Hair loss, also known as alopecia, can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, hormones, nutrition, stress, and underlying medical conditions. Hair loss can be a sensitive topic for many people because it can affect one’s self-image, self-esteem, and overall sense of well-being.
I have had a lot of clients that have noticed more hair loss in the past few years that they attribute to infection of COVID-19. This virus can put significant stress on the body. This stress can cause changes in the body’s hormonal balance and immune system, which can lead to hair loss. A small research study found a higher prevalence of telogen effluvim (see below), in COVID-19 patients. My approach with long-haul COVID symptoms is to support overall inflammation, hormone balance, and mental health.
Here are some evidence-based reasons for hair loss and what you can do in each scenario:
Androgenetic alopecia (male/female pattern baldness): This is the most common cause of hair loss and is caused by a combination of genetic and hormonal factors. In men, it typically presents as a receding hairline and baldness at the crown, while in women, it results in diffuse thinning all over the scalp. Treatments include medications such as minoxidil and finasteride, hair transplant surgery, and low-level laser therapy. The low-level laser red light therapy that I love is by Biolight. You can use the code NUTRITIONREWIRED10 for 10% off.
There are some natural remedies that may be beneficial including saw palmetto which is a herbal supplement that has been shown to inhibit the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a hormone that can contribute to hair loss. Some studies have suggested that saw palmetto may be beneficial for reducing symptoms of androgenetic alopecia.
Telogen effluvium: This type of hair loss is caused by a sudden shock to the body, such as surgery, childbirth, or a severe illness. It typically presents as excessive shedding all over the scalp, rather than in specific areas. The hair usually grows back on its own once the underlying cause is resolved.
Hair loss is a potential side effect of some types of hormonal birth control, particularly those that contain progestin, a synthetic hormone.
During telogen effluvium related to birth control, more hair follicles than usual enter the resting (telogen) phase of the hair growth cycle, causing increased hair shedding. This type of hair loss usually occurs several weeks to months after starting or stopping birth control, and the hair usually grows back on its own once the body’s hormonal balance is restored.
It’s important to note that not everyone who uses hormonal birth control will experience hair loss, and the severity of hair loss can vary from person to person. I have a blog post on oral contraceptives here.
Alopecia areata: This is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, resulting in patchy hair loss. Treatments might include corticosteroid injections, topical immunotherapy, and oral immunosuppressive drugs.
Natural remedies might include essential oils such as rosemary, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and hair-growth promoting properties. These oils should be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the scalp. Aloe vera gel has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help to reduce inflammation in the scalp. It can be applied to the scalp and hair to promote healthy hair growth.
Probiotics: There is some evidence to suggest that probiotics can help to regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, which may be beneficial for people with alopecia areata. Probiotic-rich foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, can be added to the diet to promote gut health and reduce inflammation.
Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to autoimmune disorders, including alopecia areata. Getting enough vitamin D through sun exposure or supplementation may help to reduce symptoms.
Zinc is important for healthy hair growth and may help to reduce inflammation in the scalp. Eating zinc-rich foods, such as oysters, beef, and pumpkin seeds, or taking a zinc supplement may be beneficial.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as thyroid disorders, lupus, and fungal infections of the scalp, can cause hair loss. Treating the underlying condition can help prevent further hair loss.
It’s important to note that some types of hair loss may be irreversible, and early intervention is key to maximizing treatment options. If you’re experiencing hair loss, it’s best to consult with a dermatologist to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment plan.
Nutritional deficiencies: Certain nutrient deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D, and B vitamins, can contribute to hair loss. Addressing these deficiencies through diet or supplements can help prevent hair loss.
I don’t recommend taking popular hair loss supplements because they can actually make things worse. High doses of zinc, selenium, iodine etc. can actually worsen hair loss as these supplements are not tailored to your root cause.
Additionally, some hair loss supplements may interact with other medications that a person is taking, leading to dangerous side effects or reducing the effectiveness of the medications.
I love using InsideTracker to look at bloodwork to make sure things like vitamin D, iron, inflammatory markers, etc. are all within optimal range. InsideTracker makes it easy to pay attention to trends in your bloodwork and also include personalized recommendations, recipes, and goal setting so that you can use to optimize your health and longevity. You can use my link here to get 20% off any test.
There are several nutrients that are important for healthy hair growth. Here are nine essential nutrients that can promote healthy hair growth when included in the diet:
- Protein: Hair is primarily made up of a protein called keratin, so it’s important to consume enough protein in the diet. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts. Your minimum intake is 0.8g/kg per day. Aging, exercise, inflammation, and stress can all increase your daily needs.
- Biotin: Biotin is a B-vitamin that helps to promote healthy hair growth. Good sources of biotin include eggs, almonds, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that helps to protect hair follicles from damage. Good sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, and bell peppers.
- Iron: Iron is important for healthy hair growth, as it helps to deliver oxygen to hair follicles. Good sources of iron include lean meats, spinach, lentils, and fortified cereals.
- Zinc: Zinc is important for the growth and repair of hair tissue. Good sources of zinc include oysters, beef, pumpkin seeds, and lentils.
- Vitamin A: Vitamin A helps to produce sebum, a natural oil that moisturizes the scalp and promotes healthy hair growth. Good sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy green vegetables.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D helps to regulate hair growth cycles and may help to reduce hair loss. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids help to promote healthy hair growth and may help to reduce inflammation in the scalp. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fatty fish, flaxseed, and chia seeds.
- Niacin: Niacin is a B-vitamin that helps to promote blood flow to the scalp, which can help to promote healthy hair growth. Good sources of niacin include poultry, beef, and mushrooms.
Including a variety of these nutrient-rich foods in your diet can help to promote healthy hair growth. It’s important to note that nutritional deficiencies are just one possible cause of hair loss, and it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment plan.
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