Hair thinning is a very common condition seen in both men and women. There are many different causes of hair thinning or hair loss.
What are some of the causes of hair thinning or loss?
Nutritional deficiencies is a common cause of hair thinning, especially in women. Low iron is one of the most common deficiencies that leads to hair thinning.
Hormones is another reason why your hair may be thinning. Androgenic alopecia, also known as male pattern hair loss, is very common in men. It has to do with a hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is converted from Testosterone via an enzyme 5-alpha reductase.
Androgenic alopecia may occur in woman due to ovarian cysts, the use of birth control pills, pregnancy, and menopause. It is common in conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) where there is a reduction in progesterone and an increase in circulating androgens. It also begins in woman around perimenopause and menopause when female hormones begin to decline along with serum hormone binding globulin (SHBG). As the name implies, SHBG binds hormones, such as testosterone, making them less bioavailable. So while total testosterone may not be increasing during menopause, the amount available to reach target cells does increase, thus allowing DHT to rise and hair to thin.
Thyroid and stress hormones may also impact hair health. After a period of high stress, some people may start to notice increased hair shedding and a reduction in the growth of new hair. This condition called telogen effluvium, often begins 3-6 moths after a stressful event. Thankfully, this type of hair loss is reversible.
There are treatment options to help restore your hair health. The starting place is to determine the cause of hair loss and begin an appropriate treatment plan. Basic blood work that includes a CBC with differential, and iron panel or ferritin, thyroid tests, basic hormones including DHEA and inflammatory markers is a great starting place. Combine these tests with good history taking and the cause of hair loss may be determined. In some cases, your Naturopathic Doctor may recommend a Food allergy test , an adrenal panel or a complete hormone panel .
Once we have determined a cause, a treatment plan will be developed. This may involve balancing hormones, supplements to support hair growth, and managing stress.
Book a consultation today with one of our Naturopathic Doctors to learn more about our treatments for hair loss.
Q and A: All About Hair
What is hair made of?
Hair is primarily made up of a sulfur rich protein called Keratin. Keratin is made from a combination of amino acids and micronutrient cofactors. Important nutrients for healthy hair formation include :Sulphur, Biotin, Iron, Copper, Lysine, Zinc, Manganese, Lysine, Proline, Vitamin D, and B vitamins.
How Does Hair Grow?
Hair grows from the base of the follicle, known as the bulb. The Bulb is supplied with nutrients from the body via tiny blood vessels. The cells of the bulb divide rapidly which results in 0.3 mm to 0.4mm of hair growth above the scalp, per day. The bulb and hair follicle are susceptible to subtle changes in their environment. Hormonal changes, chemicals, stress, and poor nutrition will significantly impact the rate of division and quality of cells being produced.
Hair growth follows three stages: anagen, catagen, and telogen. At any given time, a random number of hairs will be in one of three stages of growth and shedding.
How do Hormones Affect Hair?
Estrogen: can stimulate new hair growth and extend the anagen phase. Hair thinning in women generally becomes noticeable around menopause and in conditions like PCOS where female hormones are lower and androgens elevated.
Progesterone: This hormone helps keep your hair thick and full by counteracting, or inhibiting, the effects of 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). DHT is a strong testosterone and is responsible for hair miniaturiziation seen in androgenetic hair thinning.
Dihydrostetosterone (DHT): (DHT): This hormone is the main culprit of hair thinning and loss. Hair loss is an inevitable part of aging. Hormonal imbalances, certain health conditions, and some medications can also contribute to thinning hair.
What Causes Hair Loss in Men and Women?
While men are more likely to lose hair than women, many females also struggle with premature hair loss. Reasons can range from nutrient deficiencies to more serious underlying health conditions. Treatment primarily depends on the cause of the hair loss and its severity. Most of the time treating the underlying cause can curb hair loss. For example, physical stress in the form of surgery, trauma, or illness can cause temporary hair loss. Once the stress has ceased, the hair loss will typically come to a halt.
Hormonal problems, such as imbalances, are a fairly common cause of hair loss. In some cases such as pregnancy, the hair loss is temporary until the hormones level out following birth. In other causes, chronic hormone problems can cause continued hair loss. Elevated androgens, insulin issues, and fluctuating thyroid levels can also lead to hair loss. If you think that your hair loss is associated with hormone problems, undergo testing to determine the primary cause.