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Bad Breath Causes and Cures

A photographic image of a man cupping his hand over his mouth to smell if his breath is bad

How do you really know if you have bad breath?

Bad breath can be an embarrassing issue to tackle. Most of us will feel as though we’ve had a bad breath day at some point in our lives. Usually this is fixed by a quick brushing of teeth or swill of mouth wash. However for some dealing with bad breath, or halitosis, can be a socially devastating experience.

 

Bad Breath or ‘Halitosis’ and its Causes

Problems with bad breath do not always start in the mouth. Although oral health is the most likely cause of bad breath, it can also depend on other issues.

Low Carb Diet Bad Breath

What we eat and drink has a huge effect on our breath. Eating foods with a strong flavour, such as garlic and spices can cause temporary bad breath. However many will find that simply cutting down on these ingredients will solve the problem quickly.

Dieting, especially low-carbohydrate based diets, can also cause bad breath. This is because as the body starts to break down fat at a fast rate, chemicals called ketones are produced. These ketones escape through urine and unfortunately, your breath. Ketone-based bad breath has a distinct odour. If you are on a low-carb diet and suffer from bad breath, it is more than likely that ketosis is to blame.

Bad breath is an unfortunate side-effect of dieting. However when the body is producing ketones, it is proof that you are actually burning fat. Products such as Ketostix can show if you are producing ketones. They are dip-sticks for testing levels of ketones in your urine. These will help you find out if your bad breath is ketosis, whilst also providing proof that you are loosing weight via fat loss.

Cigarette Bad Breath

Image showing a set of teeth. The first half of the teeth are healthy without plaque, the second half show receeding gums and plaque build up that causes bad breath.

A build up of dental plaque will cause gum disease, which causes halitosis.

Bad breath is obviously the least important health issue caused by smoking. However, as well as the damage to your lungs, smoking can cause gum disease. Gums can become irritated by smoke, causing further complications such as gum disease. Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, makes gums swollen, infected and painful.
It is mostly noticed when there is blood whilst brushing your teeth. The gum tissue is very sensitive to cigarette smoke, and is eroded over time. This is mostly caused by the extra bacteria in the mouth due to smoking. This bacteria cause plaque, which will deteriorate the gums and then cause bad breath.

The most sensible cure for bad breath due to smoking is obviously to stop smoking. However keeping up to date with dental appointments and maintaining good oral health will help stop cigarette bad breath.

The NHS provides a “Quit kit” to will help you to stop smoking.

Medicines That Cause Bad Breath

There are a number of medicines that cause bad breath. If these drugs are vital to your health, bad breath is an unfortunate yet unavoidable side effect. However if you are deeply concerned about your bad breath, talking to your GP may help. They maybe able to offer you an alternative medicine to avoid getting bad breath.

Post Nasal Drip Bad Breath

Post nasal drip is also known as upper airway cough syndrome. It is caused by an excess production of mucous in the nose. This mucous then gathers in the throat causing bad breath. Post nasal drip can be a side-effect of further health issues, such as sinusitis or swallowing disorders.

Bad Breath in Babies and Children

Children can occasionally fall foul of bad breath, too. As stated by Dr Lewis First in this article for NBC 5 News, the main cause of halitosis in children is tooth decay. Many children dislike having to brush their teeth and see it as a chore. This is why it is important to try and make cleaning their teeth a fun experience.

Children cleaning teeth

Make cleaning teeth fun! Photo Credit: Stuart Berry http://www.flickr.com/photos/stuartberry/

There are a range of toothbrushes available to encourage your child to brush. Finding a fun toothbrush for your child will help them take an interest in brushing. Character brushes based on cartoons and toys are a firm winner with most children. Also you will find many of these character brushes include built-in flashing lights. These Barbie and Spiderman toothbrushes light up once activated, not only to entertain, but to also act as a timer. They will flash continuously for 1-2 minutes, ensuring your child has brushed for the right amount of time.

Studies have also found that “mouth breathing” can also contribute towards halitosis in young children. Mouth breathing often takes place when a child is ill with a cold. Their noses become blocked and stuffy, leaving no option other than to breathe mainly through the mouth. The intake of air through the mouth then dries out saliva, leaving bacteria to fester. This is usually a short term problem that is solved once the child no longer has a cold. However taking extra time for brushing during this time can help lessen bad breath.

 

 

Bad Breath and Disease Symptoms

As mentioned previously, bad breath can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Below we cover some of the more common illnesses and conditions that can include bad breath as a symptom.

Halitosis

Halitosis is simply the umbrella term for of all disorders that cause bad breath. This covers everything from morning breath to oral hygiene issues. Morning breath happens for the opposite reason that children suffer bad breath due to mouth breathing. At night the mouth is exposed to less oxygen than during the day time. This lack of oxygen circulating around the mouth again allows the bacteria to breed. This is why ensuring you clean your mouth, teeth and gums properly before bed is so important for oral health.

Gum Disease

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis is the most common form of dental disease. It is caused by a build-up of plaque that then allows bacteria to grow in the mouth. This bacteria then starts to effect the gums and can lead to periodontitis. The most common symptoms of gingivitis are:

  • bleeding gums, especially when brushing
  • swelling of the gums
  • inflammation
  • changes in the colour of the gums, most notably a dark red colour

It is important to spot and treat gingivitis before it leads to periodontitis. Once periodontitis sets in it can destroy the gums when bacteria travels under the tooth. Teeth can then become loose as the gums become more infected. Eventually this will lead to loss of teeth permanently.
Bad breath caused by gingivitis is easily remedied by keeping on top of oral hygiene. Making visits to your dentist for check-ups and maintaining a good brushing routine.

Kidney Disease

The kidneys are vital organs that help to cleanse the blood and keep your body chemicals balanced. Waste and toxins that are taken into the body through food, air and drink eventually end up in your blood. It is the job of the kidneys to filter the blood of these toxins and then convert them to urine. People with kidney disease will often complain of bad breath. This is because when the kidneys are not functioning properly, they fail to remove toxins from the body. One of these toxins is ammonia, which is found in urine. This build-up of toxins within the body then escapes through the digestive system to the mouth, causing a ‘fishy odour’ in the breath.

Diagram shows an illustration of a liver and how sugars dealt with in patients with type 1 diabetes.

Bad breath occurs for people with type 1 diabetes due to excess ketones caused by lack of insulin.

Diabetes

Bad breath caused by diabetes is related to ketosis, as mentioned in our low carb diet section. However as ketosis is a temporary side-effect of low-carb dieting, diabetic ketoacidosis can be life-threating.
Generally found in people with type 1 diabetes, ketoacidosis is caused by a lack of insulin to convert blood sugars to energy. Instead the body will start metabolising fat stores rather than converting sugars from food. This rapid burning of fat causes an influx of ketones; a byproduct of fat breakdown. The body will then become overwhelmed with ketones which are highly acidic, and change the PH of the blood.
The presence of these ketones within the digestive system then cause bad breath as they escape the body via urine or the mouth. This in turn causes the breath to smell unpleasant. Some people describe this as like the smell of the sweets called ‘pear drops’.

Dogs detecting diabetes in the breath

Specially trained dogs can detect the smell of ketones and are being used to help warn people with diabetes. So called ‘Hypo dogs‘, can alert people before they notice the symptoms themselves and can be especially helpful for small children or people whose glucose levels drop very quickly.

Sinus infection

Sinus infection, also known as sinusitis, is an inflammation of the lining of the sinuses. This is usually caused by a bacterial infection. The sinuses are located in several areas in the head. However it is the sinuses in the nose that cause bad breath when infected. Very similar to post nasal drip, the excess mucus produced can build up and allow bacteria to grow. This influx in bacteria produces a bad odour, that is noted as bad breath.

Constipation

When your body fails to pass solid waste on a regular basis this is called constipation. This then slows down the digestive process of food. Undigested food will then remain in the bowls where it becomes toxic and emits gas. This gas will eventually travel back up the digestive system and into the mouth, causing bad breath.
Keeping yourself regular and avoiding constipation is key to preventing bad breath. Statistics show that unto 25% of bad breath cases are caused by constipation. A diet of high fibre, fruit, veg and at least 4-6 glasses of water a day can prevent constipation. However it is also important to remain physically fit if this is possible. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising the middle of the body will keep bowl muscles toned. This in turn will make passing solid waste easier and more regular, avoiding bad breath.

For people who find it hard to eat enough natural fibre, a useful alternative is fybogel drinks or psyllium husks added to food.

Bad Breath Remedies

Image of a man brushing his teeth whilst looking at a clock behind him.

Brushing teeth for at least 2 minutes helps ensure plaque removal.

Sometimes it can be difficult to find a bad breath cure. Knowing the cause is your first step before trying to cure it. Disorders such as post nasal drip can often be cured using antibiotics or nasal steroids. However if your bad breath is due to oral hygiene rather than an underlying health condition it might be less simple to cure.

Treating and preventing bad breath should start with your daily brushing routine:

  • Always ensure you spend at least 2 minutes brushing with a quality toothpaste. Pastes such as Weleda’s Salt Toothpaste include natural ingredients that not only freshen but help neutralise plaque acids.
  • Ensure you floss between your teeth every time you brush, to further prevent plaque and tartar build-up. Plaque is the number one cause of gum disease and then bad breath.
  • It will help to brush your tongue as well as your teeth. Using a soft bristle brush for a longer brushing time is advised. The softer brushes cause less damage to gums and the tongue.
  • Use a mouth wash several times a day. It can help to carry a small bottle of mouth wash around with you for between snacks and meals. Brushing your teeth whilst at work or out and about can be difficult. However a quick swill of quality mouth wash between meals will help to dislodge particles of food until you can brush again.
  • Avoid brushing teeth for around 30 minutes after drinking fruit juice. Due to the acid in the juice, brushing straight away can cause further erosion of the teeth.

 

Once you have a solid oral hygiene routine in place, it is advised that you continue to avoid spicy foods, alcohol intake, smoking and coffee drinking. If after 2 weeks you are still suffering from bad breath, it may be time to consult your GP and dentist. They can rule out any underlying health issues that could be the cause of your bad breath.

 

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Bad Breath

Although bad breath is a very serious concern for the sufferer, it is not rare for the bad smell to be a psychological issue. Some can become convinced that they suffer bad breath when they actually don’t. In his recent interview with BBC Radio 4, Dr Tim Hodgson says up to 80% of self-referring halitosis patients don’t really have bad breath.
This paranoia of having bad breath is called halitophobia. People can become obsessed with oral hygiene and avoid social situations due to embarrassment of their bad breath. If a dental professional or GP feels halitosis is not present, the patient will be referred for cognitive behavioural therapy.

Diagram showing the cognitive behavioural therapy links between thoughts, feeling, action and behaviour

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps a patient with anxieties to understand the link between how they think, feel and act.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is usually referred to by the initials CBT. CBT is a therapy that involves discussing problems with a professional to find the root of your problems. CBT helps you to examine your emotions, actions and thoughts to understand how they are all interlinked.

Often those that are referred for CBT have at some time in the past suffered from bad breath. However this is usually no longer a problem yet they still think in the same way as they did during that time. Patients create a perception of themselves based on situations that occurred during the previous period of bad breath. This builds an anxiety that makes them concentrate on potential problems related to bad breath.
This is where cognitive behavioural therapy comes in. CBT sessions help the patient to see that their negative actions or negative reactions of those around them are actually caused by their own negative thoughts. This in turn helps the patient to filter all social and emotional information relating to bad breath equally. Rather than concentrating on only the negative they can see and feel, CBT helps them to interpret their apparent bad breath issue in a clearer light.

Products That May Help with Bad Breath

We have compiled a selection of over-the-counter products that are available to treat bad breath. If you have any recommendations or any experience with these products, please comment below.

Some of our top picks are:
TetroBreath Oral Hygiene Kit

This all inclusive oral hygiene kit has garnered fantastic reviews. It includes an oral rinse, tooth gel, tongue scraper and tooth brush all specifically designed to eliminate bad breath.

One of the many five star reviews on amazon comes from bumblebee:

It really does help! I ordered it for my close relative who was feeling really bad about her bad breath and although I really doubted it would help, it worked and I really do recommend that product to anyone who has bad breath! 🙂

Tung Brush for Treating Bad Breath and Tongue Gunk

The Tung Brush is especially designed to remove odour caused by bacteria. The unique design of the flat head and bristles keep the tongue extra clean to avoid bad breath.

This review by amazon reviewer “Me” explains how important tongue hygiene is in combating bad breath:

This product is absolutely amazing. 80% of bad breath comes from the back of your tongue. I’m surprised no one else has thought of this idea. We see tongue scrapers and mouthwashes on the market but we hardly see a good quality tongue brush to clean out tongue.

All the companies want us to buy mouthwashes to clean and freshen out breath, but the truth is that mouthwash just masks your breath for a very short period..that’s it. It won’t remove the bacteria, it won’t scrub it off, it will just stay there.

Now about this Tung Brush. There is also a special kind of zinc tongue gel sample that comes with this brush, which I think is not very good. This is how I use the brush, firstly after brushing your teeth with your toothbrush, apply a strip of normal toothpase (anything that you normally use, I use Aquafresh), then put some water onto it, and then scrub your tongue with it, but only go from back to front motions not back, front, front back etc. But most importantly remember your focus is to clean the very back of your tongue as this is where all the odour smelling bacteria is! This may make you gag a few times, but it is worth it. Afterwards spit, rinse and gargle. And now your tongue and mouth will feel so clean, that your sense of taste will change aswell, it will feel much cleaner and fresher.

You can also buy a Tung tongue scraper from Amazon to use after the Tung brush, this just adds to removing even more bacteria and foul smelling breath.

This is my first review, I wrote it because I think this Tung Brush is an absolute essential for clean and fresh breath. It really will affect your sense of taste.

 

Transcript from Video

00:01 Speaker 1: From bad hair, to bad breath. Halitosis is a tricky problem for us GP’s, not because we’re particularly prone to it, you understand, but because we’re often the last port of call for desperate patients. People complaining of persistent bad breath often end up coming back to their GP after their dentist has checked their mouth and various specialists who have looked at their throats, lungs and stomach. So, what can the GP add if there is no abnormality to find? Well, the first thing he or she can do is actually check that their patient has bad breath. Offering to smell someone’s breath can be embarrassing for both parties but it’s essential, as I discovered when I met Tim Hodgson, Consultant in oral medicine at the Eastern Dental Hospital in London.

00:42 Tim Hodgson: I think the most important thing to say to these individuals is, “Is it there or is it not?” And you’ve got to be very careful how you say it cause often these people are coming to you with a problem that they feel is real. And then, if you turn immediately around to them and say, “This is not real”, you can run into problems. But I think it’s very important within the first discussion to smell the breath cause that’s the gold standard test, and if they haven’t got bad breath you can say at that moment in time they don’t have halitosis but it is possible that in times previously that they had. And it’s often the case that people have halitosis, address their gum health.

01:22 S1: And gum health being the most common cause of it?

01:24 TH: Yeah. And after that they’re left with this perception that they’ve still got halitosis even though they’ve corrected the cause. And that’s sometimes reinforced by family members, friends and relatives. And often they come along with a very considered construct that people on their bus or on the Tube are turning away from them or covering their face or won’t talk to them directly because they feel they’ve got bad breath. And they look, almost looking for people who are avoiding them because of their bad breath.

01:58 S1: And that reinforces their notion that they’ve got bad breath.

01:59 TH: Yeah, it reinforces and helps build a construct in their own head.

02:03 S1: As a rough guide, what sort of proportion of people that you see here with halitosis would, in your mind, not necessarily have a real problem but have a perceived problem? Are they a significant minority?

02:14 TH: I would say probably 80% of patients referred with halitosis to our service don’t have halitosis.

02:21 S1: Do they believe you when you smell their breath and say, “Look, I can’t smell anything”.

02:26 TH: Some do, and others don’t.

02:29 S1: Working along side Tim Hodgson at the Eastern Dental Hospital is clinical psychologist, Claire Daniel.

02:34 Claire Daniel: For some of these people, they may well have had halitosis in the past so they’ve set up this way of thinking is… We work in a cognitive behavioural way which basically looks at the way in which people think, they way in which they feel, what they do and the physical symptoms and how they all interact. So, this patient in the past may well have had halitosis. They’ve set up this belief system thinking about their breath, maybe they’re focusing on their breath. And as Tim said, they’ve had past experiences of people reinforcing that they’ve got halitosis. Now, even if the halitosis disappears some patients may well remain quite anxious about that and so they will keep on focusing on the potential symptoms. And they become very biased in the way in which they see and hear information so they become very focused on the negative stuff that will reinforce their beliefs and will sort of ignore the other bits of information that may well support a more helpful, more realistic way of thinking about their situation.

03:25 S1: So, when a doctor or a dentist tells them that they haven’t got bad breath, they’ll say, “Well, that’s not true or I haven’t got my bad breath today but, trust me, I had it yesterday because I saw someone in the pub wince”.

03:36 CD: Yes, absolutely. So, it’s either, “Well yes, it’s okay today but it wasn’t yesterday or it won’t be tomorrow”. But also, some people initially will be reassured by somebody saying they haven’t got bad breath but, as we know, reassurance is for people who believe they have medical difficulties can only be short-lived for most people. So, they’ll feel very reassured in the consulting room and then will go home and their whole belief system will trigger again, maybe reinforced by the people. So, their anxiety maintains.

04:02 S1: Looking at this from the outside, Tim’s got perhaps the easy part of the job when he says, “Look, I don’t think you have halitosis”, and he then does the referral to you.

04:09 CD: Absolutely.

04:09 S1: And you’ve got to do something about it. It’s quite a complex problem so what can you do and how successful might you be?

04:14 CD: Yeah, it’s very complex. Cognitive behavioural therapy is an anxiety about health in general, we don’t set out to tell people that they’re wrong. We set out to try and help people understand what’s going on. So, we don’t just talk about their physical reported symptoms. We’ll talk about the way in which they’re interpreting things, they way in which they’re thinking about things, and how those interpretations actually may be unhelpful. They might seem helpful to the patients, like go to the doctor, go to the dentist, focus on their breath to check, maybe clean their teeth, but in the long term they can be very unhelpful and maintain the problem. So, we help people to take a broader outlook on their situation. We don’t tell them what it’s not, we help them to understand what it could be and then we help them to develop evidence to support what it could be rather than maybe what it’s not.

05:01 S1: And practically, what is involved and how often do you see them?

05:04 CD: So, we’d see people maybe every week, every two weeks.

05:08 S1: Is this one-on-one?

05:09 CD: Yes, one-on-one, for this particular condition. One-on-one, so one patient with one psychologist for about 50 minutes about, on average about eight times.

05:17 S1: And in terms of success rate, how effective is it?

05:20 CD: I would say, we do help… With particularly halitosis, we probably help about 80-90% of people.

05:28 S1: That’s pretty good.

05:28 CD: But I wouldn’t… But then it’s a continuum, we might help some people just a little bit. And I think with things like anxiety about health, it’s a life-long issue. We’re not just going to suddenly stop people’s anxieties. It’s about helping them to live with uncertainty and live with a degree of anxiety about their condition. So, they’ll still have times when they think their breath smells.

05:46 S1: Clinical psychologist Claire Daniel. Just time to tell you about the next Inside Health when I will be investigating the side effect of cancer treatment…

Female Hair Loss

Image of a lady examining a hair brush with excess hair on it.

All women lose hair whilst brushing, however for some the loss can suddenly become more noticeable.

Female hair loss affects around 8 million women in the UK alone. This statistic shows that hair loss in women is as important an issue as it is for men. There are varying degrees of hair loss that can effect women. From fine and thinning hair, to total baldness and bald spots. Women of all ages can suffer from this terrible condition. Like female incontinence that we covered in a recent post, this is an issue where good information can be hard to find. Recently BBC journalist Claire Millar wrote a piece about how her hair loss affected her. She said “I remember going through a whole range of emotions. I felt embarrassed, upset and scared.” If you suffer from female hair loss, especially at an early age you may find yourself under great pressure to live up to what is expected of you as a woman.

Personal experience from Diane, one of our readers:

I have had Alopecia since I was a child. At exactly what age I’m not sure. My mother used to tell me that at one point I lost all my hair and had a blond wig.But I have no recollection of it at all.
I spent a lot of my childhood in hospital with Rheumatic ever and stills disease.
As a child I was given various disgusting smelling potions but none had an effect other than making me smell weird!
Hairdressers have become a phobia because of insensitive comments, who would inevitably feel the need to share her findings with the rest of the salon. Believe me I tried various places,some worse than others but damage well and truly done.
My hair loss is now spreading (I’m 49) I was diagnosed with Sjorgens Syndrome a year ago which I believe is a symptom of this too.
I have very sensitive skin and have to be really careful which shampoo to use. I wash my hair as little as I can get away with. I have yet to find shampoo that doesn’t irritate me.
I wear my hair long so that I can tie it up and hide the patches.
Would love to have my hair short again as it would be so much easier to handle.
Would be really grateful of any suggestions that may make it easier to live with.

Please read on for further information about what causes female hair loss, and how to manage the condition.

Female Hair Loss Causes

Female hair loss is a condition that is very hard to disguise. As it effects your outwards appearance, many women emotionally struggle to cope with the condition. There’s an old saying that a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. This says a lot about the pressure society places on women to have a healthy and full head of hair.

Stress Hair Loss

There are many causes of female hair loss. If you are suffering from severe stress or nutritional deficiencies for example, you may witness a temporary change in your hair condition. Both women and men who find themselves facing emotionally draining life-changes can lose hair. This is a condition called “telogen effluvium” – a temporary shedding of hair from the head and sometimes other parts of the body.
It is noticed as a thinning of the hair rather that patches of baldness. This hair loss can happen quite suddenly, however usually grows back within 6 months.

Hormonal Hair Loss in Women

There are a number of health conditions that cause significant changes in a woman’s hormonal balance.
However the hormone mostly responsible for female hair loss is testosterone.
Illnesses such as PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) often cause women to produce increased levels of testosterone.
This in turn can effect many aspects of their health. Increased testosterone in women is initially discovered because of irregular periods. However this symptom is usually teamed with one or more of the following health concerns:

  • Acne in adulthood
  • Infertility
  • Facial hair growth
  • Weight gain (especially around the middle)
  • Type II diabetes or Insulin Resistance
  • Depression
  • Hair Loss
Image of a woman's scalp, showing a widening or thinning of hair along the centre parting.

A typical example of hormone-related male-pattern baldness on a woman.

As women with PCOS can produce too much testosterone, they can suffer from male-pattern baldness. Unlike temporary stress-related

hair loss this can often be permanent. However most women do not suffer bald patches from their loss. It’s more an over-all thinning of the hair, especially along the parting.

Diet and Women’s Hair Loss

A poor diet can lead to vital vitamin deficiencies. These deficiencies can in turn lead to problems such as hair loss. A healthy and balanced diet is not only important for weight watching. Each vegetable and fruit offers an important vitamin or mineral that is essential for a balanced diet. The colour of each piece of fruit or vegetable is a reflection of the vitamins and minerals contained inside. One of the easiest way to insure you eat a balanced diet is to eat a “rainbow” selection of fresh produce everyday.

However if eating a healthy diet still leaves you with thinning hair, you may have a specific deficiency caused by an underlying health problem. If you feel this is the case you must contact your GP. Deficiencies in Iron, Vitamin D and B12 are essential for healthy and strong hair growth. Women who suffer from eating disorders such as Bulimia and Anorexia can often lose hair due to vitamin deficiencies caused by a lack of food intake.

Hair loss caused by drug side effects

 


If your hair begins to thin after beginning a new drug treatment, be aware that there are many medicines that can cause alopecia as a side effect. It is worth checking with your GP if there are alternatives, if you believe this is happening.

Female Hair Loss Treatment

There are several types of hair loss treatment for women. If the hair loss is caused by temporary conditions such as stress, it is easier to find a treatment that works.
However if hair loss is caused by hormonal imbalances, finding a cure is more difficult.
Unfortunately there currently isn’t a true cure for male-pattern baldness. However there are products that can help to strengthen the hair you do have, providing extra thickness and some regrowth.

Caffeine Shampoo

Illustation of a cross section of a hair follicle.

Shampoos with caffeine have the ability to travel down the hair follicle to infiltrate the root and scalp, promoting hair growth.

New to the market are caffeine shampoos. These hair treatments contain caffeine, which has been proven to stimulate hair growth. The caffeine reaches the hair follicles whilst you wash your hair, and is safe enough to be used daily. Once the shampoo has been washed off, the caffeine stays within the follicle and in the scalp skin. This means it continues to work even after it has been washed off.
Many women have seen fantastic results after only a few weeks of switching to a caffeine based shampoo, despite scepticism from the medical profession (see video below). The ingredients are designed to not only stimulate hair growth, but improve the structure and strength of the hair you have already.

Statistics show that even if new hair growth can not be achieved, maintaining the hair you do have is just as important.
Often women with hair loss will find that what is actually happening is that their current hair has become thinner than it used to be. This can give the impression of hair loss. However, if you work towards keeping your hair healthy and ensuring hair follicles are thick you can feel more confident about yourself and your hair style.

 

 

There is a transcript of this video at the bottom of the page.

Minoxidil for Female Hair Loss

Another scalp treatment for female baldness is the drug minoxidil. Minoxidil is a proven treatment and comes in the form of a lotion. Many women see a slow-down of hair loss almost days after first usage. Most importantly, at least 25% of women see a change in hair thickness and growth with the first few months of use. Although this treatment is not available on the NHS, it is often recommended by GPs.

Spironolactone

When we asked on twitter for any products people had found helpful we had this tweet:

Spironolactone is a diuretic that also acts to block male hormones. It may be worth asking your doctor for a referral to a specialist if you think this may help you.

 

Food Supplements for Hair Loss

There are a number of brands now creating tablets especially for female hair loss. Whilst these can be expensive, the results are often positive. Most tablets contain essential vitamins and minerals needed for healthy hair growth. Many high street chemists stock their own generic versions of these supplements if you find the branded ones too expensive.

Image of blue oil bottles, a dish of oil and dried lavender used for massage

Head massage for female hair loss can bring positive results whilst also being a relaxing experience.

Head Massage for Hair Loss

Massage of the scalp can also offer positive results. Using specially chosen essential oils for scalp massage is very important. Firstly

there are grades of massage oil. Essential oils or absolutes are the purest form of oil and you should try to buy these if possible. After this there are “dilutes” that are a mix of essential and “carrier” oils. These are cheaper than absolutes but less effective. Finally “fragrance” oils should be avoided as these are synthetic and do not hold any of the therapeutic qualities of essential oils.

Some of the best essential oils for hair loss are:

To make your own hair loss massage oil, simply mix a few drops of each oil into a carrier oil such as Jojoba or Avocado Oil.

Below is information on how to give yourself a scalp massage to promote hair loss:

Step 1

Place a few drops of essential rosemary oil in your palms and use it to gently massage your scalp. Rosemary can help get rid of excess oil on your scalp, which can clog your follicles. It also helps to stop the growth of any bacteria on your skin and might even replenish hair lost due to a condition such as alopecia areata. Use the pads of your fingers and a circular motion to rub the oil into your scalp for two minutes once a day before washing. This will also break up any buildup and allow it to be washed away more effectively.

Read more…

Personal Viewpoint from Dale at BeyondPhysical.co.uk

After suffering paralysis as a result of an SCI my hair began to fall out in fistfuls.  The shower was like a horror scene, especially as my hair had always been a very important and cherished part of my appearance.  My beautiful long red hair began to thin and disappear.  I made the decision to cut it all very short to get the best from it.

Cutting my hair shorter than it had been since I was 3 was an incredibly painful process at first.  I didn’t want to let go of who I was, and my hair partly defined that.  It seemed to emphasize to me how long it would take to ‘get back’ to who I was.

It turned out to be an incredibly liberating experience.  It helped reveal the truth to me that you can never go back to who you were and how life was.  We are only ever moving forward towards better things and holding on to the past and trying to get back what once was is not only impossible, but also harmful to us in the long run.

Accepting what was happening and what I needed in that moment was one of the reasons I think that cutting my hair short helped.  At first my hair still fell out, but not as drastically.  The radical cut did seem to give my body a chance to heal as my hair soon stopped thinning, and of course, I learnt to love my new short hair.

I grew my hair back out to its full length eventually and would you believe for the last 3 years I have had it cut short and very short, and now I prefer it.  Everything happens for a reason.

Tricologists have told me in the past that alopecia treatments are either steroids or nothing at all, but in both cases it tends to be watch and hope.  There seems to be nothing tried and tested in medical terms.  There were a couple of things that helped me.

  1. Giving my hair a chance by cutting it short
  2. Accepting the situation as something that wasn’t ‘bad’
  3. The B.E.S.T technique

I found an American holistic treatment called B.E.S.T that helps bring your body back into state where it can heal itself effectively, like it was designed to do.  This helped dramatically.  The other upside to the treatment was that it helped me heal in other ways, emotionally and physically.  I am the UK’s only registered B.E.S.T practitioner.  It was so life changing I knew I needed to be able to help others so I trained in it!

Now having benefitted from the experience of others alongside my own experience and research I can offer up the following solutions for hair loss.

  1. Get rid of any amalgams like mercury fillings.
  2. Destox’s your liver, so absolutely no smoking, no sugar, lower carbs and alcohol intake.
  3. Eat only whole foods to increase your nutrition.
  4. Take relevant vitamins, enzymes and minerals

Alongside myself, Kinesiologists and Nutritionists should be able to advise you which supplements are necessary for you personally.  Supplements are not generally advisable to everyone always; they need to be tailored to your bodies needs.

The absolute best thing we can do when faced with hair loss is not let it emotionally impact us in a terrible and scarring way.  Our greatest chance for healing our situation is to love ourselves regardless.

Dale Rutherford, UK’s only qualified B.E.S.T Practitioner. Dale can be contacted at BeyondPhysical.co.uk or on twitter @BeyondPhys1cal .

 

Strategies for Coping with Alopecia

The NHS ‘Live Well‘ website has some supportive and informative tips on coping with women’s hair loss including:

Share stories: Talk about it and share your experiences with others. Please feel feel to leave comments on his blog for that purpose.

Join a support group: Contact a local Alopecia UK support group to find the nearest group to you.

Go online: There is also an Alopecia UK’s discussion forum if you prefer to talk anonymously or online.

Accept it: Although it is difficult, try to come to terms with your hairloss. Using positive thinking techniques, focus on the things that you do well and that are your best qualities. Try and use your energy to concentrate on what you do best.

Talk about it: Tell friends and family members about it so that they can support you. Take time to involve and talk it through with your partner.

Cover up: Find out ways of disguising and covering up your hair loss with things like wigs, hair extensions, scarves and make-up. Keep trying until you find something that suits you. You may decide that you do not want to hide it at all, do whatever works for you.

Visit your Doctor to discuss the options fo an NHS wig. If your hair loss is around 50%, you may be eligible for NHS help. (Click here for info about NHS wigs.) There are also many private and wigmakers and cosmetic options, try a member of the Hairdressing and Beauty Suppliers Association.

Be patient: Hair loss is usually temporary and it will grow back, although it can be a slightly different texture and colour than before.

 

Products that may help with hair loss

We have compiled a carousel for products that are are available to treat hairloss. Please add comments for any experience you have had with them. Also please feel free to share any of your experiences of hair loss below:

 

Transcript from Video

00:04 Speaker 1: Hi, My name is Sunita Parkinson, and my question is about hair. There has been a trend in recent months for shampoos infused with caffeine, they claim to strengthen hair and prevent hair loss. I was just wondering what the science is behind this theory, what effect caffeine has on the hair and scalp.

00:24 PF: Questions we put to Dr. Paul Farrant, consultant dermatologist at Brighton Sussex University Hospital Trust and a specialist in hair loss.

00:31 Speaker 3: Shampoos, very rarely stay in contact with the scalp for any length of time. So any active ingredient has to be on contact with the skin for usually minutes for it to have any effect. The question then is whether caffeine as an ingredient has anything other than normal cleaning properties. There is some research using lab based in-vitro study, so this is growing artificially hair follicles that has shown some benefit of adding caffeine, and that seemed to reverse any negative effect of testosterone, which slows down hair growth and actually showed a slight benefit. But in-vitro conditions, they are grown for days, because you have to calculate whether the hair is growing so it takes a number of days to see that change. The hair follicles are bathed in solutions and the hair follicles bathe continuously for a number of days. So, that’s not going to be the same situation as applying a shampoo that maybe, if you are very lucky on the scalp, for a couple of minutes.

01:31 Speaker 3: There is a rationale that you may be able to get chemicals to absorb through hair follicles, however, in genetic hair loss and this is certainly true of male pattern hair loss, the bit that is being influenced is right down at the bottom of the hair follicle, what’s called the hair bulb. So, anything applied to the surface has to be able to get right down to the hair bulb, and it has to stay there and exert an effect. It’s not just a case of breaking through the skin and being absorbed into blood vessels because that would just transport the caffeine away. It has to sit around that hair bulb for probably days and used to be a continuous thing, and that’s where we don’t have the science.

02:09 S3: So, I think there is science that shows that caffeine can stimulate hair growth in a dish. There is science that shows that caffeine can penetrate through the scalp and through hair follicles. What we don’t know is whether caffeine can actually get right down to a hair bulb, stay around the hair bulb, exert a beneficial effect that will cause hairs to grow longer and thicker. I certainly wouldn’t recommend buying it, thinking that you’re suddenly gonna go back 10 years and have a full head of hair. There may be some slight effect, but there are no real studies in humans evaluating the effect of these caffeine-based shampoos to promote hair growth in the long-term.

02:45 PF: Dr. Paul Farrant in whose house I suspect, you won’t find any caffeine enriched shampoos. Please do get in touch if there’s a health related issue that’s confusing you. You can e-mail me…

 

 

Addison’s Disease Review and Radio 4 Interview

Living with Addison’s Disease

This post is about a rare disease that is often missed by doctors called Addison’s disease. To join the awareness raising International Rare Disease Day (28 February) and as part of a new “Living With” series this blog will be looking at individual diseases. They will then be given a special in-depth review. Below is a new video we have created, using a recent Healthcheck Radio 4 interview. It features an interview and a new book by Carol McKay and useful information about Addison’s Disease.

Addison’s Disease Video

 

There is a full transcript of the interview at the bottom of the page.

Addison’s Disease is a rare autoimmune condition that effects only 4 in every 10,000 people. There are currently around 8000 people in the UK who suffer from Addison’s Disease. Thanks to modern drugs, the condition is easier to deal with.
The main issue with Addison’s Disease is diagnosing it quickly. Unfortunately many people can go for years without a diagnosis. Symptoms often have to become very severe before it is identified by a Doctor.

 

Addison’s Disease Symptoms

Many people who are diagnosed with Addison’s Disease often complain of feeling unwell for many years before diagnosis.
Some of the signs of the disease can be like many ordinary problems of a busy modern life or much less dangerous illnesses. People find themselves being misdiagnosed.
At first a feeling of tiredness and weakness is the most obvious sign of the illness. With the hectic lifestyles people have nowadays it is easy to ignore these symptoms as just a part of everyday life.
However for some the tiredness can become overwhelming. So much so that it can negatively effect the way they lead their lives. This can impact upon their ability to go about everyday tasks.

Image of a woman's hands showing the colour changes in skin caused by Addison's Disease

Addison’s Disease can cause a “tanned” look to skin.

Another commonly misdiagnosed symptom on Addison’s Disease is a lack of appetite. With the hustle-bustle of modern living it is easy to skip lunch or not find the time to eat a meal in the evening. However with Addison’s Disease people suffer a distinct lack of appetite that can cause severe weight loss. They also find they crave salty snacks and foods and often add extra salt to dishes at meal times.

Addison’s Disease can also cause changes in the pigmentation of the skin. This is seen as darker patches of skin in various areas of the body.

Below is a list of the most common symptoms of Addison’s Disease:

  • Fatigue – feeling unmotivated and lacking energy
  • Lethargy – feeling sleepy and almost drowsy
  • Lack of appetite – leading to weight-loss
  • Low mood – feeling irritable and mildly depressed
  • Muscle weakness – lacking strength and energy
  • Changes in diet – craving salty foods and an increased thirst – leading to needing to urinate more often
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low blood pressure
  • More information about symptoms can be found on the NHS website.

 

Addison’s Disease Treatments

Image of various colours and shapes of tablet/pill.

Keeping up-to-date with medication is vital for keeping the Addison’s Disease under control.

The rarity of this disease can make it difficult for doctors to diagnose Addison’s straight away. However once a diagnosis is in place treatment is relatively simple and straightforward.

The main treatment for Addison’s Disease is to replace lost hormones. This is usually given in the form of corticosteroid. This is a steroid therapy which will have to be continued for life. The steroid is usually taken twice a day in tablet form. Once the diagnosis and treatment is in place many find their symptoms disappear completely. This allows those with Addison’s Disease to carry on a healthy and normal life.

image of a silver braclet with "Addison's Disease" written on it.

Medical bracelets are an everyday essential for piece of mind.

Even though the treatment of Addison’s Disease is simple, it is important that you continue to take your medication as directed. Finding yourself in a situation where you can not access your medication can be very serious. That is why it is important that you carry your medication with you everywhere. It is a good idea to pack extra tablets if you are going on holiday and to keep them safe in your hand luggage.

If you are unable to access your medication or are unable to take it yourself, medibands and medical alert bracelets can provide extra piece of mind. These medical alert bracelets are relatively cheap yet could be priceless in an emergency situation.

 

Addison’s Disease Home Remedies

Some home remedies can provide comfort and relief to muscle pain caused by Addison’s. Keeping to a healthy diet is always recommended for good health, and even more so with Addison’s Disease. Ensuring you stick to your five a day can boost energy levels. Also drinking plenty of water can go some way to stop the feeling of tiredness and lethargy.

Massage

It has been noted that massage can help the muscular and joint pain cause by Addison’s Disease. It is best to avoid massages that are intense or involve stretching. However more gentle massage techniques can prove helpful. Taking the time to visit a specialist in massage for muscular conditions may not only help to relieve pain, but also help you to de-stress.

Addison’s Disease and Licorice

Licorice that contains licorice root has the ingredient glycyrrhizinic acid in it that may help in Addison’s disease because it can lower potassium, increase blood pressure, and boost mineral corticoid levels. Not all licorice-type sweets contain licorice root extract or glycyrrhizinic acid and so do not work in the same way. There are over-the-counter preparations of licorice root extract available in the form of lozenges or in tea.

Licorice may help the steroid Cortisone to work

Anything that stops the body breaking down Cortisone, the main treatment for Addison’s disease can help. Glycyrrhizinic acid from licorice has been found by researchers to do this. It has long been a herbal remedy for the disease. Research has found it inhibits an enzyme responsible for inactivating cortisol in the kidney. Eating licorice makes the cortisol in the blood last for longer. A review in “Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology” describes a case study in which licorice had an “excellent” and prolonged effect in Addison’s disease and argued that licorice therapy should be used in the treatment of this disease. Researchers also found grapefruit can have a beneficial effect.

 

Living with Addison’s Disease

Living with Addison’s Disease before diagnosis can be life-threatening and life-changing. However once a diagnosis is in place many people feel they can finally continue on with their life as normal.
The most important aspect of managing Addison’s Disease is ensuring the correct medication is taken daily. Keeping on top of your condition and the dosage of medication is also very important. Although the initial dosage prescribed can solve most symptoms straight away, over time this may change.
That is why it is important that those with Addison’s Disease make regular visits to their GP for check-ups. As Addison’s is an auto-immune disease, it can lead to the development of related conditions such as hypothyroidism and diabetes.

More information on living with Addison’s Disease can be found here.

Image of the e-book cover for Carol McKays book "Second Chances" - showing an open pill bottle on its side upon a blue background

Carol McKay’s new e-book compiles stories of Addison’s Disease patients from around the world.

In Carol McKay’s new e-book entitled “Second Chances: True Stories of Living with Addison’s Disease“, she compiles the stories of Addison’s Disease sufferers from around the world.
Most notably is the account of  Hilary Richardson – a Canadian-born Addison’s sufferer who was only 10 years old when she was diagnosed back in 1955.
At this time, it was almost impossible to obtain the necessary hormone replacement therapy in tablet form. Instead, her father would have to purchase powdered pigs’ glands for her to take to keep her condition stable.
Thankfully due to modern science, hormone replacement therapy is now cost effective and available in tablet form.

 

Addison’s Disease in Dogs

Lastly, Addison’s Disease can also effect dogs. The disease causes very similar symptoms as it does with humans. Weakness, vomiting and lack of appetite are usually the symptoms that dog owners notice first. However, it can be even harder to detect in canines than in humans. Addison’s in dogs can go undiagnosed for many years, only being discovered once the dog is in very poor health.
If the disease is discovered early enough, it can be treated with steroids however it is best for the dog to avoid stressful situations to stop further flare-ups.

Carol McKay True Stories of Living with Addison’s Disease.

As mentioned in the video, a new book has been compiled with many real life stories about people with the disease. It has been reviewed on Amazon:

Reviews of Carol McKay’s new e-book:

This book was recommended on the Addison self-help web site. The true stories of fellow sufferers is fascinating and eye opening in to the good and bad side of the medical profession and how we as sufferers of this disease cope day-to-day.
Rose_claudette@hotmail

I read this whilst still in hospital coming to terms with my diagnosis. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough, well worth a read early on – MissLean

To find out more about Addison’s Disease and support groups we recommend visiting Carol McKay’s Facebook and Blog. If you can suggest other useful groups, blogs or resources lease leave a comment in the box below. If you lke to help us create another post about an illness that you would like to help raise awareness of, please get in touch.

Transcript of Radio 4 Interview

00:00 Claudia Hammond: Hello, I’m Claudia Hammond and this is Health Check from the BBC. On today’s program, a rare condition which often isn’t diagnosed until it’s an emergency.

00:09 Carol McKay: Because it’s quite a rare disease, doctors don’t have it at the forefront of their mind when they are checking you and they think you’re all right, and then suddenly, you have a catastrophic collapse, your blood pressure is low, blood sugar is low. And you become very, very seriously ill.

00:25 CH: We hear experiences of Addison’s disease from around the world. When you go to your family doctor to find out what’s wrong with you, they’ll listen to your symptoms, examine you and then order any test they might need. But some conditions, especially when they are rare, are harder to diagnose than others. And with Addison’s disease, which only affects four in every 10,000 people, many don’t discover they’ve got it until it’s an emergency. It’s an autoimmune disease that disrupts the production of hormones by the adrenal glands and although the condition is life long, it is treatable with steroids. When Carol McKay was faced with the condition, she used social networking to find out how other people managed. The result is a an ebook called “Second Chances”, where patients from Belgium to South Africa and Australia to Canada recount their stories of living with Addison’s disease. When I spoke to Carol, she told me how she eventually realized what was the matter with her.

01:21 CM: I knew I had been not well for about a year. I felt anaemic, I had no energy. I was carrying on with my life, but I just had no energy. I went to the doctor to get checked to see if I had anemia or something else, and they did a few blood test and didn’t pick anything up. They were looking for thyroid and other things like that, because if you have one autoimmune disease, you are more likely to have another one. And I have Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease. So, they were looking for things, but didn’t see them. And then, a few months later, I was checked for my blood pressure and it was surprisingly low, but not dangerously low at that stage. So, again it didn’t ring any bells with the doctor. And then one weekend, I got a tummy bug, and my body just couldn’t come back from that and I was losing feeling in my arms and legs and in my lower jaw. And I was taken to hospital and fortunately, the medical stuff there recognized it and I was treated very quickly. It’s a very simple disease to treat because it’s like thyroid, you need replacement hormones.

02:26 CH: And looking at some of the experiences that people recount in your book, they do seem to be often, almost quite close to death by the time they get to diagnosis or certainly very seriously ill and… I was struck by the story of Jasmine, who is from the UK, and she was diagnosed just 12 days after her second baby being born, which must have been an appalling situation.

02:48 CM: Yeah, she’s wonderful. And her story is scary, but it’s actually really uplifting because… Well, she had suffered terribly. It was her second pregnancy. She knew what to expect in her pregnancy. But this one was really bad, she just felt really awful. And then after the baby was born, she was still really, really exhausted, more tired than she thought she should have been. But what’s uplifting about Jasmine’s story is that her doctor thought about her after she had been to see her, and actually turned up at her door and said, “Look, we’re really concerned. I’ve looked at your blood results. Please go to the hospital tomorrow morning and get checked out.” And then an hour later, she actually phoned, the doctor was on her way home, and she had suddenly realized. The Addison’s light bulb came onto her head, and she thought, “Oh, that’s what it is.” And that’s what saved Jasmine’s life.

03:39 CH: So, she was lucky that she had such a good doctor…

03:40 CM: She was…

03:41 CH: She suddenly made that connection and guessed what it was.

03:43 CM: She was very lucky.

03:45 CH: What made you want to collect together all these stories and publish them as an ebook?

03:51 CM: Well, I was very shocked by having my own diagnosis, because it’s quite rare. I needed to hear how other people had coped with it. So, I joined the Addison’s Disease self-help group, which is a charity in the UK and I found a lot of support from them. I also found support from Facebook. I’m a writer and I teach creative writing, and therefore, I wanted the whole story. I liked to hear what led up to it, how had they coped with the diagnosis and how they had a normal life afterwards? So, I set about to compile, I got 16, including my own, 16 stories. And they came from the States, Canada, Belgium, the UK, South Africa, Australia, South Korea. And I was really, really pleased to hear all these different stories. Everybody’s different, but they all, as you said, most of them were very close to death. It helped me, reading them, and I hope it helps other Addison’s sufferers, but it also raises awareness, and that’s really important to me.

04:53 CH: One of the stories is from Hilary, and she lives in Canada and was diagnosed right back in 1955, and she was only 10 years old.

05:03 Speaker 3: For some time, I had been adding teaspoonfuls of salt to every meal. I also ate very meagrely. Not only was I scrawny, but winter or summer, my skin was a dark color which looked odd with my fair hair. “Your elbows and knees are still dirty, you haven’t scrubbed them well enough,” my mother would complain. Little did she realize that the dark skin, the craving for salt, and the reluctance to eat were all symptoms of Addison’s disease. I was often ill and had missed a lot of school. My doctor thought a routine tonsillectomy might help, but I didn’t come around from the anaesthetic. It was after dark on Tuesday evening, when an internal medicine specialist climbed the grey limestone steps of the hospital. I’d been in a coma for more than three days, and had not moved nor opened my eyes since my operation. The specialist hooked up an IV containing a different substance to see what would happen. This is how I obtained my diagnosis.

05:58 S3: In 1949, Cortisone in pill form was produced commercially. But in 1955, in our small town in Canada, we couldn’t get these tablets. Treatment for me was desiccated pig’s adrenals. Every week, my father and I would go to the home of a man who had obtained the adrenals from a slaughter house. We carried the precious brownish grey powder home. The quality of the material varied week to week. Sometimes it worked very well and sometimes hardly at all. Luckily, within a year, my father was able to obtain hydrocortisone pills on a trip to the US. And before long, pills became available in Canada as well and my treatment now seemed very easy.

06:37 CH: So, quite a dramatic start for Hilary there in finding out that she got the disease and what happened to her.

06:44 CM: Yes. She was lucky. And if she’d been born 10 years earlier, she would probably have died. People still do die nowadays, even in the developed nations, they still die from it because it’s not picked up in time. And I’m sure there must be people all around the world who don’t have access to modern medicine easily who still suffer from it, but the pills themselves are fairly inexpensive.

07:07 CH: So, it’s more about the awareness of the disease than the pills themselves and access to those.

07:10 CM: Exactly. Yes.

07:11 CH: It’s that people have gotta get that diagnosis somehow.

07:14 S3: Yes.

07:15 CH: And what impact has it had on you life now that it is well controlled for you?

07:20 CM: It’s well controlled, but I still don’t have a lot of energy. For example, to come to this interview today, I had to take an increased dose of my medicine to cope with the stress.

07:30 CH: Really? That’s quite interesting.

07:32 CM: Yeah.

07:32 CH: So, you’ve got to plan in advance when you think you’re gonna be stressed, which…

07:35 CM: Yes.

07:35 CH: You can do if it’s an interview ’cause that’s arranged in advance. But everyday life’s not quite like that, is it?

07:40 CM: No. Because even a simple bump in a car, not even a serious bump, but something like that can cause the body to go into shock.

07:49 CH: And then what would happen to you? So if you hadn’t touched your dose today and were then feeling anxious, what would happen?

07:54 CM: It would affect my blood pressure and my blood sugar and I would start to get weak and collapse. In a more serious case, if I fell and broke my ankle, for example…

08:03 CH: Yeah.

08:04 CM: Then, I carry an emergency injection kit, so I have to give myself an intramuscular injection, to give myself a large dose, so that I don’t just fade away and die, really.

08:15 CH: Carol McKay and the latest version of her ebook of stories, “Second Chances”, is out this week. Next week I’ll be in Norway for the BBC and so Dr. Kevin Fong will be here…

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