When people start losing their hair to the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, which manifests itself as sudden, patchy hair loss, panic frequently sets in during the search for answers. While professional hair loss treatments can certainly help, people look for additional reassurance and remedies anywhere they can find them. And diet frequently crops up on the list of things they can address if they want to maximise their chances of recovery.
There is lots of anecdotal evidence that switching to a gluten-free diet in particular can help alleviate the symptoms of Alopecia Areata, which is a not-uncommon condition that can affect up to two per cent of the population during their lifetime. The theory behind why this may work is pretty straightforward: people who suffer from coeliac disease avoid gluten because it leads to inflammation in their small intestine; as coeliac disease is also classified as an autoimmune disorder like Alopecia Areata (which leads to inflammation of the hair follicles), it has been suggested that an intolerance to gluten may be play havoc with the scalp as well as the stomach.
But perhaps there’s something that people have been missing? Could it be that zinc, which is also considered to have a positive effect on people with Alopecia Areata, is playing a part?
According to the Vegetarian Society, zinc may not properly be absorbed in the body when someone’s diet is high in cereals. As cereals are also high in gluten, could it be that what a gluten-free diet is actually doing is allowing the body to properly absorb zinc – and enabling people with Alopecia Areata to benefit from the mineral’s restorative properties?
Leonora Doclis, senior hair loss specialist at Belgravia, thinks there could be a link. “Zinc indeed helps the immune system so, if a gluten-free diet enhances the absorption of this mineral, then it can only be good. That said, just going on a gluten-free diet may not necessarily stop the autoimmune attack. A change in diet can sometimes be beneficial as it can help switch off the autoimmune attack, however, if there is no real benefit within a few months then it is best to revert to a normal varied and balanced diet.”
Distinct grey area
What is certain is that it would be good to know once and for all if ditching gluten can help people recover from or even avoid Alopecia Areata, as it continues to be a very distinct grey area in terms of medical knowledge. Whereas some people are convinced that getting rid of gluten is a sure-fire way of maintaining a good head of hair (the onset of genetic hair loss conditions like Male Pattern Baldness and Female Pattern Hair Loss notwithstanding), others get rather cross about the notion.
Part of the reason that there is such a lack of clarity surrounding triggers and causes of alopecia areata is that, despite the autoimmune condition being extremely common, there is still very little known about its mechanics. Researchers across the world are still investigating what causes the body to mistakenly attack its own hair follicles in order to provide new treatment options, particularly for the more aggressive conditions Alopecia Totalis and Alopecia Universalis for which there are no truly effective remedies at present.
Although at Belgravia we have seen significant regrowth in Alopecia Areata clients using recommended high strength minoxidil products recommended by their hair loss specialist nurse following consultation, if there were other lifestyle elements that could help to boost hair growth this is undoubtedly something patients would be interested in.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.