If you’re interested in which foods can help to regrow your hair, you’re in luck! It’s the New Year and we’re all keen (I think…) to improve our eating habits after the last few months. In the UK walking around a supermarket from September onwards is literally a battle of temptation and nostalgia for Christmas eating. We’ve emerged on the other side only to be met by creme eggs, but they can be safely ignored until April this year.
Not ready for AIP or Paleo?
While you might be happy to plunge full-on into the AIP diet or a Paleo reset, equally you might not. If you’re in the latter category but also want to ramp up your healthy eating a little these are the foods that will support hair growth. They’re in no particular order, and you should aim to consume foods from a couple of different categories daily:
Fats: Avocado, MCT oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Flaxseed oil and Coconut milk.
Protein: Fatty fish rich in omega 3 like wild salmon, mackerel and sardines, chicken liver, calf’s liver.
Vegetables (starchy): Sweet potatoes, beetroot and parsnips
Vegetables (non-starchy): Cruciferous veg like broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy. Spinach, asparagus, onions, organic seaweed.
Fruits: Berries, Cherries, Pomegranates and apples.
Grains: Gluten free grains only!
Nuts and seeds: Flaxseeds, Walnuts and chia seeds.
Herbs and spices: Basil, cinnamon, fennel, garlic, ginger, oregano, parsley, rosemary, turmeric and sage.
Full disclosure: I’m not a Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist, I’m a Functional Health Coach who has had success with these foods in regrowing hair!
Before we embarked on the AIP diet I considered that my family’s lifestyle was pretty healthy. We don’t eat takeaways (okay, we’ll have fish and chips every three or four months), we don’t eat fast food, we don’t eat out in pubs or restaurants often. We are all involved in team sports and go to the gym. I started making my own baked goods when the children were small because it was easier to bake than bundle up three kids into the car, drive and navigate a shop with them. I’ve baked sourdough bread for the last decade, switching to gluten free in 2014. If we have pizza it’s homemade. As a family we cook from scratch 90% of the time, and all of the kids who are now teenagers can cook.
Prescription: AIP diet
So when a Functional Medicine doctor prescribed the AIP for my son to address his alopecia I thought that it sounded interesting and was keen to try it. In fact, we started the very next day. There was none of this phased approach, we dived straight in. It seemed to make sense for the whole family to go on the diet as three out of the five of us were dealing with autoimmune conditions, and I figured that it would be easier to cook one meal for everyone than multiple meals for the two without AI conditions.
My supermarket shopping reduced dramatically as when you’re only buying meat, fish, veg and fruit there are literally two aisles in the whole shop which are of interest. I became a label reading expert. Why, oh why do food makers take a perfectly healthy food like organic olives, and then add industrially processed sunflower seed oil? Oh, cost, that’s why. I found some great dairy free milks that weren’t full of thickeners and gums. But probably the most interesting part was getting pushed out of my comfort zone to try foods that I’d not eaten much before like plantain and cassava flour.
Will it fix everything?
I know that many people hold out the AIP diet as a panacea to fix any AI issue, but that wasn’t my experience. I found the constant shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning up to be really time-consuming and tedious. It was also expensive. My shopping habits changed… before AIP I’d visit the same one or two supermarkets each week, I started to visit my local butcher and greengrocer each week. I’d also have an organic veg box delivered. I’d buy fish from the market on the weekend. Plus trekking down to the local ethnic store… Like I say it was time-consuming.
I used the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook as the basis for our meals. It was fine. Some dishes were better than others! We were trying the diet in the Summer so lots of the soups and stews just weren’t appealing. It was very easy to keep making the same dishes. I reached the point where I couldn’t even look at another sweet potato. Our experiment was further compromised by a trip to France which coincided with our final week on the elimination diet. We were self-catering but our food bill went through the roof. The kids were not enjoying the food at all and couldn’t wait to start the re-introductions.
After a month we started to reintroduce the foods that we’d been excluding. It’s really funny how much you miss different things, for example eggs. I never thought that I had such a close relationship with eggs until they went away. So what happened to our various AI diseases? Well it was only a month after all… there was no improvement to my daughter’s ulcerative colitis, my Hashimoto’s felt the same and with regards to alopecia Harrison didn’t lose his eyebrows during that month. So that’s sort of a positive, but as we reintroduced foods (still avoiding gluten and dairy), his eyebrows did slowly fall out too.
Would I recommend trying the AIP to people with AI diseases? Yes, but… only if you have a LOT of time to invest. I found that the stress of the experience likely mitigated any positive effects. I found that I was having to think about food all of the time which I didn’t enjoy. (It reminded me of when I lived in a converted garage in the South of France with no kitchen – I lasted just over a week before moving). Plus my kids were complaining about being hungry, and they weren’t enjoying the food flavours. Every time we sat down to eat someone would be unhappy, it didn’t make for a relaxing eating experience. AIP just felt too extreme and I feel that it would be extremely triggering to anyone who has a less than great relationship with food already. If you’re just cooking for one person and enjoy meal planning and batch cooking then it’s probably worth a try.
My kids and I fondly remember those plantain waffles, to be honest I should maybe try those again. They had a unique flavour (in a good way!) When I hear about people who eat this way long-term it sets off alarm bells because it’s so limiting. The whole point is to start making reintroductions to see what you’re able to tolerate. There’s a danger that the diet starts to define people and it’s quite easy to fall down a rabbit hole with it. If you’re trying it as an elimination protocol I’d start with 30 days and if you feel good after those 30 days then start the reintroductions. If your autoimmune symptoms are still apparent you could perhaps extend an additional month and then check in and perhaps start reintroductions at that point.
Do you need a coach for the AIP diet?
In my experience I’ve found that adopting a paleo template to eating is much less extreme and gives comparable benefits. I also found it considerably less stressful than AIP. I’ve written about it here https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/thirty-day-paleo-reset/ If you’re looking for support with AIP there are coaching programs out there, but there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be able to manage this diet by yourself. The paleo template that I use is modified for autoimmune conditions and has been a proven route to managing multiple autoimmune diseases within my family. I have a Hashimoto’s diagnosis that is in remission, my daughter’s ulcerative colitis is no longer flaring and my son is having amazing hair regrowth (without loss) despite having previously lost all of his hair. Another positive is that meal times are no longer traumatic, and I’m able to spend time on other things apart from just food shopping/prepping/cooking and cleaning.
One of the areas that I work on with clients is getting to the bottom of the root cause of hair loss. Once we figure out what the cause is we can address it and support your hair regrowth. It could be caused by an autoimmune disease, poor nutrition/absorption, infections, chronic stress, a traumatic event, hormones or histamine intolerance. And that’s just for starters! Clearly you are not going to get the bottom of this in a 12 minute GP appointment, or just by using a topical steroid prescribed by a dermatologist.
Genes load the gun…
If we acknowledge the widely accepted concept that genes load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger with regards to disease, then it makes sense to start here. Let’s put it another way, if we both have the same autoimmune condition e.g. Hashimoto’s, mine could have been caused by extreme stress which kept the body in fight or flight mode for sustained periods of time. While yours could have been created by inadequate sleep and eating foods that your body doesn’t tolerate well.
We have the same disease with (potentially) an identical impact on our thyroid functions causing hair loss among other symptoms. Our doctors will likely have prescribed the same dose of thyroid hormone. However, our treatment strategies to resolve the root cause of disease would be completely different. Mine would include stress management techniques, yours would incorporate a sleep hygiene protocol and a food diary to track the impact of the food that you’re eating.
Root Cause of Hair Loss
If we look at the root cause for alopecia any of the below list could be a trigger:
A car accident
A hormonal imbalance (e.g. pregnancy)
Environmental toxicity (e.g. mold, heavy metals)
This could be compounded with gut dysbiosis and/or leaky gut. As you can see all of these triggers are completely different and yet create the same end result of hair loss.
I’m frequently asked about the root cause for my son’s alopecia. I’ve concluded the following:
Genetics: We have a family history (both maternal and paternal) of AI disease.
Gut problems: Intolerance to dairy leading to leaky gut AND antibiotics wiping out gut bacteria
Underlying Stress – Moving internationally and attending 3 schools in 3 years
Mindset – All of the breaks occurred while playing rugby, each recovery necessitated not playing rugby (which he loves) for between 6-15 weeks. I think that this had a negative impact on mental health.
I hope you can see that this particular scenario is unique to my son, just as your root cause will be completely unique to you.
It takes time to get to the bottom of the reasons for your hair loss, and it’s highly likely to be multi-factorial. Your hair is not a separate part of your body, it’s all connected. For example, if your nutrition/absorption is poor your body will prioritise your essential organs over your skin (the body’s largest organ) and hair.
I hope that this brief article has provided an insight into how figuring out your root cause can help you to regrow your hair. My program is naturally tailored to your precise circumstances because one size does not fit all.
After passing my Practical Skills Assessment with the Kresser Institute I needed to accrue a prescribed number of hours in order to become certified as a Functional Health Coach. I was looking for people who were ready to transform their lives! I’m part of a Facebook group dedicated to women’s fitness and considered that these ladies would be an excellent group to ask for volunteers as they’d all already demonstrated a commitment to change just by being part of a fitness group.
There was a great response to my request but some people fell by the wayside when we were trying to firm up a time to talk. In part this was due to the difficulty in reaching across international time zones and in part due to fear of the unknown. There I was, a stranger on the internet, offering free health coaching to other women on the internet. I mean, what even is health coaching and why might you want or need it?
I was incredibly grateful to the courageous women who showed up and were willing to be open to the concept that coaching could possibly help them. Kelly was one of those women who volunteered.
Living in Lockdown
At the time we were just starting to come out of lockdown, but we were all living with the fear of what our daily lives would look like in the short-term. Here’s what happened when I met Kelly…
My first impression was of a woman who was open and curious about coaching. She’s travelled all over the world and clearly loves being able to experience different environments and cultures. Lockdown had prevented her from taking an epic three month journey across the world with her family.
She was ‘stuck’ in a beautiful part of Australia. We talked about the things that she loved to do on her property, and how lockdown didn’t prevent her from going for walks or building fires and roasting marshmallows with her young son. We focused on what she could do for herself over the next week that would make her feel better. As we talked, and a plan formed she became more animated.
She talked about the death of her baby four years ago and how incredibly difficult this was. She talked about her time in the NICU. Coaching is not counselling. A simplistic definition is that coaching focuses on the future, while counselling supports the past. As a coach I’m not trained to support mental health issues.
As we completed our call Kelly had a short list of actions to carry out over the next week, and we agreed to speak at the same time in seven days.
Let’s be clear a week is not a huge amount of time. And yet… when we reconnected it was almost like a different person was looking at me in the Zoom room. She was so happy, she was practically glowing. The woman from our prior meeting was nowhere in sight. Kelly had smashed all of her action items out of the park. Exercise? Check! Following a keto diet? Check! Spending time with her husband and son? Check! Writing books? Check!
The process of coaching is sometimes described as holding up a mirror. Through gentle but challenging questions I held up that mirror to Kelly. She didn’t recognize the woman in the reflection. In my experience as a new coach most people really struggle if that image reflects someone they don’t recognize, or worse don’t like.
Excuses… or courage?
This is when people start to make excuses for how their life’s going, or they try to blame somebody else. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s a normal human reaction. The most difficult thing that you will ever do is to be responsible for your own life. It takes courage to own up and accept how things are. There’s the danger that you could start down a rabbit-hole questioning every decision that you’ve ever made.
Kelly didn’t do any of those things. She took action. She methodically addressed every little thing that we’d talked about. While she’d already started to write a series of children’s books, her actions that week took her to a completely different level. It was really happening now! She’d found a publisher, she was figuring out her marketing, she had a publication date.
Transformation happens when you take action. The ‘magic’ of coaching happens when you stop moving away from pain and actively move towards joy. By making these tangible steps towards joy Kelly was literally transforming her life as we spoke.
Since our sessions together Kelly’s continued to take great strides. In addition to the children’s stories, she’s working on a book for parents of children in the NICU which gives practical tips for making it through that incredibly stressful time. She’s also speaking out and talking about this subject to help others. Her work will continue to create a beacon of light and hope for both new and bereaved parents.
I’m writing this with Kelly’s full permission as today she’s a woman on a mission who’s found her purpose in life. You can read about what it felt like to be a practice client below. If you’d like to see if I can help you, book time to talk here https://practicalhealthcoach.uk/work-with-me/
It’s incredible to think that all of this happened because of a one line response to a Facebook post. Find out more about Kelly here https://kellymareeauthor.com/
Kelly’s side of our coaching story
I have been working with Laura Krippner for the past 5 months, little did I know that just a few sessions with Laura would change my life completely!
We both felt it would be beneficial for people to understand the process and the benefits, from both points of view, and how the power of coaching can drastically change your life in such a short period of time. So I want to share my story and have asked Laura to share her side of my story too, what we both learned, how Laura uses her skills to help people, and how impacting lives through coaching is such an incredible thing.
A change of plans
I work incredibly hard, as a multiple business owner this is just the norm for me. The harder I work the more money I can make, which means more holidays, and every holiday is the reward for sacrificing my soul to the daily grind.
Earlier this year we had planned a 3 month trip around the world, to reward ourselves for all that hard work and to visit family that we hadn’t seen for so long. My heart was so set on this trip, hours of planning went into it, thousands of dollars was invested in the tickets, there were also life goals on my list that would be ticked off, something that was so very import to me and my mental health.
In walks COVID, the killer of dreams, the canceller of plans, throwing the whole world upside down and throwing our trip into the bin. I was devastated! I had suffered so many years of PTSD and depression after losing my son Oli, and spending 133 days in hospital with Oskar getting him strong enough to come home, at the same time building the furniture removals business that we had just started 2 weeks before the twins were born. I deserved that trip!
I slipped back into my black hole of despair, I mourned my travel like it was a child, I cried, felt sorry for myself, spent days in utter sadness, with all the memories of the trauma and loss in the front of my mind again, that was a very dark time and I couldn’t see the light.
When a saw a post from Laura on a Facebook group, I was willing to try anything and put my hand up immediately. I didn’t know what her course was, what it would require from me, or what to expect from the sessions with her, but it felt right, and I always trust my gut instinct.
The first thing I noticed about Laura was her soft voice and calming mannerisms. She put me at ease immediately. Then she started to ask me questions that no one had asked me before. Questions about MY mental health, about MY physical health, about MY dreams and aspirations, about MY future. I knew I could tell her anything and everything, and that’s exactly what I did: poured my heart and soul out to this stranger that was willing to listen, that cared about ME. The proverbial light bulb went ding! And I never looked back.
Putting a plan into action
By the end of the first session I had a plan of attack, and it was put in motion the moment the session ended. I wanted to be an author, I had always wanted to be an author. To write full time, to inspire others and to make a difference in this world. This was my purpose, and at that moment my dream was born.
I wrote three children’s books for Oskar in a week, found an illustrator the next week, and found Ocean Reeve Publishing the month after that. It all fell into place so fast! This was the journey I was supposed to be on, the one that I had put on the back burner for so many years, this was my fate. To create a legacy for my son Oskar and honour the memory of his angel twin Oli, to help raise awareness about infant loss and support bereaved families, and to raise money for the Precious Wings and Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital foundations, who helped us through the hardest time of our lives.
If you had of asked me a year ago if I needed coaching, I would have said no way! Why? I have successful businesses, a beautiful family, a wonderful home, money to travel whenever I wanted, everything anyone could ever ask for. But something was missing from my life, I didn’t have a purpose, everything I did was not for me, it was for someone else. Money and success means nothing if you aren’t happy.
After just a few sessions with Laura my whole life has changed, I am now on a completely different path, one I would not be on without that coaching. The opportunities and experiences that have presented themselves have only been because my entire mindset changed. The more I give, the more I get back, the more I help people, the more I heal. It’s a positive cycle that is so welcomed after years of negative cycles, and it’s possible for everyone.
The power of coaching is life changing, empowering, it shows you how to take your life back and focuses on YOU, about what YOU want, no one else. You can’t know true love until you love yourself, you can’t help others until you learn to help yourself and you definitely can’t live the life you want if you aren’t living it for YOU.
I am so grateful every single day for the incredible journey I am now on thanks to coaching and in just a few sessions it’s possible to think differently, feel differently and change negative thoughts into positive ones.
A very special thank you to Laura for her patience, kindness and faith in me. It has changed my life and I know how many other lives that will be impacted by the coaching she offers.
While talking with some of my Functional Health Coach chums, I asked what their favourite vitamin was. After the initial shock, this question is a bit like asking who your favourite child is… more than 70% of those asked for my highly unscientific poll agreed on vitamin D. We then delved into minerals, but that’s a whole other story.
Unless you live under a very large rock with no access to the outside world you’ll have seen that vitamin D has been in the news recently. This is due to the first randomised controlled trial which showed that administering vitamin D almost completely removed the risk of needing admission to the ICU for patients who’d tested positive for Coronavirus. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960076020302764?via%3Dihub This is obviously fantastic, although more research is needed as the study was small.
However, that’s not why this vitamin would always be top of my vitamin charts. Firstly, most people know of its role in supporting calcium absorption. It also helps to prevent rickets, osteoporosis and stress fractures. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to increased risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and death from all causes. While these are all great reasons to optimize your vitamin D levels, my interest lies in the immunomodulatory effects of the vitamin.
Part of the conclusion from The Implication of Vitamin D and autoimmunity: A Comprehensive Review states:
“Due to its unique capability to bind to VDR* and serve as a transcriptional factor, vitamin D can regulate gene expression and further exert its immunomodulatory effects on immune cells.”
So what does this mean for those of us who are living with an autoimmune disease? Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that clients report hair regrowth after the Summer when they’ve tended to be outside more, or been on holiday to a sunny place. That said given that vitamin D is toxic at high levels the answer isn’t just to take a supplement. First you need to understand what your levels actually are, and retest after 3 to 4 months. You can ask your GP to run the test or use one of the private companies to get this information. I like Medichecks or Tiny Tests.
Sunshine is simplest
The easiest (and cheapest) way to obtain vitamin D is from sunlight, but in the UK that’s only possible between the end of March and September. I like the Dminder app which helps you to track depending on your location, your skin colour and amount of exposed skin. The image below is from September 22nd 2020 in North West England. We only have a few more weeks remaining after which time you’ll need to look for other sources until late March/early April 2021 when it becomes available from the sun again.
Good sources are cod livers and cod liver oil. Other fatty fish include herring, fatty tuna, rainbow trout, salmon, sardines, and mackerel. Other good food sources are egg yolks with free range eggs containing more (approx 4-6 times more) than eggs produced by chickens without access to pasture.
While you could argue that cod liver oil is a supplement. Here I’m talking about the ones which are not food-based. Ideally you’re looking for an over the counter supplement which also contains vitamin K2 as they work together synergistically.
As stated earlier too much can be toxic so don’t start to supplement without first knowing what your personal level is. There’s a fair amount of debate regarding what optimal levels are. Generally in the Functional Medicine Community 50ng/ml is regarded as optimal, but that doesn’t mean that would be the perfect level for you.
To wrap up I make sure that I obtain vitamin D from sunlight in the first instance, and then food. Given the risk of toxicity I don’t think this is a supplement that you should take without medical advice. If you’re interested to find out more take a look at this article by Chris Kresser. https://chriskresser.com/vitamin-d-more-is-not-better/
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