After developing SIBO (which I was unaware I had at the time because I didn’t even know what it was) I started to notice my once long hair was thinning and getting shorter. At first, it was nothing drastic, and I’d hide it with styling and product, but over time the issue progressed (and so did my SIBO).
My hair was fine, but I had lots of it.
My hair before SIBO
I went to many different dermatologists and doctors to try and find answers.
My hair loss wasn’t in patches or localised. Some areas did seem worse than others, but it was just more of a general thinning of all the hair on my head. Over time, I could see more and more of my scalp, but this resulted from lost volume. I was convinced for a while, but my dermatologist assured me that wasn’t what it looked like.
I went to many different dermatologists and doctors to try and find answers. I was tested for conditions that could lead to hair loss (except not SIBO because it’s not well known enough), and they all came back negative.
My iron, however, was low for the first time in my life despite being a big meat eater (I am sorry if you are vegan). Iron is one of the most common deficiencies seen in SIBO and can be a contributing factor to hair loss. Your small intestine plays a vital role in extracting iron.
I wasted massive amounts of money on hair care products, but nothing helped. I tried every hair vitamin I came across, but I ended up with 80% of the total hair volume I once had.
Things I tried to stop my hair fall out were:
• Vitamins designed for “hair health” and “hair growth”
• Collagen supplements
• Biotin supplements
• Expensive “damage restoring” shampoos and conditions that claimed to be able to rebuild my hair stand
• Even more expensive “hair regrowth” shampoos, conditioners that claimed they could stimulate hair growth from the scalp
• Expensive hair masks
• Swapped all my pillows to silk because they are gentler on the hair
• Stopped styling my hair
• Purchased special “hair towels” that claimed to cause less damage
• Castor oil
• Hair oils
• Replaced all my hairbrushes with tangle teasers and mason pearson’s
• Spending all my money and made a habit of making myself broke to no prevail
I fell for a lot of marketing!
I am the first to admit that. Many of these things flat out did nothing. But some may have been beneficial for my hair, and maybe even made the small amount of existing hair I had left in my hair a bit healthier, but they didn’t address the root of the issue. My SIBO. Week by week and more of my hair was falling out.
It hurt my self-confidence more than I’d like to admit. Being female and having healthy hair for most of my life, I’d never realised how much it had become part of my identity. Without my hair I felt like a little boy or balding old man (I know I wasn’t, and I was probably being dramatic, but that’s what it felt like at the time).
I also worked as a model, and in modelling, you sort of really need hair. It really did play on myself image for months and I spent many hours crying over it and feeling helpless. My poor physical health SIBO caused, manifested into poor mental health.
SIBO impacted a lot of my relationships.
The first time I noticed it had gotten bad and asked my partner to take a photo from the back (then proceeded to cry for an hour while he assured me “it’s not that bad”).
We argued about it. SIBO impacted a lot of my relationship; with myself, with myself image, with my relationship with food, with my partner, with my family and professionally.
Even hunting these pictures down in my camera roll brings uncomfortable feelings of a really helpless and sad time in my life. As time went on and both my SIBO and hair loss got worse (It got shorter even though I never cut it). It was continuing to get shorter and thinner despite my best efforts
Here is the bright side!
After treatment of SIBO, my hairbrush stopped collecting as much hair, and the shower drain was no longer constantly full of hair. My hair has now grown back – it’s still not what it once was, but it’s substantially better.
I was treated with antibiotics and antimicrobials. I alternated between rounds of both, and I think this combination really worked for me.
Not once did I cut my hair. Still, it become very short and brittle.
Here is the bright side: I was treated for SIBO. It took me multiple rounds of antibiotics and antimicrobials and careful diet monitoring to avoid relapse. But, with time, my hair grew back, and my food intolerances resolved.
My hair has now grown back
It took time and was a journey.
I want to preface this because it took time and was a journey. I don’t want to give you false hope this happened overnight. But the hair loss stopped after my first two rounds of treatment, and from there, it started growing back. I started seeing new hair growth sprouting up from my scalp.
Dr Freeman explained that it takes time for your hair to catch up. My hair is still not where it was before SIBO, but it’s at least 80% recovered.
I am so grateful to have finally of made a full recovery and have most of my hair back. I am grateful I found a Dr who understood the condition and joined the dots. I know struggling with SIBO in a world of medical professionals who don’t understand it is both a physical and mental battle. I hope this story will help other struggling with SIBO and hair loss get the treatment they need.
I want to summarise the things that saved my hair and grew it back: But they only worked in this order. Without addressing one, two, three will do nothing.
1. Fixing my gut above and before all else was the number one thing that stopped the fallout.
That was through rounds of antibiotics and antimicrobials based on my treating doctor’s advice.
After step one (killing off the excess bacteria in my small intestine), I took a pharmaceutical-grade iron supplement. I had taken this in the past, and it didn’t increase my iron levels. I didn’t understand why but now I do. The small intestine extracts vitamins from the foods we eat (and the vitamins we take). If your small intestine is not functioning as it should, it simply can’t extract these nutrients even if you give your body many foods (like I did) and many vitamins (like I did) that are high in iron. Once addressing the root of the issue, I could extract the iron from the same tablet I could not before, and my iron levels increased.
Dr Freeman also suggested this. He said that although I couldn’t reverse the hair strands that had already received signals to fall out from the body, I could encourage those in the growth phase to stay in it longer. That helped me, I think.
4. Eating a nutrient-rich diet of healthy proteins, fats and carbs.
That will sound impossible if you currently have SIBO, but I ate many foods I couldn’t digest before recovery. My small intestine could now extract the nutrition needed from these foods to grow healthy hair post-recovery. I ate a lot of diverse protein sources, a lot of veggies and multiple sources of healthy fats. I had tried this before my SIBO treatment, and they did nothing but make my digestive and bloating issues worse. One of the challenging things about this whole experience is that I was doing everything I could find on the internet to help my hair, but nothing worked. After treatment, I think these things did help, but I couldn’t get any of the benefits without first addressing my SIBO.