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Can Ulcerative Colitis Cause Hair Loss?

The human gut is often considered the body's second brain. That's because the enteric nervous system (ENS) is an extensive network of brain-like neurons and neurotransmitters that wrap in and around our gut. It's also why when we're stressed, anxious or excited, we feel it in our stomachs.

We're told to trust our guts, but what happens when our gut fails us? For example, if you're living with the inflammatory bowel disorder ulcerative colitis, you might also be dealing with hair loss issues. Read on to understand ulcerative colitis-related hair loss better. Plus, what you can do to combat thinning hair ASAP.

What Is Ulcerative Colitis?

Inflammatory bowel disease is an umbrella term that mainly covers two long-term conditions: ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease is one autoimmune condition that causes severe inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract and can affect any part of the digestive system. Ulcerative colitis affects the colon (large intestine), and flare-ups can trigger several challenging symptoms for patients.

"Ulcerative colitis is a chronic autoimmune condition that causes inflammation of the colon and rectum," said Sonia Khan, the lead pharmacist at Medical Direct. "It occurs when ulcers develop along the lining of the colon, which can bleed and weep. It is sometimes referred to as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)."

"It is believed to be caused by the immune system mistaking harmless bacteria within the colon for a potentially harmful bacterium. As a result, the immune system attacks the colon tissue, which causes inflammation. Ulcerative colitis can affect people of all ages, but you are at greater risk if you are between the ages of 15 and 25."

Ulcerative Colitis and Hair Loss

Any condition related to inflammatory bowel disease can trigger a flurry of symptoms throughout the body. Many people who have UC have reported hair loss as a significant side effect, and in 2015, a cross-sectional study took place looking to identify the frequency of hair loss and thinning hair among patients. Approximately 33% of IBD patients reported hair loss. Most experienced hair loss from the scalp, but a small number of people saw hair fall from other parts of their bodies. "Hair loss can be an issue for people who suffer from ulcerative colitis, although you are not guaranteed to suffer this problem if you have ulcerative colitis," Khan said.

Whether you've been diagnosed with IBD or you simply want to strengthen your existing locks, take action by putting in place a dedicated hair wellness routine. Kick-start this by adding a hair serum into your daily self-care plan and choose a vegan formula like the bestselling GRO Hair Serum to help strengthen strands in the most holistic way possible. The serum uses a combination of vegan phyto-actives to help support a balanced follicular ecosystem while the formula remains non-greasy, soothing and revitalizing for the hair roots.

For more advanced hair thinning, try GRO+ Advanced Hair Serum, which has the added benefit of microencapsulated hemp oil to soothe stressed out scalps and create a healthy environment for hair to thrive. 

What Really Causes Ulcerative Colitis Hair Loss?

While it's clear that hair loss and IBD can be linked, what actually occurs to make the hair fall? Many patients have listed their medication as the trigger for hair loss. Also, some medications can be connected to hair loss for patients. Ulcerative colitis hair loss can also be linked to nutritional deficiency, hormone imbalances, stress, chronic illness and other conditions.

"Hair loss while suffering from ulcerative colitis is not believed to be caused by the condition itself," said Khan. "It is reported that the medication prescribed to treat the problem may be the reason people lose hair. Immunosuppressant drugs are often prescribed for people suffering from UC, and many of these medicines carry the risk of hair loss as a side effect. This may be due to the drugs slowing down cell manipulation, which can have a negative impact on hair regrowth, which requires a fast cell turnover.

"If you suffer from UC, your body may also find it hard to absorb nutrients at a usual rate, such as vitamins C and D and iron. Being deficient in nutrients may impact hair growth, which may contribute to hair loss.

"If you are stressed, this is another contributing factor to hair loss. Suffering from UC can cause stress due to the symptoms feeling overwhelming, stopping you from sleeping properly and hindering you from leading a normal life."

Whether you're struggling with UC or not, nutritional deficiencies and stress can wreak havoc on the body and the hair. One way to soothe your stress is with CBD.  GRO+ Advanced Gummies are the first hair vitamin to harness the therapeutic power of broad-spectrum hemp for fuller-looking, thicker-feeling hair. Alongside the calming hemp oil, the naturally fruit-flavored daily gummies feature biotin, folic acid, zinc and an abundance of other hair vitamins and minerals to help your mane flourish and shine from the scalp down.

Is Hair Loss Common With Ulcerative Colitis?

It's important to note that hair loss can happen to anyone at any time. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, losing between 50 and 100 strands a day is normal. And in most cases, these hairs are quickly replaced. However, if hair falls continuously and becomes noticeable, it can be labeled as significant hair loss.

Although it's not extremely common to experience hair loss with an IBD or UC diagnosis, it can happen. In 2013, the world-renowned Guy's and St. Thomas' hospital in London, U.K., conducted a scientific literature search spanning 46 years. The study found that "Telogen effluvium associated with acute or chronic flares of IBD is probably the commonest cause of disease-related hair loss. …"

All human hair grows in stages, and the telogen phase is the resting phase. It remains in this stage for a few months until the hair sheds, making room for new anagen (growth) hair to peek through. Telogen effluvium occurs when the body experiences acute stress, hormonal changes, thyroid disease and other autoimmune conditions. If hair remains in the telogen or resting phase for too long, you might experience more hair loss than usual.

Losing hair is an unwanted stressor — especially if you're already dealing with other UC symptoms. Thankfully, because telogen effluvium is a reactive process (to what's currently happening in your world), the hair fall usually slows down as your body adapts.

Studies also point to a connection between inflammatory bowel disease and alopecia areata, which is another autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. In fact, one study found that the prevalence of AA in patients with UC is considerably greater than the prevalence of AA in the general population.

Experiencing Hair Loss? Here's What To Do

When your hair is in a fragile state, no matter what the cause, it's essential you get back to basics. Use hair wellness products that contain nourishing, toxin-free ingredients, add more nutrients to your diet, keep stress to a minimum and avoid tight hairstyles and hot tools. Also, consult with a health care professional for treatment options if you're experiencing hair loss that's more than normal or you believe you have IBD. The health of your hair is worth it!


Photo credit: freestocks/Unsplash

Disclaimer: Information in this article is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician.