Scientists have been aware of the link between stress and alopecia for years now. But none of the studies could explain exactly how chronic stress could cause hair loss. Recent research on the effects of stress on the body might help shed some light on the matter.
The Lowdown on Alopecia
Many people use the terms hair loss and alopecia as synonyms. But it’s important to know the difference between them. Hair loss is a symptom and alopecia is the autoimmune disease that causes it.
Based on the extent of its symptoms, alopecia can take on several forms. The most common is alopecia areata, the type of the disease that causes hair loss in patches. In severe cases, the condition can progress and result in complete loss of body hair.
This disease occurs when your body starts attacking hair follicles to defend itself against a perceived threat. Scientists don’t yet know why your body mistakes healthy cells for harmful agents. What’s more, they can’t tell for certain what causes such a strong immune response. But extensive research suggests that stress can be a major contributing factor.
What the Research Shows
The researchers behind this recent study focused on the CRF1 stress receptors in the body. When your body is under a lot of stress, these receptors trigger the immune cells to release certain chemicals into the bloodstream.
One of those chemicals is histamine. While it plays an important part in protecting your body, it can also cause harm. According to the findings, it can trigger allergic reactions and severe physical symptoms. This is especially true when your body mistakes its own healthy cells for a threat.
The authors found that removing the CRF1 receptors in mice helped keep histamine levels in check. This also helped reduce the physical symptoms of autoimmune diseases. What’s more, the removal of these receptors improved the body’s response to stress.
This new research provides more insight into the link between stress and alopecia. There’s still need for further studies. But if everything pans out, it could help develop new treatments not just for alopecia but for other autoimmune diseases, as well.