Alopecia areata and nutrition

Written by kelli cooper
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Alopecia areata and nutrition
Eating lots of sugar-rich foods might influence the inflammation linked to alopecia areata. (Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

Alopecia areata results in patches of hair loss that can affect just the head or various parts of the body. The hair can sometimes grow back and fall out again or not grow back at all in certain areas. This condition is considered an autoimmune disease, which occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. No official diet exists to address alopecia areata, but making certain dietary changes might influence the underlying faulty processes that trigger autoimmune conditions.

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Testing for Food Allergies

If you have an autoimmune disease like alopecia areata, eating certain foods could worsen the faulty immune response that triggers destruction of the hair follicles, according to Dr. Alvin Stein, a Florida-based orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in combining natural therapies with conventional treatments. He notes a case report of a patient who experienced hair re-growth after experimenting with an elimination diet – a process where you cut out one suspected food allergen at a time for a set period and then add each product back separately to observe if it makes any difference in your condition. The most common food allergens include wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts, seafood, and peanuts. You might have sensitivities to other foods, however. Work with a doctor experienced in supervising this type of diet. Getting allergy testing beforehand to identity potential personal triggers and specific instructions on how to do the diet properly will help you achieve optimal benefit.

Inflammation and Autoimmune Disease

Normally, inflammation serves a positive purpose in the body. It triggers the release of helpful agents that fight off infection and protect the body from harmful invaders. Sometimes, however, inflammation occurs excessively and without purpose. In the case of autoimmune diseases, a faulty inflammatory response leads your immune system to attack your own healthy tissue as if it were a foreign, potentially harmful invader. The foods you eat can either contribute to or quell inflammation. While diet alone cannot fully combat this problem, doing what you can to reduce inflammation in the body certainly cannot hurt.

Fats and Inflammation

When it comes to combating inflammation, the types of fats you eat play an important role. Your body uses fats to create prostaglandins – hormones that play a role in the inflammatory response in the body. Depending on the fats you eat, your body either produces prostaglandins that fight inflammation or prostaglandins that promote it. The “good” fats include omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseed and flax oil, hemp seed, soybeans, rapeseed oil, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts. When consumed in large amounts, certain oils, such as corn, sunflower, and safflower oils, can trigger inflammation. Many commercially-prepared foods use these oils; you should read labels carefully. Trans fats also trigger inflammation. You should avoid any food that lists partially-hydrogenated oil as an ingredient as this indicates that it contains trans fat. Saturated fats found in animal sources can also cause an inflammatory response.

Other Anti-Inflammatory Diet Tips

The types of carbohydrates you eat can influence inflammatory response. Stick to whole grains, like brown rice and oatmeal, rather than refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice. You should also reduce your consumption of sugar-rich foods and drinks. Eat lots of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables from across the colour spectrum, as this guarantees that your are consuming a wide range of beneficial antioxidants. Particularly good choices include berries of all kinds, broccoli, apples, carrots, squash, peaches, mango, melon, spinach, and sweet potatoes.

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