Most people said their diet isn’t affected by alopecia or vice versa, but some talked about food and diet as:
- possible triggers for their alopecia starting or becoming more extensive;
Emily and Emma had blood tests when they first had alopecia and the results showed low iron levels. However, Emily points out that her alopecia continued after taking iron tablets. Others also said that it can be frustrating when people assume that they have alopecia because they have a ‘bad’ diet or are otherwise unhealthy. Meghan takes multivitamins “just to be safe” because she’s vegetarian and says that being a university student means she doesn’t always eat well. Ben’s doctor ran allergy tests which showed he was intolerant to gluten. He cut gluten out of his diet and, although his alopecia continued, Ben says he feels and looks healthier than before.
- helping regrowth of hair;
Although their doctors had said that diet was unlikely to make much of a difference to their alopecia areata, some young people felt it was worth having a healthy diet in case it helped regrowth. Hannah thinks a healthier diet helped her hair regrow. Rochelle says she’s trying to “drink more water, have more fruits, less takeaways and less fizzy drinks” as well as drink less alcohol and cut down on desserts. Grace became “more conscious of nutrition” and says she would prefer to be “pumping all the vitamins in” from food than using steroids or minoxidil. Emily heard that a gluten-free diet could help regrowth and, although she’s “sceptical”, she might try it as “an experiment”. Krista had heard of a strict diet of “strange meals” for hair growth but didn’t think it was for her: “I love my food, I don’t really want to eat mackerel with beetroot.”
- interacting with treatments and side effects;
Emma found methotrexate tablets made her felt sick a lot of the time and she couldn’t drink alcohol while taking them, which affected her social life. Grace said oral steroids (tablets) led to water retention and weight gain which “wasn’t very appealing”. She became more conscious of what she ate in order to maintain her body weight.
- linking to the emotional impacts of alopecia;
Some said that their appetite and cooking routines were affected when they felt low or less confident because of alopecia. For a long time, Arti’s housemate didn’t know she had alopecia and, because of this, Arti spent more time in her room and “didn’t cook as much”. Emily thinks that it’s good that she’s quite independent and lives away from home at university, as otherwise she might “settle into this cycle of feeling terrible” and not going out to buy food. Elizabeth said alopecia played a role in her “body image problems” which led to her getting help for “self-harm, a rubbish relationship with food, depression and anxiety”. Favourite foods could make people feel better on a low day. As Kayla explained, “my go-to is chocolate if I’m ever feeling down”.