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FunTimes Magazine

What You Should Know About Alopecia Areata

By Dr. Ngozi Onuoha

As a child I was always subconscious about my thin edges. In the Black and even the African and Diaspora community at-large, a woman's edges or lack thereof have been a topic of discussion for generations. Growing up, I experienced on and off breakage to the point of being able to feel my scalp as if it was shaved. For the record, this breakage only occurred at my temple and in the crown of my head. An assumption of Alopecia was there but I never followed through with a medical diagnosis. Now that I am older, I’ve come to find out that a few relatives of mine have been diagnosed with Alopecia.

My paternal grandmother suddenly developed Alopecia following the delivery of her youngest child. There are even relatives on my paternal grandfather's side who have been diagnosed as well; therefore, it was passed down to me through my father. My goal in writing this is to educate folks about Alopecia as well as empower them to take the driver's seat of their health in order to break the cycles.

What is Alopecia? “Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the body through the hair follicles.” When someone has Alopecia usually their hair falls out in clumps. There are minor cases, like mine, where the hair would fall out in the same spots in small patches or just stay thin in those same spots. There are rare but real cases where a person's whole body goes through this journey of constantly losing hair or never even having hair.

“The first use of the phrase Alopecia area is attributed to Polish physician John Jonston in his book “Medicina Practica,” written in 1664. The term alopecia areata (AA) was introduced by French physician Sauvages de Lacroix in “Nosologia Methodica,” published in 1763. Sauvages classified alopecia into areata, simplex, syphilitica, and volatilium”

Dr. Ngozi Onuoha, is a Primary care Internist and Geriatrician, a Social Entrepreneur, and Founder of Health4Naija blog. We asked her to expound on alopecia areata and this is what she said,

“Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss. There are various causes and types of hair loss. The most common cause is called Alopecia Areata. Hair loss could be patchy in sections or total hair loss of which the eyebrows may also be affected. Alopecia Areata is an autoimmune condition occurring in 2% of Americans, with men and women equally affected by this condition. Autoimmune conditions are caused by autoantibodies produced against a person's own cells. There may be other associated autoimmune conditions such as thyroiditis, vitiligo, diabetes, and lupus occurring in people with alopecia areata. Alopecia areata is treated by Dermatologists or skin specialists, usually with topical steroids or topical minoxidil.”

What are the most common causes? Some of the most common causes of Alopecia Areata are stress, a poor diet, and toxic chemicals in or around the body. Stress can make anyone's immune system weakened enough that they could develop an autoimmune disease. Stress can also heighten an already present disease therefore it is important to be stress-less.

Food can either heal or kill someone's immune system so depending on what foods someone is intaking will determine their ability to fight off diseases. While doing research for this article I came across several cases where people with Alopecia were able to reverse their hair loss by eating a plant based and/or vegan diet. Numerous food companies put toxins and harmful chemicals in and on their food. Also eating certain foods like meat, and diary can really compromise one's health short term, long term and even over generations. Food can be medicine to heal disease such as Alopecia.

Many people are coming to the realization that there are even harmful chemicals in some common household hair care products and are becoming very mindful of what they’re putting on their hair and scalp. I am one of those people. Not only have I stopped getting perms over 15 years ago, I recently stopped using certain shampoos and conditioners. I now make my own conditioner from plant-based products I have in my kitchen. I have really seen a difference in the strength of my hair compared to when I was young.

Dr. Ngozi Onuoha, also explained other forms of hair loss and ways to cope. “Hair loss can also occur from traction from tightly braided or plaited hairstyles or from tight wigs. Other causes include chemical hair relaxers and "all back" hairstyles which cause traction at the hairline and lead to hair loss. In men, male pattern baldness can occur from genetics or hormonal changes.”

“In situations of hair loss from tight styles, prevent hair loss by minimizing traction hairstyles. Use protective hairstyles to shield the hair from the cold weather and avoid wearing braided hairstyles for more than 6 to 8 weeks. Hair loss can be quite devastating for the individual. Ways to cope with hair loss include counseling, joining a support group, wearing hats/scarves headwraps or wigs/toupee. Hair transplant is also a treatment option in male pattern hair loss.”

I would like to add, there are also ways to treat Alopecia and other autoimmune diseases at the root through changing one’s overall lifestyle choices and habits which many people are seeing positive results from.

Natural remedies? There is a saying that nature has a cure for anything we as people may be suffering from and in the case of Alopecia there are many ways to naturally treat, cure and even prevent this autoimmune disease from being passed down from one generation to another.

In an article written by Stephanie Watson and Medically reviewed by Stacy Sampson, DO in the March 2019 edition of Healthline, Watson stated, “In an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakes part of your body, like your joints or skin, as foreign. It releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells”

Watson also spoke on why the body attacks itself and in her explanation around our diet she stated, “A ‘Western diet’” is another suspected risk factor for developing an autoimmune disease. Eating high-fat, high-sugar, and highly processed foods is thought to be linked to inflammation, which might set off an immune response.”

Simone Leonard, owner of Cosmic Root Natural Hair Care offered a few quotes in reference to hair health.

“I’ve never had any clients who actually told me they had Alopecia. Many woman/men are embarrassed to talk about it. It’s a very touchy topic for the people who have it. Some ways to help and offer support is to explain to people that it’s just hair. Healthy Eating can help with Alopecia. If one’s immune system isn’t healthy, it can lead to the hair follicles being attacked causing hair loss. I’ve had many clients who have thinning edges due to braids with too much tension, weaves, postpartum hair loss and clients who just don’t take care of their hair. I always use my + Vibes & Frequencies Herbal Hair Oil.”

Over the years, with thanks to many natural pathetic healers and specialists such as Dr. Sebi and Queen Afua, we've begun to treat, and prevent some of the common autoimmune diseases by cutting certain foods, and habits out of our lives. Watson mentions “inflammation” in her Healthline article entitled “Autoimmune Disease: Types, Symptoms, Cause and More” which is one of the main common issues across the board. By preventing inflammation, mucus build-up, and congestion we can reprogram our immune systems to support our health rather than attack our cells.

Alopecia is not the end of our story it is the beginning of our healing journey.