In 2016 I developed my first patch of hair loss, which grew to the size of a softball. That patch changed the course of my life, and kicked off a journey of growth that I wouldn’t trade for the world. It also helped me to sharpen my skills as a nutritionist, and to offer you everything I’ve learned about healing alopecia and autoimmunity.
What is Alopecia Areata?
This is an important place to start. Many people think of alopecia as a dermatology issue, which it isn’t. The western medical model send anyone with alopecia to a dermatologist, which is a testament to how ineffective most doctors are at treating autoimmunity.
Alopecia is NOT a skin condition. And while we’re being honest, dermatologists have no business treating alopecia. That’s because alopecia is an autoimmune issue, caused by issues happening within the body, not on the surface level of the scalp. The cortisone foams that dermatologists offer are the equivalent of using a squirt gun on a raging house fire. It might help a little, but it’s not the answer to true healing.
There are over 90 different types of autoimmune illnesses, each coming with their own set of symptoms. Alopciea areata is one of those, and the symptom of alopecia areata is the patchy loss of hair from various parts of the body. In autoimmunity, the body attacks its own tissues. In alopecia areata, the body is attacking its own hair follicles. This means that alopecia is a systemic issue, not a local dermatologic issue.
The good news about alopecia areata, and all autoimmune issues, is that remission is very possible when we take the proper steps to let our bodies, minds, & spirits heal.
Healing Alopecia Areata Holistically
The most effective path for healing anything, including alopecia areata, is the body, mind, & spirit approach.
When you first develop alopecia areata, it’s nearly impossible to think of anything beyond the patches. We become engrossed in the physical aspects of healing. And make no mistake, it’s crucial to heal the body in order to heal alopecia. I’ll give you all the tools in this article to do that. However, if you start this journey with the three pronged body, mind, & spirit approach, your healing process will be smoother and faster.
The truth is you are not just a body. You are a soul within the body, and your healing process relies upon the harmonization of your body, mind & spirit. Autoimmunity is at an all time high, and I believe part of the reason is because our systems are out of harmony due to the disconnected nature of our civilization. We are all very busy, trying to survive, trying to accomplish, and we’re missing the cruicial aspects of our humanity that keep us healthy. We’re lacking introspection, peace, meditation, community, creativity, love, joy, and play amongst other things.
The body is not separate from the rest of life. The body is impacted by the job you don’t like, by the lack of relationships in your life, by the lack of joy and play. I’m telling you this from firsthand experience. The initial patch I got came during a period of intense workaholism, isolation, and a disharmonic relationship. My life lacked any joy or play. I never spent time with friends. I never took the time to meditate or be peaceful. All of this took a toll on my body and I didn’t even realize it. I was so disconnected from my heart that my body eventually had to scream at me to get me to listen.
The last nine years of my life has been listening, healing, and mastering the art of body, mind, & spirit harmonization. I’ve come to learn that it is only through balancing and honoring all three of these that true healing can occur. The remainder of this article will give you the tools to begin balancing your system holistically via body mind & spirit.
Healing The Body
Healing the body was how my journey began, and it’s how I recommend you begin too. Healing the body is the low hanging fruit. It’s tangible, direct, and clear. It’ll also make you feel so much better!
Alopecia isn’t just about the hair patches you’re getting. It’s also impacting your entire system. There’s a very good chance you’re experiencing other symptoms that you don’t even realize are tied into autoimmunity. For instance, I had clinical depression and crippling brain fog for most of my twenties. When I started my healing process, those lifted first. I haven’t had clinical depression or brain fog in the nine years since starting this process. You’ll likely experience profound shifts in your overall health like I did.
Diet | The Autoimmune Protocol AIP
The primary healing tool for alopecia is diet. When I first developed alopecia areata, I was already a nutritionist with over ten years of experience. This gave me an upper hand on being able to siphon through scientific literature and data, as well as reading copious amounts of books and discerning what was relevant and what wasn’t.
After many months of searching, I came upon the AIP diet, and subsequently read Dr. Sarah Ballantyne’s incredible book The Paleo Approach, as well as Dr. Terry Wahl’s book The Wahls, Protocol and Dr. Amy Myer’s book, The Myers Way. All of the data was convincing, and I decided to jump in head first into the AIP diet.
AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol, by the way 🙂
The patch on my head had grown to the size of a softball with no signs of stopping for six months straight. A week after starting the AIP diet, hair stopped falling out. Two weeks in, and my depression was suddenly gone without a trace (it never returned). About eight months later, my patch was completely filled in and my entire body felt like a fine tuned sports car. I had more energy than I knew what to do with, my brain was hyperfocused, and my strength increased.
To this day, I mostly follow the AIP Diet. It makes me feel fantastic, and I enjoy being symptom free. I’ve added a few things in here and there, but feel my best when sticking to the AIP diet most of the time. Another aspect of my healing journey was learning that I had positive markers for lupus. I’ve since learned that lupus has an impact on your brain chemistry and nervous system. The alopecia was likely tied in with lupus, and that was also a contributing factor for having clinical depression.
All that’s to say the AIP diet is more than worth it for me to have a healthy brain, nervous system, and keep any patches to a minimum.
If you’re struggling with autoimmunity, AIP is a very good way to expedite the healing process, and also has the potential to change your life. It most certainly changed mine.
AIP In a Nutshell
I have a Free AIP Quickstart Guide that I recommend you check out.
I also have a course called Healing With Food to help you start and stick to this diet. It’s full of recipes, cooking lessons, and everything you could possibly need to start your healing process today.
To give you the cliff notes version of AIP, the AIP diet is the elimination of all potential allergens, irritants, and foods that stimulate the immune system. It’s also important that while following AIP, you focus on copious amounts of nutrient dense foods.
- Nightshades (tomato, white potato, eggplant, bell peppers)
- Spices from nightshades (paprika, chilli, chipotle, hot sauce, bbq sauce, ketchup etc)
- Nuts and seeds
- Gums & Emulsifiers
- Inflammatory oils (canola, cottonseed, peanut, seed oils, vegetable oils)
- Chemical additives
AIP Foods You’ll Eat to Heal
- Healthy fats (lard, coconut oil, coconut milk, olive oil, fats from meat, avocado)
- Organ meats
- Tons of Vegetables (except nightshades)
- Leafy greens
- Sulfur rich vegetables (broccoli, cabbages, asparagus, onions etc)
- Alliums (onions and garlic)
- Fruits (any
- Healthy starches (sweet potatos, plantains, cassava, squashes)
- 6 or more servings of vegetables daily
- 2 or less servings of fruit (fruit is fine, just don’t overdo it to keep your blood sugar stable)
Retraining the Nervous System
Another physical aspect of healing autoimmunity is to retrain the nervous system.
My first patch put me on a path of radical peace practices. It forced me to face the fact that my body was in a chronic state of stress, and fight or flight. I’ve since learned that autoimmunity is linked to excess sympathetic states in the nervoucs system.
There is a growing body of science in the field of psychoneuroimmunoligy pointing to the fact that autoimmunity is linked to chronically stressed nervous systems. Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of how the brain, nervous system, and immune system interact with eachother. And the data is pretty clear that autoimmunity and an overly sympathetic nervous system go together like peanut butter and jelly.
The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” aspect of the nervous system. It’s also a very healthy part of our nervous system that helps us to function throughout the day. If our nervous systems are balanced, we have clean energy in the morning, and the motivation to get things done throughout the day. When our nervous systems are out of balance, we bounce from being exhausted to being overly wired.
In order to heal your autoimmune issues, you must also retrain your nervous system to be in a state of harmony and balance. This is an ongoing process, and will be a necessary part of your life from this point forward if you want to get and remain as healthy as possible.
In order to retrain our nervous system to be peaceful and balanced, there are some scientifically proven things we can do:
1. Yoga. Yoga conditions the vagus nerve, which helps to balance the nervous system
2. Meditation. Meditation decreases excess cortisol, and soothes the nervous system
3. Mindfullness practices throughout the day. Being in the present moment is very healing for the nervous system
4. Somatic releasing. Somatic releasing helps to discharge stored trauma from the body, and rebalance the nervous system.
Healing The Mind
To heal the body, we must also heal the mind. The mind and body aren’t just related, they are one unit, working hand in hand. If you follow a perfect diet to the T, yet don’t address the imbalances in your mind, healing is an arduous process.
Healing the mind starts with mindfullness. When we’re mindful, we can actually see and understand the state of the mind. For years before alopecia areata came to my life, I was living from my thoughts and never observing them. This is a huge problem because the mind’s natural state tends to be negative. I’ve always been cerebral, lost in thought, and so I was completely engrossed in a never-ending stream of pointless and negative thinking patterns. When I started observing my thoughts instead of living from them, my mind started to heal.
It’s a false notion that healing the mind takes decades of therapy. It doesn’t. Healing the mind can happen in an instant. Healing the mind requires that we be here now, and stop believing every thought that comes into our heads. It also requires a committment to peace. It really is that simple.
To start healing the mind
1. Meditation. Daily meditation practice helps you to start noticing your thoughts, and seeing what’s going on up there. This is a huge step in the healing process
2. Being present without distractions. When we stop distracting ourselves with social media and podcasts all the time, we can finally process the thoughts that haven’t been processed in years. This is very healing
3. Stop believing thoughts. Notice your thoughts, allow them to be there, welcome them, but stop believing every thought that comes into your head. Much of our negative thinking is nothing more than old patterns and nonsense we can simply ignore.
4. Start asking power questions. Questions retrain the mind. The mind is a computer, and it is always trying to solve the questions you give it. Start with “what’s great about this?” or “What can I learn from this?” or “What’s really good in my life?” and so on. Noticing when you start slipping into victim questions, and retrain your mind with these power questions.
Healing The Spirit
Spirituality is personal and unique for every person. You may or may not have a deep spiritual life. You may or may not believe in a higher power. You may or may not have a religion that you turn to for comfort. None of these things ultimately matter. Here’s what does…
You are not just a body. We can know you’re not just a body because if I cut off all of your limbs, you’d still be you. You’re not your name, or your roles. You’re not your identity, or the sheath of skin that covers your body. I’m sure you’ll agree with me on all those things, right?
You are not your mind. If you were, then every thought and emotion you had throughout life would hold a great deal of importance. But obviously, your emotions and thoughts are constantly changing by the thousands each day, and not a single one of them hold any bearing on if you exist. You’re in there, regardless of your thoughts and emotions.
So, given that you’re not just a bod or a mind, we can dilineate that there’s a part of you that is unseen. That part of you is what I’ll call “spirit”.
Spirit doesn’t ever need healing, as it’s always whole and perfect. It is untouched by anything happening in the world. However to start healing on the spiritual level requires that you join your body and mind with the spirit as much as posssible.
How? We do this by allowing our lives to be guided by the spirit. We trust our hearts and listen to our intuition, and follow through on our dreams and goals. This, my friend, is spirituality in a nutshell. It’s that simple.
If there’s some area of your life that you feel doesn’t reflect your soul, start tending to that area asap. That means ending that toxic relationship, starting that new career, changing your major, redoing your wardbrobe, taking that solo trip, or anything else. When we don’t listen to our souls, this puts our bodies in a state of disharmony. When we finally start listening, our cells rejoice and healing can happen.
The spiritual practices like prayer and meditation can be helpful in allowing us to see what’s true. The ego can blind us in our path, and keep us from admitting to ourselves what we need and want. So while you don’t need prayer and meditation, I recommend you try it out and see if it doesn’t help you in the way of acting in alignment with your soul.
Once you’ve found your groove, and implemented all the things covered in this article, you can let go of the entire situation. This means you do your part, and let the healing process do the rest.
It also means accepting any outcome that may arise, on any timeline.
It means trusting that all of this is happening for you rather than to you.
It means giving the entire situation to a power greater than yourself, and trusting that the best possible solution will be delivered at the best possible time.
You will find that when you are truly dedicated to peace, joy, and healing on a deeper level, it won’t matter if you have some patches or not. To reach that state of inner peace means that you have been healed, regardless of all external appearances.
My you be peaceful, may you be free, may you be joyful.
P.S. If you’re ready to start healing, my new course Healing With Food is 50% off with the code Insider. It has everything you need to start and stick to the AIP diet, and experience a life without symptoms.