Hair loss is one of the most frustrating symptoms a woman can deal with in her life. Our hair is an integral part of our sense of beauty including how we express our personality and femininity. Thinning hair or bald spots can be devastating and destroy our self-confidence.
To make things worse, it’s difficult to find a clear cause of hair loss, which makes it seem nearly impossible to find the solution. The truth is, there can be a number of causes and therefore, a number of solutions. After all, each person has a unique set of genes, hormonal imbalances, deficiencies, and surroundings.
What I want you to know is that hair loss is a sign of an internal imbalance or deficiency, therefore topical solutions (such as creams, shampoos, magic oils and such) will only have limited or temporary results.
Hair loss is a signal to us that there’s an internal imbalance.
Topical remedies are temporary Band-Aids to your frustration.
You need to focus on resolving the underlying causes.
The causes of hair loss can be divided into four main categories:
Hormonal Causes of Hair Loss
Hormones are one of the most common causes when it comes to hair loss. If you haven’t already, check out this article to find out if your hair loss is in part related to hormone issues.
The most common hormonal imbalance leading to hair loss is thyroid imbalance. Thyroid conditions are some of the most under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed hormonal disorders. Part of the reason for this is that conventionally recommended lab ranges are too broad, which means that thyroid-related symptoms are often over-looked. This article will guide you on which tests to have done to get a more accurate and comprehensive assessment of your thyroid.
Thyroid and Hair Loss
When hair loss is attributed to imbalances in your thyroid you’ll first start to notice brittle and dry hair. This is because the hair follicle has a receptor site for thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormone binds to the receptor site and turns hair growth on or off, and both insufficient and excess thyroid hormone can cause hair to shed. The thyroid is also involved in the pigmentation of your hair. How do imbalances in your thyroid manifest on your scalp? The thyroid pattern tends to be thinning all over the head or hair loss on the sides of the head.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PCOS is a hormonal condition that I often see in my Practice. It’s characterized by high levels of testosterone and other androgens (male hormones) and is common in those with high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and obesity. It can also occur after the use of birth control. The name comes from the cysts that may grow on the ovaries (although a third of women with PCOS don’t have ovarian cysts). The excess circulating androgens convert to DHT by the enzyme 5-alpha reductase and ultimately results in hair loss in some women. Have you been diagnosed with PCOS? If you are not sure, read this article.
Insulin resistance is an underlying imbalance behind a number of hormone conditions and I see this with more and more of my patients nowadays. One of the ways in which insulin resistance affects hair loss is that it increases free testosterone. Insulin is found in hair follicles and it’s possible that it helps regulate the metabolism of androgens and affects the hair growth cycle by its conversion to DHT. Also, insulin resistance can cause reduced blood flow and oxygen levels, contributing to the miniaturization of hair follicles, leading to balding.
Estrogen dominance is another common imbalance that can lead to hair loss. Estrogen can either be too high or too low with this condition. When estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), get out of control, you can experience hair loss. Learn more about estrogen dominance, the symptoms, the causes, and what you can do here. If you think that you may be estrogen dominant, then you want to focus on helping your liver detox the estrogens safely. Start by supporting your liver by eating foods that help detox and nourish it while taking this my favorite liver detox supplement.
Stress, which most everyone has if they’re expericing hair loss, can also make it worse! Chronic elevations in cortisol are the most harmful. This is where adrenal fatigue and HPA axis dysregulation comes into the picture. This study shows that cortisol may be produced via a peripheral HPA-like process within the hair follicle without any influence of blood supply from the rest of the body. High cortisol from stress (outside or inside the body) can reduce the production of certain elements needed for hair growth and increases the breakdown of hair supportive elements. Basically the more stressed you are, for a longer period of time, uses up all the nutrients you need for hair growth to occur.
High testosterone is another potential suspect for hair loss. High testosterone in women occurs when there’s insulin resistance and blood sugar levels stay high and Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG) levels are then suppressed. In fact, low SHBG can be used as a marker of metabolic syndrome in both men and women. When SHBG is low (in part due to poor liver function), testosterone is allowed to build up in the blood, as it isn’t being bound by SHBG and gets converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a more potent form of testosterone. DHT can be hard on hair follicles, leading to hair loss which tends to occur on the crown and front of the head. In women who have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, an enzyme within the hair follicle known as 5-alpha reductase, binds to testosterone and converts it to DHT, which then binds to additional receptors deeper within the hair follicle. Over time, the DHT causes a disruption in the normal life cycle of the hair, either killing off the hair follicle or causing less growth.