7 Possible Nutrition Causes Of Hair Loss
Do you feel like your hair might be thinning or do you feel like too much hair is coming out in your brush when you brush it daily or even comb it?
Or maybe you look in the shower drain and there's a lot of extra hair down there.
If that's you, and you're saying, yes, this is me.
Then, you know, it might be, have more to do with nutrition or other causes than just maybe that adage of hearing "Oh, I'm just getting old" or "it's just in my genetics".
So now into the fun stuff for today, let's talk about possible causes of hair loss.
Hi, everyone. We have a fun topic for you today. First off, my name is Marcie Vaske. I am a functional medicine nutritionist specializing in gut health. I work with people who have those bothersome gut issues like diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.
If that sounds like you, or maybe someone you know, you're welcome to make an initial appointment if you feel like you need some extra help. Also, you can download our FREE GUIDE: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH.
So we're going to dig into some possible causes of hair loss. And hair loss is one of the first signs of a nutritional deficiency, whether it's caused by maybe undereating or not consuming enough protein, or maybe it's even those chronic gut issues that many of us deal with.
Hair loss can also be exacerbated by hormonal changes that develop from that chronic undereating perhaps or including maybe a drop in your sex hormones like progesterone, testosterone, or even estrogen.
So one of the most common forms of hair loss is Androgenic alopecia. And this is a pattern of hair loss.
And in men, it looks like a receding hairline or maybe balding on the top. And for women, it looks like kind of this hair loss all over.
Now, it's also a type of hair loss that is very, very common and it affects 50 to 80% of men and nearly 25 to 50% of women. And this type of hair loss can happen at any time during our life. Usually, we do see it as we get older.
However, we think you might wonder, well, why is this happening? And what happens is that we have too much of a particular enzyme called 5-alpha reductase and that releases or allows testosterone to become a much more powerful form of testosterone, which is called DHT.
And when there's too much DHT, it creates this thickened dermis around the hair follicle and it kind of suffocates that hair.
So how might we have too much of that 5-alpha reductase?
Well, what research has found is that it's commonly increased in people with hyperinsulinemia, which is just too much excess sugar, and that will perhaps increase that enzyme and then increase that super testosterone.
And so if you have a diet that might be high in carbohydrates, or you are eating a lot of processed foods, typically those are higher in carbohydrates. You might be more at risk for developing this androgenic alopecia.
And also we see it in individuals or women with PCOS or even in menopausal women because of that lower progesterone.
So if you're struggling with that and you're starting to notice that pattern come in and you think, well, I'd like to decrease or inhibit this enzyme that's creating this mess for me. Things that you can put in place would be maybe decreasing carbohydrates, not too much, just eating whole foods, and getting rid of those processed packaged foods.
Another very helpful way would be to take some Saw Palmetto in research that has been very, very effective for reducing that five-alpha reductase.
As well, there's an essential fatty acid called GLA, and that's an unsaturated fatty acid that also will inhibit this enzyme. And they have found that it's very similar to the drug finasteride.
Dysregulation of our cortisol
So if you don't have high blood sugar and you're not seeing that pattern of baldness happening, but you are still losing hair, what are some other causes? Well, have you ever gone through a stressful or traumatic event or just a situation, and maybe a couple of months later, your hair falls out?
I know that happened to me, and I think that freaked me out more than the event in itself. But what happens is, that is a type of hair loss. So this type of hair loss as I mentioned, either, is from external stress or even internal stress.
And it shows up a couple of months later, but what happens? It's the dysregulation of our cortisol, which is our stress hormone. And it causes inflammation, which pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase.
So they're not growing and they will fall out suddenly just a couple of months later, the best way to kind of prevent any kind of irreversible damage with that is to recognize it early and put some preventative things in place, which would start eating lots of whole foods, good proteins, good carbohydrates, and good healthy fats.
And you might even want to consider taking a multivitamin, which can just pump up those extra lost stores of vitamins and minerals that might be, will help heal the hair follicle and get your hair to begin growing again. Now there's even nutrition stress.
And I kind of talked about that just a little bit earlier with, if you're not getting enough vitamins and minerals, you're going to have this internal stress and this nutrition stress can cause hair loss as well.
So, think back if you've ever started a new diet and within a few months, you've lost more hair than weight, perhaps.
So what happens is that these diets, these fad diets can become too restrictive and the body doesn't get the nutrients that it needs.
Restrictive diets are usually too low in calories, or maybe certain macronutrients like perhaps lower in protein or lower in carbohydrate or even those healthy fats. And those can cause a malnutrition state in our body, in which our body doesn't need a lot of hair, so it's going to dump your hair.
And if you have this big stress on the body, it's leading to those deficiencies in amino acids minerals like zinc, and even those essential fatty acids like omega-6s and omega-3s they all aid in hair growth.
And so how do those amino acids aid in hair growth?
Well, we get amino acids through eating protein. And protein breaks down into amino acids and they are building blocks for our body.
And I also mentioned zinc, which zincs plays a very critical role in tissue growth and repair. And so, and along with that also hormone regulation, which we talk about just a little bit above here about those sex hormones, as well as cortisol hormone, the insulin, which is our blood sugar. And so zinc helps in stabilizing that hair follicle.
And then those omega-3s and omega-6s, aid in the growth of good hair by reducing the inflammation in our body. And I mentioned that if we are sometimes on more restricted diets then we should be one of those macronutrients that are often restricted the most because we hear a lot of bad things about carbohydrates.
So a lot of people will decrease their carbohydrates too much. And when that happens, that affects other systems in our body, primarily our thyroid. And if your thyroid becomes more sluggish, one of the things that happen is going to be hair loss.
Poor gut health
And another cause is going to be our gut health, right?
We talk about gut health all the time and people who struggle with, maybe IBD, which is irritable bowel disease, or IBS, which is irritable bowel syndrome. They often see the consequences of hair loss as one of the symptoms that they deal with.
And what happens is that your body isn't getting the proper nutrients. It needs to sustain good hair growth. And why is because sometimes people are struggling with maybe that IBS with diarrhea.
So there's not the transit time is too quick. And the body isn't able to absorb and metabolize the nutrients like zinc and the omega-3s that you're eating.
Low Hydrochloric Acid
We also need to keep in mind that we need to have really good hydrochloric acid or stomach acid. So when we eat the food, our stomach can break it down properly for the small intestines to metabolize it and get those nutrients out.
One of the nutrients that specifically gets kind of off the wayside when we have low hydrochloric acid is going to be vitamin B12 and vitamin B12 is going to be extremely important in many processes in our body, but particularly in hair growth.
And I mentioned earlier about inflammation in the body, but there's inflammation just in the gut itself for people who are struggling with gut issues. And if we have a high level of inflammation in our gut, it's oftentimes that it will show up in other parts of our body. And speaking of hair is going to show up in our hair follicles.
And another way that hair loss can show up because we might have compromised guts is through autoimmune disorders. And what happens is that we have, we harbor a lot of our immune system or most of our immune system in our gut.
And so if you're digestive system is compromised, then your immune system oftentimes is too and those disorders can also cause that hair loss in general.
So really getting to the root cause and understanding your body and perhaps even working with a practitioner to help you get to those root causes can help your hair be healthy and happy.
So how can we support healthy hair if you have a compromised gut?
Well, we want to look at, first of all, having enough hydrochloric acid in your stomach so that you can properly digest the food.
Other ways to make sure you have healthy hair with a compromised gut is to make sure you're eating good proteins and enough proteins, making sure you get those omega-6s and omega-3s, and making sure you get the zinc, those are going to be critical to healthy hair as I stated earlier.
Also, make sure your body can metabolize the B12 that you're consuming out of your proteins. And especially if you are on a restricted diet or more of a vegetarian or a vegan, you need to watch for that B12 because that oftentimes can get low for people who aren't consuming animal proteins.
And one of the last things I want to touch on for hair loss is going to be an iron deficiency.
There are a lot of people who are anemic and especially women of childbearing age because they are having periods.
And sometimes those periods are very heavy and oftentimes they can become more anemic. And when we have fewer iron stores, we also have a propensity to lose hair. And iron can be very helpful because it keeps that hemoglobin happy and healthy.
So I just want to do a quick recap on ways that can assist or cause hair loss. And first, we talked about hormonal imbalances. So having that high level of DHT or that super testosterone, perhaps maybe you have low progesterone or hyperinsulinemia, which is high blood sugar, or perhaps hyperthyroidism.
Another cause for hair loss would be those chronic, external and internal stresses, or maybe you're doing a fad diet or more of a restricted diet, which is leading to kind of a malnutrition state in your body.
And then we have digestive disorders or conditions along with that immunity dysregulation.
And throughout this topic, I talked about a few different kinds of supplements that might be able to assist in helping your hair grow and have healthy hair. And I'm just going to run through them. And I always say, you are welcome to try them.
I always recommend working with your nutritionist or your dietitian or another health practitioner, just to make sure you're taking what you need and how much you need.
So the first one we chatted about was Saw Palmetto, and that's the one that can help decrease that 5-alpha reductase enzyme.
Then we talked about GLA which again, inhibits that same enzyme and is very similar to a drug that's used for hair loss.
Then we don't want to forget about our good old omega-3s, which decrease the inflammation in the body.
And then we have our zinc, which remembers it plays that critical role in tissue growth and repair, as well as keeping those hormones regulated.
And then we have a solid multivitamin. Multivitamins help to support all the vitamins and minerals that are needed for that good systemic support within your body.
And then the last one would be iron, which helps to promote the proper function of that hemoglobin, which is so essential for our hair growth.
So if you see your hair in the shower or your brush, or you're seeing a pattern happening, I want you just to take a step back and look a little deeper at how you're eating.
How your gut is? Are you too stressed?
If you have questions or would like to work with us, again, you're welcome to make an appointment.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic.
We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH