Hair loss can be devastating to both men and women, but for women it can be a real blow to the self-esteem since our hair is often associated with beauty and feeling sexy and attractive. To address the issue of excessive hair loss in women we need to take a look at hair anatomy.
Marcy E. Holmes is a Nurse Practitioner and a Menopause Clinician with years of experience at the Women to Women’s Healthcare Center. Here is how she explains hair loss.
A strand of hair is made up of extruded, compacted dead cells. It grows from living follicles in the skin of the scalp. At the shaft, or root of the hair, all of your major systems are at work, including your circulatory, endocrine, and nervous systems. That’s why it hurts when someone pulls your hair!
Every hair follicle has four distinct phases it cycles through on a regular basis: growth or anagen, transition or catagen, resting or telogen, and returning growth or mesanagen (see figure below). A full cycle can last anywhere from two to five years per follicle. Unusual hair loss and thinning occur when a follicle is stuck in the telogen or resting phase. Bald spots occur when a large group of follicles turn off in one place. Most of the time this happens slowly, but in some severe cases it can happen all at once, causing a clump of hair to fall out.
There are many causes of hair loss and addressing those is the first step to recovery and regrowing your thinning hair. From hormonal imbalances to nutritional deficiencies, it might be difficult to pinpoint the cause without some specific testing. Here is a list of possible causes that would need to be addressed:
Why do certain hair follicles break their normal cycle and switch into a resting or “off” position — temporarily or permanently? And why do some women experience thinning hair on their head and darker thicker hair on other parts of their bodies? My grandmother was always very proud of her hair, which remained on her head with only minimal graying or hair loss until she died at age 95. Why was she so lucky? Probably some good Scandinavian genes and healthy living (which included a daily helping of native Maine blueberries). She had her battles, too, suffering thyroid disease and a thyroidectomy, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. On the plus side, she managed stress well, did not drink or smoke, and kept a regular sleep schedule. Somehow in the individual give-and-take of her body’s needs, her hair was able to maintain its resilience.
Causes for hair loss are highly individual, but can include any combination of the following:
- Stress (emotional and physical)
- Hormonal imbalance, specifically androgen sensitivity
- Change in hormonal birth control
- Immune system irregularities
- Yeast overgrowth or fungi
- Thyroid disorders
- Crash or liquid protein diets leading to sudden dramatic weight loss
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially vitamin D, vitamin A, iron, and protein)
- Cosmetics (allergies and harsh treatments)
- Dental treatment
- Blood loss
- Medications (including anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antithyroid medication, and hormone therapy)
- Severe psychological distress or life-threatening situations
- vitamins B, C, D, and E
- calcium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and iron
- fish oil with essential fatty acids
Some women experience periods of noticeable hair loss (or growth) at different phases of their menstrual cycle, or even seasonally. If this is your experience, be assured that it is very common and tends to resolve itself naturally.
To eliminate above hair loss problems you may want to see a Naturopathic doctor to do some testing and address the causes. You will also need to take a look at immediate stressors like nutritional deficiencies, which can be addressed by a balanced diet, product build up, by switching to natural, organic alternatives and also every day stress, by doing yoga, meditation, even exercising will help.
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