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Going Gluten-FreeJune 20, 2012

Losing Your Hair?

The relationship between a certain type of hair loss and celiac disease isn’t widely known by the general public. Recently, new research confirms that, indeed, there may be a link.

Dozens of new studies on celiac disease were presented at Digestive Diseases Week, a medical conference organized by the American Gastroenterological Association and held in May in San Diego. One of these studies focused on alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss, and its association with celiac disease.

According to PubMed Health, a medical website sponsored by NIH, the exact cause of alopecia areata remains unclear. Generally, it is characterized by hair loss that occurs in patches, usually (but not always) on the scalp. It is seen in women, men and children, often with no other symptoms. The condition can run in families (approximately 20% of patients have a family history) and it can sometimes be triggered by a traumatic life event.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers at Columbia University in New York. Using blood samples from 99 individuals with alopecia areata, these researchers discovered a higher prevalence of celiac-associated antibodies in those with the hair-loss condition compared to the general population (9 percent and 3 percent, respectively).

Celiac antibodies were more likely to be present in those with more severe forms of alopecia areata, those cases involving total and/or long-term hair loss. Individuals with the least severe form of alopecia areata, with transient hair loss lasting less than a year, did not appear to have an elevated risk for celiac disease.

Could your patchy hair loss be associated with celiac disease? Ask your doctor: The study calls for celiac screening for those with alopecia areata.

 

Comments (5)

1983 all my hair fell out - legs, armpits, 1/2 of thickness on head and other sensitive areas. Was in distress of a divorce. I also developed extreme weight loss, severe depression, migraines, early menopause and my acne returned. No diagnoses. 2005 went on gluten free/ casein free diet as a Regisgtered Dietitian trying to learn how difficult it was to prepare. All above issues went away within 7 months except hair never returned. In 2008 went to endocrinologist for unusal symptom not associated with above. After 25 minutes of discussion, he diagnosed Celiac which could not be confirmed, but obvious. My childhood asthma - autoimmune!- was one clue, but also he diagnosed partial alopecia, vittilago, Primary ovarian failure, severe depression and migraines as all part of the autoimmune picture. I am free of all symptoms as long as I stay off gluten. Hair and fertility never returned, but I was 38 at onset and in 60's at diagnosis.

Posted by: josephine t | June 22, 2012 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I had a full head of hair up until I was 18 years old and tons of body hair. Mind you this was during the late 50's, 60's and early 70's when we did not have so many foods filled with wheat and gluten. I lost all the hair on my body by the time I was 20 and am now 54. Went through a lot of different things trying to figure out what was wrong and trying to get it to grow back. It has caused me to be much more isolated from people trying to hide it for all of my adult life..even my children helped me hide it. I was reading up on Alopecia and found a web site about Celiac Disease on a website from Scotland. This is a problem that is passed from generation to generation and it is found mainly in the Celtic Islands..not always but it is very common there. Irish, English and Scottish heritages. On this web site, they had a list of symptoms that may indicate Celiac. Alopecia was listed on this list as well as many other symptoms some of which my daughters have. Don't give up on the gluten free diet! I would have never have tried it had I not started having very painful gut problems that doubled me over in pain. I tried the diet because of this and all those issues went away and all of my hair is growing back in after years of trying everything under the sun. It is indeed a slow process and it has just been a year but I have a forest of hair on my head and not one bald spot in there. It is still very fine but over time I know it will continue to grow. This was the problem all along! Don't give up hope. Stay the course and not just getting your hair coming back will be a benefit to you but it will help to heal the damage in the intestens as well from all the allergens!

Posted by: sweetcarolinagirl | June 22, 2012 9:59 AM    Report this comment

I have had alopecia areata since I was 14 years old. I am now 45, and still struggle with it. The bald patches move around - grow in here, fall out there. I have been tested for Celiac, and do not have it. However, I do have a gluten sensitivity. Does this study mean that I can develop Celiac? I am currently gluten-free, and have been for 5 months. Is there a chance that by maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle that my hair might grow back in?

Posted by: Anne B | June 21, 2012 8:02 PM    Report this comment

I had the thickest hair ever. Shortly after being diagnosed with celiac disease it started falling out. Of course, I was deficient in many nutrients and had liver enzymes that showed malnutrition. I was very sick with diarrhea which led to my diagnosis along with osteoporosis. It's been over a year and the hair seems to have stabilized but I lost 40% of my hair on top looking like female pattern baldness. I'm hoping with good nutrition and healing it will grow back. I hope these patients are followed to see if that happens.

Posted by: Donna T | June 21, 2012 3:54 PM    Report this comment

I have had hair loss problems all my life and found out last year that I had Celiac disease so I think there is a causal autoimmune effect.

Posted by: Katrina R | June 21, 2012 11:45 AM    Report this comment

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