I had an interesting conversational with Nina Boons at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition about how you could do some detective work to understand what some of the root causes of hair pulling could be. I’m a huge believer in how changing your diet can make amazing changes in your life and the importance of diet and vitamins for eyelash pulling and hair pulling treatments. However I have found that having some deeper detail into the nutritional root causes of hair pulling is enlightening and asked her to give me some more information.
As an integrated nutrition & health coach my work resembles being a detective. So I keep investigating and asking “why”, until I find the root cause. It’s about collecting as many pieces of a puzzle as possible to get an idea of the bigger picture.
The body is like an ecosystem and a lot of factors can influence our wellbeing.
What if the root causes of hair pulling are not an illness, but merely a single symptom?
Would that change how one perceives hair pulling?
Just one tiny puzzle piece in a big picture. Doing so changes the perspective and the narrative. It can give hair pullers back some control. I am looking for what else is out there, that gives us clues to the actual why.
The triggers for hair pulling
Each health history is different it is like cooking up the perfect storm of various triggers such as :
-Emotional, physical, neurological and psychological stress
-weak immune system
-viral, parasite, enzyme, bacterial or yeast infect
-change in diet
-duration of exposure and intensity of trigger
There is absolutely no prediction in the way the body responds to any given mix of triggers. Those can manifest in all kinds of symptoms from food allergies, to anxiety, depression, fatigue, nervousness, sleep issues, weight issues, itching hair follicle, pulling hair and a ton of a-specific, seemingly random, unrelated symptoms. We call that a systemic illness. It’s like a game of domino blocks if one falls it sets off a chain reaction.
Your body is communicating with you
But let me assure you no matter the symptom, your body is not fighting or punishing you. Your body is communicating with you. It’s a warning sign that something is not rightly balanced. Our body always works with us not against us, it naturally thrives to be in balances, it’s called homeostasis. Your body is the only place you have to live in for the rest of your life, so it’s important to learn to communicate with that inner voice of yours.
I imagine many hair pullers have had an array of doctor visits done in the past, and the best they could do is telling you “it’s genetic”, which is ‘doctorish’ for “we don’t really know.” And I fully relate to the frustration of a seemingly perfect blood-test when you want to scream at the doctor:” But I don’t feel perfect!”
I know the feeling of a family that can’t relate and fail to support you, the loved ones that say “ I want to believe you, but….”
No doctor and no family can heal you. That power lies within yourself. Only you know best. Be your own detective searching for the root causes of hair pulling.
Research into the root causes of hair pulling
Here some research that might resonate with your case and help you as you look into the root causes of hair pulling.
-Did you know that there is a brain-gut-axis ?
More than 80% of Serotonin, the happy hormone, is produced in your gut.
So, if happiness is not a state of mind, but a product of your gut, what else can come from there? That also means, when you are depressed or feeling anxious, your head is mainly the receiver of information produced in your gut. What if, people have told you it’s all in your head, while in fact it’s all in your gut?!
I would like to present you a few scenarios of what could possibly be going on inside of you. This is most likely it’s a mix of various scenarios. As said before, each journey is very different and never just based on a single cause.
Ecosystem gut- bacteria, virus, enzymes, parasites and yeast overgrowth in hair pulling
Did you know the immune system is actually located in our gut?
In fact, it’s like an eco-system, a balance of billions of bacteria, enzymes, virus’ and yeast helping us digesting and absorbing micronutrients. A system that naturally detoxes pathogens and fights off infections. Our stomach is the only connection with the outside world, what we eat comes inside of our body, therefore our immune system is needed in our gut to fight pathogens. It’s a constant battle of good versus bad and a renewal process. As long as we are healthy and balanced the good gut bacteria wins. Take for example medication, antibiotics, poor diet, it goes as far back as to impaired gut microbiomes due to c-sections and bottle feeding, it all creates an environment in favor of opportunistic gut bacteria that overtime wreak havoc in our digestive system and to our immune system. Several scientists including Hippocrates said “all disease begins in the gut.”
How inflammation can affect hair pulling
If the immune system goes to work it causes inflammation, it’s the healing response of the body to a trigger. It can be you scratch your knee and its red and swollen, or you eat unhealthy food and your immune system is trying to contain the trigger food and eliminate it. An inflammation any given trigger can even manifest itself in an inflamed hair follicle causing an itching sensation.
Let’s have an ever closer look to what generally causes such inflammation.
The liver’s role in hair pulling
Amongst its many jobs one is to filter our blood, which contains pathogens, unwanted virus and bacteria. In a fully functional body it will discharge all of those. With poor diet and poor immune system the pathogens are not properly marked, the liver can not detect and discharge as needed and they circulate in the bloodstream. At times the liver absorbs and stores them for later disposal, and they stay dormant within our body.
If we have a liver unfriendly diet it never gets the opportunity to detox itself, all the pathogens stored remain inside the liver and cause over time a sluggish liver function. We have a toxicity build up and an impaired function of the liver. Means the immune system has to work harder in the bloodstream. When the immune system fights off the pathogens inflammations occur and the released toxins. For example dermatoxins, can cause a noticeable itchy, red scalp.
Food sensitivities as a root cause for hair pulling?
You may not even be aware of it, but you might suffer from food sensitivities. More people than they know have food sensitivities and pulling hair might just be a symptom. Over years you consume the usual culprits of gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy. With each meal your body sends a full force immune response causing inflammation on your gut. With time this damages the inner lining of your gut making it permeable and voila you have leaky gut without knowing. Little food particles escape into the blood stream and your immune system is racing through your body trying to capture them, causing irritations, perhaps as a dermatoxin or a neurotoxin, literally forcing your hand.
Malnutrition, poor nutrient absorption, deficiencies as triggers to hair and eyelash pulling?
Let’s assume you contracted leaky gut, that means you now run risk that your stomach doesn’t operate properly. Consequences are you become nutrient deficiency. Being low in iron, B-Vitamins, Minerals etc. will impair your body functions. Poor Vitamin A,B,C,D low magnesium, Zinc and copper can cause itchy skin and can cause hair-loss-Less nutrition reaches your hair and eye lashes, usually with a massive time delay of months, it might manifest in an itch as a body sending you warning signals.
You are basically ruled by the ecosystem in your gut. Would a different perspective empower you to no longer feel like a helpless victim? Would that empower you to kick those little alien like virus’, bacteria and what not and take control over them ?!
Your body never betrays you!
I can promise you your body never betrays you, it sends you warning signals and communicates with you if something is out of whack . Sadly, we have lost connection and understanding on how good we are meant to feel in our body.
I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice or recommendation per say. Please do consult your health care professional team. I do not offer any magical cure this post merely reflects my personal experience from a different perspective that might be worth while looking into. Each health history is different therefore there is no “ one fits all” solution, but some ideas might resonate with you, some ideas you may have never heard of before, keep an open mind.
Here a few points to consider in your detective work as you figure out your own personal root causes to hair pulling:
– What other symptoms do you have?
– Write a journal to detect behavioral, environmental or food related triggers
-check your blood works for: estrogens and hormonal (Thyroid )levels and vitamin & mineral deficiencies
– Have a stool analysis done
– consider an elimination diet
If any of these points resonates with you and you have further questions or looking into assistance in diet and lifestyle changes, feel free to contact me directly
About the author
12 years abroad and 2 kids later we settled down in Panama where I follow my passion as integrated nutrition & health coach. Years of suffering from an undiagnosed auto-immune disease and thousand of hours of self study and trial and error I recognized a underlying pattern on systematic illness and I set out on a journey to sync others with their bodies. Check out my blog: http://www.journeyboons.com