Your Hair and Your Hormones; What is the Connection? 8 Causes of Hair Loss in Women
Understanding the interplay between your hormonal balance and your diet can help prevent the most distressing aspects of hair loss
By: Alisa Vitti
Recently I was speaking with my hairdresser and the topic of hair and the impact of life-events on its luster, texture, thickness, and color came up. He confided in me that the impact of hormonal fluctuations is so great that he often knows when/if his clients are pregnant long before they’re prepared to share the news and sometimes even before they themselves know. But it’s not just the strong hormonal changes that come with pregnancy that have an impact on your hair; have you ever noticed that a prolonged period of stress results in hair loss for you? If you’re struggling with other hormonal imbalances you may have also noticed the unpleasant common symptom of dandruff or an itchy scalp. So, what is the connection?
As you might imagine hormones both stimulate hair growth and hair loss. Understanding the interplay between your hormonal balance and your diet can help prevent the most distressing aspects of hair loss. Female hair loss is caused by the combination of the presence of an abundance of the androgen dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and having hair follicles that have more androgen receptors for DHT. While there is a genetic component to this issue, you have the ability to do a lot to support your body’s ability to process hormones efficiently. Hair follicles are very responsive to hormonal changes and imbalances in the body. The good news is that most hair loss is temporary and resolves itself after the body has regained its equilibrium.
These are the most common causes of female hair loss:
Hormonal Birth Control – Women who have hair loss issues, especially if there is a genetic predisposition to them, can have hair loss occur at a much younger age by taking birth control pills. Usually hair will regrow after six months of ceasing hormonal birth control.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – Women with this condition suffer from a variety of possible symptoms, one of which can be hair loss. It is best to address the complexity of this hormone imbalance through holistic means.
Pregnancy/Childbirth – Already mentioned, some women experience major shifts in their hair due to hormone fluctuations. This may mean curlier or straighter hair than normal, thicker hair, and often hair loss. Some women experience these changes during pregnancy while more women experience it after pregnancy. Either way, in most cases it usually resolves itself completely.
Thyroid Disease – Both an overactive thyroid and an underactive thyroid can cause hair loss. Thyroid imbalances can be diagnosed by your physician through laboratory testing. These imbalances are completely treatable through holistic means.
Deficient diet – With so many fad diets and extreme “detox” plans out there, it’s very easy for women to inadvertently affect their hair’s texture and thickness. Oftentimes an extreme shift in diet, particularly a low protein diet, extreme calorie restriction, or a predominately junk-food vegetarian diet may cause a protein deficiency that results in massive amounts of hair shedding, often two or three months after the shift in diet began. By restoring a proper balance to your diet the hair loss can be reversed.
Medications – Prescription drugs that treat anxiety and depression, as well as blood pressure may cause temporary hair shedding in a small percentage of people. It’s important for women to know this as so many women opt for mood-stabilizing drugs when they feel at a loss in facing major life transitions. Most of the mood stabilizer and antidepressant drugs can cause this side effect.
Low Serum Iron – Iron deficiency can cause hair loss. Women with heavy or too frequent menstrual periods may develop iron deficiency. Low iron can be detected by laboratory tests and can be corrected with iron supplementation.
Stress – Stress is an interesting factor in hair loss for some. It can result from a major stress episode, and will cause the shedding three months after the episode and hair regrowth can resume three months after that. However, so many women now deal with chronic low grade stress, and depending on their genetic predisposition, this kind of stress can trigger earlier onset of androgenic hair loss.