Of Diets and Dandruff
By kario on August 10, 2012
In January, my naturopath tried to convince me to try the Paleo diet in an effort to finally clear up the persistent flakiness on my scalp. I had come to her several years ago with a multitude of health problems, all of which she cleared up one by one:
- early menopause? check.
- severe depression and anxiety? check.
- chronic irritable bowel symptoms? check.
- low energy? check.
All but this one, that is. Despite trying all of the pharmaceutical and over-the-counter remedies for dandruff, the scaly plaques (I know, sounds sexy, huh?) on my scalp get better and worse several times a year, but never go away entirely. We were both hoping that going off of gluten would solve the problem in time, but it has been more than three years now and I haven't seen any improvement.
Last Thanksgiving, we tackled dairy. Despite my daily latte and my desperate need for cheese and yogurt. Oh, and butter. And, did I mention cheese? Well, despite those things, I diligently eliminated dairy from my diet for three weeks. Soy milk or almond milk in my latte. No cheese or butter or yogurt at all. No ice cream. Or whipped cream on my crustless pumpkin pie. It wasn't as bad as I had thought it might be, but I was secretly hoping it wouldn't make a difference so that I could say I tried it and then go back to my dairy-days. At the end of three weeks I had lost four and a half pounds but kept my dandruff. No dice.
I spent the Christmas holidays congratulating myself on my perseverence and self-control by consuming dairy, dairy, dairy and gaining all of the weight right back. What? I hadn't set out to lose weight. It was only right that I put it back where it belonged.
Enter January and the scalp condition was still there. And here's the thing - it's seasonal. So every time there is a significant shift in the weather from one season to another, I have about fourteen days of worsening dandruff before it subsides a little. Weird.
So when my naturopath suggested I try the Paleo diet, which not only eliminates dairy, but any and all refined sugars and most oils and ALL GRAINS, I was a little shell-shocked. After cutting gluten from my diet, I have to say that we live on rice and potatoes for starch. We don't eat much refined sugar and I use mostly coconut oil and olive oil, but I do love my dairy (see above) and I must eat chocolate nearly every day.
I nodded my head sagely, listened to her personal testimonial as she had recently begun the diet herself, and left the office determined to find another way. I researched my shampoo and conditioner and discovered - AMEN! - that they both contain wheat. Yes, wheat. Who knew? So I decided that this was certainly the issue and if I only found hair care products without wheat, I would be home free. That proved more difficult than I thought, especially since I was on a crusade for products without sulfates or parabens, too. Seems most 'natural' products think wheat qualifies as something beneficial to add to their shampoo, so it was nearly a week before I discovered one that worked for me.
Sadly, it didn't make a difference.
Months later, despite meeting many people who have modified their own diets to more closely adhere to the Paleo diet and despite the fact that I am still struggling with my dandruff, I am still holding out for a different solution. I know Michelle and her family adhere to a strict diet that is similar and have had good success. I also know how hard she works for it. I already cook nearly every meal at home for us, diligently planning meals days ahead and shopping for expensive, organic, whole food ingredients a few days a week. It is work, but I love it. I'm just not sure I'm ready to make it more challenging. Because if I'm doing it, everyone is. I'm not cooking three different meals for four people in the house. Sure, I'll have gluten-free bread available for the girls if they want a sandwich, but on pasta night, we're not using rice noodles. (Oh, God! Thai food! No Thai food!)
And so here I sit wondering if dandruff is really not that big a deal and I can just live with it. Or is it simply an outward symptom of some other destructive process going on inside my body that I can't see? I have recently noticed a few other minor health issues cropping up and have wondered whether trying this diet might help clear some of those up, too, but mostly I'm burying my head in the sand about them. Unfortunately, my pattern seems to necessitate my getting smacked upside the head with something before I make a substantive change in my life. Because change is hard. And so now I'm whining. But maybe one day in the near future I'll be writing a success story about clearing up persistent dandruff by going on the Paleo diet. Or maybe you'll notice that all of my clothing is white, in which case you'll know I'm still burying my head in the sand.
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