Hair Loss (also known as baldness or alopecia) affects many people, and can be very distressing. I have first hand experience of two incidences of alopecia areata (where hair loss occurs in circular patches) which caused me significant worry, and massively reduced my self confidence. I also have close friends who have been unfortunate enough to lose all their hair (alopecia totalis), but have been able to grow it all back over time.
There are a number of imbalanced that can contribute to hair loss, and I will aim to give you a low down of possible contributing factors for you to consider whether they are relevant to you. If you need some guidance from a fellow hair loss sufferer – please get in touch and we can work together to assess whether any of the below items are relevant for you, and what we can do about them!
A little hair loss is normal, it is estimated that we shed between 50 and 100 hairs per day without noticing. What is not normal, is to find areas of baldness/alopecia, to have hair that thins so much you notice dramatic shedding (e.g. in the shower or brushing), to have noticeable thinning of the hair at the crown (top of the head), or at the sides, or if you experience any itching or burning. Hair loss (especially for women) can appear suddenly, and may be small or large areas.
You should always speak to your GP about hair loss – especially if it has come on suddenly.
Reasons why we may lose our hair:
- Stress/Cortisol. Hair loss following a stressful event can be common – it’s possible that disruptions in cortisol levels may disturb hair follicles and alter hair growth. This can be a big stressful event (e.g. death of a loved one, work stress, relationship breakdowns), but can also be an accumulation of stress over time.
- Physiological stress – this is more about the body undergoing stress that we may have (often unintentionally) put it under. Think dieting – too low calories, too low carb, often large changes in diets. I commonly see hair loss in women who have suddenly started a weight loss plan, and have pushed too low in calories and carbs. This effect may be temporary and can be reduced or reversed by eating an appropriate calorie and carb amount for your needs.
- Thyroid dysfunction. This is a really major player. Low thyroid function can make your hair fall out and can slow down or completely stop hair regrowth. To make matters worse low thyroid function promotes nutrient deficiencies that are required for proper hair growth such as vitamin B12. Most doctors will only test TSH for thyroid function, and if this is less than 4.0mU/L (milliunits per litre) will tell you it’s ok. IT MAY NOT BE as TSH doesn’t tell the whole story of thyroid function. Testing for thyroid antibodies and specifically levels of Free T4 and T3 may tell another story. This was certainly the case for me, as well as many other women I work with. Hyperthyroidism can also cause hair loss.
- Low iron levels. Specifically you want good levels of ferritin, your stored form of iron. This study suggests you need AT LEAST 30ng/mL of ferritin for proper hair growth. Low iron may result from low intake (vegetarian or vegan diet), heavy periods, and poor absorption due to gut dysfunction.
- Post Partum (after baby is born) – this is likely due to fluctuations in hormones that occur naturally. During pregnancy, an elevated estrogen level prolongs the growing stage. There are fewer hairs in the resting stage and fewer falling out each day, so you may have thicker hair. After you give birth, however, your estrogen level plummets, and a lot more hair follicles enter the resting stage. Within a few months, you may notice more hair coming out in the shower on your hair brush. This is most likely temporary and will grow back.
- Autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism, Lupus and as such “alopecia areata” whereby the body can’t tell the difference between healthy cells and invaders, and starts attacking itself. In hair loss, this attack can be to the follicles.
- Malabsorption from the gut causing low nutrients like B vitamins, selenium, biotin, zinc, iron and magnesium which are all required for healthy hair production. Equally if your diet doesn’t contain the nutrients your body needs to make hair, this can contribute to low levels. I typically see this in low protein diets (some vegetarians and vegans).
- High levels of testosterone or DHEA going down the androgenic 5a pathway. The levels of testosterone (and androgens) in your body also play an important role in managing hair loss (especially male patterned baldness in women). High levels of androgens (like testosterone and dihydrotestosterone) sit on and activate the androgen receptors on your hair follicles. The activation of these receptors results in male patterned baldness, the same pattern of baldness that happens in men.
- PCOS – which can result in high levels of testosterone (see above). Managing insulin resistance can be very helpful here.
- Ageing – Ageing hair is due to our inability to renew and regenerate cells as quickly as we could when we were younger. But menopause is another common cause of hair loss in older women. Perimenopause which can occur during your 40’s, may see hair thinning with age, as well as graying hair, dull hair and increased hair loss. Research shows that hair loss in older women is likely due to lower levels of both progesterone and oestrogen, causing hair follicles to thin and for hair to fall out.
- Genetic – have a parent or family member with hair loss? This may increase your chances.
- Lifestyle choices like smoking, heavy alcohol intake and drug use. These can reduce nutrients, and disrupt blood flow to the hair follicles.
- Diabetes – that slows down circulation to the hair follicles.
- Poor dietary habits – highly processed, nutrient devoid foods, as well as eating foods that may be an (unknown) food sensitivity such as dairy or gluten.
- Poor hair care – products that irritate, brushing too hard, extensions.
There may be other reasons that contribute to hair loss, but I hope to have given you food for thought. Get in touch if you would like to work with me around your hair loss and nutrition requirements.