Rapunzel! Let down your hair. That I may climb thy golden stair!
Help, my hair is falling out!” is a complaint I hear often. It is not pleasant to see hair in your hairbrush or shower drain. Or watch your once thick ponytail become thin. Hair loss, also called alopecia, is a disorder caused by an interruption in the body’s hair production cycle. On average, the scalp has 100,000 hairs that cycle through periods of growing, resting, falling out, and regenerating. A hair growth cycle consists of three phases. During the anagen phase, hair grows actively. During the catagen phase, hair stops growing and separates from its follicle. The catagen phase lasts about 10 days. During the telogen phase, the follicle rests for two or three months, and then the hair falls out. The next anagen phase begins as a new hair grows in the same follicle. Most people lose 50 to 100 hairs per day as part of this natural cycle. If this cycle is disrupted or a hair follicle is damaged, hair may begin to fall out more quickly than it is regenerated, leading to symptoms such as a receding hairline, hair falling out in patches, or overall thinning.
Hair loss may be linked to a person’s genetics. However, many physiological and behavioral conditions may interrupt the growth cycle and cause hair loss. I hear (and hair) you! Here are some areas to start investigating to help you figure out why you are shedding your prized Rapunzel mane.
Stress is one of the most common causes of hair loss. Acute stress includes those who are grieving or have experienced a traumatic event. The good news? This type of hair loss is generally temporary and will usually resolve on its own. Crash dieting and sudden weight loss also create stress that can affect your hair follicles.
What you can do: Hair loss is your body’s way of telling you that you’ve been through a lot. Be kind to yourself and incorporate more self-care (care rhymes with hair).
Vitamin Deficiencies Micronutrients are critical for follicle development and immune cell function regulation, which play a significant role in healthy hair growth. Nutrient deficiencies that have been linked to hair loss include riboflavin, biotin, folate, B12, fatty acids, and zinc.
What you can do: Take a high-quality multivitamin daily and get checked for nutrient deficiencies. You can also take a B vitamin complex to ensure you’re not deficient in any B vitamins above linked to hair loss. Are you getting adequate protein? Strive to get .08-1 gram of protein per every lb you weigh. Add in Collagen Protein. Collagen is a protein that is packed with amino acids, including glutamine. It helps with giving your hair its strength and your skin its elasticity. Your collagen production decreases as you age and if you are chronically ill or stressed, your ability to make it is reduced. Taking a vitamin B complex vitamin will help increase hair growth rate if you are low in B’s. Still, it won’t necessarily address hair loss if the underlying cause is high blood sugars, anemia, or another autoimmune disease like alopecia or hypothyroidism. Be sure to rule out other causes before spending a lot of money on hair loss supplements and treatments.
Both excessive and deficient amounts of thyroid hormones can cause hair loss. Hormonal changes associated with various life stages, including pregnancy, childbirth, menopause, or fluctuation in thyroid function and thyroid hormone levels, can also lead to hair loss. Have your doctor run a full thyroid panel to make sure your TSH, Free T4 (FT4), Free T3 (FT3), and Reverse T3 (RT3) levels are all optimal. Once you know your thyroid levels, you can work with your doctor to ensure that you’re on the right type and dose of supplemental thyroid hormone. Determining which additional hormone is right for you is a crucial step in reversing thyroid hair loss.
What you can do: Have your doctor run a full thyroid panel (above). Focus on eating whole foods rich in the nutrients needed for thyroid health, including iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin A. If you are low in these nutrients, your thyroid can’t adequately produce its hormones, convert T4 to T3, or get T3 into your cells to attach to thyroid receptors, which can cause hypothyroidism symptoms, such as thyroid hair loss.
Menopause creates a low estrogen state that can thin the hair follicles, giving the appearance of overall hair loss.
What you can do: You can look into bioidentical FDA-approved estrogen (which not every woman does, nor is it always appropriate), try incorporating a Tb of Maca and 1-2 Tb flaxseed into your smoothie; both have been shown to help with estrogen metabolism.
Check your iron levels
If you do not have enough iron in your body, you may develop iron deficiency anemia, which can cause your hair to shed. Ferritin is a protein in your body that stores iron and releases it when your body needs it. Good ferritin levels indicate that your body’s iron levels are balanced and healthy, which is essential for healthy hair. The best way to treat hair loss with ferritin is to increase your iron levels.
In some hypothyroidism cases, hair loss may not be directly linked to a lack of thyroid hormones but instead to iron deficiency. This, in turn, causes low ferritin and hypothyroidism to occur at the same time. When there’s not enough ferritin stored in the body, your thyroid cannot make enough thyroid hormone. Your Dr will check your iron levels.
What you can do: Have your doctor evaluate if you are low and require an iron supplement. Continue to take in enough iron through good nutrition and a suitable supplement. Food rich in iron includes liver, oysters, chicken, lentils, nuts, and leafy green veggies. Eating vitamin C-rich and iron-rich foods at the same time can also help your body absorb iron better. So throw some lemon vinaigrette on that spinach salad.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Like the rest of your body, high blood sugar levels can impact your hair follicles’ health. Damage to the blood vessels leads to less oxygen and fewer nutrients reaching the hair follicles, which can cause hair to become thinner. Eating excessive carbohydrates and not enough quality proteins and healthy fats can send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster. These dramatic swings in blood sugar encourage your body to convert more T4 to Reverse T3, an inactive form of thyroid hormone. This slows down all of your metabolic processes and can cause thyroid hair loss.
What you can do: Eat non-inflammatory foods. Eat balanced meals. Be mindful of making your carbs fiber dense. Manage sleep and stress.
Diagnosing your thyroid condition and making lifestyle changes such as optimizing your diet, reducing your stress, and taking supplements for added nutrition can go along way to help reverse your thyroid hair loss. For a proper diagnosis, it is important to differentiate how quickly the hair is falling out and where so that you can give your physician an accurate picture.