I’m Losing My Hair: Is It My Hormones? – Part 1
Get it? “Part”1? Like, part in your hair? oh nevermind…
In Part 1 of this series we are going to review some hormonal causes of hair loss.
As seasoned readers of my blog posts may know, “Part 1” may be the only part. There may not be an actual “series” per se. It all depends on a mix of very complex factors beyond my control, such as:
Will quarantine end in time for summer tennis?
Will this shrink my bunion?
Have I lost all interest in this topic and I’m only four sentences in?
These are all very valid, equally compelling reasons to write or *not* write the rest of the series. If there are sufficient comments left by the audience to suggest any of you actually still have an interest in the topic, or aren’t face down asleep on your keyboard at this point, then I may go on…but no guarantees. On with the show!
How Common Is Hair Loss in Women?
Up to 50% of women will experience a significant amount of hair loss in their lifetime. WHAT!!! Yes, one out of two of you on a lunch date will actively be going bald before the entree shows up. Now, I don’t know about YOU. But I personally like having hair on my head. I like needing to color my hair every 12 minutes and trying to find which side part will allow me to go 14 minutes between hair coloring.
Hair loss can be a terrifying experience. I don’t think I need to expound on this. Thick, full head of hair EQUALS beauty and youthfulness. Bald men are perceived as dominant and successful. For women, it’s equated with illness or getting old and hormonally bankrupt.
Regardless of the fairness of this social disparity of how hair loss is perceived in men versus women, the bottom line is that hair loss causes 90% of women to experience low self esteem and depression.
Why Do Women Lose Their Hair? (Asking for a friend)
If we look at hair loss through the medical lens (which I do use upon occasion whilst meandering through the garden of my villa in the South of France) hair loss is usually a warning sign from your body that something is amiss. Whether it’s a hormonal shift, a nutrient deficiency, an inflammatory attack, an immune system overreaction, a stress hormone imbalance, or toxic assault on the hair follicle, something is wrong.
Is It Your Hormones?
Well, of course it’s your hormones. What ISN’T about your hormones? Well, the stock market isn’t, but that’s about it. I can blame a lot on hormones these days: Here’s a short list of hormone related annoyances: muffin top, brittle nails, pimples the size of Jupiter, the sudden appearance of chin hairs that I only notice just before going out with a group of people I don’t know that well, the fact that I can’t read labels anymore, with or without glasses (and if one of you says the word bifocal prepare to be ex-communicated), the fact that my wine glasses have suddenly become too small, and also the random calf spasm that literally drops you to your knees — what the heck is THAT!!!
Here are the most common causes of hormonal hair loss:
- Are you a ball of STRESS….stress can kill hair follicles as well as libido. (Hey! does this count as Part 2?)
- Female Pattern Hair Loss…you inherited your baldness from your father AND your mother.
- Dried up? Hot and flashy? How Perimenopause and menopause cause hair loss
- Sleep disorders due to circadian rhythm disruption
- Is it your INSULIN level? Say it isn’t so!!!!
- Let’s blame the THYROID — cuz, it’s blamed for everything else
When you go through lengthy periods of moderate to severe stress your hair follicles WILL be impacted. Not only is hair growth affected but we tend to coincidentally fall into unhealthy habits. This means less sleep, staying up late, loads of caffeine, more drinking, more sugary foods, and having to sit through yet another Cirque du Soleil performance — it’s like a long weekend in Vegas. The point is, we do things that are NET NEGATIVE for our hair and for our health. You will notice the impact of this stress about 4 to 6 months later when you see a pretty hefty amount of your own hair going down the shower drain.
» Roll back the stressors. Here’s the mantra of the day. When someone asks you to do something you SHOULD not be doing or CANNOT be doing or don’t WANT to be doing, just take three deep breaths in and slowly and peacefully chant the sound of “NO.” OR, if you can’t bring yourself to ever say no, then just say “let me get back to you on that” and then of course, never do. I do that with my dentist all the time. It buys me another year before they start harassing me about teeth cleaning.
» Focus on self care. This means that your health needs should be bumped up the priority list. Somewhere above “iron socks” and “cut the crusts off the PBJ’s.” This means you actually eat right, sleep well, exercise enough, and plan time to de-stress.
» General Supplement support: Stress saps you of a lot of nutrients that are needed for you to actually get out of bed and be a human being.
- Twice Daily Multi Packs — One pack twice a day will cover all your bases
» Check out some adrenal adaptogens (herbs and vitamins that help your adrenal become more resilient in the setting of stress.) These formulas are balancing for cortisol and adrenaline, your main stress hormone responders.
Two tablets in morning and one in the afternoon
Female Pattern Hair Loss or “Hereditary Androgenetic Alopecia”
This is the most common form of hair loss and may be genetic. Well, everything is somewhat related to genetics, but you can certainly change how your genes are expressed. Here are some quick facts:
- WHERE? It affects the top of the head, typically spares the hairline, but doesn’t cause complete hair loss in those areas.
- HOW MANY WOMEN HAVE THIS? 30 million women in the United States suffer this type of hair loss. I’d say 25% of women suffer this type of hair loss.
- WHAT CAUSES IT? Though often related to androgens (male hormones), blood tests may not show an elevation in testosterone or DHEAS, 2 androgen hormones typically used to screen for this disorder. Dihydrotestosterone or DHT, a potent testosterone breakdown product, binds to androgen receptors in hair follicles, and may cause shrinking of the hair follicles themselves. The greater the amount of DHT, the more likely you will get hair loss.
- WHY IS MY BLOOD TEST NORMAL? It is thought that circulating androgens can be normal but that the hair follicles in those women who are genetically predisposed to this condition are more sensitive to the androgens circulating around the hair follicle. It could also be related to unhealthy bacteria in the hair follicle, which may be why antibacterial and antifungal shampoos can help reduce hair loss.
ACTION STEPS for Female Pattern Hair Loss
- Topical minoxidil is FDA approved for this condition. The biggest problem is that once you stop using it, the hair loss comes back.
- Spironolactone is a diuretic medication used to treat high blood pressure but can be used off-label for hair loss and I have definitely seen it work for patients. There are many side effects associated with this medication and can take 3 to 6 months to work. You definitely can’t be on these medications if you are planning to become pregnant.
- Zinc at 30 to 50mg a day
- Reishi mushroom extract
- Green tea extract can prevent 5-alpha-reductase from producing that more aggressive androgen DHT that kills the hair follicle.
- Testo-Quench is a combination formula that prevents this male hormone-related destruction to hair follicles.
- DIM Enhanced has green tea extract and DIM, an antioxidant that gives some anti-inflammatory benefits and helps your liver process excess hormones from causing trouble.
Dried up? Hot and Flashy? Perimenopause and Menopause
When hormones start to decline, things get a bit dicey. Hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, insomnia, brain fog — and those are the high points. All things that should be NOT dry, become the Sahara. Eyes, Lips, Skin, Hair and Vaginas. To add insult to injury, the drop in estrogen, that hormone that keeps your hair follicles growing and healthy? Yeah well, say goodbye to a certain percentage of those follicles. If you’re lucky they will only shrink and not completely leave town. This coupled with the predisposition to hair follicle androgen sensitivity discussed above, results in a clogged shower drain!! Say goodbye to Francisco and Jerry — yes, I’ve named my hairs.
ACTION STEPS for perimenopause and menopause
GET A FULL WORK UP: We will discuss sugar/insulin and nutrient deficiency in the next post. (If you’re lucky….Did I say that out loud??)
Suffice it to say that if you have hot flashes, night sweats AND hair loss, then you have inflammation, sugar/insulin imbalance and/or stress hormone problems. Does anyone else love using the word “suffice?” It may be my second favorite thing, after “unpack” or “thusly.”
Generally speaking, this is definitely a good time to get a full functional medicine appraisal of why your hormones are out of balance. Why is the menopausal transition giving you such symptoms? Not everyone has these issues and typically I find that there are 4 underlying drivers leading to menopause problems. They are:
- Sugar and Insulin issues (you don’t have to have diabetes for this to be an issue)
- Toxin overload
- An imbalance in your microbiome, the beneficial bacterial world in your gut
- Here is a Chinese herbal that helps reduce testosterone related hair loss: Kan’s Peony and Licorice extract.
- Dim Enhanced as discussed above helps get rid of toxic estrogens from the environment and improves liver detoxification which is a win for hormone balance.
- Nutrafol for MEN if you are menopausal or Nutrafol for WOMEN if you are NOT menopausal. I carry this one in my office and honestly, I think it’s a MUST for most women after 40.
This is a MAJOR cause of hormone imbalance that can lead to hair loss. Women with PCOS (Polycystic ovarian syndrome), a very common hormone disorder, are at very high risk for hair loss, mainly due to both elevated insulin AND testosterone levels.
As much as we’d like to think that this is all related to the amount of cake and pudding you can put away once everyone is in bed at night, that isn’t really what is going on here for most women. Yes, processed carbs and high sugar intake are for sure a big reason. But I am finding more and more, it has to do with toxic chemicals occupying insulin receptors and wreaking havoc on metabolism and hormone balance.
Restoring blood sugar balance and reducing inflammation and toxicity can rebalance normal sugar and insulin levels and balance hormones that can lead to hair loss.
ACTION STEPS for insulin resistance:
Check out some of my articles about addressing insulin resistance:
» Gluco-Adapt: Helps insulin resistance, lowers fasting blood sugar, reduces belly fat. 1-2 caps with meals.
» N-Acetyl cysteine (NAC): Improves insulin resistance. One cap – twice daily.
» Berberine: Research shows that Berberine works as well as Metformin for insulin resistance. It lowers total cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, and hemoglobin A1C. It has anti-inflammatory effects. One cap two times a day. Stop after three months.
» Glycemacore powder-Vanilla or wait for it…wait for it… Chocolate: I love this as an overall sugar balancing shake. Take it as a meal replacement and/or in the afternoon before dinner so that you don’t consume the contents of your pantry while pretending to make dinner. Then give up and get a pizza delivered. I for sure haven’t done that. Today. Yet.
Well that about wraps it up for now folks. If you are interested in seeing the entire list of supplements I recommended you can link to them from here: HAIR FORMULAS GENERAL LIST.
Please feel free to let me know what you’d like to hear about in future posts. Just leave a comment or send us an email with any topics you might like. Thanks!!
And stay hairy!!!
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For more information about my wellness programs and my practice, check out my website drsadaty.com. Hey Look! You are already here…
Ready for the legal disclaimer? Information offered here is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As with any health recommendations, please contact your doctor to be sure any changes you wish to consider are safe for you!