture from the Missouri Hair Institute. Many thanks. “Return to Anagen is also Exogen.”

Getting back on track with the hair growth cycle.

 

Most alopecia instances are linked to cycle changes. When your immune system is comprised it sends signals to attack the hair follicles. Understanding this can help you understand that in order for your hair to start growing back you must calm the immune system and allow your body to re-enter your hair growth cycle.

Why is my Doctor telling me about Steroid creams?

Steroid creams are meant to stop the immune system from attacking the hair follicle as well as reduce inflammation. Inflammation also aborts hair growth. Similar drugs “release” the hair follicles form inflammations grip. I personally did not use any medicated creams or even go to the Doctor but if that feels good for you and jump-starts your healing then do what you have to do!

Is there a more natural route to reduce inflammation?

Reducing inflammation in your body is a process just like inflaming the shit out of it was. I reduced my inflammation by using food, homeopathy, and putting my mind and body in a healing state. The most successful and popular diet is known as the Auto Immune Protocol or AIP diet. I absolutely had success with this in healing my alopecia areata. My mother also had success in healing her Psoriasis which is also a reaction to bodily inflammation.

autoimmune inflammation diet and alopecia areata

*As a reminder if your hair is still falling out it is probably because it needs to finish out the cycle of hair growth or shedding it is in. There is no reversal of the cycle it just has to finish its natural process. What you can do though is focusing on reducing your inflammation!

Whatever route you choose know that re-balancing your immune system is #1.  Your body is absolutely phenomenal and was designed to handle healing. Giving it the care it is now asking for and removing added “stresses” whether that be food, lifestyle, or harmful thoughts will be a huge asset.  Give your body the space it needs to do what it does best…care for you.

Want to learn more about rebalancing your overall system? Check out one of my most viewed posts, A Holistic Look at Inflammation In the Body.

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