Thinning Hair & Hair Loss Solutions
Did you know that over 20 million American women experience thinning hair or hair loss?
Most affected are women 65 years of age and older: 65% of them experience hair loss or thinning hair. For many women having a full head of hair represents physical attractiveness and youthfulness.
There are lots of lotions, potions, and oils for the symptoms of hair loss, but that doesn’t necessarily get to the root cause. The root cause of thinning hair or hair loss is usually linked to hormones.
Here, I share some of the most common reasons for thinning hair and hair loss in women...
And some of the common causes of hair loss and thinning along with patterns are...
#1 Low Thyroid Function
The hair loss pattern is usually thinning, brittle, coarse hair, and uniform hair loss.
One of the most overlooked causes in hypothyroid patients is ruling out an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. The immune system and gut need to be addressed while in treatment, otherwise you will be fighting an uphill battle.
It’s important to have the proper testing done to check the thyroid. Some of the most important labs include TSH, FREE T4 & T3, Total T4 & 3, Reverse T3, Anti-bodies, zinc and Vitamin D. Zinc is needed for hair growth and a common deficiency. Low vitamin D levels will also increase hair loss.
Most patients are prescribed Synthroid or Levothyroxine, which is a T4 inactive hormone that needs to be converted into T3. Healthy hair growth requires healthy T3 levels. Unfortunately, many women have trouble converting T4 to T3 due to lacking nutrients like zinc and selenium and poor liver and gut function, which also play an important role.
#2 High Levels of Testosterone or DHT
This hair loss pattern is characterized as having an oily scalp, while the front part is preserved, and the hair loss is behind the normal hairline shaping the face.
This is quite common in women with PCOS and experiencing perimenopause. There is a short transition period in women during the change of life time in which estrogen drops and testosterone increases. Estrogen promotes hair growth and testosterone makes our hair fall out...this usually happens in the late 40’s or early 50’s.
Testosterone in women can cause oxidative stress around the hair follicles, which will result in premature hair loss.
A solution is to follow an anti-inflammatory eating plan template. Eat whole foods including organic vegetables, fruits, hormone-free animal products such as beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, wild caught fish, raw or sprouted nuts, seeds, and lots of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and avocados.
Spearmint tea is also helpful since it has anti-androgenic effects, especially on the skin. About 3 cups of tea per day can help decrease testosterone and it's also rich in antioxidants (think of them as little scavengers cleaning up the toxic debris). Saw Palmetto has anti-androgenic effects, which can also help lower DHT. This can be taken in pill form.
#3 Iron Deficiency
This hair loss pattern is usually all over and the hair is thinner and very brittle.
Iron deficiency is typically happens postpartum (after giving birth) and from heavy periods. Ferritin levels will drop (ferritin is the storage form of iron) and this is visible in blood tests, however, doctors don’t usually test for this.
Women who have heavy periods will usually be iron deficient, especially if they are not supplementing with iron or eating iron rich foods, to replenish the iron from heavy blood loss. Some of the best sources of iron are:
Beef and chicken liver
Optimal ferritin lab markers start at 80 and above on blood tests for hair growth. When the numbers are below 80, it enters the TELOGEN phase more easily, which is when the hair is released and falls out; once it enters this phase it’s going to easily fall out in 3-4 months.
One of my favorite products is Apex Hemevite Plus which has both iron and liver.
#4 Inflammation & Insulin Resistance
This hair loss pattern is fairly uniform and noticeable. Other common signs of insulin resistance include a lot of fat around the belly, weight loss resistance, skin tags, and a velvety pigmentation.
These are often overlooked when it comes to hair loss. Inflammation can be anywhere in the body such as in the joints where it’s more obvious, and the not so obvious such as the heart, brain, or gut.
Insulin resistance creates an inflammatory response and inflammation triggers the hair to fall out. What makes this even more of a challenge is women that have PCOS because they are prone to insulin resistance. Most women I have seen in my practice suffer with insulin resistance and have too much testosterone which doubles the risk.
Dietary changes are the most effective strategy for this pattern of hair loss. A low-carb keto/paleo type of eating template with no refined carbs, sugar, lots of green vegetables, low glycemic fruits like berries, and no snacking in between meals is very effective. Intermittent fasting with a compressed eating window can be helpful with carb cycling. Consuming a small amount of carbs in the morning, increasing slightly more at lunch and even more at dinner is a good approach. The total carb intake for the day should be less than 100 g ideally around 40-60 with insulin resistance issues. Omega-3 fish oils are very helpful for the inflammatory process.
This hair loss pattern is usually diffuse and in large clumps.
There is a stress related hair loss known as Telogen Effluvium. This causes premature hair loss and up to 70% of scalp hairs are shedded in large numbers about 2 months after a stressful situation.
Stress creates a cortisol response and cortisol regulates hair cycle. Stress will also disrupt the circadian rhythm which affects the quality of sleep. Adequate sleep quality is vital in healing the body and includes hair growth.
Some strategies for improving sleep include sleeping in a room that is dark, cool, free from electronics, and even using white noise to help. What you do 1-2 hours before you go to sleep also determines your sleep quality. So wearing blue blockers at night, minimize electronics like the computer, television, Ipad, and phones will be helpful too.
Stress management strategies include meditation, yoga, and spending time in nature and have proven to be very helpful. Adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola can also be beneficial.
One of the challenges with addressing hair loss is that we have to look at what happened 3-4 months ago as hair loss is not instant. Once it enters the Telogen phase you can expect the hair to fall out easily 3-4 months down the line. So it’s important to remember hair regrowth takes about 3 months to one year to improve.
Other helpful strategies to promote hair growth include several drops of rosemary oil with jojoba oil to the scalp. Rosemary oil has antioxidant and anti-androgenic properties. Apply to the scalp of the hair for about 1 hour and wash out. Studies also show that topical melatonin can be useful.