Heed the Signs...
I’m always open to signs. They’re everywhere, if you’re open to listening and receiving.
My intuitive antenna is pretty high-def and I’ve never received a sign that led me astray.
As I wrote in a newsletter a few weeks ago, in my practice, I’m becoming more and more passionate about focusing on autoimmunity in general – not just Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroidism), which is what I’ve become known for.
Because you know, autoimmunity is all one disease. I don’t need to go to med school to help people with autoimmune conditions outside of Hashimoto’s.
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Don’t get me wrong, I love talking about hormones. A close friend and colleague who, like me, is also very into the arts, recently asked, “Why do you love what you do so much?” I explained how I’m endlessly fascinated by how the hormonal dance is like a grand choreography that can largely be directed with whole food and plant-based medicines. It enthralls me.
She said, “Wow, what an amazing way to think about it.”
So I’ll never divorce myself from hormones completely, especially given that I’m writing a series of thyroid health cookbooks* and that you can’t “silo” the immune system from your endocrine/hormonal system – it’s all connected.
[* The content for our first cookbook is nearing completion and we’re soon throwing ourselves into the post-writing work, like design, photography, marketing, etc.]
[Now available: the #1 best selling cookbook, The Essential Thyroid Cookbook: Over 100 Nourishing Recipes for Thriving with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.]
But I’ve been pulled to serve the autoimmunity community in a bigger way. And this morning, something on CNN fed right into my intuition and screamed at me, “Do this!”
What Went Down…
Several days ago, because of all of the success my alopecia (autoimmune hair loss) clients were having, I said to my husband, “Hmmm, maybe I should just focus on alopecia.” It was truly a passing thought – I went about the rest of my day without thinking about it again. It wasn’t an a-ha, it was a notion that came and went.
A few days passed and I thought a little more about it. I wondered about Rachel, a girl who, after being completely bald for a few years, started regrowing hair after she began working with me. What did she look like now?
Lo and behold, yesterday, I received an updated and shocking photo from her mother.
Rachel had gone from NO hair to a healthy head of curls. OMG…
I hadn’t seen a photo of Rachel’s progress in 13 months and what I saw yesterday had me in tears.
Although I’m chomping.at.the.bit to show you, I’m not sharing the photo today – I’m writing a more complete update on her journey next week. [April 13 update: here are the photos.]
(Rachel hasn’t been my only alopecia client – I’ve worked with several since writing about her story. I’m just particularly connected to Rachel’s journey, given that she was my first “big” alopecia client and that her mother and I have become good friends.)
At the same time, I’ve been thinking a lot about my own alopecia (hair loss). When you have bald spots, it’s difficult not to.
And as I wrote in my recent post about my hair loss situation, alopecia can take many months to resolve. But it can be resolved.
I told Rachel’s mother that prior to her sending the photo, I’d already been thinking about serving the alopecia community in a bigger way and then BOOM, I got her email with the jaw-dropping photo.
After a few email exchanges, she said, “I would love to be a part of something to help others dealing with this.” So I’m plotting a collaboration with her – and Rachel.
Then, just this morning, I stumbled randomly on this on CNN story: Wig-free portraits empower women.
I just sat there, in awe.
Firstly, these women should be proud and empowered! They have nothing to be ashamed of.
And I’m thrilled that CNN has highlighted this condition that, like psoriasis (an autoimmune skin condition), is a visible manifestation of the disease that can incite a lot of shame and embarrassment. As this article says, alopecia can be “isolating and emotionally painful” and is like a “threat to [your] sense of identity.”
But one statement in the article really concerned me. It states, “…the condition isn’t life-threatening and many people with alopecia are healthy otherwise.”
I beg to differ. They’re right about hair loss not being life-threatening, but, as I stated in my It’s All ONE Disease post, many people have more than one autoimmune condition, whether they know it or not.
There can be a co-occurrence or “kaleidoscope of autoimmunity” and Multiple Autoimmune Syndrome (MAS) is “the combination of at least three autoimmune diseases in the same patient.”
According to Dr. Datis Kharrazian, “Eighty percent of those with a diagnosed autoimmune condition have antibodies to other tissues.”
Once the immune system has gone rogue and crossed the line from attacking non-self (pathogens, viruses, bacteria) to self (normal tissue – in the case of alopecia, the hair follicles), all tissues are up for grabs. And once you develop one manifestation of autoimmunity, if it goes unaddressed, the chances of developing another autoimmune condition are greater than 50 percent.
So I’m not claiming that everyone who has alopecia has another autoimmune condition. But they could. And not know it. And this has serious consequences.
Without immune modulation to manage the existing autoimmunity and calm the hypervigilant immune response that’s attacking their hair follicles, they could be a sitting duck for something much more serious, like Hashimoto’s, MS, or lupus.
According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, more than 6.6 million people in the United States and 147 million people worldwide have or will develop alopecia. That’s a lot of people. And they’re underserved. Rachel’s mother agrees – they’d left no stone unturned prior to working with me.
There are a lot of groups and networks for supporting people with no hair and for those wearing a wig, but from what I can tell, it’s about “acceptance” and…support. There’s a lot to be said for acceptance and support! But I bet a lot of these people would like to regrow their hair.
And as Rachel’s mom said after seeing this CNN photomontage, “None of these women look happy. There’s a support group here and they’re all just trying to find ways to accept their alopecia instead of digging for answers. The reality is that some people may have to accept a bald or partially bald head or body. But, it seems VERY little effort is being made to heal rather than treat the symptoms. There is real money in laser treatments, pills, creams, and certainly wigs. We have spent thousands. Some of these things might help, but aren’t the answer. You could make a huge impact on this community.”
I am. I’m going to impact this community. I’ve had alopecia for 35 years. Although I’ve never been bald, I know what it feels like to be embarrassed and ashamed by a clear-cut on the side of your head.
Again, I’ll never divorce myself from hormones completely. It will likely be “business as usual” here at Healthful Elements for a while, especially as I get my cookbook published. You’ll still hear from me about thyroid health, adrenal health, blood sugar, and peri/menopause.
But I’m plotting to serve a greatly underserved community. Hair’s to new paths and adventures…