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If your once luscious locks are looking a little thin, there’s a good chance your hormones are to blame. Hormones not only wreak havoc during life changes like pregnancy and menopause, but also decline as we start to age or experience any stress. There are 5 key hormone players in your hair loss, and finding the cause of your hair loss is half the battle of restoring your mane.
DHT, not Testosterone, is the culprit in most of what we think of as genetic hair loss – male pattern baldness (and female pattern hair loss). DHT is a derivative of testosterone that binds to scalp follicles and causes them to shrink. This shrinkage causes the hair to die and fall out. When testosterone decreases as men age, which we call andropause, this hair loss occurs. Supplementing with testosterone is not a cure, because excess testosterone also causes hair loss.
Conditions like Type II Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome (pre-diabetes) and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) are classic examples of this hormone imbalance in women, where androgen levels increase and estrogen levels decrease, causing hair growth on the face and hair loss on the head. Even when a blood test looks normal DHT can still be the culprit, because dropping levels of estrogen increase our sensitivity to DHT.
Estrogen Imbalance also causes hair loss. When estrogen levels increase from weight gain, birth control pills, perimenopause, or toxicity from endocrine disruptors in water, food and plastics, then thinning hair is the result. When estrogen rises, copper rises along with it, making hair look dull and lifeless, and breaking down proteins which results in hair loss.
During pregnancy, estrogen levels peak then drop sharply after childbirth, which causes a temporary hair loss, usually 6 weeks to 3 months after the baby is born. If your estrogen drops too low, especially during menopause, then even normal levels of DHT will shrink your hair follicles causing hair loss.
Stress Hormones like cortisol cause thinning hair most noticeably in the front of the scalp where your bangs are. If stress is severe, clumps of hair can fall out. Your body naturally redirects its energies away from non-essential functions like growing hair when you are under stress. This includes physical stress like surgery, illness, sudden weight loss, malnutrition with low protein, vitamin or mineral deficiencies; as well as stress from lifestyle and emotional issues. Hair loss typically starts 3 months after the triggering event and is temporary. If stress is chronic, then hair loss is ongoing until stress is relieved and adrenals are supported.
Thyroid disease causes hair loss, whether thyroid is overactive or underactive. The thyroid is the master metabolic regulator and metabolism takes priority over hair growth. Your body will divert its resources to taking care of the thyroid issue and hair growth goes on the backburner until the thyroid is restored to health. What many women think of as genetic or age-related hair loss is frequently the result of an underperforming thyroid.
Insulin is a helper hormone that does more than regulate blood sugar. It’s also involved in heart health, fat storage and even hair growth. When insulin rises, a cascade of stress hormones and sex hormone imbalances result and hair loss comes shortly after.
Once you’ve identified the causes of your hair loss, the good news is you can take control of the hormone havoc and it can grow back. The bad news is it takes time; hair can take up to 6 months to start showing its new growth.
If you know sex hormones are at the root of your issues, saliva hormone testing is the place to start. Blood tests like a Complete Blood Count (CBC) and iron studies to rule out anemia as a cause, thyroid studies to check the health of the thyroid, and fasting insulin and blood sugar levels to see how your insulin is performing are the next step. Finally, saliva cortisol testing when stress levels are high.
A good multivitamin and multimineral supplement to restore deficiencies is your next step. Vitamin A encourages hair growth (unless taken to excess), Vitamin D for healthy hormone levels, Vitamin E protects hair from damage, B vitamins including Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) restore hair thickness and make it shine, Silica for hair strength, Chromium for healthy insulin levels, and the potent antioxidants Vitamin C, Zinc and Selenium restore cellular health from the inside.
When stress abounds, cut hair loss off at the pass by supplementing adrenals with a good adrenal formula. Nourishing and supporting adrenals will help minimize hair loss in both the long and short term by supplying nutrients that both adrenals and hair follicles need, as well as adaptogenic herbs which help calm the stress response. Omega 3 fats help with moods and stress response in the long term, and these healthy fats will also add shine and volume to your tresses.
When hormones are the culprit, include a good liver supplement that supports healthy hormone detox. Eat clean, with plenty of fiber to help escort excess estrogen out of the body. Make sure you are asleep between 1am and 3am; according to the Chinese Medicine 24 hour clock, this is when the liver heals and regenerates as long as you are sleeping.
A diet like the Fat Flush plan from Ann Louise Gittleman – high in healthy fats and protein, low in carbs, and high in vegetables is key to healthy insulin and stress hormone levels and ultimately healthy hair. The health of the inside of your body shows in your hair, so feed yourself the fuel your cells need and your body will reward you with luscious locks.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best form of exercise for men with low testosterone. This form of cardio exercise not only increases testosterone levels but growth hormone (HGH) levels as well. Weight lifting is another way to affect hormone levels; increased weight with fewer reps will increase testosterone, while less weight with more reps will increase fat burning and help rid the body of excess estrogen.
Walking is one of the best forms of exercise to reduce your stress levels, aid with weight loss, and help control blood sugar and lower blood pressure. Just 30 minutes of walking daily reduces the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and lowers insulin resistance, which translates into health benefits for your hair.
If your hormones are back on track and your hair still isn’t as full as it once was, then take a look in your medicine cabinet. Antidepressants, blood thinners, blood pressure meds known as beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors, gout medications, anti-seizure meds, and even NSAIDs like ibuprofen all have side effects which include hair loss. The good news is this loss is usually temporary, lasting only as long as you’re on the med.