Alopecia is the medical term for any form of hair loss, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Many factors can precipitate alopecia, and the condition remains vaguely understood from a scientific standpoint. Research suggests a link between alopecia and lactose intolerance – the inability to metabolize the sugar found in dairy products such as milk – although little scientific evidence exists to unequivocally support this claim.
According to a 2006 study published by K. Mustalahti in the “Indian Journal of Pediatrics,” lactose intolerance due to impaired absorption of lactose was a common finding in children afflicted with celiac disease -– an autoimmune disorder characterized by gluten intolerance. Alopecia is one of many non-intestinal symptoms associated with celiac disease, according to MedHelp.org, which may suggest that those who encounter lactose intolerance and alopecia together could have celiac disease as an underlying cause.
The most common form of alopecia is androgenetic alopecia -– generally known as male or female pattern baldness, according to the American Hair Loss Association. Alopecia areata, wherein the immune system attacks the hair follicles, affects two in every 100 people and results in partial or complete hair loss from the head, and in some cases, from the entire body. Scarring alopecia affects roughly 3 percent of hair loss patients, and results in possibly permanent and irrevocable ruin of hair follicles. Scarring alopecia eventually arrests itself, however, very often only scar tissue remains to mark the location where hair once grew.
According to Medical News Today, secondary lactase deficiency, wherein the small intestine produces insufficient amounts of lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose, can be related to chronic gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, and gastroenteritis.
If you experience alopecia combined with lactose intolerance, or any issues digesting dairy products, discuss your diet with your doctor. He or she may suggest a lactose-free diet for a few weeks as a test to see if the alopecia subsides. If it doesn’t, you may also consider celiac disease, and follow a gluten-free diet for a few weeks to see if the alopecia reverses itself.
Certain vitamin and mineral shortages may manifest following the adoption of a lactose-free diet. According to Medical News Today, calcium, vitamin A, protein, vitamin B-12 and vitamin D could become deficient through the removal of dairy products from the diet. Make sure you talk to your doctor or a qualified dietitian or nutritionist before you exclude milk or dairy products from your diet.