Will going gluten free help with hair loss and Alopecia Areata?
12 months ago / in Blog
We set out to experiment if going gluten free will help reduce hair loss related to Alopecia Areata. As no one has been able to tell us what exactly causes my daughter’s hair loss and Alopecia, I looked at several studies that examine the link between gluten and celiac disease with Alopecia Areata, and think going gluten free may be worth a try.
We’re learning more about food, nutrition, and natural topical treatment that seem to be helpful in managing the symptoms of hair loss and hair regrowth in Alopecia Areata.
However, something inside the body is still causing the hair loss. and we’re still fighting an ongoing battle. We’re reacting to symptoms and outcomes of Alopecia, but equally as important, I want to spend as much effort in figuring out what is causing it.
On a quest to find out if gluten free diet will help with Alopecia Areata
I thought about gluten as I was trying to recall the diet that my daughter was on before she started having Alopecia, to see if I can identify any major difference in her diet before and after.
My husband and I think that although it is full of the unknown, we don’t have any other clue, so going gluten free may be worth a try to figure out if gluten in our diet has anything to do with our daughter’s Alopecia.
Part of our consideration to go ahead with the experiment is also that a gluten free diet is restrictive but not so restrictive that we think it could still be doable.
I’m planning to document our experiment here. Check back for updates.
What is gluten?
Simply put, gluten refers to the protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale (wheat X rye). Gluten helps foods maintain their shape by acting like a glue that holds them together. Gluten is present in most commonly consumed foods such as bread, pastries and other baked goods, pasta, some types of noodles, cereals, malt, beer, etc.
Many foods that do not contain naturally occurring gluten may be contaminated with gluten during handling, processing and manufacturing. This is mostly the reason why going on a gluten free diet can be tricky as gluten can be hidden in a wide variety of foods, seasoning, spices, sauces, and even supplements, medicine, and skin products.
Celiac.org has a good guide on common sources of gluten.
Studies on the link between gluten and Alopecia Areata
There is no shortage on published claims that gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance, or celiac disease, is in fact the cause of some Alopecia Areata cases, although they are not highly conclusive.
- One case-control study in 2016 looked to examine the frequency distribution of all of the celiac autoantibodies in patients with alopecia areata vs. the control group. The study concluded that there may be a relationship between gluten and alopecia areata , although there was no statistical association between alopecia areata and celiac disease (the most severe form of gluten intolerance).
- In 1995, Corazza GR, Andreani ML, Venturo N, Bernardi M, Tosti A and Gasbarrini G looked to report the the association between celiac disease and alopecia areata. 3 patients who were all completely asymptomatic for intestinal diseases were screened for celiac diseases and were found to be positive. 256 more patients with alopecia areata were subsequently screened. The results show that the association between alopecia areata and celiac disease is a real one as the frequency of association observed is greater than what we’d call ‘coincidence’.
- Fessatou S, Kostaki M, and Karpathios T reported in 2003 the association of celiac disease and alopecia areata in two children, aged 13 years old and 29 months old. Both children had a number of celiac antibodies including immunoglobulin A (IgA) class endomysial antibodies, IgA and immunoglobulin G (IgG) antigliadin antibodies, and subtotal villous atrophy on jejunal biopsy. Following a gluten-free diet, both children achieved complete hair growth and improved gastrointestinal symptoms.
- An Italian study in 1999 reported that a patient who had celiac disease and presented with alopecia followed a few months of strict gluten free diet and observed a new and persistent hair growth. The patient’s alopecia reappeared after a prolonged introduction of gluten, and it disappeared after a severe gluten free diet.
- Another 1999 study reported the association of celiac disease and alopecia in 3 children, where one child developed alopecia after 4 years of non gluten-free diet, and the other two children presented with alopecia. Following a gluten-free diet, the first child experienced partial hair regrowth and the other two children experienced complete hair growth.
- In 1998, Lakartidningen reported that gluten intolerance was the cause of a two-year old girl losing her hair.
- Another study, however, reported that gluten-free diet resolved celiac disease in 5 patients but did not have any effect on the course of alopecia.
Conclusion and what’s next
There seems to be enough studies and anecdotal experience that associate gluten with Alopecia Areata. Although we have no idea whether gluten would play a role in our case, we think it’s worth giving gluten free diet a try especially as we don’t have another leading clue of what may be the root cause.
We’re starting our experiment now and will be updating our progress right here on this blog.
- The Frequency Distribution of Celiac Autoantibodies in Alopecia Areata
- Coeliac disease and alopecia areata in childhood
- Reappearance of alopecia areata in a coeliac patient during an unintentional challenge with gluten
- Alopecia and coeliac disease: report of two patients showing response to gluten-free diet
- Celiac disease-associated alopecia in childhood
- A two-year old girl lost her hair–gluten intolerance was the cause
- Celiac disease and alopecia areata: report of a new association
- Alopecia areata and coeliac disease: no effect of a gluten-free diet on hair growth
Suz at Natural Alopecia Wellness
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