Many men can relate to women facing the disappointment and sadness of hair loss. Ladies who do lose their hair often change schedules or limit activities to avoid embarrassment. There are many reasons why female hair loss happens, most of which are different from the causes found in men, and several nutritional approaches to help get the hair growing again.
Genetics might be a component of female hair loss. Usually, there is a strong history of baldness in the family. But genetics might only hold part of the responsibility. Nutrition, hormone balance and stress will also play important roles. Clinically, many women will report their hair loss started after a time of great stress. Stress that goes on for several days to months (or longer) can induce significant changes in the immune system, how well we digest and even how well we sleep. Hair loss can occur as the immune system overreacts in the area of the hair follicle. Major stress may play a significant role in this overreaction of the immune system.
Nutrition is very important to the health of the hair. For ladies, quick hair loss could result from a lack of many nutrients, particularly minerals and proteins. Low iron levels are known to be a causative factor for hair loss [Source: Shrivastava]. Often times if iron is low, other minerals such zinc are low, too. A lack of iron and other minerals can come from a lack of quality protein. Too much sugar and processed foods will also lead to a lack of minerals. Individuals with patchy hair loss might need more protein from various sources. Poor digestion such as bloating, heartburn or irregular bowel movements could be a sign that food is not being digested in a way that allows the body to absorb and use it well. A high potency multivitamin is often needed to help replenish the body’s needs. Biotin is another vitamin that is safe and simple to use for nutrition of the hair. Essential fatty acids would complement this nutrition program. Vitamin D may also be important for those who are low and for those who are losing hair due to an autoimmune process. This process is the overreaction of the immune system mentioned earlier that can lead to rapid, patchy hair loss.
Hormones can play a significant role in the health and quality of the hair. Low levels of thyroid hormone can be a very common reason for hair loss [Source: Shrivastava]. The thyroid gland should be evaluated closely for any signs of deficiency by both lab tests and symptom evaluation. The thyroid gland needs minerals such as iodine, zinc and selenium to work effectively. If stress has been an issue, cortisol levels should also be evaluated. Cortisol is a hormone made in both men and women by the adrenal gland. This gland was made to respond rapidly to stress, but only in spurts, not in long sequences like those we face today. Chronic stress will eventually weaken this gland and the body. Cortisol levels can provide assessments on how well the adrenal gland is currently able to keep up. Chronic stress must be addressed and the adrenal gland must be fed to maintain the health of the body, including the health of the hair and scalp. Hair loss has been improved by hypnosis, with one of the biggest effects being help with underlying stress and anxiety [Source: Willemsen]. For both the health of the hair and for stress, vitamin C and B complex can be very important. Throwing out the soft drinks, processed foods, sugar and artificial sweeteners will greatly improve the chances of hair follicle stimulation.
Sleep is another must have to help fight hair loss. Lack of quality, deep sleep cuts away the time frame the body uses to repair itself. Going to bed late will affect the body’s healing ability. Going to bed with lights on or with ambient light from the outside will also limit one’s quality of sleep. Hair loss may be one of many symptoms that occur when the body is withheld from the deep sleep that it needs. Plan to rest at a consistent time in a comfortable bed. When going to sleep, allow the room to be as dark as possible using blackout shades on the windows as necessary. Keep a flashlight or light that you can easily turn on available for trips to the bathroom.
Tips to fight hair loss:
- Consider labs to check iron, thyroid, cortisol (often done by saliva tests) and vitamin D levels. Treat any of these values if they are abnormal.
- Begin taking a high potency multivitamin/multi-mineral.
- Be sure to get 1,000-2,000 mg of vitamin C and 5,000 mcg biotin per day.
- Take a B complex 1-2 times a day. Higher doses tend to be better for those with more stress.
- Cut out the refined sugar, sweets and processed foods.
- Eat more fruits, vegetables and a variety of good quality proteins.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Consider more exercise, yoga, hobbies or counseling to help the body better cope with stress.
- Shrivastava, SB. (2009). Diffuse hair loss in an adult female: approach to the diagnosis and management. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol, 75(1):20-7.
- Willemsen, R., Vanderlinden, J. (2008). Hypnotic approaches for alopecia areata. Int J clin Exp Hypn, 56(3):318-33.