How to eat healthy as your first step toward Alopecia recovery
How to eat healthy has become somewhat confusing and overwhelming these days, as every one tries to weigh in on the topic with conflicting theories about what’s healthy and what’s not.
Getting solid nutrition from a variety of wholesome foods every day lays the foundation for a healthy immune system, which in turn is key for most health issues we face today. However, eating healthy could be confusing these days, as there’s a lot of conflicting opinions on what diet is considered healthy and what isn’t.
Good nutrition is fundamental for anyone to achieve good health, and it’s even more so crucial and non-negotiable if you’re dealing with complex issues like autoimmune Alopecia. There is no medicine that can cure the immune system however the good news is you can nurture your immune system back to health with the right nutrition.
In this post, I’m going to share my views of how to eat healthy and ensure you get all the right nutrition you need as your first step toward autoimmune and Alopecia recovery.
How I get my daughter to eat healthy every day
We’ve never really had problems when it comes to getting Little Claire to eat well, and I believe that this has greatly contributed to the vast improvement in her hair growth and Alopecia.
She loves her vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds, plant sources of protein such as legumes and even tempe, as well as spiced dishes (spices are rich in micronutrients). She is not a huge fan of meat, fish and most seafood. She doesn’t eat processed foods or snacks, and as such she doesn’t eat candies, chips, and most commercially-sold treats or snacks.
We probably get lucky with her, as she seems to like all the ‘right’ foods, have a healthy appetite, and accepts varied, bold flavours from a variety of spices. However, it may also have to do with the fact that I was mindful about all the foods we introduced to her ever since her very first solid food at 6 months of age. It’s easy to stay away from empty-calories treats and snacks that were never introduced to her or made available at home.
I also take this as an opportunity to educate her about eating healthy and nutritious foods to build her immune system. She also understands that her hair will grow better and faster when she eats healthy.
How to eat healthy without following diet protocol
In my views, none of the diet protocols out there is truly about nutrition that matters for our immune system. Each diet protocol promotes parts of an entire science and advocates for eating and eliminating of different macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, protein, and basic vitamins and minerals.
Nutritional Immunology promotes the entire science about the link between nutrition and our immune system. It advocates wholesome plant foods over processed foods and animal products, as well as over isolated vitamin pills and supplements. To me, this makes the most sense.
The best diet is a reasonably healthy and balanced diet that you can actually sustain for the long term for the entire family, not an extremely strict one that leaves you feeling deprived and depressed.
Alopecia is not a hair disorder: Look beyond treating the symptoms
Intuitively, when we experience hair loss, we start asking what we can do to stop the hair loss and make our hair grow faster. However, Alopecia Areata is not a disorder of the hair. It is a disorder of the immune system. The hair is just the symptom.
Any kinds of available medicine only masks the symptoms, often in the form of steroids to suppress parts of the immune response. This is also the reason why when people stop taking the medication, the symptoms of hair loss often come back, sometimes even worse than before.
When we treat symptoms using medicine, the underlying root cause exists even though we may see an improvement in the symptoms. When you take the medicine away, or when your body starts to adapt to those medications, your symptoms stop improving, or in some cases, get worse.
Why eating healthy is so important
Food fuels our body and can change the expression of our genes. Meaning, even if we have genes that predispose us to certain health conditions, the genes still need to be expressed. We have somewhat of a control over how our genes are expressed through a number of environmental factors, the biggest one being what we eat.
What we eat should work in our favour. It should not just serve to fill us up from hunger.
Before you look to any form of treatment, you should first look at your diet and how to eat healthy so that you can continuously build your immune system.
How to eat healthy amidst the overwhelm
Food and nutrition are a huge topic.
There’s so many information out there as everyone tries to weigh in on how to eat healthy. Often times, advice seems to contradict each other, making it even more confusing to decide what’s fact and what’s myth.
Not to mention all the different diet protocols, each with their own ‘formula’ of how to eat healthy and what’s supposedly the best way to go for our health.
However, after going through enough information circulating out there, I’ve decided that it’s actually easy to cut through all the noise and stick to a simple but factual truth about how to eat to truly build our immune system.
First, understand the basics of nutrition
Understanding how to eat healthy for your immune system starts by understanding the basics of nutrition.
Nutrition is largely categorised into macronutrients and micronutrients.
Macronutrients are nutrients that provide calories or energy. They are needed in large amounts, and they include carbohydrates, fats and protein.
Water and fibre are an important macronutrients that do not provide energy. Water is crucial to life and is necessary for the absorption of macronutrients. Fiber is found only in plant foods, is crucial to health and normal function of our digestive system.
Macronutrients are needed to maintain life, while micronutrients make it possible for life to grow, prosper and achieve its best potential.
Micronutrients are only needed in minuscule amounts but their absence leads to severe consequences. They include phytochemicals, antioxidants and polysaccharides and they enable our body to produce enzymes, hormones and other substances for proper growth and development.
Micronutrients largely consist of minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium, trace minerals such as copper, iodine, iron and zinc, and a range of vitamins.
Unprocess your macronutrient sources
Food sources of macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins and fats are where hidden traps of processed foods usually are.
I often fall into these traps myself, as foods like bread, noodles and pasta have become so mainstream in our modern diet. It doesn’t matter if the bread and noodles and pasta are made from whole grain, whole wheat, gluten free, or even high protein ingredients. These foods have been processed from their original food ingredients into another form.
The definition of processed food has a large scale. Even cooking or pureeing vegetables can be considered a type of processing. Bread, noodles and pasta made from good quality ingredients without added fillers and additives are processed, however not at the scale of, say, hotdogs or candy bars.
So while I advocate for staying away from candy bars and hot dogs and other ‘processed foods’ at that scale, I don’t think it’s practical or even necessary to stay away from noodles or pasta or bread or homemade pancakes completely.
My rule of thumb is to include a majority of unprocessed macronutrient sources – for example sweet potatoes, skin-on potatoes, other root vegetables and tubers, banana, avocado, or even rice – and leave room for good quality carb sources that fall under the bread/pasta/noodles category. This wiggle room makes things more practical and sustainable in the long run.
Eat mostly wholesome plant foods
There are no plant foods that contain only single nutrients.
When we eat mostly wholesome plant foods, we also get fiber and a host of micronutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides. These, indeed, are the nutrients that our immune system need as fuel and determine if we will be healthy or sick.
Wholesome plant foods also tend to be lower in fat and calories for the density of nutrients that they provide. Plant foods also do not contain animal hormones that suppress the immune system.
The fibre in wholesome plant foods feeds the good bacteria in our digestive tract for better gut health and absorption of nutrients. As fibre only exists in plant foods and never in meat, it’s very important to eat a variety of plant foods high in fibre every single day.
Make sure you get enough nutrients for your immune system
These days, most of us don’t need to worry about getting enough macronutrients. However, we need to pay more attention on getting enough micronutrients, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and polysaccharides.
Here are some tips on how to get micronutrients through your daily diet:
Each plant food contains a different range of micronutrients, phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Variety is key as it ensures that we get as much of these varied nutrients as possible. Eating a ‘rainbow’ of fruit and vegetables daily is a good way to do this.
For example, eating half an apple, half a banana and some grapes is better than eating 2 apples only or 2 bananas only.
2. Eat a rainbow
Different nutrient content in plant foods is usually characterised by the colours of the foods. This is because antioxidants and micronutrients tend to contribute to the colours of plant foods.
For example, although green vegetables are really important, eating mixed vegetables of different colours is better than 5 servings of kale in one setting.
3. Spices and herbs
Culinary herbs and spices like turmeric, cinnamon, garlic and so on are great sources of micronutrients.
They are also a great way to kick up the flavours in dishes, making them more palatable and therefore up the chances of us eating more of them.
A good diet full of nutrient dense, wholesome plant foods and spices, is the most simple way to go about eating healthy amidst the noise and overwhelm and ensure that your body is prepared to achieve good health.
When your immune system works properly and in good balance, it doesn’t provide an environment for diseases as well as autoimmune disorders.
Nutrition is one of the key pillars in our overall health and wellness, in addition to sleep, exercise and managed stress levels. However, modern diet and lifestyle tend to focus on what keeps our taste buds satisfied, without enough focus on providing our body with the fuel it truly needs in order to be healthy.
Making time to cook and prepare a variety of wholesome plant foods every single day is the best way to go. However, if you’re not able to do this every single day, you can look for more convenient alternatives instead of compromising on your nutrient intake and therefore your chance of recovery.
My daughter eats well almost every day, but there are simply days where we can use extra boost of wholesome fruit and vegetables to make sure her immune system is always supported. Our family LOVES powdered botanical beverages like SOYGREEN which is loaded with wholesome soy and a variety of wholesome vegetables and fibre. It’s safe, delicious, wholesome, and not to mention very convenient.
You can learn more about my daughter’s extra nutritional support here.
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All information on this website is meant for informational purposes only. It contains my own personal opinions and interpretation of acquired information. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and information on this website are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician.