Chemo Hair Keto

I have not had a hair cut in over three years.

During the summer of 2016 I had my long hair cut to shoulder length. As the summer progressed and more information was discovered about my cancer diagnosis, staging and treatment plan, I decided to have my hair cut very short in September. I had always wanted to know what I would look like with short hair…and now I know.

It was not pretty.

I started chemotherapy at the end of September 2016, and after about three or four weeks of weekly treatments my hair began to fall out more and more. It was thinning and balding in places, so my husband and I decided it was time to shave my head.

 I am thankful my identity wasn’t really wrapped up in my looks. I was never really into beauty products nor hair products. I didn’t know how to do fancy hairstyles; it was up in a “ponytail” most of the time.  However, it was still traumatizing to have my hair falling out in handfuls when I would wash it in the shower. It was sad and fascinating at the same time. I did cry about it a few times, but I did not allow myself to dwell on it too long. I would remind myself that it was only temporary.

Flash forward to 2019 and I receive a metastatic disease diagnosis. The treatment plan suggested was more chemotherapy followed by a hormone blocker. We decided to follow the standard of care again, and I would endure four rounds of a different chemotherapy drug. It was another one known to cause hair loss.

This time I decided not to cut my hair short because I knew that it was not a good look for me. My hair was finally long enough that it looked good again.

 Throughout treatment my hair continued to thin but it did not fall out like the first time. My husband would continue to provide encouragement that my hair was not bad enough to warrant a short haircut or shaving. It was just a bit thinner than before.

So, why was my hair reacting differently?

I think it was due to the fact that we had adopted a low carbohydrate, whole food diet. We stopped eating processed “foods” and began to really research nutrition.  This change goes back to my brother and sister-in-law introducing us to the ketogenic concept that I talked about in my previous post. I also, inadvertently, ended up fasting a day or two after treatment due to severe nausea and vomiting that had to be controlled with potent anti-nausea medications. I did not know at the time that there was information out there about the protective effects of fasting during chemotherapy.

One might argue that the difference was in the chemotherapy drugs that I received. He or she might be right. However, this last chemotherapy caused more nausea, vomiting, electrolyte wasting, neuropathy, tinnitus, and taste changes than the first set of drugs ever “thought” to cause. I was only supposed to be in the clinic every three weeks for treatment, but I would end up back in the clinic a few days after treatment for magnesium and potassium infusions because the levels were too low.

Now, as some would say, here’s “the rub.” If the ketogenic lifestyle and/or fasting can have a protective effect during chemotherapy, why isn’t anyone talking about it? Why is it only now starting to see a little bit of light in the media? The research and information have been out there for a while now.

The ketogenic nutritional, dietary advice was not given to me by any of the medical professionals taking care of me. It was all information that I had to find and search out on my own.

Here are some links to information I found in a recent Google search about chemotherapy, hair loss, and the ketogenic lifestyle:!po=20.8333 (video) (This one is about alopecia in a child.)