So, despite my best efforts at upping my self-care, my old friend alopecia has now taken a firm hold once again.
Whilst I'd been aware of the signs for a while now, I guess I'd still held an element of denial - hoping that it would resolve by itself and quietly disappear. Not so - clearly there was room for far more work to be done, and I needed to take this much more seriously.
It's not that I'm stressed or anxious about the bald patches though, as I feel I've fully embraced and reconciled the emotional impact of the hair loss. The fact is that my hair is falling out at a rate that is not normal, and whilst I feel fit and well in myself, my body is clearly in distress and is shouting for help.
The body is very good at telling us when things aren't right by giving us symptoms and/or pain. However, we're not always very good at recognising or heeding the warnings, and have the habit of pushing through and carrying on regardless.
Time then to make a step change. I decided to pay close attention to my body - after all, I'd be a fool not to listen to what it is telling me.
So time to up the ante.
Whilst I've always maintained regular acupuncture treatment with Caroline Shepherdson www.purelyacupuncture.com every two months, I have to admit the daily guided meditations (Headspace www.headspace.com) have gone a bit by the wayside. But I have been doing weekly HIIT sessions with Ted www.vitalexercise.com for the past year and just LOVE my monthly reflexology/massage treatments with Tracey www.facebook.com/tracey macrae wellbeing.
It was time to pay a visit to scalp and hair loss specialist Cheryl www.cmhairloss.co.uk, whose late colleague Peter Bannister had first treated my scalp back in 2016, with excellent results. Cheryl uses gentle and natural products to improve the condition of the scalp and promote hair growth.
Her analysis of my hair concluded that whilst some follicles had been affected by hormones and stress, by far the greater problem was malnourishment - my remaining hair was thin, weak and malnourished. As it happened, I'd already made the decision to see a nutritionist, Fiona www.thenutritiondetective.co.uk, as I'd become aware that something wasn't quite right with my digestive system. Knowing that gluten and dairy are common culprits, I'd tried avoiding these in the past but felt I needed more expert guidance on this.
Fiona concluded that my bloating was a result of low stomach acid - the initial digestive process was inadequate so that food was passing out of the stomach only partially digested. This was remedied by a simple hydrochloric acid supplement taken with each meal.
My floating stools were a result of poor fat absorption, possibly as a result of compromised liver function due to Hepatitis A infection in childhood and long-term antibiotic use after rheumatic fever in early adulthood; not to mention low birth weight and failure to thrive as an infant, and four pregnancies (including twins), all of which hammered my body at the time.
This has all lead me to better understand my alopecia. Predominantly it tends to be stress related, but I knew that mine had happened at a time when I had very little stress in my life and I felt (and still feel) very calm, so I was rather puzzled as to why it happened when it did.
I realise now that nutrition plays a hugely important role. I was convinced that my diet was very healthy - which indeed it is - but if my digestion wasn't up to scratch then it was obviously leaving my body depleted and wanting.
A regime of supplements and slight tweaks to my diet has already improved my skin, which was prone to dryness and itching. The scalp treatments are optimising the condition of my hair follicles and hair is beginning to grow back at the edges of the bald patches. And my amazing hair dresser Lucy www.facebook.com/joshua c constantly comes up with styles which are kind to my hair and keep it looking edgy.
As an acupuncturist myself, I have come across practitioners who frown upon patients who have treatments with several different therapists at the same time. I agree that it's not easy to determine whether any one therapy is making a difference as the waters can become rather muddied, but I feel that sometimes a broader approach can be beneficial, as long as the therapies undertaken compliment each other, rather than duplicate or contradict.
I will continue to look after my general wellbeing with good diet, exercise, relaxation and acupuncture. It's very easy to become complacent when things are going well but it's important not to let self-care slip. If we do, we will regret it and pay the price.