Category Archives: Science

Agony From a Shampoo Bottle – Allergies Due to Hair Care Products – a Long Term Solution

A few years ago I effectively eliminated allergy problems I had been having caused by washing detergent products. My symptoms varied from allergic contact dermatitis to recurring headaches and sinus pains (different symptoms caused by different products). The solution was simple – I started washing everything in pure water. I do have a water softener because where I live has very hard water.

Washing Powder Allergic Contact Dermatitis

From the responses to my article about this topic I discovered that many people also worry that they are allergic to their hair care products like shampoo and conditioner.  This made me wonder whether a similar solution to these allergies might also work. Is it possible to go through life without using shampoo?

Allergy area – One month after eliminating washing powder

Based on my washing powder allergy solution I decided the only way to answer this question would be to use myself as a guinea pig.

For many years I have had very short hair and regularly in the summer I would go bald and shave my head for a couple of months (see pic).  Basically this was just a style thing – it was much cooler in summer without hair (and of course I saved money on hair care products).

As autumn arrived I let my hair grow back again and usually didn’t  use shampoo again until it was about half a centimetre long. The reason I started to use shampoo each Autumn was because as my hair grew longer it seemed to get more greasy.

About 3 years ago I decided to stop using the shampoo and simply washed my hair everyday in water under the shower. By strictly washing my hair with water each morning (but no shampoo etc) the greasy feel did not arise during the winter period of growth. I shaved my head the next spring and the cycle started again.

When I explained to my lady friends that I did not need any shampoo they pointed out that this was fine for a man but they could not follow this approach as their hair was much longer. However, none of my long haired friends had actually tried to go without shampoo.

Not using shampoo (no poo) is easier with short hair

So I decided to let my hair grow long and continue not to use shampoo  to see if I turned into a grease ball. After a couple of years my hair is now shoulder length (pic lower down – cheap model!) and quite frankly I believe it is in a better condition than it has ever been.

No poo with long hair is fine if you thoroughly wash your hair with pure warm water every day

Since my teenage dandruff days I had been a committed user of Head and Shoulders shampoo. Interestingly after 3 years of not using the shampoo there is not a spec of dandruff in sight – it is almost as if the shampoo was feeding the microbes that cause flaking of the scalp.

One of my cheaper models – after 2 years growth without shampoo (just water)

In addition I no longer get those little scalp spots that would arise from time to time. I suspect these were also a reaction to the chemicals in the shampoo (not necessarily an allergic reaction – it could just be sensitivity or irritation caused by chemicals on the hair follicle).

Very importantly, from a comfort and aesthetic point of view my hair is not greasy. I found that it is important to give it a thorough rub in the shower and use warm water (I suspect the warm temperature helps the water to remove excess volatile oils that build up). Shampoo is designed to also remove such oils but it does such a good job that the scalp becomes depleted in its natural oils. The scalp responds by overproducing these oils which makes your hair more greasy – so the shampoo becomes even more necessary. A rather vicious ‘greasy’ cycle.

Same cheap model – prepared for a windy day

So I can now safely say that it is possible to go without shampoo on a long term basis even if you have long hair. You do, however, need to thoroughly wash your hair with water every day to avoid a greasy build up. I have heard of people going without washing their hair at all – they claim it adjusts and comes into balance. I have not been able to go without any washing at all for more than 2 weeks – the greasy build up simply became unpleasant. Perhaps I wasn’t patient enough – but as I normally get a shower every day I might as well wash my hair too.

By the way I also do not use any soap in the shower – the formulation of my favourite soap changed and I became allergic to it (itches under the armpits and crotch). I stopped using the soap and all problems disappeared (see my article using the link below).

Prime crotch itch Suspect -Reformulated Pears Soap

In conclusion – if you think you are allergic to hair care products you could simply try replacing them with other products which perhaps  do not have the particular agent causing the allergy. Alternatively try and eliminate hair care products from your life completely and simply wash your hair regularly (and thoroughly) with pure water.

My approach – daily thorough rubbing in the shower, comb when wet (comb cleaned under hot water each day – removes excess oils) and if possible – allow to dry naturally

After a month or two you may find. like me, that you are quite pleased with the result. The hair actually appears to be able to condition itself – I guess that is why  the scalp evolved to produce natural oils. If your hair is greasy at first I recommend you persist because the greasiness may actually be your body’s way of responding to the excessive soapiness from many years of shampoo use.

Please do not hesitate to share your experiences with other readers using the comments box (P.S. In the interest of scientific transparency – My ‘expensive’ models still use rather expensive hair care products – they are included to add glamour to the article!)

Chris Duggleby

Don’t panic – if you replace shampoo with water you wont need to cover up !

If you are interested in reading my other health focused articles try the following

Torture In The Shower – Face and Body Soap Allergies – Main Suspect: Pears Transparent Soap

Poison in your Washing Machine: Allergic Contact Dermatitis from Laundry Detergents, Softeners, Conditioners and Whiteners

Is Alzheimer’s caused by the Gum Disease Bacterium P. Gingivalis – A Dementia Prevention/Treatment Breakthrough?

My T-shirt Made Me Sick – Textile Allergies – Sinusitis From Your Underwear

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Is Alzheimer’s caused by the Gum Disease Bacterium P. Gingivalis – A Dementia Prevention/Treatment Breakthrough?

Research just published presents evidence of a causal link between the microbe causing common gum disease and Alzheimer’s. This exciting discovery opens up the possibility of dementia prevention and treatment in totally unexpected ways. There may be a powerful preventative tool in every bathroom!

Alzheimer’s link to Gum Disease Bacterium P Gingivalis – Preventative Tool

As a former Bacteriologist I and many in the medical scientific community have become very excited by research published in the respected, peer reviewed, scientific journal Science Advances on 23rd Jan. 2019 (link to original paper is here).

The research presents evidence that the common gum disease bacterium P. gingivalis may be involved in causing Alzheimer’s disease and proposes an approach to treating the disease that attacks the neuron damaging proteins produced by the microbe.

When did you last visit your dental hygienist?

We always have to be cautious about giving too much credence to ‘miracle cures’ until they have been repeated by other scientists and proven in large scale human trials but the results of this piece of work come very close to fulfilling Koch’s postulates – a set of criteria acknowledged by medical scientists as necessary to prove that a microbe is the cause of a particular disease (Robert Koch formulated the germ theory of disease).

If confirmed this would not be the first time we have had to throw away previous ideas about the causes of a commonly occurring disease. I remember many years ago when I lived in Tokyo, one of my colleagues was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer. He was told that this was probably caused by stress or diet (or both) and needed to find ways to modify his lifestyle (difficult if you are a businessman in Japan!) and take medications to reduce his stomach acid. A few years later the Australian doctor Barry Marshall discovered that stomach ulcers were caused by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori (and received a Nobel prize for his work). This led to a totally different approach to treatment.

Know the entry point!

Alzheimer’s disease has for many years been associated with the increased incidence of two proteins in the brain called amyloid and tau (the so called ‘sticky plaques’). It was thought (as with high stomach acid and ulcers) that these proteins may in some way be ‘causing’ dementia and much research has been put into trying to find ways of reducing the presence of these proteins in the brain. To date this approach has not been very successful.

What if these proteins, rather than causing Alzheimer’s, are actually the body’s way of fighting off a harmful bacterial infection? In fact such plaques have been found in the brains of people in their 90s with no sign of dementia! In 2016 scientists did indeed discover that the amyloid protein seems to be produced by cells as a sticky defence against bacteria.

Is this a sign of a healthy brain?

A important clue connecting gum disease with Alzheimer’s came in research published in the BMJ Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry (28th Oct 2009 link to paper is here). In this J.M.Nobel and coworkers found that levels of a periodontis (gum disease) were linked to the impaired delayed memory and impaired calculation symptoms typical of dementia. At that time it wasn’t clear if the damaged brain was allowing the microbes to invade it or whether the bugs were actually causing the brain damage (the two were linked – but which one was the cause?).

At this point several research teams started to focus more on the relationship between gum disease microbe P. gingivalis and Alzheimer’s disease. Mice, genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s were found to have increased Alzheimer’s symptoms following infection with the gum disease microbe. P. gingivalis has also been found to invade and cause inflamation in the brain regions affected by Alzheimer’s in humans. The microbe can also lead to typical Alzheimer’s brain inflation, neuron (brain nerve cell) damage and amyloid protein plaques in healthy mice.

Medical practices have improved considerably since the middle ages

In the latest research (published on 23rd Jan 2019) two poisonous proteins which P. gingivalis uses to ‘eat’ human tissues were found in 99 and 96% of human brain samples from 54 Alzheimer’s patients’ hippocampus (the part of the brain involved in memory). These bacterial poisons are called gingipains and were also found in parts of the brain producing high levels of the alzheimer’s tau protein (and thus also linked to cognitive decline).

This team also looked for, and found, P. gingivalis DNA in the part of the brain involved in conceptual thinking, the cerebral cortex, in the brains of three Alzheimer’s patients.

A unique feature of this report is that it demonstrated the presence of the common gum disease bacterium DNA in human brains and it showed that the bacterial poisons (gingipains) were in the same location as the plaques typically associated with Alzheimer’s.

One thing that makes the team confident P. gingivalis may be the ‘cause‘ of Alzheimer’s rather than its ‘result‘ relates to the fact that some people with no symptoms of  dementia can have small levels of P. gingivalis as well as plaque proteins in their brain. This indicates that the microbes are invading the brain before symptoms of Alzheimer’s become apparent – it is known that the plaque proteins (amyloid and tau) can accumulate in the brain for 10-20 years before external symptoms of dementia appear.

More evidence that the gum disease bacteria actually ’cause’ Alzheimer’s came from studies in which mice were given P. gingivalis. This lead to brain infection by the bacterium, production of the amyloid protein, tangling of tau proteins (= plaques) and brain cell (neuron) damage in those areas normally affected by Alzheimer’s.

More work is needed to determine how P. gingivalis gets into the brain. If dental plaque is allowed to build up underneath your gums localised areas of inflammation can build up where the microbe thrives and releases its poisonous tissue destroying proteins (= bad breath!). Interestingly people with fewer teeth (a symptom of chronic periodontitis) are also more likely to have dementia.

As the P. gingivalis destroys the tissues around the inflamed gums it can enter the blood stream and get to other parts of the body. It may also enter the blood if the gums are damaged through disease, eating or incorrect brushing. Although typically the blood brain barrier protects us from microbes entering the brain we know that P. gingivalis can get inside white blood cells and the cells lining blood vessels. This could be how it can get into the brain. Another route to the brain may be via nerve cells near the mouth – the microbes could travel along these nerve highways into the brain.

Once it is in the brain there are two possible ways these bacteria can cause damage. On the one hand they may encourage the production of high amounts of amyloid – the body’s defence against bacterial attack – which then leads to inflammatory damage by the immune system. Alternatively the microbe could use its gingipain proteins to damage brain tissues in the same way it destroys tissues elsewhere in the body. The kind of inflammation in your gums might also be taking place in your brain!

Could this also be happening in your brain?

If it is confirmed that this is a cause of Alzheimer’s disease (there could well be more than one cause) it opens up some interesting possibilities regarding prevention and treatment. Not everyone develops gum disease (good dental hygiene is key here) and not everyone with gum disease develops dementia – so presumably the actual level of damage/inflammation could play a key role. Also genetic factors will influence a person’s susceptibility to the progression of the disease

We can expect a lot of research to now be undertaken into how the brain can be helped to defend itself against Porphyromonas gingivalis infections. These bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance (not surprising as they live in the cavity into which we pour most of our antibiotic prescriptions!) so this approach may be limited in effectiveness. One exciting area of research could be aimed at attacking the bacterial toxins (the gingipains) which are known to attack a particular amino acid in the immune system’s defence protein ApoE (patients with a mutant of ApoE having an excess of this amino acid are more susceptible to Alzheimer’s).

I. for one, will be turning up with increased enthusiasm at my 6 monthly appointment with the dental hygienist next week!

If you found this interesting please visit my (mainly) health focused blog again – here is the link). If you become a ‘follower’ you will get an alert when a new article is published.

Chris Duggleby