There is something quite scary and disconcerting about clumps of hair falling out of your head or finding your hair everywhere in the house.
There are several reasons why this could be happening to you which I will go through. I believe you need to get to the root cause to slow and/or stop it from happening.
This is normally the classic picture people think of when we say thinning hair but it is not always the problem. Androgen alopecia has a strong genetic component, so if you’re female and your mum, and or your grandmother have this condition it is likely you may too. If you’re male and your father or grandfather have the condition you could have a predisposition to it too.
It’s caused from the male hormone dihydrotesosterone (DHT), a very potent metabolite of testosterone where the androgen pathway preference is androsterone (5α) rather than the less potent etiocholanolone (5b) pathway. You can test the level of DHT in a simple blood test or the androgen pathways in a more comprehensive urinary hormone panel.
Conventional treatment is anti-androgenic drugs and/or minoxidil. However there are some great anti androgenic herbs such as saw palmetto (SP) or nettle which work successfully on the anti-androgenic pathways. ‘SP blocks nuclear uptake of DHT in target cells and decreases DHT binding to androgen receptors by approximately 50%’
Rosemary oil applied topically with a carrier oil has shown hair growth ‘…topical rosemary oil lotion (3.7 mg/mL) applied daily was noninferior to topical 2% MXD. Both groups demonstrated a significant increase in hair count at 6 months.’
Hair Loss and Hormone Imbalances:
Hormonal changes related to different life stages, including pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause or fluctuation in thyroid function and thyroid hormone levels, may also result in temporary and sometimes permanent baldness.
Partnering with a functional nutritionist who practices personalized lifestyle medication is vital to balancing hormone levels with lifestyle, nutrition changes and supplements.
Hormone imbalances often cause hair loss. There could be an issue with male/female hormones, thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, or a mix. In functional medicine, it is not enough to simply conduct a blood test to measure hormone levels and prescribe some type of replacement hormone to”fix” the problem.
People with hormone imbalances will need to discover the root cause. Frequently the cause of the majority of hormone imbalances is improper detoxification. All hormones have a”shelf life”–a time period in which they are active. When the hormone is used, it must be separated and removed from the blood flow. At this time, the hormone acts like a poison. If the body cannot eliminate the old hormones, the outcome is a hormone imbalance.
Hormonal imbalances can happen anytime in a women’s life but different life stages make hormonal health particularly vulnerable such as pregnancy, post-partum, peri menopause and menopause.
Thorough testing is needed to determine then hormone imbalances to choose the right course of action. For example low estrogen is a very different treatment plan to low thyroid hormones.
Hair Loss and Nutrient Deficiency
Iron deficiency hair loss is caused when the body lacks enough iron to produce haemoglobin in the blood. Haemoglobin is the ingredient that carries oxygen for the growth and repair of all body cells including the cells that make up hair follicles.
Zinc, selenium, B12 or Biotin
Are you not consuming adequate levels of these nutrients or is there a problem with poor stomach and intestinal absorption of nutrients? Women following a began diet can often be deficient in these nutrients.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’S)
EFA’s play an importer role in preventing hair loss by helping blood circulation and cell growth; both which are important for hair follicles.
A Functional Nutritionist will evaluate and analyse your diet to understand nutrient deficiencies for you.
A simple blood test can determine most nutrient deficiencies
Stress and Hair Loss
My favourite topic: STRESS!! because it’s everywhere and in many different formats not just emotional or psychological but also infectious, chemical, hormonal, food sensitivities, environmental, physical…. Think about this.. How many times in a day are you impacted by all of these types of stressors? ALOT!
I get clients to list everything in their day that causes them stress and then we talk about the internal stressors that they don’t even know about.
Did you know our body has the same physiological response if it is a REAL or perceived stress?
So how does this effect hair loss?
Firstly, if we are in flight, flight or flee our body’s mechanism is to survive. So, what can it lose to protect itself and survive, what doesn’t it need? Hair, nails and fertility are the first things to go.
Any of the above forms of stress will put your body in fight, flight or flee.
Any kind of stress can trigger hair shedding. Hair grows on a programmed cycle that involves a growth phase, rest phase, and shedding phase. Big emotional and/or physical stressors and any type of chronic stress can cause the hair to lock down in the shedding phase.
So What to do?
-Identify the stress (always more than one)
-Work out how you can mitigate them
-Go back to basics with good Nutrition
-Get adequate and quality sleep
-Support with specific, smart supplementation
Did you know you can test your cortisol through saliva or urine? This will show what your cortisol is doing in a whole day and if you are heading towards burnout.
Hair Loss and Gut Health
The health of the gut microbiome is critical for overall health and wellbeing. Threats to a healthy microbiome are things that stress it like frequent antibiotic use, food sensitivities/allergies, caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, sugar, infections and toxins.
A dysbiotic microbiome may not efficiently perform functions vital to regulation of the hair cycle, such as supplying nutrients, synthesizing certain vitamins, and regulating aspects of the immune system.
Any alteration to the microbiome have the potential to compromise health, including hair loss.
Stress can change the microbiome too. The relationship between gut and stress is bi-directional. Stress not only influences the microbiota directly but sends signals to and from the nervous system through the vagus nerve, further damaging the integrity of the microbiome. Over-activation of this nerve can deplete beneficial gut bacteria.
Gut permeability, commonly known as leaky gut allows food particles, pathogens and other triggers into the blood stream which exposes hair follicles to greater immune damage.
Gut inflammation means more circulation of proinflammatory proteins that reach the hair follicles and can impact hair growth.
Malabsorption can reduce nutrient absorption and assimilation effecting metabolic processes involved in hair synthesis.
What to do?
- Take out the gut stressors
- Treat any infections naturally
- Correct the dysbiosis (healthy to unhealthy bacteria and yeasts)
- Calm any inflammation with nutrients such as aloe, Boswellia, glutamine, zinc, slippery elm or liquorice under the advice of a certified functional nutritionist.
- Support with prebiotics to promote the growth of diverse bacteria.
How do I know if it’s my gut health causing hair loss?
There are many different gut tests you can do to understand your gut health.
The functional medicine approach to treating hair loss and shedding is to fix the underlying causes. Step one is to have a detailed history. Further testing is often needed to figure out what is causing the hair loss. The root cause therapy is usually pretty straight forward once you know the trigger. Every individual is different. The treatment is different for each person and is normally a process of elimination.
Hair Loss and Chronic infections
A lot of people with chronic viral, fungal, or bacterial infections experience hair loss. Individuals with illnesses like Lyme, Epstein Barr virus, or mold have their hair return to normal as they get well. Infections produce toxins, destroy cells, and absorb nutrients. The first key to fixing this illness is diagnosing them. Frequently these chronic infections are overlooked. Fixing these infections differs from healing an acute infection. Chronic infections often require getting individuals’ overall stronger so their immune system can be effective in eliminating the infection. This can take time but as the body starts to eliminate the infection the body will heal and hair growth should resume.
Bach.App.Sci (Human Movement), Adv.Dip Nutritional Medicine, Adv Dip Sec.Edu, Certified Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN)
- Mayo Clinic. Hair Loss. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926. Accessed January 11, 2019.
- Hosking AM et al. Complementary and alternative treatments for alopecia: a comprehensive review. Skin Appendage Disord. 2018. doi: 10.1159/00049203.5
- Wang HX, Wang YP. Gut Microbiota-brain Axis. Chin Med J (Engl). 2016;129(19):2373-2380.
- Zaneveld JR, McMinds R, Vega Thurber R. Stress and stability: applying the Anna Karenina principle to animal microbiomes. Nat Microbiol. 2017;2:17121.
- Paus R. Exploring the “brain-skin connection”: leads and lessons from the hair follicle. Curr Res Transl Med. 2016;64(4):207-214.