Hair loss or hair thinning? What you need to consider & test

“The good physician treats the disease. The great physician greats the patient who has the disease.”
-Sir William Osler, MD, one of four founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital

“What can I do for hair loss/hair thinning?” is a common question amongst both men and women alike as either they didn’t think it would happen to them, feel it’s happening to early in life, or just flat out feel like it shouldn’t be happening at all! Reflecting back to this quote, hair issues can develop for a number of reasons, so of course it’s important to provide supportive therapies, it’s just as important to address the processes of why we’re in this scenario in the first place.

Hair growth is a continuous cycle that involves mainly the follicle (primary unit), and the hair shaft (the quality/type of hair). Factors that can disrupt these cycles include thyroid issues, hormone imbalances (i.e. estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol), stress, iron deficiency, poor nutrient intake/absorption, gut issues, pregnancy, genetics, autoimmune conditions, and scalp infections. There are many natural remedies and approaches to take, yet in the meantime the underlying cause of disease may actually include one, or any combination of these. Including the mental/ emotional component of it being synonymous to fear and loss of control.

In women, this can naturally happen as they enter into perimenopause due to the decline of estrogen, which is partly responsible for keeping hair in its desired state. However, typically progesterone plummets to a point where her scenario looks more like estrogen dominance (too much estrogen compared to progesterone), which can also contribute to hair loss. In other words, it’s good to be inside the bell curve. Younger women may also experience estrogen dominance due to additional exposures from tampons, beauty products, chemicals in the environment/food, and through being overweight, as fat cells make estrogen- men, this goes for you too.

Increased testosterone levels in both men and women (especially as they get older) can also cause hair issues because its commonly converted to a more potent version called dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Insulin resistance, a common term describing the decreased ability of insulin to take sugar into the cells for energy (or the cells just don’t respond to the pair so more is left in the bloodstream), contributes to stress (inflammation) within the body and mess up cycles of hair regeneration. Blood sugar issues and hormone imbalances also put a damper on optimal thyroid production (which further impact hormones), which is responsible for our metabolism, aka how fast processes move throughout the body. If you’re concerned about your weight too, or inability to lose weight, or that you’ve slowly been gaining weight over the years, it’s all related because fat cells will impact the balance of hormones and stress throughout our body.

Consider these tests and more palliative treatments to help nourish your mane:

  • Testing- Regular bloodwork is a great place to start because this can test your vitamin D levels (important for hormones, and overall health), thyroid, blood sugar levels, red and white blood cell (important for any type of anemias), and overall inflammation. However, urine or saliva are best done for hormone testing, as in blood hormones are free (active) and bound (inactive). This is why you may still have normal looking levels but still have symptoms because if the majority of that level is bound, then you only have a little bit of free- hence, symptoms. Urine and saliva measure the free hormone, as well as its metabolites to help further understand where along the pathway there may be an issue.

  • Bone broth- Bone broth is incredibly nutrient rich, and contains collagen, a beneficial protein that makes up the majority of our skin. It’s also great for gut health and the lining, ensuring optimal absorption of all these nutrients! Aim for about 8 ounces per day.

  • Quality sleep, stress management- I know.. easier said than done. Hear me out- hitting the sack at around 10:30pm helps cortisol (our stress hormone) drop before we get that second wind (aka helping avoid chronically elevated cortisol), and lets all those hormones we spoke about regenerate! They do so at night. For stress management, consider replacing that bootcamp with a yoga class, or taking deep breaths in the moment you feel yourself ready scream. While we can’t change the scenario, we can certainly change our reaction.

Anything you’re feeling is the body’s way of telling you that it can’t compensate anymore to where you can just brush it off, but something needs to be done. And most likely it’s not just one thing! Unfortunately much of medicine does treat one symptom, but we know now that it’s not always the case and even if labs say normal, doesn’t mean we feel normal. If you have further questions about how to go about addressing all these issues at once (it can be done!), let’s chat HERE about what your own individualized causes may be.