Tuesday, May 10, 2022

My Post-Illness Hair Loss Story

 I've always had a love/hate relationship with my hair. It's naturally curly and not really the nice curls, it's more the unruly, frizzy curls that nothing seems to tame. I also just don't think I have a face meant for curly hair. It's just never looked right to me. But right now, I'm just happy to have hair at all. 

As I had mentioned in a previous post, I had Covid the beginning of January. I didn't get too much into it in that post, but I had a horrible time with it and was very close to being admitted into the hospital. I had Covid Pneumonia and while my oxygen levels remained on the very border of normal to low normal, they dipped dangerously low when I slept. After doing some research, it looks as though I may have been having some kind of neuro response when I would try to sleep and it felt like my body simply would forget how to breathe. It didn't matter what position I slept in. The second I would start to fall asleep, I would feel as though I was holding my breath and would wake up gasping. Kind of like an apnea, but not really. Thankfully, this went away a couple weeks after my lungs finally started to feel better. I also wasn't really able to eat much at a certain point and my white blood cells got pretty low. My body was without normal levels of oxygen and nutrition for a few weeks. I also ended up with long haul as well. 

It did take me some time to get better even after the worst of it passed. I believe this was due to my past issues with Mold illness and chronic Epstein-Barr reactivations. I had lots of strange symptoms for a while, even after I started to feel better. There's even quite a few that currently linger to this day and it's been 5 months! But there was one symptom in particular that I was not prepared for at all, which was post-covid hair loss, also known as Telogen Effluvium post-covid. 

At the end of March I noticed quite a bit of hair starting to fall out in the shower when I was washing my hair. I've dealt with some shedding in the past with Epstein-Barr, but this was a lot more. By the end of that week I had handfuls coming out. I stopped washing my hair every day and coincidentally, I had a couple friends post about post-covid hair loss on Instagram. That's when I started researching and found out so many people are dealing with this! It's actually sad that this is a bit of an epidemic and no one seems to be talking about it. I'm in a Facebook group specifically for those dealing with this, and last I looked there were over 11,000 members! I'm sure it's more by now. 


So for the last few weeks I've been having literal handfuls of hair fall out with each wash. I documented with pictures, rather than keeping the hair like some Docs suggest to that I could compare the loss over time. This started the very end of March, but I started taking pics when it really started getting bad. As you can see, it's quite a lot! And all of these, with the exception of the one noted, were only when washed or rinsed. I tried to minimally style, but a lot more would fall out when I did so. Also, my vacuum is filled with hair =(  I will say, aside from being sick with Covid, this has been one of the most traumatic things I've dealt with concerning my health in some time. I know it's just hair, but as a woman it's so hard. There have been so many days that I've just cried and cried. My son is graduating High School mid-June and that's been a huge reason as to why I've been so upset. I have been so worried  I would need to wear a wig to the ceremony. But you will see from the pics closer to now that it's a bit less, and yesterday was a lot less even counting the hair loss from styling (I forgot to take a pic).

Luckily for me, I had quite a lot of hair. It's very thin now. I've lost at least half, possibly a little more. But I feel truly lucky as some women really lose so much more. Lately it seems to be slowing down (fingers crossed). I'm not sure if maybe this corresponds with the length of time that I was very sick. It seems that those that are admitted to the hospital or need to go on oxygen, suffer the extreme shedding for much longer. I have been doing some different things, so I'm not sure if they are actually helping or if it's just a coincidence that I started them right around the time that my shedding started to slow down. It really seemed to slow almost overnight after using a couple things, so I wanted to share what I've been doing/using in case it could possibly help someone else. 

One of the big things with hair is that if you are malnourished, deficient in certain vitamins, lacking proper nutrition from nutrient-dense foods, etc your hair will suffer. This was the first thing I began to work on - mainly in the form of supplements, as I already live a pretty healthy lifestyle. One thing I do need to mention is that Telogen Effluvium is caused by a trauma, whether that be an illness like Covid, an accident, a surgery, or an extreme stress in ones life. The hair basically gets shocked into the resting phase for a period of time and it will fall out. You will actually noticed with TE that all the hairs that shed will have white ends. This is due to the lack of pigment. In fact, a lot of my hairs that are already starting to grow back in are white or a lot lighter than my natural hair. I'm not complaining! I'm just grateful that the shedding is slowing and it's growing. What I'm getting at is that you may not be able to stop the shedding. What was shocked from trauma will fall out regardless. But if you have deficiencies or other things also effecting your TE, this can prevent new shedding or prolonged resting phase. 

So I started with really being gentle with my hair. When I wash it, I do so without running my fingers through it completely. I'm just as gentle as possible. I did try a shampoo and conditioner that I thought might strengthen my existing hair, but I ended up going back to my current haircare, as the new stuff was causing too many tangles. I use Briogeo. I think if you are struggling with TE, maybe focusing on what makes your hair feel healthy is a good thing. I would just suggest that you don't use anything loaded with chemicals. Briogeo isn't completely clean, but it's a better option that most and my picky hair doesn't like a lot of the squeaky clean brands out there. 

After washing I very carefully press my hair with a towel, spray on my tried and true Honest Detangling Spray that I've been using for years (love the new one!) and use a wide tooth comb. At first I was using a brush and this was just pulling way too much hair out. I wish I had thought to get the comb early on. Then I use a terry head wrap. This allows my hair to dry a little and soaks up some of the water without anything pulling on my hair. I've been trying to keep styling to a minimum, so most of the time I let it dry as long as I can and I just pull it up in a loose knot with a silk hair tie. 

Beyond that, here are the supplements I'm taking. Please note that because I'm not a Doctor, and health is not a "one size fits all", that I'm not recommending what you should take. This is merely what works for me. I strongly recommend speaking with your Primary Physician before starting any new supplements and possibly even getting some bloodwork. 

- I use a Multivitamin. I know there's some controversy about whether they are good or not, as you can end up with too much of some things and not enough of other things. However, I notice a different when I don't take them, and I don't take full servings of other supplements, so this works for me. I like the Smartypants Women's Gummies. I know they have sugar and they aren't perfect, but I like them and they aren't extremely expensive. 

- B Complex Vits - These are important for me anyway, as I had my gallbladder out years ago and people without a gallbladder tend to be deficient in B vits. I take half the dose since my Multi already has B vits (just not enough for me). I don't really recommend a specific one. Just make sure they are methylated! 

- I take a Zinc Supplement from Organic Olivia. This one also has Quercetin in it, which is great for allergies and the immune system. The reason I love this supplement so much is because it has copper in it as well. When you take Zinc, it needs to be taken with copper. But you have to be careful because you don't want too much copper in the body either! Try to find a balanced zinc supplement. Many people that had Covid are deficient in Zinc and it can effect your hair. 

- I also found these hair gummies that I like. They don't contain collagen, which is a must for me, as I seem to be allergic. I do know a lot of women dealing with TE having been having great results in regrowth from collagen, so if you have a good one, go for it! I just personally can't use it, so I use these gummies that have Biotin, Keratin, Amla, Horsetail, and Silica. I think they must be working for me since my eyelashes seem longer and thicker! ps - keep in mind that Biotin can effect Thyroid panels. I you are being treated for anything Thyroid related or testing for Thyroid issues, make sure to stop any supplements with Biotin 3 days prior to testing and let you practitioner know you take it.

- The last one is another controversial supp for some, and it's Vit D3/K2. Over the last couple years I've researched quite a bit about the dangers of supplementing with synthetic Vit D3 and how the best way to get it is Sunshine. I do believe this to be true. However, when I was sick, it was freezing out and I couldn't get out in the sun. I've probably been deficient and though I can get daily sun time at this point, I still feel like I need that little bit extra and I started seeing a change in my hair fall. I take a chewable with only 2000 iu in it. It also has K2 which I always recommend. I also take this at night with my Magnesium Glycinate as this helps the D3 to properly absorb. I did feel noticeably different when I made this change. Even though I don't love the supplementation, at this moment in time I feel like the reward is higher than the risk. And I will ween off in a few weeks. 

- I also take Ashwagandha for stress! Stress is a huge thing with TE. I was literally so anxious and depressed at first, but I had to really surrnder and let it be. That's so hard, I know. But it was necessary for me to learn to manage my stress and not make the TE worse!

I also rotate some supp’s that are part of my normal every day regimen, but have backed off to focus on my hair health - NAC, a Thyroid/Adrenal supplement, NAD+, and CoQ10 with PQQ for mitochondrial health. 

The last thing I want to recommend is topical products. I have been using these hair oils and they've been working really well! RTHVI is an Ayurvedic company and uses all natural ingredients that promote hair health and growth, without added chemicals, silicones, etc. Hair oils can possibly clog the follicles and cause more shedding, so just make sure to use them carefully. I follow the instructions for the oils and only use them 3x per week. I also use them in the morning and leave on for 3 hours before washing. That way they have time do deliver the nutrients to my scalp without clogging. The company recommended their Ashwagandha oil for the stress on my hair and I felt like it helped after one use! They also recommended their Revitalize Growth Oil, which I love! The site also has tons of other amazing products, including shampoo and conditioner, though I haven't tried it. Just make sure that whatever you use, it's not filled with toxic chemicals, and silicones. That's the last thing you want to be putting on your scalp when you're dealing with hair loss! A weekly Apple Cider Vinegar rinse is also great! It keeps the scalp buildup away and is soothing. 

I also think it’s important to mention overall self-care. I try to watch my stress levels, I try to get some light movement in, get out in the sunshine, use my sauna blanket, do red light therapy, practice grounding outside, read books, etc. 

I'll do another update soon, but I truly hope this helps you if you're also struggling with TE. It can be so traumatic and depressing. Just know you aren't alone! If you ever want to chat, feel free to contact me anytime!!