As someone who has personally suffered from unexplained temporary hair loss in the past, I was not at all surprised to learn of the many correlations between gluten sensitivity and hair loss. Personally speaking, I know that when I maintain a strict gluten-free diet, my hair is thick and lovely, and when hidden gluten sneaks consistently into my diet, the thinning begins again.
The more research I have done on this subject, the more common it seems that people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease have to deal with unfortunate, correlating hair loss.
I contacted three experts on the subject of hair loss correlated to gluten sensitivity: a registered dietician, a naturopathic doctor, and a mother. Here is what they had to say:
- The Registered Dietician: Shelley Case, RD is the author of the book Gluten-Free Diet and is one of the foremost international nutrition experts on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. When I contacted Shelley to ask about a possible correlation between hair loss and gluten sensitivity and whether she has seen this condition in any of her patients, she had this to say: “I personally have not seen any clients with this problem. However, there is an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata that has been reported to be linked with celiac disease.” Shelley also provided an extensive list of resources to support this correlation. Though she did also warn, “however, some reports do not show this association.”
- The Naturopathic Doctor: Christine Doherty, ND discovered the cause of her plaguing symptoms in her practice as a naturopathic doctor when she discovered that she had celiac disease. Dr. Doherty mentioned several correlating causes of hair loss in gluten sensitive individuals including autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata, which “if the immune system is going crazy will cause patch hair loss.” She also mentioned hypothyroidism or low thyroid function, of which “one of the most common symptoms is diffuse hair loss.” Other potentially related causes include “hormonal changes” like menopause and pregnancy, and as stated by Dr. Doherty, “there is an association with celiacs going through early menopause.” The final possible cause that she suggested is “of course nutritional. Biotin, a B vitamin, is needed for normal hair and nail growth and generalized mineral deficiency is also a common problem leading to hair loss.” Dr. Christine has even developed her own line of gluten-free vitamins specifically targeted to address the health needs of those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
- The Mother: When Eileen Simpson, mother and author of the blog EileenSimpson.com, was diagnosed with celiac disease three years ago, she also had her son tested. His tests came back a weak negative, and Eileen says that even though her “instincts were my son was a celiac, I was so happy that he might not be, that I went along with the doctor,” — doctor who firmly believed that the best choice was to “wait and see.” A couple of months later, a patch of her son’s hair fell out and the doctor diagnosed him with “unrelated alopecia areata.” Soon after that his moods changed and he was diagnosed with ADD. “Then the BIG day happened! In 24 hours he lost all of his body hair. Every bit of it including his eyebrows and eyelashes.” At this point Eileen said that she “felt very guilty since I knew it was gluten.” She found a local dermatologist who diagnosed her son with dermatitis hepertiformis, which “proved beyond a doubt that he had celiac.” Eileen immediately put him on a gluten-free diet and his hair started growing back. Today, over a year later, his hair is 95% back, the ADD is gone and he is doing very well. Eileen says that they just “feel lucky that we found his celiac condition early in his life.” And as for the possibility of hair loss correlating with your gluten sensitivity, Eileen wisely says, “what harm would there be in trying a gluten-free diet if you have alopecia?”
If you are gluten sensitive and plagued by hair loss, we at Gluten Free Fox recommend consulting your doctor. Before changing your diet or trying out new supplements, ask you doctor if these might work for you.