Daily hair loss is normal, but when it starts to fall out in an accelerated fashion your confidence can take a nose dive, especially as a female.
Hair loss for men is a little easier to manage – from what I have been told by my male colleagues and friends – just shave your head and you’ll look fine, they say. Some people definitely suit this look well! It is usually hereditary in men, and follows a pattern of loss known as male pattern baldness. My husband lost most of his hair some time ago, and I think is a bit more sensitive about it than he will let on, so it is not a picnic for the guys either.
As a woman hair loss can feel devastating, because culturally we are constantly still judged by our appearance. Relentlessly. No matter how accomplished we are. The expectation for men to now look great all the time too, is growing at a fair rate as well.
The reasons for hair loss (or “alopecia” as it is otherwise known as) are related to things such as hormonal imbalance, thyroid issues, an excess or deficiency of vitamins and minerals, chemical exposure (like chemo or radiation), medications and infections1.
Heavy metals and other pollutants can also cause hair loss2, and lead, arsenic and thallium are more common in our everyday environment than you might realize. Several studies are now finding these pollutants in rice3 and other foods, so ensure you purchase organic whenever possible. Please don’t forget, that a lot of popular vegan protein powders used in smoothies contain rice too, and you could be inadvertently taking in these pollutants while trying to keep healthy by having a daily smoothie!
I suffer from hypothyroidism, and have have been losing my hair quite regularly for about the past year. Add to that a stressful summer, and well, the inevitable thinning has started to become noticeable. I have resorted to careful styling, but it might be just a matter of time before I opt for a wig. Seriously. Even my eyebrows are not as thick and manageable as they used to be.
My hair was never that full to begin with, and is very fine. I have noticed, as have others with thyroid issues, that the condition of my hair has also changed. It is not as shiny and healthy looking, and seems to tangle very easily. It also seems to break more easily, but more alarming – is that when combing my hair, it just comes out in clumps – effortlessly. Stray hair is everywhere; on my clothing, chairs, pillow, the shower, you name it. Ack!
This truly is tough on a girl, but there are things you can do to help ease the suffering. First of all, make sure you are using the best possible hair products you can afford. Now, by this, I don’t mean that over-priced toxic shampoo that you’ve been told might help (I have seen some for around $75 US a bottle – what the…! Talk about taking advantage of desperate folks). I suggest using an organic shampoo that has nourishing ingredients for your hair and scalp, without the nasty chemicals. Better yet, make your own to save some money.4
Secondly, be careful when combing through wet hair, as it is more fragile. I have seen expensive brushes that claim to help with hormonal hair loss5, but I personally won’t pay that and use a wide pic comb when wet instead. I also brush it while still dry, just before I jump in the shower, to minimize tangling.
I also recommend that you get a blood test and have your iron levels checked, because if you are anaemic your hair will fall out, so make sure you rule this out as the cause of your hair loss. Alternatively, if you consume an excess of 10,000 IU’s of vitamin A (from supplements) daily, it can build up in your fat cells over time (and can be toxic if taken in excess for extended periods), which can also cause hair loss.6
Not having enough essential fatty acids in your diet can also cause hair loss7, so make sure you are taking your omega 3 supplements (mercury free!) if you can’t get enough from your diet. Most people don’t get enough omega 3, but have too much omega 6, due to the typical north american diet.
Having your hormones tested is another thing you can do to see what the root (pardon the pun) cause of your hair loss is. Several practitioners, including myself, offer the DUTCH test – which stands for Dried Urine Test for Comprehensive Hormones – for clients, which is now the gold standard for testing hormones and can be done conveniently at home. I just completed this test on myself and am eagerly awaiting the results.
Interestingly enough, my family doctor just requested a blood test for my hormones, which came back “normal”; however, I noticed that my free T3 and T4 levels were at the low end of the reference range. Since my cortisol levels were not included on the blood test, I am curious to see what the DUTCH test comes back with for me. I want answers to the reason for my hair loss, and am just not getting them from traditional allopathic medicine alone, so including functional medicine testing such as this will give me more pieces of the puzzle – and hopefully – the answers I am looking for. Why guess when you can test!
Lastly, for those losing hair, it can be very devastating – so find yourself a support group of some kind – one where people truly understand the ways it impacts your self-esteem and overall mental health. I found some online, which I have listed below. Find one that resonates with you, and get the support you need in whatever way you can. I wish you a beautiful head of luscious locks, but with or without, know that you are always beautiful my friends.
Online Hair Loss Support Resources: