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Alopecia - facts and tips

From: London Acupuncture Tips,

17
August
2011
Alopecia - facts and tips

With August being Hair Loss Awareness Month, we thought we would take a look at what can be an extremely distressing condition. Hair loss affects approximately 1.7% of the population, with an estimated 8 million women in the UK suffering from serious hair loss.

Alopecia (pronounced al-oh-PEA-sha) is a general term to describe hair loss from anywhere on the body, including hair on the head. It can affect men, women, and children with onset often being sudden, and although not physically damaging to health, it can have serious impacts on emotional health and quality of life, especially as hair loss frequently re-occurs.

Alopecia Areata is the most common type of baldness characterized by random round smooth areas of complete hair loss on the head without any clinical signs of inflammation, such as redness or scaling skin. However, there are many types of hair loss that can affect different parts of the body. A few include:

  • Alopecia Totalis (AT) - Total loss of the hair on the scalp.
  • Alopecia Universalis (AU) - Total loss of all hair on the body.
  • Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) - Also known as male pattern baldness, this can occur in both men and women. It is thought to be a hereditary form of hair loss.
  • Traction Alopecia - Occurs usually due to excessive pulling or tension on hair shafts as a result of certain hair styles, particularly hair extensions, and is becoming increasingly common.
  • Telogen Effluvium - A form of hair loss where more than normal amounts of hair fall out. There is a general 'thinning' of the hair. It is temporary and the hair growth usually recovers. It can occur in women following childbirth.

The exact cause of the most common form, Alopecia Areata, is currently unknown, although it is generally believed to be a combination of immunological, environmental, psychological (stress), and genetic factors. In many patients there is also a positive family history. It is generally thought that the immune system attacks the affected hair follicles by mistake. This halts hair growth at the anagen stage and causes a move to the resting (telogen) phase where the hairs are then abruptly shed.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) alopecia is known as gui ti tou (ghost-shaved hair) or you feng (glossy scalp wind) and is often the result of a deficiency; primarily deficiency of the energy of the blood, which is vital for healthy hair growth. This deficiency can be a result of long-term illness, emotional stress, inadequate rest and overwork, and poor diet (lack of iron, zinc, B vitamins, biotin, or folic acid).

Excessive consumption of alcohol, spicy, fatty, sugary, refined or processed foods can also lead to hair loss as in Chinese Medicine these are very heating items that put a lot of heat in the body (inflammation), which can rise up and ‘scorch’ the scalp resulting in hair loss. In this case you may see signs of inflammation such as redness or itching on the scalp.

So what can be done to help?

  • Try acupuncture – Chinese Medicine focuses on addressing the root cause of the problem not just the symptoms, and will look at all aspects of your lifestyle including your diet, to help address any imbalances in the body that can affect healthy hair growth.
  • Let your hair down - Avoid putting your hair up or wearing hair bands, (decorative or fabric), as anything that pulls or tugs on the hair, (including hair extensions), can aggravate hair loss. If you need to cover your hair use a silk scarf as there is plenty of slip, and this won’t tug on the hair too much.
  • Go natural - Switch to natural and organic hair products especially if you suspect a reaction to a chemical is triggering your hair loss. I would always recommend reading the list of ingredients on the back of your products, (including all toiletries, perfumes, and household cleaning products), and checking current research on their properties to see if they are known to have any detrimental effects on the body. Try the Cosmetic Safety Database at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ which lists most cosmetic ingredients and their properties.
  • Don’t be a hot head – Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, highly spiced, refined or processed foods, as well as excessive consumption of sugary or fatty foods puts excess ‘heat’ in the body, which as we have seen before, is detrimental to healthy hair growth, as it increases inflammation.
  • Eat with your hair in mind – A balanced diet that includes all vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and trace elements essential for healthy growth and repair in the body. In particular: dark green leafy vegetables, (including spinach, seaweed, and spirulina), organic liver, figs, dates, cherries, mulberries, goji berries, beetroot, and black beans. These are considered in Chinese Medicine to be very nourishing for the blood, and are high in iron, vitamin B12, and copper. Foods such as brewer’s yeast, brown rice, green peas, walnuts, and oats are rich in biotin, and mushrooms and sunflower seeds are rich in zinc. All of these things are essential for healthy hair growth.
  • Reduce your stress levelsMeditation, yoga, or anything that helps you to relax and can be incorporated into your daily routine will be beneficial. Acupuncture and Reiki can also help you relax.

Laura Jones BSc MBAcC practices Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Facial  Acupuncture and Reiki/Seichem at Content Beauty/Wellbeing in Marylebone London.

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I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Facial Acupuncture & Reiki at Content Beauty/Wellbeing in London. Areas of interest include skin conditions, women's health, gastro-intestinal health, pain relief & stress related conditions. In this blog I'll be sharing my top tips for a healthy and happy lifestyle.

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