Hair loss is a common, yet distressing malady experienced by millions of men and women worldwide. The condition ranges from receding hairline to total baldness, but it can severely impact the self-esteem and confidence of sufferers, no matter how mild it may be.
Baldness, however, isn’t something that you have to live with. There are a variety of ways which you can treat the underlying cause, thereby stopping hair loss in its tracks and, for some, even reversing it.
In today’s post, I’d like to discuss gluten intolerance and hair loss. This will include a look at the most common causes of hair loss (hint: the underlying cause in most cases is inflammation) and how going gluten free can put an end to this distressing condition.
What Causes Hair Loss?
There are a variety of causes associated with hair loss – some temporary (stress and pregnancy) and some permanent (androgenetic alopecia and seborrheic dermatitis).
For some causes, such as stress and fungal infections, the reversal of its effects can be quite easy to achieve. This typically involves the removal or direct treatment of the trigger.
For others, such as male-pattern baldness and alopecia areata, reversal is possible but not quite so easy. While treatment of the trigger can help, complete reversal may require a more aggressive approach.
I’d like to take a closer look, though, at one of the most common causes of hair loss: inflammation.
A Look at Chronic Inflammation and Its Effect on the Scalp
Inflammation is the normal bodily response to injury and infection. In fact, inflammation is necessary for your overall health and wellness.
But what happens when that inflammation turns chronic?
The symptoms of inflammation, including itchiness and dryness, are the main triggers of hair loss. However, hair follicle miniaturization may also occur. While everyone experiences minor inflammation from time to time, chronic inflammation can have long-term effects.
These effects occur when inflammation damages the hair follicle. As the follicles inflame, the hair cycle is interrupted. Eventually, this leads to a shortening of the anagen (active growth) phase, therefore stopping the stimulation of new hair growth.
The cause of such inflammation will vary by individual. For those with male-pattern baldness, sensitivity to DHT is the main cause. This is why blocking DHT isn’t actually the answer. For those with dandruff, a fungus known as malassezia leads to inflammation. And still, for those with allergies or sensitivities, inflammation is a direct immune system response.
The Link Between Gluten Intolerance and Inflammation
Allergies don’t always manifest in the typical throat-scratching, eye-watering, tongue-swelling way. In fact, many allergies manifest without our even realizing, yet they still wreak havoc on our bodies.
These kinds of allergies are more commonly referred to as intolerances, with gluten intolerance (also known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS)) leading the pack as one of the most well known.
There are a number of symptoms experienced by individuals with undiscovered gluten intolerance. To get a better idea of how gluten intolerance manifests, let’s take a look at a few of the most common symptoms.
Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance
- Brain fog
- Gas, bloating, and abdominal pain
- Bowel abnormalities (constipation or diarrhea)
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Eczema or skin rash
- Joint pain
- Unexplained redness, swelling
At the root of most of the above symptoms, inflammation is the main trigger.
Inflammation not only affects the scalp directly, as discussed above, but it can also lead to whole-body deficiencies which have an indirect impact on scalp and hair health.
How Going Gluten Free Can Help Stop Hair Loss
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffers from NCGS, then going gluten free may be just the trick for treating your chronic inflammation and, as a result, your hair loss.
As mentioned above, consuming gluten when you’re sensitive to its effects can trigger a variety of symptoms. From fatigue and brain fog to eczema and joint pain, gluten can make day-to-day life miserable.
Going gluten free, then, can reduce (or even altogether stop) the inflammation experienced by those who are sensitive. This means that your body and scalp can function as they’re meant to, and healing can begin.
5 Tips for Getting Started
Beginning on the gluten-free path can seem overwhelming at first. There are a few tips you can implement right from the start, however, to make the process easier.
You may not notice a reduction in symptoms immediately. Actually, you may still experience symptoms for a few months following the start of your gluten-free diet.
To better understand how gluten sensitivity affects your life, it’s important that you gather all of the information you can on gluten and its effects.
Understanding the role that gluten sensitivity and its symptoms plays in your life can make a world of difference when going gluten free. Instead of feeling bad for yourself or feeling tempted to “cheat,” you can instead make it a point to look at this as a necessary lifestyle change.
Understand Nutrition Labels
While eating all-natural foods makes going gluten-free simple, there may be times when you feel the need to buy processed and packaged foods. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s vital that you learn how to read nutrition labels in order to avoid accidental gluten exposure.
Whether you’re attending a work luncheon or going for a night on the town, planning ahead can help you to avoid gluten exposure — either intentional or not.
Take the time to explore menu options, and pack food if necessary.
Vary Your Diet
Some who are just getting started may rely a bit too heavily on pre-packaged foods to get by. While this may make it easy for awhile, soon you’ll find yourself becoming bored.
That’s why varying your diet is essential to sticking to this lifestyle change. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and non-gluten grains. Have fun finding new recipes, and even prepare your favorite recipe in a gluten-free style.
Gluten can wreak havoc on your body, leading to unpleasant symptoms such as joint pain, gastrointestinal distress, and even hair loss. The majority of these effects are caused by chronic, systemic inflammation, and with the proper approach, you can go gluten free to stop the inflammation and even reverse hair loss.
Will Hartfield runs HairLossRevolution.com where he advocates natural health and lifestyle changes as a way to stop hair loss. You can find out more about him here.