Are you losing hair? Is it looking thinner than normal, or perhaps you’re noticing more of it on your brush or on the bathroom floor?
Female hair loss is a condition we commonly treat at Perth Health and Fertility. Female hair loss not only has a negative effect on many women’s self-confidence and mood, but it can also be a sign of an underlying imbalance in our heath or nutrition. As naturopaths, we always look for the cause of a condition, and we do this by carefully examining factors such as diet, nutritional deficiencies, lifestyle, family history and medical history.
As a clinic specialising in reproductive health, hormone imbalance is something we see often. The most important thing to know with hair loss is that it is NOT a one size fits all rule. Hair loss can be related to many different hormonal patterns and identifying the specific hormone imbalance is the key. Hair loss can be associated with a range of hormonal conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), pregnancy and menopause. In PCOS for example, one of the common features is high testosterone. This testosterone is broken down into a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which shrinks hair follicles on the scalp, causing hair loss. Hair loss can also accompany low oestrogen conditions like menopause. Hair loss following pregnancy is normal and is referred to as ‘post-partum shedding’. This occurs because during pregnancy, extra hormonal stimulation causes the growth phase of hair to lengthen. A few months after birth however, the normal shedding phase resumes, often causing noticeable hair loss. This is a temporary state however, and usually nothing to worry about.
As hair growth is non-essential to survival, it is often one of the first things to be impaired when we are lacking essential nutrients, such as protein, iron, biotin, omega-3s, vitamin A and zinc. Without enough of these nutrients, our hair can become dull, weak and dry, growth may slow and an increase rate of loss is noticeable. This is a very common cause of female hair loss and one that is easily treated.
The thyroid is a gland that sits in the neck and controls our metabolic rate. If the thyroid becomes over or under-active (such as in Graves’ Disease or Hashimoto’s), the hair may become dry, thin, weak or brittle, and more hair loss may be noticed. As the thyroid affects the function of every organ and system in the body, thyroid dysfunction can cause a wide range of symptoms, such as weight loss or weight gain, feeling too hot or too cold, changes in appetite, depression, anxiety, palpitations, insomnia, constipation and diarrhoea. If any of these sound familiar, we recommend looking into your thyroid function as a possible cause.
Stress impacts many aspects of our health and wellbeing, one of which being our hair quality. Significant stress can cause a condition called telogen effluvium, in which hair follicles enter a resting phase, before falling out a few months later. This can happen after an emotionally stressful event, or following a shock to the system, such as after surgery or even a crash diet! Stress can also be a risk factor for triggering various autoimmune conditions associated with hair loss. This is yet another reason to find ways to manage the stresses of everyday life, such as regular exercise, reading, practising mindfulness, spending time with family and ensuring adequate rest and relaxation.
As you can see, there are many potential causes of hair loss. For this reason, addressing the issue often involves a lot more than simply changing your shampoo or buying a ‘Hair Tonic’ supplement from a health food shop. It involves getting to the root of the problem (pun intended), so you can have healthy, beautiful hair. Ultimately, if you’re worried you’re losing your hair, the good news is there are many things we can do to find out why, as well as effective treatments we can put in place to reverse it.