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Category: Science

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Should We be Treating Hair Loss with Fecal Material?

Alopecia areata is a form of baldness that affects approximately 2% of people in the United States. In this condition, hair is lost from various parts of the body, typically the scalp. The actual cause of this condition is unknown, but new research clearly supports the idea that this disease is an autoimmune condition, meaning it is a manifestation of a disruption of the regulation of the immune system. There is certainly thought to be a genetic component as well.

Treatment for this condition is often unsuccessful, but includes medications designed to treat immune imbalance. This may include the use of steroids.

One important observation that has come to the forefront of science in recent years is the very important role of the gut microbes in terms of regulating the immune system, and it is this knowledge base that has formed the basis for this recent report appearing in the American College of Gastroenterology Case Reports.

The report describes two individuals who suffered from significant hair loss related to alopecia who were treated for a gastrointestinal disorder, an infection called Clostridium difficile, or as it is more commonly known, C. diff. The individuals were treated with fecal microbial transplants (FMTs), meaning that they were given, into their colons, fecal material from healthy donors. This has proven to be an incredibly effective treatment for C. diff., and is now being performed in approximately 500 hospitals in the US.

To reiterate, the individuals in this report happened to be suffering from alopecia when they developed C.diff., for which they were treated with fecal microbial transplants.

What happened following their treatment was truly remarkable. Both patients began to experience fairly rapid regrowth of their hair.

Figure (A) shows one of the patients at age 16, when he was first diagnosed with alopecia. Obviously, he was already suffering from extensive hair loss. He subsequently lost all of the hair on his head.

alopecia_hair_loss_aIn figure (B), he is seen several months following FMT.

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Figure (C) shows him one and a half years after the fecal transplant.

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This is certainly not the first recognition in medical literature that FMT may play an important role in treating autoimmune conditions. Case reports are now appearing using this procedure in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, for example.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that people with alopecia should seek out FMT as a proven treatment for this condition. I am, however, calling attention to this recent publication as it clearly drives home the point that our gut organisms play a huge role in regulating the balance of our immune systems.

That said, it certainly makes good sense, in my opinion, for all of us to do our very best in terms of caring for those important 100 trillion microbes living in our digestive systems.

  • WestcoastTexan

    Great news Dr. Perlmutter! Thanks.

    • David Perlmutter

      Excited to be able to share these developments with you!

  • chris

    It is always great to hear about solutions to the problems, but it seems actually even more important to know, why all these diseases are out there in the first place…

    • AnnieLaurie Burke

      It’s not really a mystery, is it? Our food supply has been degraded, the majority of people subsist on highly-processed fake foods, the number of exotoxins to which we are exposed has skyrocketed, as has the number of endocrine disruptors to which we are exposed, our circadian rhythms and sleep cycles are disrupted, and we are physically unfit. And that’s just for starters…

      • Fiona Benson

        Totally agree about the modern food supply – Dr. Tim Spector was the first professional that led me to look at the gut microbiome that led me to Dr. Perlmutter and reading his Grain Brain and Brain Maker. Last month, here in the UK, he and his son were on our National TV. His son did an experiment of eating junk food for just 10 days and his gut microbiome had halved in diversity. 4 years later it has only recovered by 50%. If you have the time, the video below is only 9 minutes long and amazing. It discusses how our NHS stopped him treating his patients with Vitamin B12 because they could see it was higher than the norm and felt it was dangerous. It would be better if they recognised the danger of treating patients with toxic medications and of course our highly processed foods!

  • Fiona Benson

    Dr Perlmutter, I recently became aware of the work of a GP here in the UK who has been treating patients for Vitamin B12 deficiency for a few decades. I learnt of this episode of a local BBC program on 2 of his patients – one with Alapaecia and the other with an MS diagnosis. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klobLSxv6i0&t=37s I found it most interesting. Are you aware of this? Could it be that the faecal transplant is assisting the gut to overcome the issues that may be blocking absorption of Vitamin B12?

    • David Perlmutter

      Thanks for sharing Fiona. Will try to watch this.

  • AnnieLaurie Burke

    When I saw the headline in my e-mail, my first thought was that story (urban legend?) about the ancient Chinese medicine baldness remedy that supposedly used nightingale, um, droppings. But FMT has proven highly successful for many gut disruption conditions caused by c. difficile. It thus makes sense that associated conditions, like alopecia, would also be improved.

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