When you first notice more hair in your brush than usual, it can be quite upsetting. You may wonder how long it has been going on and worry that it will get worse. The fact is that hair loss among women is quite common and oftentimes there are simple solutions that can help correct the imbalance.
It may surprise you to learn that there are over fifty different reasons for thinning hair and hair loss, ranging from nutrient deficiencies to hormonal imbalances, but some causes are much more common than others. Here are the top five reasons for hair loss that I see most often in my practice:
- Stress – A recent string of stressful events at work, with family, or in one’s home, or even too much or extreme physical stress, can trigger a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Our hair has a programmed life cycle: a growth, rest and shedding phase. When we’re in the midst of a stressful period, it can shift the hair cycle into the shedding phase for longer than normal, causing our hair to thin out. It can also trigger autoimmune re
- Lack of Protein – Protein is one of the most important macronutrients in one’s diet. Without consuming optimal servings of protein, our body desperately tries to hold onto our reserves and shifts growing hairs into the resting phase. Hair is primarily made up of protein, which is why people who follow calorie-restricted, vegetarian or vegan diets, can sometimes suffer from thinning hair. The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day, but remember, this is the minimum amount, for a sedentary person, to keep from getting sick. More recent studies show that 1 – 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight seems to better support healthy metabolic function.
- Iron Deficiency – Iron deficiency is quite prevalent among women in their child-bearing years, and one of the most common reasons for hair loss / thinning. In addition to fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath, iron deficiency can result in dull lifeless hair, as well as hair thinning, hair loss and hair breakage. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and suspect you might be iron deficient, as your doctor for a blood test to check your ferritin levels and take an iron supplement if needed.
- Hypothyroidism – Hypothyroidism is another underlying reason for losing more hair than usual. The thyroid is a butterfly gland located in the middle of the neck, that controls one’s metabolism and hormones. Along with fatigue, brain fog, weight gain / loss, can contribute to hair loss if its not functioning efficiently. If you suspect a thyroid imbalance, ask your doctor to run a full thyroid panel to make sure your TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and Reverse T3 levels are all in the optimal range.
- Other Hormonal Imbalances – An imbalance of female sex hormones, particularly post pregnancy and peri-menopause can also lead to hair loss. If you fall into one of these categories, make an appointment with your doctor to get your hormones tested. The main imbalances contributing to hair loss are excess estrogen, insulin resistance, and too much testosterone (yes, women produce testosterone too).
So the question that remains is, how can you identify the underlying cause and what can you do about it? Here are six steps to start you on your path to getting that thick, luxurious, full head of hair back.
- Get tested – Ask your doctor to send you for a complete blood work-up if you haven’t had one in over a year. I recommend a complete blood count (CBC), as well as ferritin, a complete thyroid panel, vitamin D level, HbA1C and a random glucose test.
- Optimize your diet – Focus on eating real, whole foods, rich in the nutrients needed for proper hair growth, including vitamins A, B, C, D, and E, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids and protein. Make sure to include eggs, berries, fatty fish, spinach, beans, avocados, nuts, seeds and sweet potatoes in your diet!
- Take a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral – Refer to my article in the Huffington Post on how to pick out a high quality multivitamin and make sure to take it on a consistent basis. Remember, it can take 2-3 months to start to see a noticeable difference.
- Keep your blood sugar balanced – Eating to many carbs, too many processed foods and too little protein can lead to dramatic swings in your blood sugar and negatively affect your hormones levels. Make sure to watch your alcohol intake as well!
- Manage your stress – Ongoing stress can flood our bodies with cortisol and other stress hormones which can wreck havoc on our blood sugar levels, our immune system, and our body’s ability to repair, recover, reproduce and grow. Taking steps to reduce stress, practising proper self-care, and proper supplementation can lead to improvements in hair growth.
- Try topical treatments – Recent scientific studies have shown that rosemary essential oil is just as effective as minoxidil (most commonly known under the brand Rogaine) in stimulating hair re-growth. Simply add about 10 drops to your shampoo, and massage it into your scalp, letting it sit up to 10 minutes.