Too Many Bad Hair Days
As a woman, it can be emotionally devastating to see your hair get thinner and thinner on your scalp. As many as 50% to 75% of women 65 years or older lose some or all of their hair, but for many women this Female Pattern Hair Loss (FPHL) starts much earlier, seeming like a sign of aging and failing health.
There are many causes of hair loss including nutrient deficiencies and hormonal changes. The goal is to do the appropriate testing to identify the underlying cause of hair loss. A naturopathic treatment plan may include diet and life styles changes as well as a few supplements to address the cause of this stubborn hair loss.
Most causes of male pattern hair loss are linked to increased androgen activity, but the cause of female pattern hair loss is often not as obvious. While female hair loss may be linked to high testosterone levels or even low testosterone levels in some cases, for most women it is not. Usually, hair loss due to excessive testosterone is easy to spot. Symptoms for women can include excessive amounts of dark, course hair on body areas where men typically grow hair — face, chest and back, along with acne and irregular menstrual cycles.
For healthy hair, estrogen and progesterone need to be balanced. Estrogen dominance, is becoming more common due to environmental estrogens, changes in nutrition and use of oral birth control pills. As estrogen levels rise, progesterone levels decrease which can cause further damage to hair follicles. Estrogen dominance can be treated with supplements like DIM Detox from Pure Encapsulations or progesterone levels can be raised, either by progesterone prescriptions or by using botanical medicines such as Vitex 750 from Vital Nutrients. When balance is restored, normal hair growth will likely resume in the next several months.
Topical treatments can offer short term solutions to FPHL. Right now, the Food and Drug Administration’s only approved treatment is with topical minoxidil, more commonly known as Rogaine. However, essential oils such as cedarwood, lavender, thyme, and rosemary oils may have hair growth promoting properties when applied to the scalp usually in a carrier oil such as olive oil. These oils have been used for over 100 years in the successful treatment of alopecia areata, an (autoimmune disease that causes severe hair loss) and in some cases of FPHL.
Combating hair loss starts with the foundations of health. This means that we need to look at diet, environmental factors and assessing and treating stress responses in addition to the possible hormone changes. As naturopaths, we work on the general health of the patient. Starting with this foundational work improves the quality of the whole body and maximizes success for hair regrowth.
Like most naturopathic treatments, combating FPHL starts with diet and gut health. In many cases, working with a nutritionist may make sense to maximize success, using a diet consisting primarily of organic proteins, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some fruit. Many times, adding in minerals such as zinc, biotin, manganese, and silica is helpful in addressing FPHL. Avoiding refined, simple carbohydrates while adding organic protein gives your body adequate building blocks for growth and repair.
Iron deficiency is associated with hair loss (as well as anemia) so restoring ferritin (stored iron) in the follicle can minimize the hair loss observed in FPHL. Low ferritin also affects thyroid function (the primary metabolism hormone), which is vital to healthy hair growth. Ferrasorb by Thorne Research is a well-tolerated iron supplements with all the nutrients iron requires to be absorbed. To more quickly address very low iron levels, Iron IVs can bypass the GI to remedy low ferritin stores.
Thyroid health also needs to be assessed when looking at hair loss, since hair follicles are directly acted upon by thyroid hormones. They affect a variety of hair functions, from the growth cycle to hair pigmentation. Specifically, T4 encourages hair growth, and a combination of T3 and T4 reduces hair follicle death. Unfortunately, annual blood work rarely screens for these hormones.
A complete hormone panel needs to check for a variety of things including testosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), luteinizing hormone (LH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), progesterone, estradiol, estrone, cortisol, and dihydrotestosterone (DHT). All of these can play a role in FPHL and need to be evaluated to make sure they are appropriate for your age and are in proper balance with each other.
All in all, treating hair loss is not easy, and the results of treatment require time to be noticed. Investigating the cause is key to long term success. If you or a loved one is suffering with female hair loss, call NaturoMedica to schedule an appointment today.