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DR. WEIL: Autoimmune hair loss varies September 25, 2007

Posted by Dreamhealer in Research.

Question: My 12-year-old son has alopecia, with about 75 percent hair loss on his scalp along with half of his eyebrows and some body hair. What can we do nutritionally to help with this condition?Answer: Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks hair follicles, causing hair on the head to fall out, usually in small patches about the size of a quarter. Most people don’t lose all their hair, but some lose a lot. In a more severe form of the disease, people lose all the hair on their heads and everywhere else on their bodies (alopecia universalis).

Unfortunately, autoimmune alopecia is unpredictable.

Your son’s hair might come back, but if it does, it could fall out again. Some people continue to lose and regrow hair for many years. However, even among those who lose all their hair, there’s always a possibility that it will all come back.

Because autoimmune diseases tend to flare up in response to emotional ups and downs, I recommend some form of mind/body treatment. Hypnosis may be especially helpful (children are more easily hypnotized than adults).

You also might consider consulting a practitioner of homeopathy or Chinese medicine to get at the underlying problem. In addition, I recommend the following dietary changes for all types of autoimmune diseases:

Decrease protein intake toward 10 percent of daily calories; replace animal protein as much as possible with plant protein.

Eliminate milk and milk products, substituting other calcium sources.

Eat more fruits and vegetables regularly, and make sure that they are organically grown.

Eliminate polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils and all foods (such as deep- fried foods) that might contain trans-fatty acids. Use extra-virgin olive oil as your main fat.

Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids.

Take black currant oil or evening primrose oil capsules as sources of GLA (gamma-linolenic acid), an essential fatty acid that improves the health of skin and hair.

Q: I’ve recently been drinking a lot of parsley tea, and my period came a week early. Could the tea have played a role?

A: Perhaps. My colleague Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., is director of education for the Program in Integrative Medicine here at the University of Arizona and is a leading expert on botanical medicine.

She reminded me that in traditional Western herbal medicine, parsley is considered an emmenagogue, a substance that stimulates menstruation.

It should always be avoided during pregnancy because it can initiate and strengthen uterine contractions.

Some people drink parsley tea for its mild diuretic properties, and moderate amounts are safe. But it is quite possible that the tea you’ve been drinking was responsible for your period coming early. Dr. Low Dog suggested that you cut back if your menstrual cycle does not return to normal.

Parsley is one of the most widely used cooking herbs.

It has also been used medicinally to treat a number of conditions. Large doses of parsley leaf and root can flush excess water from the body, and you can use the herb to flush the urinary system (be sure to drink a lot of fluids at the same time).

It has also been used to treat stomach and intestinal disorders, and jaundice. Topical application of fresh parsley juice is a folk remedy for insect bites.

Don’t be too quick to discard the parsley used to garnish food. You would miss out on some serious nutrients.

A cup of parsley contains only 22 calories but provides 101 percent of the daily value of vitamin A (most of it from beta carotene), 133 percent of the daily value of vitamin C and 1,230 percent of the daily value of vitamin K. It is unlikely that you’ll ever consume a whole cup of parsley (maybe in tabbouleh, the middle-Eastern cracked-wheat salad), but try nibbling on a few sprigs or chop a handful into your salad occasionally.

The usual children’s dose is 250 mg twice a day.


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