February 2, 2014

Then I Became a Vegan & Kale Made My Hair Fall Out.

hair back woman lady

How I lost my shampoo-commercial hair from stress, a “healthy diet” and my own ignorance.

Alright, I’ll admit the title might be slightly misleading, but only by a hair’s width, and in fact it’s actually sort of true for those of us with hypothyroidism.

Here’s the Cliff Notes on the compilation of causes that lead to my follicular failure and limp, wimpy locks:

1. I had a stressful job for 20 years (I sold real estate, but substitute whatever it is in your life that gives you constant anxiety: work, finances, relationships, health, CNN, etc. You get the picture.)

Chronic stress causes the body to produce a steady stream of adrenaline which is awesome, possum—when you need to jump out of the way of a runaway skateboarder or stealthy Prius—but a constant state of adrenaline-jacked anxiety leads to excess cortisol, which leads to adrenal shut down that leads to sluggish thyroid resulting in the aforementioned main concern: our mane!

2. I became a Vegan.

Before we judge, let me explain. I stopped eating animals and didn’t add appropriate fats (or alternatively: appropriate supplements) to my diet. Sure, I ate avocados and almonds and hemp oil and all the good for you let-no-animal-die omegas, but I didn’t eat cashews or macadamia nuts because I thought the high cholesterol content was bad for me. It turns out we need adequate amounts of cholesterol to support adrenal function. The liver makes cholesterol for us but it needs choline to do so. (Details here.) Soy lecithin is the best source of vegan choline. Who knew? (Apparently, not me.)

3. I consumed a whole heckofalotta (raw) kale.

As well, I ate all of the other green super foods that are supposed to keep me vibrant and youthful and glowing. But guess what? Some of those super foods are considered goitrogenic, which means they inhibit iodine production which is needed to support thyroid function. (Details here.) Really? Yes. However, some articles suggest that cooking these sneaky goitrogenic foods reduces their negative side-effect potency.

Signs you might be high in cortisol:

  1. Back aches and you haven’t even been doing deadlifts, sheesh.
  2. You and the moon are BFFs. (Hello, insomnia and fitful sleeps!)
  3. You need naps. Like, a lot of them. Like, as soon as you wake up. (Chronic fatigue.)
  4. Weight gain—especially the dreaded mid-section muffin top.
  5. Sniffle, cough, sneeze. Cooties love you because your immune system sucks.
  6. Sugar cravings: be they disguised in carbs or straight-up sweet treats.
  7. Low/no sex drive. It’s been so long that you’ve had a longing, you’ve forgotten how.
  8. Muchas gassy ass! No shit—literally. (And other ‘crappy’ gastrointestinal sensitivities.)
  9. Anxiety and/or paranoia, or anxiety of paranoia or paranoia of anxiety—whatever you call it, it’s a nail-biter!
  10. Chicken Little Syndrome aka the sky is falling, I think I’ll hide and cry. (Depression.)

Common Goitrogenic Culprits:

  1. Broccoli
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Kale
  4. Brussels Sprouts
  5. Mustard Greens
  6. Radishes
  7. Spinach
  8. Strawberries
  9. Peaches
  10. Soy-Based Foods
  11. Peanuts

How to fix it? First, I’m not a doctor, naturopath or a health care expert in any way, shape or form, so my first advice is to seek professional medical attention. The body is a complex organism and even if you have all of these symptoms verbatim, you could be suffering from something totally unrelated. Be safe, not sorry.

My general advice to everyone: Manage stress. Manage diet.

As for me, because I was so far gone (as in imbalanced beyond what managing stress and diet could do to save my tresses) I’ve had to turn to adrenal and hormone supporting supplements, which sucks because I am anti-plastic-container-manufacture-transport and pro-whole-foods-only-please.

I was also prescribed pork!

I admit I am a big bacon fan, but I only buy from the local Farmers’ Market who have happy hogs. But for all the (still seemingly?) healthy Vegans out there who want to avoid eating Wilber, I recommend getting a double-check check-up to make sure you’re in the healthy hormone range. An ounce of prevention could save you from having to go whole hog on the ham.


Relephant reads:

Article on NY Times “Doctor Declares: Kale, Lemon Water, Juicing ‘n Smoothies = Bad for You.”

Why Kale May Kill Us So I’m Getting a Divorce.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Maria Turner/Pixoto

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