Navigating the wheat free, gluten free diet

Alopecia is such a buzzword lately.

I first heard of it while watching Grey Gardens, a documentary about two socialites from the 1960s – ’70s, Big and Little Edie Beale, cousins of Jackie O and certifiable hoarders and hermits.  I found it fascinating.  Plus it’s streaming on Netflix.  This is relevant because the younger Edie had Alopecia, and always wore crazy head scarves with otherwise revealing outfits:

Speaking of revealing outfits, Alopecia Areata came up again in the news recently because the woman who represented Delaware in last weekend’s Miss America pageant suffers from it, and competed with a wig but repeatedly said she totally wouldn’t mind competing bald.

I wouldn’t either if I were her.  It’s a very Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta look.

So now you’re familiar with Alopecia and its various pop-culture references.  What does that have to do with anything I usually talk about, you ask?  I’ll tell you.

Recently, the New York Times wrote about a woman with Alopecia who also studies Alopecia, Dr. Angela Christiano, a dermatology expert at Columbia University Medical School discovered she was losing her hair and, rather than freaking out, saw an opportunity to learn more.  Here’s her major discovery, one that is greatly affecting hair loss research:

“We also found a big surprise. For years, people thought that alopecia was probably the stepchild of autoimmune skin diseases like psoriasis and vitiligo. The astonishing news is that it shares virtually no genes with those. It’s actually linked to rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes 1 and celiac disease.”

I already knew I was a lucky Celiac, having not experienced dermatitis herpetiformis, commonly known as gluten rash.  Looks like I’m also lucky  to have kept what little hair I’ve had.  It’s like my baby hair never turned into grown-up hair.  Not that I’m complaining, but I did wonder briefly whether this was caused by the same genetic issues that gave me CD.  Probably not though. I mean, I have hair, just, you know not a lot of it.

But what I found most interesting about the NYT post were the comments, things like this:

“About 10 years ago my eyebrows suddenly fell out…Then bald spots on my scalp and body. The eyebrows grew back very thin and white after steroid shots but the other bald spots continued. The doctor said it was alopecia areata.
I had been having digestive problems and 4 years ago I learned that I had Celiac disease and have been on a strict gluten free diet since. Since then the bald spots have grown in and my eyebrows are normal looking.”

And this:

“I have noticed a connection between a strict gluten free diet when hair growth is better and hair loss when i am not ( and it happens very quickly).”

So not only are the two disorders connected, but treatment for one also appears to help treat the other.  I understand that hair loss with celiac disease is often a result of deficiencies in the diet, so I know a GF diet is probably not the perfect solution for those with Alopecia.  But it couldn’t hurt to try right?

-Taylor

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