Alopecia areata is certainly the most widespread form of non-scarring alopecia after the androgenic one.
It affects 2% of the world population and suddenly appears without distinctions in sex, age or ethnicity.
It is an autoimmune disease where the Ige antibodies or the antigens of secondary leukocytes create an inflammatory and damaging process for hair follicles, causing hair and body hair loss. Such disease is normally initiated by an important anxious depressive state consequent to a strong emotional stress. It can be caused by the loss of your loved ones, a strong traumatic experience, a very anxious character.
It starts with a lock of hair loss, so some roundish hairless spots appears, it is known as spot baldness. It can develop and lead to complete hair loss, called alopecia totalis. Rarely it can also lead to a complete body hair loss, called alopecia universalis.
Usually it affects pigmented hairs, so white hairs are spared, it can happen that those who have graying hair find themselves completely white-haired and when their hair regrows it appears clearer.
Generally the doctor prescribes corticosteroids, minoxidil, atrazine, ciclosporin, mostly used as creams or lotions that have to be applied on the affected area, or the use of laser. They, destroying T lymphocytes, stimulate follicle activity and help hair regrowth.
Natural cures to alopecia areata
There are a lot of natural cures which affect the immune system and reduce the inflammatory process which prevents hairs from growing.
- Ginseng root, whose botanic name is panax ginseng “plant which heals everything”. Among the many beneficial properties, it is very rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances. It has a beneficial action towards the scalp and it is a real stimulant for hair regrowth. It can be taken with a tisane using a spoon of ginseng root which has to be left in infusion for at least 5 minutes after the water is boiling and sweetened with a teaspoon of honey or in tablets to buy at the herbalist’s shop.
- Zinc is a fundamental mineral for a healthy hair growth, a 2016 study highlighted that patients who suffer from alopecia generally have lower zinc levels. Furthermore it helps intestinal functions which are fundamental for an appropriate and normal immune response. First of all we find it in many foods, such as shellfish, in some cereals such as barley and in legumes, or it can be taken with supplements.
- Probiotics such as bifidobacterium, lactobacillus acidophilus, keep the intestine healthy, which has an important role for the proper functioning of the immune system.
Researches have proved how probiotic bacteria, administered to some rats, bring beneficial change to their integumentary system. The presence of a balanced intestinal flora is very important to protect us from invasions of pathogenic microorganism which can cause pathological inflammatory processes.
Integrating these microorganisms by eating food which has them such as kefir, kombucha tea, yogurt or apple cider vinegar should be a normal routine. Fructooligosaccharides help the growth of beneficial symbiotic colonies, inhibiting the pathogenic ones and realising fatty acids inside the colon. The most rich foods in FOS are chicory, beans and legumes in general.
- Rosemary essential oil stimulates hair follicles. Researches prove that applying the essential oil is as effective as minoxidil: two or three drops to apply locally, directly on the area to be treated, will give excellent benefits.
- Lavender essential oil is a powerful antioxidant and reduces inflammations. A 2016 study performed on rats proves that topically applying the oil on bald areas significantly increases hair follicle regrowth.
An appropriate diet
We also have to highlight how an appropriate diet is useful to help your body decrease or even delete the chronic inflammatory process which is created by this pathology.
It is rather common, indeed, for patients affected by alopecia to have nutritional deficiencies, therefore it is highly recommended following a balanced diet with vitamins and minerals, which, in addition to provide the necessary calorie requirements, restores these deficits.
This diet consists in replacing sugared and refined food with food which is rich in nutrients, such as antioxidants, which decrease the number of free radicals a lot.
A food plan of an anti-inflammatory diet must have:
- brown rice, rich in anti-inflammatory polyphenols, such as tricine
- whole-wheat pasta has a glycemic index lower than bread, so the glucose contained in the starch is released slower and you stay full longer, it would be ideal to combine whole-wheat pasta or rice with legumes and vegetables which are rich in fibers
- fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, precursors of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, which has a protective and preventive action towards the chronic inflammation.
- vegetables with green leafs, rich in vitamin k, an essential element to fight the inflammation, it is normally inside the colon, increasing its levels strengthens this organ and consequently improves its ability to heal the body, removing the toxins responsible for the chronic inflammation.
- citrus fruits, rich in vitamin C, E and flavonoids, are ideal for decreasing body tissue inflammation. Eating a grapefruit a day decreases the C-reactive protein levels, a protein which causes the inflammation.
- cabbage and spinach, redberries and cherries, red grapes, cauliflowers. In general seasonal fruit and vegetable are good for you, even better if they are biological.
- green tea, red wine in moderation, olives, olive oil, walnuts, pistachios pine nuts and almonds, rich in omega 3, cinnamon, dark chocolate and spices such as turmeric and ginger which have a strong antioxidant and healing power are important.
- garlic is also an anti-inflammatory and purifying food.
- goat milk is considered as an elixir of long life among caucasian regions, which are the one with most long-lived people. This milk contains Taurine, an amino acid having antioxidant properties. It is seen as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Not recommended food
The foods to avoid are: sugary drinks, non-whole-wheat pasta and bread, gluten, seed oil, prepackaged snacks, such as chips and crackers and more in general all the industrial food which is rich in artificial sweeteners, preservatives and colorants, desserts, excess of alcohol.
Also cow milk, because it increases insulin and fat foods such as red meat, whose inflammatory power is strictly bound to how it is cooked, cooking at high temperature and in particular frying and grilling is harmful. Cured meats and cow cheese should be avoided.
Some people benefit from decreasing the consumption of vegetables belonging to the solanaceae family.
More in general, it is important to keep glycemia low avoiding refined flours, white bread, white rice, potatoes, sugar, glucose syrup, very sugary fruit.