Root Vegtables

A diet low in grains, seeds, and legumes effectively keeps my hair pulling low, but I don’t particularly like cooking. Thus I am always on the lookout for easy recipes that meet my needs. I found this one for roasted root vegetables. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut various root vegetables into half inch cubes (turnips, parsnips, carrots etc.) and chop the white portion of some scallions into half inch pieces. Mince a teaspoon of garlic and combine everything on a sheet pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and cook for 10 minutes. Coarsely chop a tomato, add to the pan and roast for an additional 15 minutes until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. Serve and with minced cilantro.

Voilà…

Recipe ideas are always welcome!

Advertisements
Published in: on April 7, 2019 at 9:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Documenting the edematous root

A reader took a video of an edematous root being extricated. I am sharing his link below. I would presume that if the average person had that sh*t beneath their skin, a) it would be uncomfortable because the bloated material puts pressure on the narrow opening of the follicles, and b) they would want that vileness OUT for the same reason you would pop a whitehead or squish out ear cheese.

Hairpulling from the back of the head in closeup: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fovWU2nZ1E

Does anyone still believe seratonin deficiencies are causing us to pull?

Published in: on March 17, 2019 at 6:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Are You an Intellectual?

After more than a century, the understanding of trichotillomania has stagnated. Patients have gone through cognitive behavioral therapy, aversion therapy, substitution therapy, taken drugs, had their brains scanned, worn hats and gloves, and tried sheer willpower, all to no avail.

Now an abundance of anecdotal reports suggest a totally new way of looking at the problem. We should not lose this opportunity to ask new questions and place these different ideas under scientific scrutiny.

I found a video of Ibram Kendi entitled “What is an Intellectual” in which he speaks on an apropos subject. Here’s what he has to say (edited slightly for clarity).

How much you know has no bearing on how much you are an intellectual. I define an intellectual as someone has who a tremendous desire to know. Intellectuals have a tremendous capacity to change their minds on matters. Intellectuals are only governed by one special interest: finding and revealing the truth.

How many of your minds are wide open to new ideas? How many of you are searching for ideas that challenge how you see the world? How many of you are willing to look at something differently at the world with the blink of new evidence? How many of you are critiquing your own ideas as intensely as you critique the ideas of others?

Intellectuals are a nomadic people constantly changing their conceptual location, constantly in search of a better conceptual space. Workout warriors of the body pump iron to break down old muscles to allow newer, bigger, and better muscles to grow in their place. Intellectuals are workout warriors of the mind, regularly breaking down old ideas to allow new, bigger, and better ideas to grow in their place.

Are you an intellectual?

Published in: on January 12, 2019 at 6:15 pm  Comments (12)  

The Visible of Trichotillomania

The limitations of the human senses dictate that generally if you can’t see something it must not exist. Many people did not believe germs existed until microscopes became accessible to literally show people evidence of the existence of germs. Nowadays most, if not all, health issues manifest physically and visually if you have the right tools. A yeast infection is acutely felt, and is confirmed with a microscope; Alzheimer’s disease can be visually confirmed by analysing the brain; and even my trichotillomania can be visually confirmed but you don’t have to dissect my brain to see it.

When my pulling is at its worst, the roots of my hairs are sheathed with an oily jelly that explodes when you squeeze it; the follicles leak blood after each hair is extracted; the base of my ears grow elephantiasis-like cysts; weepy sores open on my lower legs and scalp; stinky ear cheese oozes (or sometimes explodes) from my ear piercings and preauricular ear pits; tender, puffy white heads dot my haunches and brows; ingrown hairs bunch up beneath the surface of my skin at my shins, knees, buttocks and brows; and my scalp produces excess oils with notes of funk and must. When my pulling subsides, all of these symptoms subside with it. Likewise, the appearance of just one of the above symptoms gives rise to all of them.

For almost 150 years we have been examining trichotillomania from a psychological perspective. Hair-pulling looks like a tic or a habit so the standard presumption is that the problem lies with the brain. Despite decades of studies, experiments, theories, and advancements in technology, however, there is still no known cause and no treatment that is long-term, consistent, and repeatable. Even in brain scans, there is no definitive evidence that implies that trichotillomania has any resemblance to a dysfunction of the brain. On the other hand, there is an increasing number of anecdotal reports of pullers experiencing skin issues like the ones mentioned above.

Humane diseases kill you. The insidious nature of trichotillomania means that instead of dying from it we are forced to live with it. A full-blown hair-puller with no remission can experience a lifetime of low functionality, limited ability to hold down a job, and poor quality of life. I would propose that society as a whole (at least 5% of the world population constitutes a societal problem) think outside the box and consider the rethinking how we view hair-pulling. This may result in a psychiatrist or two watching their life’s work spiral down the drain; but, to give the option of a good quality of life to thousands,  it just makes sense to explore every possible avenue.

Published in: on January 3, 2019 at 5:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Science

Some years ago I told a fellow hair-puller that I had some success reducing my hair-pulling by avoiding legumes and sugars. Without even thinking about my statement for even five seconds, she dismissed the idea that diet has any role in hair-pulling, and for no particular reason other than that she didn’t think so. And besides, she didn’t eat “those things” anyway. (This response is quite flippant. Legumes are in everything and quite difficult to avoid without making a conscious effort. She clearly did not think this through.) After receiving multiple similar reactions from people, I realized that shifting the paradigm of trichotillomania would be an uphill battle.

The word trichotillomania was penned by (ironically) a dermatologist, Francois Hallopeau, who combined the Greek words for pulling, hair, and madness. The mania, or abnormal psychological state, aspect of the word has persisted for more than a century to imply that those who pull the hair out are effectively crazy. This concept has become ingrained in society and has shut our eyes to alternative possibilities despite that fact that not a single study in psychiatry or psychology in 100 years has demonstrated consistent, long term, and repeatable success in stopping a person from pulling.

I personally believe there is a direct link between what I eat and how much I pull my hair out because my experience is straight forward and telling:  I eat beans, my  pulling gradually increases. I avoid beans and allow them to fully exit from my system and my pulling reduces by more than 95%, simultaneously, by the way , with several other skin problems.  Consistent. Long term. Repeatable.

It is worth emphasizing that I only speak from personal experience. It is probable that trichotillomania has multiple varieties and therefore multiple causes. But we can’t know unless we ask the questions. Certainly I don’t expect anyone to take my word; a good scientist should be skeptical. But I would hope that he or she would be open-minded to possibility as well.

Granted, it would be nice to just take a pill and have this all go away, but that is unrealistic. Who cares whether it’s a skin problem or serotonin problem? I suspect a few psychiatrists may find that their life’s work has all been for naught; but ultimately don’t we just want to find an answer to this terrible affliction, whatever it ends up being? Being a severe puller. my quality of life is significantly compromised by pulling. For me, opening my mind to alternative solutions, even difficult dietary ones, is a no brainer.

Published in: on December 16, 2018 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  

What is healthy hair?

Two-thirds of the hair follicles on my scalp are permanently damaged, presumably from repeated pulling, and my hair grows only sparsely on the top and sides of my head while simultaneously a triangular-shaped patch of hair grows luxuriantly and healthily at the back of my head where I don’t have a history of pulling. Even as my pulling subsided, shaving my head made sense as a way of hiding in plain sight: I found that no hair looks better on me than some hair.

This past July I decided to grow my hair out just to see what would happen, and I am committed to sticking it out for a full year. Now in December, the hair at the back of my head is more than 2″ long. Six months has given me opportunity to look at the hairs on the crown of my head that really struggle to grow and time to ponder the question of what healthy hair really is. Hair may be dead keratin without any nerves, but yet we all recognize healthy hair when we see it.

The hairs at the crown of my head are shorter. The length caps out at less than an inch. Some are still stubble after all these months. They are lighter colored. They are thinner in diameter. If I attempt to pull them out, they tend to snap before the root comes out. These are only the hairs that grow at all. The hairs are so few per square inch that they can individually counted.

As a lay person (who studied French for eight years and not any branch of medicine) I came up with a list of observations about my own hair that make me question its health. Keep in mind that I am speculating only.

  • The diameter should be uniform for the area that the hair is in. I would imagine that arm hairs may have a slightly different average diameter than, say, scalp hairs, but the the diameter should be consistent for each part of your body.
  • The strand should not have split ends. As a high-schooler, I had chronic split ends and one my body-focused repetitive behaviors was to seek out all of my split ends and split them apart.
  • Healthy hair should hurt when you yank it out by the follicle.
  • Healthy hair should not bleed when it is extracted.
  • Healthy hair should fall out naturally at a uniform rate, 50 to 100 per day being within the normal range, I hear.
  • Healthy hairs should not be ingrown. The common belief (popular science all over the Internet) will tell you that ingrown hair is caused by external forces such as clothing rubbing against your skin. In my experience, however, ingrown hairs are a reflection of the health of the follicle. When I experience an increase in pulling in my scalp I also, without fail, see an explosion of ingrown hairs in my calves.
  • Healthy hair should neither be too oily nor too dry. Mine, like my mother’s, is chronically and excessively oily. I MUST wash my hair daily (and sometimes twice a day), and have found that controlling oils on my scalp plays a role in controlling my pulling.

Some other points I am unsure about. For example, I wonder what it means when individual rogue hairs are significantly different from their neighboring hairs: kinkier, lighter colored, thinner or thicker in diameter, excessively short, or freakishly long.

I also wonder what a healthy hair has at its root. The classic trichotillomania hair has the jelly-like translucent sheath around it, which I believe personally to be unhealthy and abnormal. I also have hair roots that have nothing on the end, that are dry and seem to almost tear out of the follicles. Other hair roots look moist but without any greasy substance on the end. The hair roots that I avoid pulling out (because they hurt) have rock-like nubs on the end.

I have no idea of the veracity of any of the above statements, but if you are an authority on the matter I would value what you have to say.

 

Published in: on December 12, 2018 at 6:07 am  Leave a Comment  

Dermatologist visit

Although my pulling is close to zero currently, two-thirds of my scalp hair has ceased to grow hair. I stopped shaving my head in July and now in November only a triangle-shaped patch of hair grows (thick and luxuriantly) at the back of my head. So earlier this month I went to see a dermatologist to see if my hair has any chance to regrow.

During the appointment, Dr. D. examined my scalp and the first question she asked me was if I suffered from anxiety. I don’t remember if I was able to keep the rolling of my eyes to myself.

Lying to doctors doesn’t make sense because a) they probably already know the truth, and b) they can’t help you if they don’t know the full truth. So I told her that I pulled out my hair some time ago, and it never grew back. She took a biopsy of my scalp and I returned in two weeks to find out that I didn’t have any of the markers for alopecia. In short, there is nothing much they can do for me, and that my best hope to regenerate  hair is with a daily application of  Rogaine. This was exactly the result I expected. (After insurance, it only cost me $125.)

Before my consult came to an end, I asked her if she had any connections to researchers in dermatology.  I explained to her that I have a strong suspicion that hair-pulling is more of a dermatological condition rather than a psychiatric condition, and that my hair-pulling all but disappeared with the elimination of legumes and sugars from my diet. I give her credit for listening to me while I stood on my soap box, but she was clearly hesitant and, like a good scientist, skeptical.

I pushed her for some resources and she said that any research would ideally be a joint effort between psychiatry and dermatology. If my wit were quicker I would have asked if she sends her patients with rashes to see a psychiatrist. In the end she gave me the name of a doctor in San Francisco who has two doctoral degrees – one in dermatology and one in psychiatry. When I hear from him I will let you all know.

At the end of our discussion Dr. D. said she was happy that I was able to overcome my pulling with diet. I said that “overcome” is not the right word. One overcomes a hurdle an obstacle of some sort. When I abide by my diet, the problem disappears; there is nothing to “overcome.”

Published in: on November 29, 2018 at 4:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Limitations

Eating out is a 100% risky proposition for me. Even if I eat gluten-free, I never know if the cook fries in peanut oil, seasons with tamari or dredges with chickpea flour.

I went out to eat dinner this past Thursday night. I wasn’t overly surprised when I noticed a few ingrown hairs less than 1/4″ mm long on my shins on Saturday night. Last night, right on cue, I started pulling my scalp hairs out. The first several hairs did not have jelly roots, but I felt something was under there, so I persisted and I found two big fat, glistening, heavy gel capsules on the tips of my pulled hairs. Some other hair roots were encapsulated also, but they weren’t fat or shiny or cold the way I like them.

As much as I believe diet as improved my hair-pulling, I am not totally pull-free. Some unseen force under my skin still compels me to pull a small amount. Since the summer, I have pulled on average five hairs or fewer from my scalp, but pull at least that many or more from my eyebrows and consistently find roots there. Removing five hairs a day from one’s eyebrows becomes noticeable quickly.

I am also driven to twirl my hair compulsively, maddeningly.

Diet helps a lot, but clearly there is more to be done… Not sure at this time what that would entail.

Published in: on November 19, 2018 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hunger

I experience the hair-pulling urge very much like hunger. They are both persistent. You can’t control the desire for food or pulling. They can both be ignored, but only for so long. At some point, one has no choice to give in to their demands.

I have experienced really bad itching in the same way too.

In my experience, pulling is as natural as hunger. People don’t blame you for feeling hungry, or even scratching a lot; but for some reason they tell you to stop if you’re pulling a lot.

(Can you imagine telling someone to stop eating?)

The only difference between the two is that, if I avoid sugars and legumes,  I can squelch the hair-pulling urge, never for it to return, (or at least not until that moment when I eat something I shouldn’t).

Published in: on November 15, 2018 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Stress doesn’t cause ulcers! (And it probably doesn’t cause hair-pulling either.)

It is counter-intuitive how non-hair-pullers feel like they have license to give unsolicited advice to hair-pullers. They generally have the best intentions, of course, but their advice is predictable and banal.

They tell me to stop, as if that never occurred to me in forty years. Or they make suggestions on how I should lower my stress or elevate my calm.

I am here to tell you that my hair-pulling does correlate at all to my stress level. I have had terrible hair-pulling binges during stable, calm periods of my life. Conversely, I have experienced extreme amounts of stress (homeless, an unjust eviction, two years of unemployment, a divorce, single motherhood, incarceration of a  family member) without any increase in my hair-pulling.

If anything, hair-pulling is well documented as a day-dreamy act: fiddling with the hair during routine or boring acts such as while reading or driving.

The only way I’ve found stress to correlate with my hair-pulling is via a third, unrelated factor: diet. If one is stressed out, one might not take the time to eat well. If one eats excessive amounts of fast food and sugar, one’s hair-pulling may increase. I would argue that for many hair-pullers, diet is the aggravating factor, not stress.

I recently read an interesting article entitled “Bacteria, Ulcers, and Ostracism?” In the article, Dr. Tess Gerritsen writes:

When I was first starting out in medical practice, back in the early 1980s, the accepted treatment for peptic ulcer disease was a bland diet plus antacids and more antacids. Later, histamine H2-receptor antagonists were added to the treatment. But that was it, case closed.

Then, in 1984, physicians Warren and Marshall from Australia claimed that peptic ulcer disease was not caused merely by overproduction of gastric acid, but rather by a specific bacterium: Helicobacter pylori, to be specific. They recommended antibiotic therapy. Believe me, they were ridiculed by the medical establishment. I recall my colleagues, and even my own physician-husband, scoffing at the idea of peptic ulcers being an infectious disease. For the next thirteen years, most of the “medical mainstream” refused to let go of their calcified notion that the only treatment for ulcers was to combat gastric acid secretion. After all, that was what we all learned in medical school. Therefore, it had to be the truth!

It wasn’t until 1997 that the CDC finally put out the word to the nation’s doctors: Drs. Warren and Marshall had been correct all along. Helicobacter pylori was, indeed, the cause of most cases of peptic ulcer disease. The treatment, at long last accepted by mainstream medicine, is now antibiotics. . .

Skepticism is good and healthy, but at its extreme, it can turn into rigid closed-mindedness.

For more than a century, hair-pullers have been referred to psychiatry for treatment, which has had as much an impact on trichotillomania as antacids did for ulcers.

Published in: on November 10, 2018 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment