Losing your hair not only sucks, but it can be extremely confusing and stressful. The first step to resolving a hair loss issue is discovering the root cause, and with hormonal imbalances being so common these days, there's a good chance your shedding locks is caused by one of these six problems.
Here’s a breakdown of six hormonal issues that are known to contribute to hair loss and tips on how you can address each one. Although it's always best to discuss these concerns with your doctor, this guide can serve as a starting place to gain the knowledge you need on your journey to thicker, healthier hair.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that can lead to irregular periods, insulin resistance, infertility, weight gain, and hair loss. Women who have PCOS often have high levels of androgen, which is more common in men, and can cause hair loss that is similar to male-pattern baldness.
Excess levels of androgen in women (which is also common with hormonal birth control, but more on that later) can "cause hair loss by shrinking (or miniaturizing) hair follicles." It can also lead to acne and facial hair, so it’s probably a good idea to ask your doctor about these symptoms too.
How To Fix It
PCOS is diagnosed through bloodwork, an ultrasound, and the symptom checklist. You’ll need to work with a doctor to find the right treatment plan for you and your symptoms, which will take time. In the meantime, you can take action today by eating more protein, taking more vitamins, and upping your hair routine.
Dr. Lara Briden, author of Period Repair Manual, also recommends adding a zinc supplement to your regimen. She says, “Zinc is good for hair because it promotes ovulation, reduces inflammation, and blocks androgens. Zinc also directly stimulates hair growth.”
Hormonal Birth Control
We all know that there are plenty of negative side effects to hormonal birth control, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it can cause hair loss as well. This is because the unbalanced hormones and excess androgens (similar to PCOS) can disrupt your hair growth cycle, resulting in hair loss or thinning hair.
According to Dr. Briden, this has to do with the ingredients in your birth control, including progestin, a common ingredient in the birth control pill. She writes, “Some progestins are like testosterone, so they shrink and damage your hair follicle. Modern birth control tries to get around the problem by using different progestins, but they are not much of an improvement, and they have the unfortunate tendency to cause fatal blood clots. Ironically, birth control is often prescribed to treat hair loss, in the hope that the synthetic estrogens will counteract the progestins and promote hair regrowth.”
Some progestins are like testosterone, so they shrink and damage your hair follicle.
Dr. Briden also cites birth control ingredients like “medroxyprogesterone acetate, levonorgestrel, norgestrel, and etonogestrel” as more likely to cause hair loss.
How To Fix It
Some forms of hormonal birth control like skin patches and vaginal rings are more likely to cause hair loss over the pill, but ditching these altogether is really your best bet. Switching to a non-hormonal form of birth control is most beneficial for your health for a myriad of reasons.
It might take some time to see improvement in your hair due to your hair growth cycle, so it’s best to give it at least two months (same with every other hormone problem on this list) after ditching the pill before expecting results.
Though the thyroid is just a small butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of the neck, it’s responsible for numerous hormones that help regulate a healthy body and a healthy cycle. Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) and hyperthyroidism (an overactive thyroid) can cause different symptoms, but they can both be responsible for hair loss.
How To Fix It
It’s best to ask your doctor to run a blood test and figure out which method of treatment is best for you, but you can do things at home depending on your thyroid condition. If you have hypothyroidism, a healthy diet and supplements can help reduce some of your symptoms (including hair loss), and hyperthyroidism can be treated with iron-rich foods and supplements like L-carnitine.
If you’re a woman, estrogen is kind of (as in extremely) an important hormone. The most common cause of low estrogen is menopause, but if you’re premenopausal then “estrogen deficiency is most often caused by low body weight, eating disorder, smoking, low carb diet, gluten intolerance, or stress.” Some medications can also cause an estrogen deficiency. Signs you have low estrogen include vaginal dryness, light periods, or no periods at all.
Estrogen is essential for the proper development and function of the female body, and according to Dr. Briden, “hair follicles love estrogen,” so it’s no surprise that low levels of estrogen can cause hair loss.
How To Fix It
If you’re premenopausal, it’s best to have your doctor run some bloodwork to figure out what’s wrong. Dr. Briden says, “The solution is to address the underlying cause and get your periods flowing again.”
If you’re menopausal, there isn’t much you can do because it’s a natural part of life. Luckily, there are ways to reduce or prevent menopausal hair loss through staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising, and reducing your stress levels through self-care.
Similar to estrogen, progesterone is an essential hormone for all women, and "it’s a crucial part of the menstrual cycle and maintenance of pregnancy." So, how does progesterone deficiency lead to hair loss? Progesterone is our body’s natural androgen blocker. According to the Harley Street Hair Clinic, “A lack of progesterone can lead to a variety of health issues and can also contribute to hair loss. Progesterone is a natural inhibitor of 5-alpha-reducrase. This is an enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT. DHT is one of the main causes of pattern hair loss for both men and women.” When we don’t have enough progesterone, we can have too much androgen, which as we know, can cause hair loss.
Progesterone is our body’s natural androgen blocker.
Low progesterone can be caused by not ovulating (because then your body isn’t making it), hormonal birth control, and stress. When you’re stressed, your body prioritizes making cortisol instead of progesterone.
Some signs of progesterone deficiency include a luteal phase 10 days or shorter, breast tenderness, spotting between periods, and PMS.
How To Fix It
Like many of the other problems on this list, the first thing you should do is ask your doctor to run some blood tests to discover if you have a progesterone deficiency (you’ll need to test after ovulation as this is when progesterone is made in the body).
Some of the best things you can do to increase your progesterone levels are to ovulate every cycle, increase vitamins B and C in your diet (which can be done through foods or supplements), add a magnesium supplement (it’s needed to make progesterone, calms stress, and blocks androgen), reduce stress, and maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine.
How To Fix It
Though it’s best to ask your doctor to run some blood tests, you can "correct insulin resistance" by maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine. It’s also a good idea to meet with a dietitian to learn which foods can help you combat insulin resistance and how they can improve both your hair and overall health. You might also consider taking the supplement myo-inositol (preferably with d-chiro inositol) to help improve your insulin sensitivity.
A few last tips from Dr. Briden, “No matter what the cause of hair loss (birth control, PCOS, thyroid), you’ll need adequate iron to recover it.” So make sure to include your ferritin levels in your bloodwork. She also recommends reducing inflammation, as it can make your hair follicles extra sensitive to androgens. “If you have gut problems or a food sensitivity such as wheat or dairy, then addressing that underlying problem could help your hair,” she says.
Losing your hair can be distressing, but knowing that it is likely caused by a hormonal issue brings you one step closer to finding a solution. Knowing that these issues are common among women should help you feel less alone in your struggles and realize that there are ways to address and even reverse your hormonal issues and stop your hair loss.
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