Are you noticing greater amounts of hair falling out when shampooing, or thinning of your once luscious locks when looking in the mirror?
Well you’re not alone. Among the top symptom complaints women present to me with, hair loss is high on the list. No one wants to lose head hair. Here I will unravel the possible causes of your hair loss and where you can start, to re-gain healthy hair growth.
The causes of hair loss can vary in each case, but generally there is one or more of the following factors contributing to the condition.
A diet lacking in protein (particularly the amino acid L-lysine), omega 3 essential fats, minerals iron, iodine and zinc, as well as lack of vitamin D rich sunshine exposure, are all known causes of thinning hair.
Heavy menstrual bleeding, as well as poor stomach acid secretion, can contribute to deficient iron levels, just as a diet high in omega 6 rich grain products, can cause imbalances with omega 3 levels in the body.
On the other hand, if you regularly supplement with the mineral Selenium, an overload in the body can potentially cause hair loss. (1)
Your gut health can become compromised through factors such as inflammatory diet choices. Think refined sugar, conventionally farmed wheat (sprayed with the herbicide Glyphosate) and trans fats found in bakery goods, fried foods and vegetable spreads.
The oral contraceptive pill, antibiotics and stress can also impact gut health, and all can lead onto weakened digestion (and therefore absorption of your nutrients), leakiness of your small intestine (leaky gut) and an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, fungus or parasites.
Imbalanced gut health can fuel the ongoing production of inflammation in your body. Inflammatory cytokines suppress ovary and gonad function and therefore contribute to imbalanced sex hormones - a common cause of hair thinning.
A condition of leaky gut can also exacerbate autoimmune conditions in the body, such as Hashimotos Thyroiditis, where thinning of the hair is a common symptom.
Among low energy, weight gain (and trouble losing weight), dry skin and depression, hair loss is a main symptom of an under active thyroid gland. More information about under active thyroid can be found here.
One nutritional deficiency that commonly contributes to an under active thyroid, is iodine, which is an important component of thyroid hormone. Without adequate iodine levels in the body, the health of the thyroid and therefore production of thyroid hormones, suffer.
Ongoing emotional, physical, chemical and nutritional stress, will cause your vulnerable adrenal glands to produce high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When you are stuck in a state of fight or flight, cortisol levels remain higher for longer and this will often lead to weakened thyroid gland function.
Pregnenolone (the mother of all hormones), is normally used for the production of adrenal hormone DHEA as well as sex hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone. In a state of adrenal fatigue, much of the pregnenolone is instead stolen down a pathway to produce the stress hormone, cortisol. This leaves the body in a state of low hormones, including low Progesterone, which can also lead to unwanted hair loss. Further support on balancing your hormones can be found here.
New Mumma hair loss is often contributed by hormones regulating themselves post birth and nutritional deficiencies such as Folic acid and other minerals as your baby continues to draw nutrition from you through breastfeeding. Not allowing your body to rest and heal with adequate rest and nutrition post birth can also contribute to thinning of your hair.
If you are currently pregnant, seek my support in the Glowing Mumma Circle to avoid this depletion as you transition into motherhood.
When your blood sugar levels are erratic over the day, this creates stress on your insulin producing organ, the pancreas. A diet high in glucose and fructose containing foods overtime contribute to a condition of insulin resistance. Your intake of refined sugar products and other refined carbs products such as a high intake of breads and pasta, high fructose corn syrup found in soft drinks and alcohol mixes, as well as fructose containing fruit juices, are common culprits.
Insulin resistance is also a known driver for adrenal, thyroid and sex hormone imbalances. The condition up regulates an enzyme called 17, 20-Lyase enzyme, which creates excessive testosterone levels and therefore contributes to the condition of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a known cause of hair loss in women. You can read more about PCOS here.
Interestingly in men, insulin resistance encourages an enzyme called aromatase, which causes testosterone to be converted into oestrogen. Higher Oestrogen levels in men, contributes to loss of head head.
A major gut health toxin is the herbicide glyphosate, which acts as an antibiotic in your gut and therefore indirectly effect your hormone health and head hair growth. Choosing organic produce where possible, limits your exposure to this toxin.
A localised toxic source that can also contribute to hair loss, is the use of shampoos containing Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS). Look for shampoos free from SLS (along with parabens) and seek low-tox colouring options, to enhance healthy hair growth.
To support your sex and adrenal hormone balance, do anything you can to bring more joy into your life. This will naturally crowd out and build resilience to allow you to cope with your stressors and prevent side effects such as hair loss.
Think of all the things that make you smile and do them more often! Include the free vitamin D into your daily activities through sunshine for extra hormone and hair growth support. Simple, but effective.
Also listen to your body, rest when needed, aim for enough sleep to wake naturally (without an alarm) in the morning and nurture your body with daily movement that best serves you.
If you have just had a baby, take extra care post birth to rest and allow your body to heal.
To prevent insulin resistance, stabilise the release of glucose from your foods over the day by sourcing majority of your carbohydrates from whole foods such as vegetables (mostly non-starchy). Also include a source of protein with all meals. Protein sources such as meat, fish, chicken, eggs, liver, oysters, nuts, sunflower and pumpkin seeds are also a source of zinc., which plays a role in overcoming the hair loss condition of alopecia.
Include an abundance of nourishing fats into your day through avocado, coconut products, flaxseed meal, cod liver oil, wild caught fish, olive oil (as dressings), ghee and grass fed or organic animal fats through slow cooking cuts of meat on the bone.
To boost your iodine levels, I encourage the use of seaweeds in your diet, such as nori, wakame, arame, kelp and dulse. I also use this seaweed salt in my cooking. If you have low iodine levels, and/or an under active thyroid, the avoidance of soy is always recommended (even fermented forms), as this will compete with your iodine uptake.
If you are a regular swimmer in chlorinated pools, my tips here can also help minimise iodine depletion.
To maintain healthy iron levels, include both well-absorbed heme sources such as chicken or beef liver pate, red meat, chicken and wild caught fish. Non- Heme sources will to help top up your iron status including greens (best cooked to enhance absorption of iron), nuts, seeds, legumes, beetroot, tomato and watercress.
As your hair is made up of collagen, supplying foods which support your body’s production of this will help your hair health. Use mineral and gelatin rich bone broth in your cooking regularly and /or add grass fed, collagen powder in drinks and use grass fed gelatin granules in healthy versions of gummies and panna cotta. I opt for this organic gelatin.
Test Your Levels
Start with these tests to help to detect any personal underlying causes of your hair loss include:
Learn about optimal thyroid and insulin reference ranges and how to balance a sluggish thyroid and insulin resistance, in my book Balanced, The Natural Way To Healthy Hormones.
Reach For Nature
Massaging coconut oil into your scalp and hair is a nourishing and natural treatment option before washing and there are effective essential oils you can use alongside, to help hair growth through unblocking hair follicles and act as natural conditioners.
Personally, I massage into my scalp either overnight (with coconut oil), or in with my conditioner, a blend of high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils of Lemon, Lavender, Peppermint, Geranium & Rosemary. If you’d like to try this too, head over here for more info.
If you want to promote a head of luscious locks, along with your regular haircuts, look at supporting your body holistically through addressing your gut and hormone health. Testing can help you detect reasoning behind your thinning hair and making an effort to nourish yourself through diet and lifestyle can play a role in encouraging healthy hair growth again.
To learn how you can balance your hormones for healthy hair, see my book Balanced, The Natural Way To Healthy Hormones. Or if you’re an expecting Mumma, learn how to nourish and nurture your body to avoid hair loss post birth, in my Glowing Mumma Circle.
1) Carson B.L. et al. Toxicology and Biological Monitoring of Metals in Humans, Lewis Pub. Chelsea MI, 1986, pp 213-17.