Did you know it is normal to lose 100 head hairs per day? Crazy to think.
But if you're noticing greater amounts of hair falling out when shampooing, or thinning of your once luscious locks when looking in the mirror, I can understand you'd be concerned about why this is happening.
Firstly, 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 once again.
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.
Let's start with your plate, as your hair health is impacted by your nutritional intake. Firstly your hair is made up of protein, so it makes sense that a diet lacking in protein (particularly the amino acid L-lysine) can contribute to poor hair growth and strength.1 Also deficiencies in omega 3 essential fats, vitamin D rich sunshine exposure, plus minerals iron, iodine and zinc, are all known causes of thinning hair. Along with heavy menstrual bleeding, if you are vegetarian or vegan you will be more prone to true iron deficiency.
You may know by now I'm a fan of seaweeds for iodine, patè for iron, ethical eggs, meats and seafood for protein & zinc. Cod liver oil is a favourite of mine for omega 3's as it has bonus food forms of vitamin D and true vitamin A.
On the other hand, if you regularly supplement with the mineral Selenium, an overload in the body can potentially cause hair loss.2
Ever heard of the saying, you are what you eat...and absorb. To get the most nutrition from the foods you eat and any supplements you take, your digestive health is key.
Strong stomach acid, for kick starting your digestion and the absorption process, relies on your body being placed in the parasympathetic 'rest and digest' state, so supporting this through chewing your food well and eating in a relaxed environment is crucial. You can also get your digestive juices flowing by taking a couple of teaspoons apple cider vinegar in warm water before meals, or if you're seeing a herbalist, biter herbs like dandelion and gymnema do the trick too. If severely deficient, taking betaine hydrochloride may also be supportive for your overall assimilation of hair health nutrients.
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 long life products, bakery goods, fried foods and vegetable spreads.
The oral contraceptive pill, antibiotics and stress can also impact the balance of your gut microbiome and 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. Plus, a known side effect of synthetic hormones use such as the OCP, is actually hair loss.
A condition of leaky gut (caused by inflammation), 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, head 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 will suffer. Yes, just another reason to include seaweeds into your daily diet.
Stress and traumatic events are a known trigger of Telogen effluvium hair loss.
Ongoing emotional, physical, chemical and nutritional stress, will not only impact your digestive strength, but also 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. Low progesterone can also lead to unwanted hair loss. If this is ringing alarm bells for you, further support on balancing your hormones can be found here.
New Mumma hair loss is often contributed by hormones regulating themselves post birth. During pregnancy, the rise in oestrogen levels promotes new hair growth, but post birth there is a sharp decline in these levels, contributing to shedding of your head hair.
As a new mumma you're likely a bit frazzled from broken sleep and nutritional deficiencies are common, as your baby continues to draw nutrition from you through breastfeeding.
Today's pressures and expectations of women being back to household duties, errands out the house and other work just days after birth are also contributing to this postpartum depletion and potentially, hair loss in later months.
Take the time to honour your body with rest, healing and adequete nutrition post birth. If you are currently pregnant, I'd highly recommend the support within my signature program Path To Glowing Mumma to avoid this depletion as you transition into motherhood. If you're already in the thick of it, Thriving Bubba covers breastfeeding and baby Mum nutrition.
While distressing, be comforted to know that postpartum hair loss is typically only temporary- usually around 6 months.
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.
Heavy metals are also a culprit for causing hair loss and damage. They can do this by inhibiting the the structure of keratin, a protein that helps strengthen your hair.3 High copper levels in the body can directly impact the growth of your hair follicles and both cadmium and copper toxicity are both contributing factors to Telogen effluvium.4 Arsenic and Mercry toxicity ay also be problematic for hair growth.7 Plus, Thallium exposure can cause extensive hair loss over the body which you can be exposed to through air pollution and pesticides that kill rodent, called rodenticides.5,6,7
While upping your coriander and chlorella intake along with regular castor oil packs will help, if you suspect heavy metal toxicity, I recommend you seek the support of a fictional medicine practitioner for appropriate testing and safe detoxification support.
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.
If blood sugar and insulin resistance is an issue for you, be mindful of your carbohydrate sources, avoiding those refined foods and drinks discussed above and be mindful to include an abundance of good fats through your diet. Omega 3 rich flaxseed meal, chia seeds, cod liver oil, wild caught fish are particularly beneficial for healthy hair.
Aim to 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. Lysine, the kimono acid which promotes collagen production, is found in brewers yeast, chicken, fish, lamb, mung bean sprouts and if tolerated dairy products and whey protein.
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 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 add collagen powder into drinks and meals like my Booby Brekkie recipe. Also use grass fed (if possible organic) gelatin granules to make up healthy versions of gummies and panna cotta.
The vitamin Biotin (also known as B7 plays a role in the maintenance of your hair health. Including foods like bean sprouts, butter, cashews, egg yolk, liver, oats and peanuts in your diet is a way to support your Biotin levels and therefore hair growth. Interestingly, biotin is also produced by bacterial synthesis in your gut, so just another reason you want to support your gut microbiome. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is often used therapeutically to overcome dry hair and hair loss. Avocados, egg yolks, liver, mushrooms and sweet potato are among my favourite B5 rich foods to include regularly in your diet for healthy hair.
Silica is another mineral that is involved in the development, growth and integrity of your hair. You can supply your body with silica by drinking horsetail tea, eating oats (try these recipes), root vegetables and brown rice - just be sure to soak for a good 8 hours before cooking to enhance digestion. With horsetail tea, this should only be consumed over a short period of time such as 1-3 months and it is not recommended during pregnancy, breastfeeding and for small children due to its nicotine content.
Under the guidance of a practitioner, supplemental forms of these nutrients may be needed, along with inositol particularly in the case of insulin resistance
Test Your Levels
Start with these tests to help to detect any personal underlying causes of your hair loss:
Consider mineral testing through a red cell elements test or hair tissue mineral analysis to check for deficiency contributors for hair loss. A whole cell elements blood test and hair tissue mineral analysis are accurate ways to check for heavy metal toxicity. You can get these ordered through your Naturopath, Nutritionist or Integrative GP.
Reach For Nature
Massaging coconut oil into your scalp has shown to prevent hair damage and loss8 and there are effective essential oils you can use alongside, to help hair growth through unblocking hair follicles and acting 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. A study indicated that Cedarwood and Thyme essential oils (along with Lavender and Rosemary) massaged into the scalp showed hair growth improvement.9 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 Path To Glowing Mumma online program.
1) Gowda, Dinesh, V. Premalatha, and D. B. Imtiyaz. “Prevalence of nutritional deficiencies in hair loss among Indian participants: results of a cross-sectional study.” International journal of trichology 9.3 (2017): 101.
2) Carson B.L. et al. Toxicology and Biological Monitoring of Metals in Humans, Lewis Pub. Chelsea MI, 1986, pp 213-17.
3) Li, Becky S., Marcel C. Pasch, and Howard I. Maibach. “Hair Disorders Induced by External Factors.” Kanerva’s Occupational Dermatology (2020): 345-369.
4) Aziz, Abeer M. Abdel, Sameera Sh Hamed, and Mohammad A. Gaballah. “Possible relationship between chronic telogen effluvium and changes in lead, cadmium, zinc, and iron total blood levels in females: A case-control study.” International journal of trichology 7.3 (2015): 100
5) Neste, Van. “Skin signs in the diagnosis of thallium poisoning.” British Journal of Dermatology 138.2 (1998): 321-325.
6) Li, Becky S., Marcel C. Pasch, and Howard I. Maibach. “Hair Disorders Induced by External Factors.” Kanerva’s Occupational Dermatology (2020): 345-369.
7) Yu, Vicky, et al. “Alopecia and associated toxic agents: a systematic review.” Skin Appendage Disorders 4.4 (2018): 245-260.
8) Rele, Aarti S., and R. B. Mohile. “Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage.” Journal of cosmetic science 54.2 (2003): 175-192.
9) Hay, Isabelle C., Margaret Jamieson, and Anthony D. Ormerod. “Randomized trial of aromatherapy: successful treatment for alopecia areata.” Archives of dermatology 134.11 (1998): 1349-1352.