Scalp issues are quite common among my clients at People Hairdressing. I regularly see conditions like oily scalps, dry scalps and light psoriasis. But very rarely do I see a case of psoriasis so extreme that it causes hair loss. One of my brave clients (who wishes to remain anonymous) has been suffering from psoriasis for years, and it only recently became so severe that it caused her hair to fall out in clumps. As you can imagine, she tried every conventional method to address the problem. However, after doing in-depth research and consulting with a naturopath she looked into holistic alternatives. Through her own firsthand experience, my client found that a radical change of diet and modifying her exercise and lifestyle habits would end up playing a huge role in her recovery. Her very honest interview with me is below.
Can you explain your history with psoriasis?
I’ve had mild scalp psoriasis for about 20 years now but it was always manageable through shampoos. I just assumed I would have it for life, that there was no cure and that I just needed to do my best to minimise it. Two years ago, after a very stressful incident, I got very bad psoriasis on my lower legs. It gradually spread and spread until about 80% of my legs were covered. After almost a year it started to disappear, but unfortunately, as it left the legs it spread to the rest of my body and scalp. The dermatologist diagnosed me as having Erythodermic psoriasis which is the worst (and most dangerous) psoriasis of all.
How did psoriasis effect your scalp and hair growth?
At its worst, about six months ago, I noticed dramatic hair loss due to the psoriasis. My hair fell out in clumps and I had several large bald patches over my scalp. Some of my face was also affected for the first time ever – my brows, chin and nose creases.
What treatments have you tried in the past?
Special shampoos for psoriasis and, more recently, topical ointments.
You went to see a naturopath didn’t you? What advice did she give you relating to exercise?
Yes. I was advised by my naturopath to discontinue long distance running (10km – 15km) which I was doing quite a lot. She believed it contributed to the inflammation of the psoriasis. She explained that the body thinks it is under attack due to the physical stress caused on a long run. And this was the middle of summer which made it worse!
But she also told me to continue other exercise, such as gym and shorter runs. The thinking being that whatever makes you happy will obviously be very good for managing stress levels. I also needed to exercise as I was beginning to get quite depressed by the state of my skin and hair and the pain I was experiencing.
You mentioned topical treatments and ointments – did any work?
Some of the shampoos gave me some temporary relief. But it would always come back. When I was at my worst six months ago it was so bad that nothing really worked at all. The psoriasis had spread to over 80% of my skin. By the time I got into see a dermatologist, after a three month wait, I needed to take strong medication to ‘knock the psoriasis well and truly on the head’. My naturopath agreed and said Western medicine was needed in my case because things had got so bad. No natural remedy would have had much of an effect at this point.
Did you need to change your diet?
Yes. After several conversations with my naturopath I changed my diet dramatically. I embraced a 100% paleo lifestyle. In fact, I went one step further, and followed the Auto Immune Protocol (AIP). So on top of paleo (no grains, legumes, sugar or dairy) I followed the AIP regime of no eggs, nuts, nightshades, nuts, seeds, alcohol and coffee. After three months on AIP I went back to regular paleo. This meant re-introducing eggs, nuts, nightshades into my diet as well as alcohol and coffee sparingly. My naturopath also recommended herbal vitamins including Theracurmin and Lymphotox.
In the end what worked best to heal your psoriasis?
I think all of these things. So the AIP paleo diet, dramatic reduction in alcohol, herbs, a reduction in long distance running as well as working on my stress management helped me, on top of the ‘brutal’ Western medications I had to take because of how severe my condition was. I now also take heavy duty probiotics and digestive enzymes every day. Many of the good things I’ve been doing have been aimed at healing my gut which many say is the key to better managing auto-immune disease.
You told me you introduced marrow gelatine into your diet. Can you explain why?
Yes, every week I make a batch of grass fed organic beef or chicken stock and drink a cup of it daily much like a soup. I kept reading about the benefits of good quality gelatinous stock or ‘bone broth‘ for auto immune diseases. Most paleo proponents advocate drinking grass-fed, homemade, organic bone broth. I simmer it for up to 48 hours to really leach out the glycine and collagen from the bones and connective tissues. As we all know, skin and hair require these minerals to grow healthily. I truly believe this routine was one of the main reasons as to why my hair recovered so quickly from the psoriasis.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I am hoping that by continuing to follow the paleo lifestyle, healing my gut and drinking lots of quality bone broth I will see no return of the psoriasis, including that which forms on my scalp. I really wish I had eaten this way all those years ago so that I did not have to suffer from scalp psoriasis! But I can’t regret it too much, at least I am on the right path now and will be able to wear black with total confidence from here on in! So far, so good!