The word alopecia means hair loss. Thinning or baldness can be a common complaint for both men and women, but around 2% of the population develop alopecia areata. Living with alopecia areata can affect self-esteem, confidence and mental health.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks hair follicles all over the body or scalp, or in patches. The three most common forms are areata (patchy hair loss of the scalp), totalis (all or most hair loss of the scalp) and universalis (loss of all hair, including body, brows and lashes), however there are a variety of sub types based on location and hair loss pattern.
On average we lose about 100 hairs per day, usually without noticing, as new hair is growing all the time. Hair growth occurs in 3 stages:
Genetically inherited factors affecting the androgen receptor AR gene cause most hair loss. Called androgenetic alopecia, it’s thought to be related to the way hair follicles produce 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT affecting the growth in the anagen phase. This causes shorter growth cycles and thinner, shorter hair strands, and delays in growing replacement strands.
In the scalp disorder telogen effluvium, a shock to the body such as infection, starvation, childbirth, drugs, stress or immunological disorders can trigger an often temporary, episode of hair loss. Accelerating the time taken from the anagen into the exogen phase, this condition can be associated with scalp pain, burning, or stinging sensations called trichodynia, and is more common in men.
Emerging research suspects that people with a genetic predisposition can develop autoimmune conditions when they encounter an environmental trigger. Specifically, in alopecia areata it is suspected that the immune system mistakes hair follicles for a pathogen due to an immune system vigilance at the skin level.
Possible triggers include:
Other risk factors for alopecia (hair loss, generally) are:
Other considerations for hair loss are:
Luckily, in many cases of alopecia areata, despite being damaged, the hair follicles retain the ability to regrow hair, meaning hair loss is not permanent in most cases.
Dyeing hair with alopecia
Many people ask about dyeing hair with alopecia. You can dye your hair if you have alopecia, because the part of the hair that is dyed is the hair shaft, and it does not reach the follicles which are damaged by the immune system in alopecia. However, hair dyes contain chemicals that can damage hair, expose the body to toxins, add an unnecessary load to the liver and are not advised for people looking for healthy, recovery from autoimmune conditions.
Research has found people with the ‘atopic triad’ have a defective barrier of the skin and upper and lower respiratory tracts.
These genetic alterations cause a loss of function of filaggrin (filament aggregating protein), which is a protein in the skin that normally breaks down to create natural moisturisation and protect the skin from penetration by pathogens and allergens.
Filaggrin mutations are found in approximately 30 percent of people with atopic dermatitis, and also predispose people to asthma, allergic rhinitis (hayfever), keratosis pilaris (dry rough patches and bumps on the skin), and ichthyosis vulgaris (a chronic condition which causes thick, dry, scaly skin.)If one parent carries this genetic alteration, there is a 50 percent chance their child will develop atopic symptoms. And that risk increases to 80 percent if both parents are affected.
The connection between the gut microbiome and skin health is complex, however, research has found the microbiota contributes to the development, persistence, and severity of atopic dermatitis through immunologic, metabolic and neuroendocrine pathways.
Deficiency of Omega-6 essential fatty acids (EFA) has been linked with the increased incidence of atopic dermatitis, along with the inability for the body to efficiently metabolise EFA’s to gamma linoleic acids (GLA) and arachidonic acids (AA).
Changing weather conditions can certainly aggravate eczema symptoms, but the triggers are subject to change among individuals.
Mould exposure and susceptibility to mould can cause Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), of which dermatitis is a manifestation.
There are 3 main types of alopecia - areata, totalis and universalis. In all forms of alopecia areata, hair follicles remain alive, ready and able to resume normal growth. Alopecia areata is broken down into the following sub types:
There is no single treatment for alopecia areata, however depending on your condition, your doctor may prescribe medications such as:
And for androgenetic alopecia, your GP might prescribe medications called 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, or other medications such as:
In 2022 the FDA in the US approved a systemic anti-inflammatory drug called baricitinib (Olumiant), that has shown promise, however, has a number of side effects.
Your doctor may also make recommendations for laser treatment or surgical hair follicle transplantation.
Conventional medications from an alopecia specialist can be helpful, however, all medications carry the risk of side effects. This leads many people with alopecia to look for natural hair loss treatments which address the underlying cause and improve overall health, rather than simply suppress symptoms.
Natural functional medicine alopecia treatment starts with an in-depth investigation to identify the root cause and contributing factors. Even where there is a genetic component, there are modifiable factors that can prevent further loss or even restore hair growth in some cases. Unlike conventional treatment,functional medicine treats the whole person.
In the initial in depth case-taking appointment we investigate:
Your alopecia treatment may include functional testing, such as:
Depending on your condition, a personalised functional medicine alopecia treatment may target the following:
Dietary, herbal and supplemental strategies may include (depending on your condition):
At Melbourne Functional Medicine, your comprehensive, personalised treatment plan is supported by your health coach and practitioner team. You’ll have people on your side to help you succeed in making the necessary changes for your health. Our unique 6 month program has all of the elements you need to help you achieve your health goals. Hear their stories, then book a free discovery call to find out how we can help you, too.
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Firstly, it’s important to know that everybody loses around 100 hairs per day, and this is a normal part of the growth to shedding hair cycle. When 100 long hairs fall out, this can look like a lot. However, if you are losing more than this, then there are a variety of reasons.
They can include:
If you’re looking for a natural hair loss treatment, contact us to find out more.
Dietary lack of zinc, selenium, silica, folate, Vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids, or biotin can all contribute to hair loss, however, the reason for each person’s hair loss is likely to be different as there are a variety of reasons for hair loss.
Seeking the help of a functional medicine specialist with a special interest in alopecia can help to determine the cause and contributing factors for your hair loss, and provide natural, evidence based alopecia areata naturopathic treatment strategies.
Yes. A recognised condition called telogen effluvium occurs when a stressor such as sickness, shock, trauma, starvation, childbirth, drugs or immunological disorders triggers hair loss by disrupting the growth to shedding cycle of hair. Often the hair loss occurs some time after the trigger.
Stress can also be a factor in developing the autoimmune condition alopecia areata, causing the body to mistakenly attack hair follicles. Stress can also alter the hormonal balance and this can also be a trigger for alopecia areata.
An alopecia naturopathic treatment can help to get to the root of hair loss, and create a plan that helps to reduce stress and support the body to encourage hair growth. Find out more about an alopecia alternative treatment by contacting us.
Yes, and no. You can pass on the genetic susceptibility to autoimmune alopecia areata, and you can pass on genetic susceptibility to the hormonal imbalance of androgenetic alopecia.
However, genetic susceptibility does not mean that you will always go on to develop these conditions. Alopecia specialists recommend avoiding the triggers, maintaining a healthy hormonal balance and the necessary nutrients for hair and skin health are some of the ways to avoid developing alopecia.
Alopecia areata treatment in Australia from functional medicine practitioners can help reduce the chances of triggers causing the disease. Reducing the chances means also living a healthier life, potentially with less hair loss and in some cases regrowth. This depends on the condition, how long you have had it and the factors involved in both causing and contributing to it.
Yes, alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder.
The word ‘alopecia’ simply means hair loss, and there are a variety of causes for hair loss.
In the various types of alopecia areata, the body mistakenly attacks the hair follicle causing the hair to fall out in patches, different areas of the body, or the whole body. Like all autoimmune conditions, this is thought to happen in genetically susceptible people, when encountering a trigger such as:
Depending on the cause of alopecia, there’s a variety of treatments from functional medicine alopecia practitioners that may be able to prevent further hair loss, slow future loss, or even regrow your hair.
Firstly, your practitioner will need to identify the underlying cause and contributing factors of your alopecia.
They will then design a personalised, holistic treatment strategy to address the factors affecting your hair loss.
Natural treatments for alopecia may include lifestyle changes to help be more resilient to stress, improve sleep, or reduce exposure to environmental chemicals.
They may include herbal medicines to improve circulation and nutrient delivery to affected areas, such as rosemary, gingko, yarrow or prickly ash. Silica containing herbs such as horsetail may be required. Herbs for balancing hormones such as green tea or saw palmetto, and for helping to calm the nervous system such as Siberian ginseng, schisandra and/or withania (ashwaganda) may be needed.
Whilst there is no alopecia areata diet, or alopecia areata elimination diet, your alopecia treatment plan may include a diet that addresses nutritional deficiencies, reduces inflammation, and removes any specific foods that you may be intolerant or allergic to.
Nutrient absorption, gut health and function, infection, parasites, exposure to mould and toxins are other factors that may need to be identified and addressed, which will require a multi-facted alopecia treatment plan. A holistic, alopecia naturopathic treatment, delivered by functional medicine trained naturopaths will provide a solution that will improve your hair and overall health.
In order to stop or slow spreading of alopecia, you will need to discover what the underlying cause and contributing factors are. We are all different, and the lifestyles we lead, the food we eat, our genetic makeup, our microbiome are all unique. These are all areas that will impact hair loss.
Alopecia areata episodes can last for months to a year, as the hair follicles retain the ability to regrow hair. Once it starts to regrow, hair growth occurs at around 1 cm per 28 days, and has 3 stages of growth. Improving your health, removing the triggers and providing your body with what it needs to recover may help start this growth process.
If you’re looking for the best hair loss treatment in Australia, an alopecia natural treatment that addresses all the factors that caused the condition is the ideal approach. Our practitioners at Melbourne Functional Medicine can help with an alopecia alternative treatment.
Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition where the body’s own immune system attacks the hair follicles, causing hair loss. Luckily, in most cases this is not permanent, as the follicles retain the ability to regrow, and when given the right circumstances, will regrow missing patches of hair.
Even so, the underlying causes and contributing factors may return if they have not been addressed. People who have one autoimmune condition will often develop other autoimmune conditions, a sign of a dysregulated immune system. Often, there are gut flora disturbances, but also a whole range of other factors can contribute. If you have alopecia areata, then addressing your underlying factors may help you avoid developing other autoimmune conditions, and improve your overall health.
If you’re seeking an alopecia treatment in Australia, or you’re looking for a general hair loss treatment, a functional medicine practitioner at Melbourne Functional Medicine can help.
Can’t find what you’re looking for? Reach out to the team directly – we’ll be happy to assist.