Alopecia Areata – Alopecia Areata means hair loss. When a person has a medical condition called alopecia areata (ar-ee-AH-tah), the hair falls out in round patches. The hair can fall out on the scalp and elsewhere on the body.
Merriam Webster defines Alopecia Areata as “sudden loss of hair especially of the scalp or face in circumscribed patches with little or no inflammation”. This definition, though seemingly true, is also not entirely accurate. I’ll share why the last part “little or no inflammation” is incorrect. So keep reading.
Alopecia Areata Symptoms
Alopecia is not contagious. It is not due to nerves. What happens is that the immune system attacks the hair follicles (structures that contain the roots of the hair), causing hair loss. This disease most often occurs in otherwise healthy people.
Alopecia areata is one of three forms of hair loss. Each of these types has a different name:
- Alopecia areata (hair loss in patches).
- Alopecia totalis (lose all hair on the scalp).
- Alopecia universalis (lose all hair on the body).
The most common condition is Areata. The percentage of people who have Alopecia Areata and then develop Totalis or Universalis is 7% to 25%.
Hair often grows back but may fall out again, unless you address the underlying root causes. Sometimes the hair loss lasts for many years.
Alopecia is not contagious. What happens is that the immune system attacks the hair follicles (structures that contain the roots of the hair), causing hair loss.
Alopecia areata often begins with 1 or more coin-sized, round, smooth, bare and irritated patches where hair once was. You may first notice the problem when you see clumps of hair on your pillow or in the shower. Hair loss occurs mostly on the scalp. But it can involve eyebrows, eyelashes, beards — any hair-bearing site. Patches vary in size.
“Exclamation mark” hairs: Often, a few short hairs occur in or at the edges of the bare spots. These hairs get narrower at the bottom, like an exclamation mark.
If the underlying root causes aren’t addressed, alopecia areata can progress to complete baldness and the loss of bodily hair although both of these are much less common.
Alopecia areata also can affect your fingernails and toenails.  Nails can have tiny pinpoint dents (pitting). They also can have white spots or lines, be rough, lose their shine, or become thin and split. Rarely nails change shape or fall off.
Sometimes nail changes are the first sign of alopecia areata.
What causes Alopecia Areata?
Alopecia Areata is a general term for hair loss. Alopecia is a common cause of non-scarring (does not cause scarring to the scalp) hair loss that can occur at any age. It usually causes small, coin-sized, round patches of baldness on the scalp, although hair elsewhere such as the beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, body and limbs can be affected. In some people larger areas are affected and occasionally it can involve the whole scalp (alopecia totalis) or even the entire body and scalp (alopecia universalis).
Though it’s commonly thought that the cause of alopecia areata is largely unknown, the fact is that each person is different and so are their stressors that trigger alopecia. Alopecia areata is caused by environmental and/or emotional triggers and great chronic inflammation in the body.
Alopecia Areata and Inflammation
Chronic inflammation can be one of the causes of alopecia areata. Inflammation can be caused by stress, trauma, toxicity, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, infections, pathogens and physical injury.
When your body is chronically inflamed, your body will start to send messages in the form of symptoms to you. These symptoms may start out as headaches, skin rashes, difficulty losing weight, aches and pains, slow recovery after workouts, low energy, low thyroid function, IBS and more.
When we ignore these symptoms of chronic inflammation, the body begins sending stronger messages – almost like a scream. Alopecia areata is a scream telling you something underlying is not right. If you continue to ignore the scream, other autoimmune diseases will likely develop such as thyroid disease, diabetes, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Is Alopecia Areata Hereditary?
There is a genetic predisposition to alopecia areata. About 20% of people with alopecia areata have a family history. That said, it’s not the genetics that pull the trigger making your hair fall out. Environmental factors such as diet, stress, toxins and gut imbalances are what pull the trigger on any autoimmune disease. Your genetics simply directs where you see symptoms.
Alopecia Areata Treatment
There are several alopecia areata treatments and
- Praying/meditation/yoga all help relax the sympathetic nervous system (stress response) so you body has a chance to repair and recover.
- Exercise to help your body detox more effectively
- Eliminate inflammatory foods either based on your food sensitivity test or by simply eliminating the most common culprits – eggs, dairy and gluten.
- Drink half your body weight in ounces of water to promote detoxification. Note: If you feel light headed, add a pinch of celtic, himalayan or redmonds salt to your glass of water.
- Eliminate toxic household, bath and body care products. See www.ewg.org for a complete database of products rated for toxicity levels.
- Practice a success mindset. Thinking negatively about your condition or life is a stressor on the body.
- Have fun! By inviting more joy into your life you move your body into the parasympathetic nervous system state (rest and digest) which helps your body to heal.
- Exercise regularly. Walk every day – aiming for 7,000 steps and add in body weight exercises three times a week. If you’re up for more intensive cardio consider running, biking, swimming or taking an aerobic class. This will help your body to eliminate excess glucose, estradiol and stress hormones.
Take your Alopecia Areata Treatment to the Next Level
- Order an Organic Acids Test or similar microbiome test to determine if you have bacterial overgrowth, candida overgrowth or clostridia. You can request this through your functional medicine or naturopathic doctor.
- Order a food sensitivity test to determine exactly which foods your body is reacting to.
- Do a functional medicine or liver detox to clear out your liver pathways prior to beginning any gut healing protocols.
I have had a needle with steroids injected into my head. I promised myself that I would NEVER do that again. With a little love and patience rendered the same outcome. This was my experience. Everyone must do what works best for them.
Alopecia Areata Diagnosis
In order to establish a Alopecia Areata Diagnosis, here are the types of specialists we recommend:
- Functional Medicine Doctor
- Naturopathic Doctor
- Health Coach
Functional Medicine Labs
Functional labs and blood tests for an Alopecia Areata diagnosis should include:
Functional Medicine Labs:
- Organic Acids Test
- Food Sensitivity
- Hair Mineral Analysis Test
- Thyroid and Adrenal Hormone
- Mycotox Test
- GPL Tox Profile
- Free T4
- Free T3
- follicular stimulating hormone
- Serum iron
- Vitamin D
Commonly Prescribed Medications
Note that medications will only hide symptoms and not fix the underlying root cause of your autoimmune condition. Medications are also not reliable.
- Powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can suppress the immune system. These are mostly commonly administered through local injections, topical ointment application, or orally. Note that these medications can be dangerous.
Get Your Questions Answered about Alopecia Areata
ABOUT JESSICA | Jessica is an Autoimmune Health Coach and Detox Educator. Jessica deeply believes that we all have the capability to heal once we remove the things that harm our body and add back the nourishment we need. She works with women all over the US on how to align their diet, lifestyle and environment to support their healing process.
AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES | Alopecia Areata, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis