Donald asks…

PCOS -I have been Dignosed with this?

PCOS is Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). I was wondering if there is anyway I could get rid of this.Its nice not having your period but I really don’t want this.Please tell me how I would get rid of it

Helen answers:

PCOS has no cure, but there are treatments to make it more manageable.

As taken from website:
Traditional treatments have been difficult, expensive and have limited success when used alone. Infertility treatments include weight loss diets, ovulation medications (clomiphene,letrozole, Follistim, Gonal-F), ovarian drilling surgery and IVF. Other symptoms have been managed by anti-androgen medication (birth control pills, spironolactone, flutamide or finasteride).

Ovarian drilling can be performed at the time of laparoscopy. A laser fibre or electrosurgical needle is used to puncture the ovary 10-12 times. This treatment results in a dramatic lowering of male hormones within days. Studies have shown that up to 80% will benefit from such treatment. Many who failed to ovulate with letrozole or metformin therapy will respond when rechallenged with these medications after ovarian drilling. Interestingly, women in these studies who are smokers, rarely responded to the drilling procedure. Side effects are rare, but may result in adhesion formation or ovarian failure if the procedure is performed by an inexperienced surgeon.

For women in the reproductive age range, polycystic ovary syndrome is a serious, common cause of infertility, because of the endocrine abnormalities which accompany elevated insulin levels. There is increasing evidence that this endocrine abnormality can be reversed by treatment with widely available standard medications which are leading medicines used in this country for the treatment of adult onset diabetes, metformin (Glucophage 500 or 850 mg three times per day or 1000mg twice daily with meals), pioglitazone (Actos 15-30 mg once a day), rosiglitazone (Avandia 4-8 mg once daily) or a combination of these medications. These medications have been shown to reverse the endocrine abnormalities seen with polycystic ovary syndrome within two or three months. They can result in decreased hair loss, diminished facial and body hair growth, normalization of elevated blood pressure, regulation or menses, weight loss, reduction in cardiovascular risk factors, normal fertility, and a reduced risk of miscarriage. We have seen pregnancies result in less than two months in woman who conceived in their very first ovulatory menstrual cycle. By six months over 90% of women treated with insulin-lowering agents, diet and exercise will resume regular menses.

The medical literature suggests that the endocrinopathy in most patients with polycystic ovary syndrome can be resolved with insulin lowering therapy. This is clinically very important because the therapy reduces hirsutism, obesity, blood pressure, triglyceride levels, elevated blood clotting factors and facilitates reestablishment of the normal pituitary ovarian cycle, thus often allowing resumption of normal ovulatory cycles and pregnancy. We know the polycystic ovary syndrome is associated with increased risk of heart attack and stroke because of the associated heart attack and stroke risk factors, hypertension, obesity, hyperandrogenism, hypertriglyceridemia, and these are to a large degree resolved by therapy with these medications.

Side effects are rare. Although metformin, rosiglitazone and pioglitazone lower elevated blood sugar levels in diabetics, when given to nondiabetic patients, they only lower insulin levels. Blood sugar levels will not change. In fact, episodes of “hypoglycemic attacks” appear to be reduced.

METFORMIN (Glucophage):
When first starting this medication, people will often experience upset stomach or diarrhea which usually resolves after the first week. This side effect can be minimized by taking metformin with a meal and starting with a low dose. I recommend that our patients start with one 500 mg pill daily the first week and increase to twice a day during the second week. If after the second week GI side effects are minimal, the dose is increased to 850 mg twice daily. Surprisingly, we have found that the extended release version, Glucophage XR seems to be associated with less weight loss as compared to the generic preparation. Patients with reduced renal function (creatinine >1.5 or creatinine clearance <60%) are at a higher risk for a rare side effect of metformin therapy called lactic acidosis, and the drug should be given cautiously, if at all, to such patients. Patients taking metformin should notify their physician and discontinue the medication:

48 hours before surgery
48 hours before an IVP Xray study or other Xrays where an intravenous dye is administered
If you experience shortness of breath, severe muscle weakness or chest pain
If you use alcohol excessively
These medications belong to a class of medications called PPAR gamma agonists. They enhance the ability of smooth muscle to metabolize sugar, thereby reducing insulin resistance. The FDA has recently reviewed the safety of troglitazone (and reports that 35 patients out of approximately 1.5 million have either died or required liver transplant.) Therefore Rezulin has been removed from the market. As the new alternatives to troglitazone, (Rezulin), Rosiglitaone (Avandia) and pioglitazone (Actos) are metabolized by different liver enzymes experience has shown that these medications appear to pose minimal risk of hepatotoxicity.

Robert asks…

whats the best cure for gout?

Helen answers:

Gout is a common type of arthritis that occurs when an excessive amount of uric acid in the blood, tissues and urine crystallizes in the joints. People who have gout are unable to break down and excrete uric acid, a byproduct of digesting certain foods. It usually comes on suddenly, and can last from a few hours to several days. It can cause extremely sore toes or other areas of the foot, and because it frequently manifests itself in the big toe, it is also known as “gouty big toe”. Another name is “gouty arthritis”. Gout can also appear in an ear, heel of the hand, small hand joints, ankles, knees, elbows, or wrists with inflammation, swelling and intense pain from the build-up of uric acid crystals. Uric acid is the end product of the metabolism of a class of chemicals known as purines. In people with gout, the body does not have enough of the digestive enzyme uricase, and, as a result, uric acid builds up and crystallizes. Left uncontrolled, excessive excretion of uric acid in the urine can lead to the development of painful kidney stones, kidney disease, and even kidney failure.

Gout is associated with high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and uric acid kidney stones.

It is estimated that up to 2 million people have gout. Between 75-90% of gout sufferers are middle-aged males and 25% have family members with it. In women, uric acid starts building up after menopause, quite possibly due to the drop in estrogen.

Traditional Treatment

Traditional treatment is high doses of NSAIDS or indomethacin to kill the pain, anti-inflammatories, and drugs, such as allopurinol, that inhibit formation of uric acid. Allopurinol, however, has some serious side effects, such as skin eruptions, liver toxicity, inflammation of the blood vessels, and possible weakening of kidney function by forcing the kidneys to work too hard to excrete the uric acid. If you have kidney problems and use this drug, be sure to be carefully monitored. Another drug that is used is colchicine, but it, too, has serious side effects, including numbness in the hands and feet, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weakness, hair loss, and abnormal bleeding or bruising. Cortisone is used for acute attacks, but should not be used for extended periods.

A new gout drug, febuxostat, which is awaiting FDA approval (2005), has proven to be very beneficial in reducing urate levels. 81% of patients taking the drug had healthy urate levels of less than 6 mg/dl, compared with only 39% who took 300 mg per day of allopurinol, the most widely prescribed gout drug.

Your doctor can diagnose whether or not you have gout either through a blood test or by taking some fluid from an affected joint and analyzing it for urate crystals.

Gout is caused by high blood levels of uric acid that crystallize and form painful deposits in the joints. Traditional thinking tells us that gout is the result of excessive amounts of alcohol, protein, heavy foods, coffee and soft drinks in your diet. These foods cause uric acid levels to rise. Other foods that increase uric acid are anchovies, asparagus, legumes, mushrooms, meat, organ meat, and shellfish. Reduction in consumption of these foods is very often successful in reducing or eliminating gout.

While gout is a hereditary metabolic disorder in some people, usually something else actually causes uric acid levels to rise and trigger gout attacks. With approximately one million people suffering from gout, it is certainly a fairly common ailment. However, with understanding of its causes you can eliminate those painful attacks.

Food allergies may lead to gout. When people who are sensitive to certain foods eliminate them from their diet many find that their gout goes away, too.

Gout is more common in overweight people. Nearly half of the people with gout are at least 15% above their recommended weight. As mentioned below, dieting can trigger gout attacks.

Some other causes:

• Stress raises uric acid levels

• Surgery

• Injury

• Candida or use of antibiotics

• Vitamin deficiency, especially B5, A and E

• Chemotherapy – uric acid is released in extreme amounts due to the cellular destruction.

• Hypothyroidism is often involved with gout. See our Thyroid section for more information.

• A drop in barometric pressure may trigger an attack.

• Kidney failure may make it more difficult to rid the body of uric acid, thereby triggering gout.

• Diseases such as leukemia, multiple myeloma and psoriasis are associated with gout.

While traditional thinking is that certain foods cause gout, recent research, however, indicates that lead poisoning may be another possible cause. The lead poisoning makes the aldosterone system insensitive to potassium concentration and increases the potassium content of the blood. A potassium deficiency can increase urate levels in the blood. Aldosterone is a hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex (part of the adrenal gland) that is important in the control of blood pressure and the regulation of sodium and potassium concentration. It would be very interesting for us to know how many people with gout have high blood pressure. If you do, let us know. To test for lead poisoning you can either have a hair analysis or a heavy metals blood test done. Possibly the best way to test lead levels is to have an EDTA mobilization test done. If the results indicate that you are high in lead (or other heavy metals) one of our heavy metals detoxification clay baths may be helpful.

There are other causes for potassium loss that may trigger gout:

• Fasting

• Surgery

• Diuretics – lead to reduced sodium and potassium. Other short-term effects may include increases in cholesterol and glucose levels and biochemical changes that affect the levels of magnesium and calcium in the body. They may also increase uric acid levels, triggering gout. This effect is especially important for people who use diuretics continually for either dieting or hypertension.

To correct the lack of potassium (the recommended intake is 3,500 mg, but it is safe to take considerably more) take supplements or eat foods high in potassium, such as baked potato, with skin (844), 1 cup cooked spinach (838), ½ cup dried peaches (784), ½ medium avocado (604), 1 cup cantaloupe (494), ½ cup boiled lima beans (478), medium banana (451), 1 cup orange juice (436), 15 raw baby carrots (420), 1 cup of skim milk (406), 1 cup nonfat yogurt (390), ½ cup non-salted tomato sauce (350), 4 oz. Lean hamburger (349), ½ cup canned kidney beans (329), yams, dried prunes, etc. If you eat enough of these fruits and vegetables you will not need to take a potassium supplement. Potassium makes the acid crystals go into solution so they can be eliminated.

Some Possible Causes of Elevated Uric Acid Levels
Medication Diuretics used for weight loss or heart disease, insulin, some antibiotics, medication for rheumatoid arthritis, or an overdose of B vitamins can cause uric acid levels to rise. Diuretics reduce sodium, magnesium, calcium and potassium (among other things) levels. If you need to use a diuretic, see our natural herbal products for ones with fewer side effects. One customer reported getting gout when he took beta-blockers for his high blood pressure.

Poor kidney function When kidneys are not functioning at optimum levels, they lose their ability to excrete uric acid from the body. This situation may be due to various kidney problems or over-consumption of alcohol. When alcohol is metabolized, lactic acid is produced, which hinders uric acid excretion by the kidneys.

Dieting Severe dieting or fasting can cause excess lactic acid, which hinders uric acid excretion by the kidneys. Crash and severe calorie restriction diets shock your metabolism and can trigger a gout attack. Dieting may also cause a loss of potassium, which can increase urate levels in the blood. As mentioned above, some dieters also use diuretics to speed the process, and they can rob the body of potassium and other minerals, triggering a gout attack. It seems to be a vicious circle! However, a proper diet that is done slowly is recommended because losing weight will reduce serum levels of uric acid.

Diet Traditional thinking tells us that gout is the result of excessive amounts of alcohol, protein, heavy foods, coffee and soft drinks in your diet. Certain foods contain high levels of purine which can cause uric acid levels to rise. Purine is a protein substance that is transformed into uric acid during digestion. Reduction in consumption of these foods is very often successful in reducing or eliminating gout.

A potassium deficiency can increase urate levels in the blood. This is very important, and ways to correct it are discussed above and under the diuretics section.

Foods and Other Things to Avoid
• Meat: organ meats, offal, meat extracts, veal, bacon, sweetbreads, meat gravies and broths, consumme/bullion

• Poultry: turkey, goose

• Seafood: salmon, mackerel, trout, cod, herring, sardines, anchovies, mussels, crab, shrimp

• Vegetables: peas, beans, lentils, asparagus, mushrooms, cooked spinach, rhubarb, cauliflower

• Yeast products: baked goods, beer

• Alcohol – it increases the production of uric acid and inhibits its excretion by the kidneys

• Coffee – it accelerates the breakdown of protein into uric acid

• All fried foods – they cause a depletion of vitamin E, which can cause uric acid to rise

• Cream and ice cream

• Rich desserts

• Spices

• Pastries

• Simple sugars, simple carbohydrates and saturated fats – they increase your body’s production of uric acid and impair your kidneys’ ability to get rid of it. Eliminate fructose (found in food and drinks, like sodas)

• White flour

• Aspirin can raise uric acid levels. If you need to use pain killers, only use ones with ibuprofen.

• Oatmeal

• Whole grains

• Caffeine – it impairs kidney function, which is needed to get uric acid out of the body.

• One of the best ways to prevent gout is to drink at least 6-8 eight ounce glasses of water, fresh juices or herb tea daily, especially at the first signs of gout. This will keep your urine diluted and will help your body excrete uric acid and prevent crystals from forming.

• Eat foods high in potassium, as mentioned above.

• Eating generous amounts of other fruits and vegetables helps keep uric acid crystals in solution.

• Take the flavonoid quercetin – see below under Folk Remedies. This should be part of your permanent gout-prevention diet.

• Having sex prevents men from getting gout. It seems that increased sexual activity reduces uric acid levels in fertile men.

• Lemon juice prevents gout attacks by stimulating the formation of calcium carbonate in the body. Calcium carbonate neutralizes acids in the body, including uric acid that triggers gout attacks. After each meal drink the juice of one freshly squeezed lemon in a glass of lukewarm water. To get more juice out of the lemon, bring it to room temperature, then roll it around on the counter with the palm of your hand.

• Taking ½ teaspoon of baking soda with meals will prevent gout attacks. This will help alkalize the body.

• Keep the leg elevated.

• A high fiber diet also aids in the elimination of uric acid by absorbing bile acids formed in the liver. These bile acids can act as a precursor to uric acid.

Low-purine diets are low in vitamins B, E and other antioxidants, so supplementation will be necessary to prevent damage from free radicals that can intensify gouty problems.

B complex One to three 50 mg tablets of the complete B complex daily, plus 500 mg of pantothenic acid (B5) in divided doses to assist the body’s conversion of uric acid into harmless compounds.

Bromelain 500 mg twice daily as an anti-inflammatory.

Fish oil Take 2 grams of fish oil capsules 2x a day to reduce the chances of gouty inflammation.

L-glutamine 500 mg four times daily on an empty stomach – is an antacid.

L-glutathione 500 mg twice daily on an empty stomach – increases renal cleansing of uric acid.

L-glycine 500 mg four times daily between meals – acts as an antacid.

L-methionine 250 mg twice daily on an empty stomach – detoxifies purines.

Magnesium citrate 400 mg three times a day – an anti-spasmodic to relieve pain.

Shark cartilage used on a daily basis of 3-6 capsules/day can make the pain disappear and allow you to eat previously forbidden foods within one week without experiancing pain in the affected joint. After approximately one month of continuous use, you may stop taking the cartilage until the pain reoccurs. At this point you will probably only need to take the cartilage (3-6 capsules) for a week or two. You may continue this on/off cycle as needed. Your uric acid level may return to normal, but even if it doesn’t, the pain will go away.

Tissue salts To prevent the formation of uric acid crystals, take two tablets of 6X Silicea three times a day. During a gout attack, increase the dosage to three tablets and add an equal amount of Nat. Phos. And Nat. Sulph.

Vitamin C 1,000 mg per hour at the very outset of a gout attack, then reduce to 500-3,000 mg daily for maintenance. Vitamin C helps lower serum uric acid levels.

Vitamin E Low-purine diets are low in vitamin E and fried foods deplete it, so supplementation will be necessary as a deficiency can contribute to the formation of excess uric acid. Begin with 100 IU of natural vitamin E, and slowly increase to 6-800 IU daily.

• Press just below the center of the nose toward the upper lip.

• Press and massage between the ball of the foot and the bottom of the big toe on each foot; then on the left foot only, stimulate a point halfway between the base of the little toe and the heel pad.

• Press inward and upward on the underside of the protuberance at the base of the skull.

• On both hands, press and massage a point on the inside of the pad at the base of the thumb directly beneath the index finger; then on the left palm only, stimulate a point halfway between the base of the little finger and the wrist.

Alfalfa is a good source of minerals and other nutrients that help reduce serum uric acid.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) Add some rose hips to vinegar and boil; dab on affected area. You may need to apply this mixture several times a day for a few weeks. The vinegar changes the blood pH so that the crystals will go into solution and be excreted.

• Mix two teaspoons each of apple cider vinegar and raw honey in a glass of water and drink at mealtime.

• Soak the foot in a mixture of ½ cup of ACV and three cups of hot water.

Bilberry is high in anthocyanosides and flavonoids, which are helpful in overcoming gout.

Black cherry juice Get some natural, concentrated black cherry juice and drink several tablespoons of the concentrate daily. You should expect relief in 48 hours. See our Product.

Black cohash moderates blood acidity.

Blueberries are high in anti-inflammatory compounds called anthocyanins, which help ease the pain of gout.

Buchu tea helps dissolve and flush out uric acid crystals.

Castor oil packs Soak a piece of white flannel in warm castor oil, wring it out and place over the affected area; cover with plastic wrap and apply a heating pad. Do this for one hour twice daily.

Cayenne pepper Boil one tablespoon of pepper in 1 cup of vinegar and 1 cup of water and dab onto the painful joint.

• Mix cayenne with enough wintergreen oil to make a paste and apply to the affected area.

Celery seeds These seeds are quite effective in relieving gout by eliminating uric acid from the body. According to James Duke, Ph.D., a medical botanist formerly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, celery seeds contain about twenty different anti-inflammatory agents. Although there is little scientific research on celery seeds, according to Kerry Bone, a leading expert on herbal remedies in Australia, “it (sic) works brilliantly in patients.” Recommended dosage is 500 mg (standardized to 450 mg of celery seed extract) 2x daily. Note: This remedy is not to be used by pregnant women because of its diuretic effect and the fact that it can encourage uterine contractions, or those with kidney disease because of its potential diuretic effect and that the plant’s oils can worsen kidney inflammation.

• Cook a tablespoon of celery seeds in two cups of water until they are soft; strain and drink 1/2 cup four times a day.

Charcoal Take ½-1 teaspoon of activated charcoal daily.

• Make a poultice using ½ cup of activated charcoal, 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseed and warm water to draw out the toxins.

Cherries If you are lucky enough to have fresh cherries, eating 6-8 cherries daily will relieve the symptoms of gout. This remedy was reported in 1950 by Dr. Ludwig W. Blau who cured his own gout. Frozen and canned cherries may also be used. When you feel an attack coming on, eat 20-30 cherries immediately. Cherries are rich in compounds that prevent the destruction of collagen, which the body uses to form connective tissue. The connective tissue is damaged by gout. Cherries also have an enzyme that neutralizes uric acid and are high in anthocyanins which have high antioxidant properties as well as anti-inflammatory action. For greatest effectiveness eat them between meals.

Devil’s claw reduces uric acid levels and is a natural cleansing agent for toxic impurities. Take 400 mg of the dried extract 3x a day for as long as desired.

DMSO (dimethylsulfoxide) is very effective in relieving pain and swelling caused by inflammation. It helps dissolve crystalline deposits. See our Product.

Garlic Eat several cloves of raw garlic daily. Mince the garlic and add it to black cherry juice for a potent remedy.

Ginger Put 1/3 cup of ground ginger (buy in bulk to keep the cost down) in a bathtub of water and soak for 30 minutes. This will cause you to sweat (a good thing) which will help eliminate the uric acid from your tissues. When you are finished the bath be sure to rinse off thoroughly, as the ginger can cause skin irritation if it dries on your skin.

Grapes are high in alkalines which lessen the acidity of uric acid and aid in its elimination from the body.

Hawthorn is high in anthocyanosides and flavonoids, which are helpful in overcoming gout.

Hydrangea is an anti-inflammatory.

Ice Apply an ice pack for ten minutes, then alternate with a moist hot-towel compress, to soothe and numb the pain.

Mullein Soak mullein leaves in a hot vinegar/water mixture. Pack the leaves on the affected area.

Nettle contains alkaloids which neutralize uric acid.

Parsley acts as a natural diuretic.

Quercetin The flavonoid quercetin inhibits uric acid production in a similar fashion to commonly prescribed drugs for gout. Take 1000 mg of quercetin along with 1,000-1,500 mg of the enzyme bromelain (to enhance absorption) two to three times daily between meals. Bromelain also help reduce the inflammation.

Red clover has traditionally been one of the standard remedies for gout, as well as removing toxins from the body, and treating psoriasis, eczema, and hot flashes. Studies have shown that red clover may thin the blood, so it should not be used by patients who are also taking an anticoagulant medication. While red clover is high in isoflavones, the reason it is helpful in treating gout has not been studied.

Saffron neutralizes uric acid buildup.

Spearmint Make a poultice of spearmint leaves and wrap the affected area.

Strawberries Eating a cup of strawberries with each meal should bring quick relief. They neutralize uric acid.

Yarrow Make a tea by using equal parts of yarrow and stinging nettles; strain, cool and drink several cups a day.

Maria asks…

my wife has psoriatic arthritis with diabetes n high BP. Takes AREVA 20mg/day. what side effects expected?

Helen answers:

The most common side effects associated with Arava® were:

Elevated liver enzymes
Loss or thinning of hair

Sandy asks…

dose aspartame causes bleeding in the brain.?

Helen answers:

The components of aspartame can lead to a number of health problems, as you have read. Side effects can occur gradually, can be immediate, or can be acute reactions.
Adverse reactions and side effects of aspartame include:

blindness in one or both eyes
decreased vision and/or other eye problems such as: blurring, bright flashes, squiggly lines, tunnel vision, decreased night vision
pain in one or both eyes
decreased tears
trouble with contact lenses
bulging eyes

tinnitus – ringing or buzzing sound
severe intolerance of noise
marked hearing impairment

epileptic seizures
headaches, migraines and (some severe)
dizziness, unsteadiness, both
confusion, memory loss, both
severe drowsiness and sleepiness
paresthesia or numbness of the limbs
severe slurring of speech
severe hyperactivity and restless legs
atypical facial pain
severe tremors

severe depression
personality changes

palpitations, tachycardia
shortness of breath
recent high blood pressure

diarrhea, sometimes with blood in stools
abdominal pain
pain when swallowing

Skin and Allergies
itching without a rash
lip and mouth reactions
aggravated respiratory allergies such as asthma

Endocrine and Metabolic
loss of control of diabetes
menstrual changes
marked thinning or loss of hair
marked weight loss
gradual weight gain
aggravated low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
severe PMS

frequency of voiding and burning during urination
excessive thirst, fluid retention, leg swelling, and bloating
increased susceptibility to infection

Additional Symptoms of Aspartame Toxicity include the most critical symptoms of all
irreversible brain damage
birth defects, including mental retardation
peptic ulcers
aspartame addiction and increased craving for sweets
hyperactivity in children
severe depression
aggressive behavior
suicidal tendencies

Aspartame may trigger, mimic, or cause the following illnesses:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Post-Polio Syndrome
Lyme Disease
Grave’s Disease
Meniere’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Mercury sensitivity from Amalgam fillings
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

These are not allergies or sensitivities, but diseases and disease syndromes. Aspartame poisoning is commonly misdiagnosed because aspartame symptoms mock textbook ‘disease’ symptoms, such as Grave’s Disease.

Nancy asks…

help my hair falls out ..I dont know can i make it stop???


Helen answers:

What Causes Hair Loss?
Here are some of the things that can cause hair loss in teens:

Illnesses or medical conditions. Endocrine (hormonal) conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes or thyroid disease, can interfere with hair production and cause hair loss. People with kidney and liver diseases and lupus can also lose hair. The hormone imbalance that occurs in polycystic ovary syndrome can cause hair loss in teen girls as well as adult women.
Medications. Some medications that have hair loss as a side effect may be prescribed for teens. These include acne medicines like isotretinoin, and lithium, which is used to treat bipolar disorder. Diet pills that contain amphetamines can also cause hair loss. Chemotherapy drugs for cancer are probably the most well-known medications that cause hair loss, but some cancers including leukemia and lymphoma can cause hair loss even before treatment begins.
Alopecia areata (pronounced: air-ee-ah-tuh). This skin disease causes hair loss on the scalp and sometimes elsewhere on the body. It affects 1.7% of the population, including more than 4 million people in the United States. Alopecia areata is thought to be an autoimmune disease, in which the hair follicles are damaged by a person’s own immune system. (In autoimmune diseases, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells, tissues, and organs in a person’s body.) Alopecia areata usually starts as one or more small, round bald patches on the scalp and can progress to total hair loss, although total hair loss only happens in a small number of cases. Both guys and girls can get it, and it often begins in childhood. The hair usually grows back in 6 months to 2 years, but not always.
Trichotillomania (pronounced: trik-o-til-uh-may-nee-uh). Trichotillomania is a psychological disorder in which people repeatedly pull their hair out, often leaving bald patches. It results in areas of baldness and damaged hairs of different lengths. People with trichotillomania usually need professional help from a therapist or other mental health professional before they can stop pulling their hair out.
Hair treatments and styling. Having your hair chemically treated, such as getting your hair colored, bleached, straightened, or permed, can cause damage that may make the hair break off or fall out temporarily. Another type of baldness that results from hair styling can actually be permanent: If a person wears his or her hair pulled so tightly that it places tension on the scalp, it can result in a condition called traction alopecia. Traction alopecia can be permanent if the style is worn for a long enough time that it damages the hair follicles.
Poor nutrition. Poor eating can contribute to hair loss. This is why some people with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia lose their hair: The body isn’t getting enough protein, vitamins, and minerals to sustain hair growth. Some teens who are vegetarians also lose their hair if they don’t get enough protein from non-meat sources. And some athletes are at higher risk for hair loss because they may be more likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia.
Disruption of the hair growth cycle. Some major events can alter the hair’s growth cycle temporarily. For example, delivering a baby, having surgery, or getting anesthesia can temporarily stop the hair growth cycle. (Because the hair we see on our heads has actually taken months to grow, a person may not notice any disruptions of the hair growth cycle until months after the event that caused it.) This type of hair loss corrects itself.
Male-pattern baldness. Among adults, particularly men, the most common cause of hair loss is androgenetic (pronounced: an-druh-juh-neh-tik) alopecia, also called male-pattern baldness. This condition is caused by a combination of factors, including hormones called androgens and genetics. In some males, the hair loss can start as early as the mid-teen years. It can also occur in guys who take steroids like testosterone to build their bodies.
What Can Doctors Do?
If you see a doctor about hair loss, he or she will check your scalp and, in some cases, may take hair samples. You may also be tested for certain medical conditions that can cause hair loss.

If medication is causing hair loss, ask the doctor if a different drug can be substituted. If your hair loss is due to an endocrine condition, like diabetes or thyroid disease, proper treatment and control of the underlying disorder is important to reduce or prevent hair loss. Using a product like minoxidil that can discourage hair loss and speed up hair growth also may be helpful. Alopecia areata can be helped by treatment with corticosteroids. And if a doctor finds that nutritional deficiencies are causing your hair loss, he or she may refer you to a dietitian or other nutrition expert.

Catastrophic Hair Loss
Hair loss can be the first outward sign that a person is sick, so it may feel scary. Teens who have cancer and lose their hair because of chemotherapy treatments go through a difficult time, especially girls.

It can help to feel like you have some control over your appearance when you’re losing your hair. Try some of the many options for disguising hair loss — such as wearing wigs, hair wraps, hats, and baseball caps. For most teens who lose their hair, the hair does return — including after chemotherapy. And hair loss during chemotherapy is usually a sign that the treatment is working to destroy the cancer cells because you can see how it’s working on the good cells (your hair!).

Taking Care of Your Hair
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is important for a lot of reasons, and it really benefits your hair. And don’t forget to treat your hair well. For example, some doctors recommend using baby shampoo, shampooing no more than once a day, and lathering gently. Don’t rub your hair too vigorously with a towel, either. Many hair experts suggest you consider putting away the blow-dryer and air drying your hair instead. If you can’t live without your blow-dryer, try using it on a low heat setting.

Style your hair when it’s dry or damp. Styling your hair while it’s wet can cause it to stretch and break. And try to avoid teasing your hair, which can also cause damage. Finally, be careful when using chemicals — such as straighteners or color — on your hair.

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