Allergy symptoms and hair loss (but don’t forget iron)

Beautiful healthy shiny hair texture with highlighted golden streaks

Those with hair loss combined with allergy like symptoms who do not test positive for allergies (via IgE) may have high levels of inflammatory mediators like histamine, prostaglandins and/or interleukins. These inflammatory molecules are found in mast cells in the human body and are usually released as needed, but those with chronic allergies, high overall IgE level, histamine intolerance, mast cell activation, mastocytosis and other inflammatory medical conditions may have disturbances in mast cell function, thereby causing excess inflammation and hair loss. There’s a number of ways to tackle this, including some exciting news about a natural oil that’s more effective than minoxidil at promoting hair growth.

All references further down in the post. 

There’s many different kinds of hair loss so it’s best to get to a doctor, but here are a few types that are specifically linked to inflammation:

Prostaglandin D2 specifically has been implicated in male pattern hair loss (and hair loss generally) [1]. Interleukins and high IgE levels have been linked to alopecia areata, which is characterised by “either patchy hair loss or more generalized alopecia that results in complete loss of scalp hair” [2,3,4] and also with telogen effluvium, a diffuse hair loss that may not manifest until two to three months after exposure of the scalp to an allergen, or after a sudden shock/trauma, or sudden decrease in caloric intake [5].  Interestingly a study published in the American Journal of Pathology in 2003 found that stress caused telogen effluvium hair loss in mice via mast cell activation specifically [6]. A study in China found that alopecia areata progression can be predicted according to the mast cell activity in scalp biopsy [7].

It’s always exciting when I find that something that I’ve been writing about for a while is effective for more than I’ve been using. In this study published in 2013 in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, found that nigella sativa, a key component of many of my nutrient dense antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredient rich recipes has been shown to be effective in treating telogen effluvium when applied topically [8]. It’s a small sample of patients, 20 in total. The 10 treated with antihistamine nigella sativa applied the lotion for three months. The results showed a significant improvement in seven of the patients treated with the nigella.

Apples meanwhile, another mainstay of my diet, not only are rich in antihistamine quercetin, but also in procyanidin B-2, which researchers in a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology in 2002 found promotes hair growth [9].

A number of studies have also shown green tea to promote hair growth [10] but most excitingly, peppermint oil rubbed into the scalp has been shown to be more effective than minoxidil at promoting hair growth [11]. Peppermint oil has a number of contraindications and is thought to lower testosterone levels so many not be appropriate for males. Please visit the University of Maryland website to read up on it. 

It’s not my intention for this post to provide a complete round up of everything that can cause hair loss. I do recommend getting a comprehensive vitamin and mineral, autoimmune and thyroid panels to rule out the obvious deficiencies and potential causes which have been covered  on other blogs.

Most specifically, something threw me recently while researching why my own normally lustrous mane was looking a little anemic (if you’ll forgive the coming pun). It seems that what is considered a “normal” serum ferritin level, is considered by trichologists (hair doctors) to be woefully inadequate and a frequent cause of hair loss (see below for attribution). A number of studies agree with them: finding that low iron stores (serum ferritin) are associated with hair loss [12, 13, 14].

As I am always trying to go vegan again (for love of the animals), I had again completely cut a source of vitamin B12 and iron without considerably upping my intake of non-heme iron or adding in a B12 supplement. Both were still in normal (but low) range. I began a vegan B12 spray just because that’s what smart vegans are supposed to do and though not actually vegan I eat so little animal protein that it seemed worth the effort to get my body to accept it again. It took a couple of months but my body and B12 supps are now simpatico.

I neglected the iron however and while my hair suddenly sprouted in thickness, that hair reached about half an inch before suddenly shedding again.

Interestingly I also found a study  linking high serum ferritin with inflammation [15]. It seems that high levels are indicative of various inflammatory conditions including chronic kidney disease and is often seen together with elevated interleukin and c-reactive protein. 

Then I came across the Philip Kingsley (hair doctor) website for the first time in years since my frantic research on the issue in 2010. Back then going low histamine, binning the shampoo and taking mangosteen supplements to stabilise mast cells and lower prostaglandin D2 levels  was enough. The Kingsley site informed me that while a general practitioner would consider a serum ferritin level of 14-170 micrograms per litre normal, research at the Philip Kingsely practice has found that anything under 80 ug/L (micrograms per litre) in women could cause or contribute to hair loss [16]. My mother went to the clinic in the 1970s after giving birth to me so I imagine they have quite a bit of research on this that has been conducted in the last 40 years or so…

I began taking spatone iron water daily and at two weeks I noticed my hair had not only sprouted but continued to grow. Oh happy day. The mystery of the thinning hair has once more been resolved, but hey, there’s all kinds of fun to be had with age related hormonal fluctuations one day to look forward to.

But iron supplementation isn’t on the cards for me long term. Dr. Fuhrman and others tell us that iron is an oxidant and feeds cancer cells [17].

A few iron rich foods I am upping my intake of (via nutritondata nutrient search tool):

(% RDA)

1 cup chickpeas 26%

1 tbsp spirulina 11%

1 tbsp tahini 17%

28g agar 33%

28g chives 31%

1 cup pistachio 29%

100g cacao 81% (Hmmm, I’d like to think this is why I’m always craving it, but realistically, not!)

And if you’re eating meats: 100g calf liver 36%

I do speculate however that the cause of my hair loss back in 2010 may have been caused by the sudden restriction in calories that many of us on the histamine elimination diet undertake.

It’s finally here! Man Food – a high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredient filled book geared towards guys, women who love to work out, yoga like they mean it, or just load up on healing nutrients. Features my personal shopping list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods. 

The Anti-cookbook and all liquid Anti-Detox Book, don’t treat any conditions, but feature a plethora of the high nutrient antihistamine and anti-inflammatory ingredients that have been instrumental in helping me feed myself on a limited diet. The Anti-cookbook features a six page list of antihistamine and anti-inflammatory foods and comes in regular and Paleo. 

The Low Oxalate Cookbook features antihistamine and anti-inflammatory rich recipes. 

Don’t miss the Low Histamine Beauty Survival Guide for non-toxic beauty tips, the skinny on histamine releasing (mast cell degranulating) beauty ingredients, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory beauty alternatives and the top brands natural brands I’ve found.

Take a peek at my other low histamine and antihistamine cookbooks for more high nutrient recipes and sign up to my mailing list for freebies. 

———– REFERENCES———

[1] PROSTAGLANDIN D2 POST

[2] http://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2010/928030/

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23075639

[4] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17010262

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23075639

[6] http://archderm.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=478194

[7] http://www.hindawi.com/journals/mi/2010/928030/

[8] http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v133/n5/full/jid2013110a.html

[9] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8664805

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11841365

[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289931/

[2] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1868104/

[13] http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=35882

[14] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17951130

[15] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18922994

[16] http://www.philipkingsley.com/hair-guide/healthy-hair-nutrition/anaemia-iron-deficiency/

[17] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16173333