Every morning I wake and stumble into the bathroom only to be confronted by one of my greatest frustrations. My hair. Just the thought of facing my follicles is anxiety inducing. I have thyroid disease. A notorious stressor of tresses. I also have RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis), and take medication to control my immune system. Plaquenil and other DMARDS (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs) are merciless in their attempt to rid our scalps of adornment. So I have a double whammy in the way of illness-induced alopecia. I think I nearly destroyed my marriage moaning and groaning about it. These days, I keep quiet, and simmer in silence while using some tricks to make my fine hair look fuller.
Many people with autoimmune illness have the very same complaint: my hair falls out in clumps! I have bald patches. My hair thins cyclically and I don’t know what to do! Often, well-meaning folks try to point us in the direction of Rogaine, not realizing that a Minoxidil-like treatment won’t work for individuals with autoimmune or medication-based hair loss. It says so right there on the box!
Well then what CAN we do? Now, if you’ve been reading my articles, you know what’s coming next. Nutrition! The simple fact is that nutrition is the starting place for healing. Food, vitamins, aminos, fats and fiber are our fuel and our medicine. If you aren’t eating well, and mostly whole, natural foods, with at least some of it raw –you are never going to be at your best. If you were born with fine, thin hair, you’ll never have luxuriant tresses – no matter what you eat – but a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of protein and iron can make a difference.
Hair is 98 per cent protein and instantly responds to the addition of protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry, eggs, low-fat cheese and other dairy products, seeds and nuts. Fish packs a double punch of protein combined with health-building essential fatty acids and natural oils. Nuts have B vitamins and fiber. Eggs are quick, easy and very versatile. I like to start each morning with an egg or piece of fruit and a freshly juiced citrus, coconut, organic yoghurt, and vitamin smoothie. It tastes decadent, but is actually amazingly good for us thyroidians. Vegan and vegetarian diets can be nutritionally complete as long as you are eating a wide variety of whole foods.
Sugars and starches, soft drinks, and junk food snacks belong in the dead food compost heap proven to trigger body chemistry imbalances, as do caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. Smoking has been conclusively proven to damage many important nutrients while nicotine of any type will destroy Vitamin C. Moreover, studies show that smoking can actually damage your thyroid! If you can’t completely eliminate foods that are not good for your hair, consider cranking up your hair vitamins and at least cutting back on the unhealthy habits. Look for foods that contain a lot of A, E, and B vitamins, as well as essential fatty acids. If you have a tendency to crash diet or participate in food-limiting fad diets, you encourage hair loss. Cut back on nutrition with restrictive dieting and you will most likely experience hair loss a month later.
But what can we do about the visual look of thin hair? Fear not, my lovelies. I have some tried and true methods to fool the onlookers and thrill the eyes. There are some amazing products out there that really boost volume. One of my favorite lines of product is the big sexy hair line. This stuff works! Another line that offers both economy and volume is Aussie and its products geared toward thickening. Be sure to concentrate the mousses and thickening sprays towards the roots of the hair. They can make the ends look brittle and frizzy.
Shampoos and conditioners also offer some support, and you can go mainstream with products by Aussie and Pantene, which work great, or spring for slightly higher-priced winners like Paul Mitchell, Kiehls, or Bumble and Bumble, all of which get high marks. For those of you who want a volume boost, but don’t need to wash daily, there has been a renewed interest in “dry shampoos” lately. These are a blessing for mornings when you’ve become far too intimate with that snooze button or junior has decided to repaint the dining room with cereal before you have to run out the door! They absorb oil, thicken slightly and leave a nice scent. Just literally spray, brush and go! Many of the brands I’ve mentioned offer them as part of their line now. Give ’em a try. I think you’ll be thrilled by how convenient they are. And fellas, don’t be afraid to try these tricks, too. A fuller, thicker head of hair makes both men and women feel more confident.
Heated styling tools, like flat irons and crimping irons, offer a quick but really significant boost to root volume. When used in conjunction with a setting spray, like Spray and Play by big sexy hair, you can really get that crown bump that is currently so popular. Heavy use of these types of irons can damage hair, however, so you might want to save that one for special occasions. I use this trick when I want to pull out my full Audrey Hepburn complete with cat eyes and 1960s outfit!
I have an added and unusual problem in that the Plaquenil causes a change in the hair pigment, and causes color to drop out. As if the hair loss weren’t bad enough! It can literally turn hair a semi-clear, ginger ale type of color. Since coloring the hair every two weeks only adds insult to injury as far as damage goes, I use non-permanent products designed to simply tint the hair and extend my color sessions out as far as I can. Jazzing and Clairol’s Ion offer a wide range of colors that are fairly subtle, but effective. Beauty supply stores sell several different brands of more extreme color, such as Manic Panic and In the Zone. I’ve actually mixed these colors and added conditioner and had success with toning them down. It’s up to you how wild you want to go. If you feel uncomfortable doing this on your own, have your hairstylist give you some tips and instructions for doing it at home. It saves a lot of dough and you can just turn it into a spa day, complete with facial and an indulgent, luxuriant (bubble) bath!
The key is to experiment, play with different options and ideas and see what works or what you like and remember, nothing looks more beautiful than a gal with a sassy swing in her step and a smile on her face or a guy with a firm step and forward gaze. It’s about the whole package, and the delivery is first class all the way!
1. Mary Shomon’s Hair Loss Solutions (for Thyroid Patients)
2. Mary Shomon’s Thyroid Guide to Hair Loss
Thanks for this great reminder on the importance of eating well and cutting down on junk. It’s easy to forget that what we eat affects out hair too.
I always feel better if my hair is looking its best. Usually it’s not. But the list of products you give is helpful too. will look out for them. 🙂 have a great hair day.
Thanks for commenting, Sharklet. Glad you liked Anita’s article.
I just love your upbeat writing style. We were blessed with a mess of hair in our family that basically just like my health I took for granted. I am a follicular thyroid cancer survivor and it took me awhile to realize that I am a thyroid disease patient as well. It took me by surprise when I started to lose more than what would be considered a normal amount of hair and the first time I got a handful I thought for sure I was slowly but surely dying a slow death. You never really hear about hair loss like that unless someone is having chemo.
My point is this. For a few years I was swinging hypo to hyper because my dose of thyroid replacement was not right for me. I can see it all clearly now because I am educated about this crazy disease. I can look back at pictures and know if I was hypo or hyper by what my hair was doing. Now that I am in a normal range with my TSH my hair is coming back and it is shiny like it used to be. Who would have ever thought?
In conjuction with the right levels we have incorporated better nutrition into our lifestyle and I know it has made a difference. I also think it will benefit my son in his health and life span. My goal is to lean towards organic and less meat and minimal processed foods. A friend of mine said “Eat more from a plant than what was manufactured in a plant” and I keep those words in my mind when shopping for food. I try to only buy what we will need for three or four days at a time so there is less available to consume which is a handy trick for dieting as well. This does not mean we did not have chocolate mousse cake on Sunday, lol. Little changes here and there without becoming neurotic about it can make a big difference. My family is living proof.
Thank you again for sharing your expertise in this area. I really look forward to reading your articles.
thanks for the props guys. and yes, nutrition is key. it’s ok and human to slack once in awhile, but on an ongoing basis, it’s even more important for us than for the average person. donna, you nailed it. like michael pollan says: eat whole food, mostly plants, not too much.
and sharklet, i just like your name!!! heh.
wonderful ideas and tips!Thank you so much! I have personally used the dry spray cleaner available at Walmart for a smart price, it works great! My husband also used it a few times, he has hypothyroid. My Dr also recently suggested evening primrose oil for my thinning hair, but do be careful to look up supplements to find if they interact with your meds. supplements may seem harmless but some can cause serious interactions. I have been struggling with my pre mature gray hair for too many years to count, lol since the age of 16. I have previously used permanent dies but now have trouble keeping the color too. I have heard that you can use cool-aid, the type without sugar to stain the hair, is anyone familiar with that or have tried it? Thanks again I love what you have to say!
yep. i have used koolaid. it DOES indeed stain the hair. and EVERYthing else it touches, so be sure to use gloves. i think most ppl don’t use it because it only comes in bright, not often found in nature colors. i love the jazzing tho, as it’s subtle enough for most of us. but i fully support the koolaid if you like bright!
eve primrose oil can indeed help, mostly due to omega’s that just plain old do ya good. i eat a lot of fish, so i don’t usually supplement.
good luck with the hair and send us a photo if you go blue!!
It’s funny you mention evening primrose, Heide, as this is also what Mary Shomon recommends. I believe one of the links I added at the bottom of Anita’s article talks a little about this too. Kool-Aid is indeed a fab idea – I didn’t even know that this was possible, but I could imagine that it would provide some fab results! Fish oil can also be great, especially for dry eyes and mouth too.
Thank you for sharing your experience with the Plaquenil and bleaching/hair color fading. I thought I was going nuts when my dye job seemed to start lasting just a few weeks and my roots looked white. I don’t know what my solution is going to be – but I’m just glad to hear I’m not the only one!
I’m glad you know you’re not alone, but it must still be very frustrating to have to deal with Plaquenil’s stupid side effects.
the color loss is an irritation, isn’t it? and very particular to the plaq. i actually took a further step of coloring my hair several shades lighter, it’s now a very light reddish blonde. a lot easier to disguise both the thinness and the color weirdness.
i’m curious about your RA (maybe) status. are you sero negative or is it something else? i just wrote an article about my 6 year struggle with lyme disease. i originally went on the plaq as a sero neg person, but my joint issues are really the result of lyme. just wondering if you’d investigated that possibility.
cheers and here’s to your health!
Hey aj – I read about your recent lyme discovery. Unfortunately, I am a classic, sero positive RA case (RF + and Anti-CCP +). By the time I was diagnosed, I already had erosions in my feet, too. In addition to Plaq, I also take Enbrel. Fortunately, it seems to be in remission – if only it weren’t for those pesky side effects!