Hair loss is one of the most frustrating symptoms we can deal with. Our hair is an integral part of our sense of beauty and attractiveness and our way of expressing our style and personality. Thinning hair or bald spots can be devastating and have a huge impact on our self confidence. To make things worse, it’s difficult to find a clear cause of hair loss - it literally can be so many things that it seems impossible to determine THE cause. And in reality, it’s usually a combination of different causes and therefore, there’s also not ONE solution, but often it’s a combination of things that will help.
There are 4 main causes of hair loss:
We'll explore each of these in this article.
Let’s have a look at the nutrient deficiencies first:
You’ve probably heard of biotin (Vitamin B7 or B8) which is broadly promoted as a hair beauty supplement and also in many shampoos. But there are other nutrients you might not think of, that are associated with thinning hair like vitamin B12, iron, zinc, silica, and essential fatty acids – particularly Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA).
We need biotin for the production of keratin, which is a structural protein that makes up our hair, skin, and nails. Cells that are lacking biotin, are more susceptible to damage from stress, but they also need it to produce collagen and grow hair.
Biotin deficiency can be caused by gut dysbiosis, drug-nutrient interactions, bariatric surgery (leading to decreased absorption), smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and over-consumption of raw egg whites (if you happen to be into body building or haven’t heard yet that eating egg whites only is completely overhauled ;-).
Vitamin B12 is needed for the production and maturation of healthy red blood cells, which are needed for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the base of our hair follicle. It also promotes the growth of new cells, including hair.
Iron deficiency is, next to thyroid disorders, one of the most common conditions associated with hair loss – I see it especially low in vegetarians and vegans, but also in clients who are lacking the stomach acid to absorb iron and/or have a compromised gut lining to store it.
Zinc is not only crucial for our immune system, but also for most of our hormones to function properly. A lack of zinc has clearly been linked to hair loss.
Silica is a trace mineral that is present throughout the body but mostly in our connective tissue, including hair. A deficiency in silica can also lead to poor production of collagen, an important component of hair.
Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA) is an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid that is found primarily in plant seed oils, such as evening primrose oil and black cumin seed oil. GLA is supposed to improve hair texture and makes it stronger and less brittle. GLA is also a powerful DHT inhibitor (see below in hormones section) and therefore prevents its destructive effect on our hair follicles.
A lack of protein can also contribute to hair loss. A key protein that is important for healthy hair is collagen (that’s the jelly-like stuff that comes from bone broth): it is very important for maintaining healthy hair follicles and hair growth.
Our natural collagen production declines as the body ages, the damaged DNA causes the collagen in hair follicle stem cells to break down.
So what can you do:
Eat organ meats! They are the best natural source for B-Vitamins and iron
Alternatively, look for a good Vitamin B complex that contains methylated vitamin B12 and also biotin, like this one (also contains zinc)
Iron – eat sufficient red meat or clams (several times per week) & make sure that your stomach acid levels and gut lining are ok (book a Deep Dive Health Assessment with me to find out more)
Add a scoop of collagen to your morning coffee or matcha (there’s a wealth of products on amazon.de)
Hormones are one of the “main suspects” when it comes to hair loss. If you haven’t already, you can take my hormone quiz to find out if your hair loss may be related to hormone issues.
The most common hormonal imbalance that causes hair loss is thyroid imbalance. Thyroid-related hair loss tends to manifest in hair thinning all over the head or hair loss on the sides of the head.
Thyroid conditions are often overlooked, partly because conventional lab ranges are too broad. Thyroid function can be too low (hypothyroid) or too high (hyperthyroid). To learn more about thyroid symptoms and important markers, check out this article.
Our hair follicles actually have receptors sites for thyroid hormones. The thyroid hormone binds to these receptor sites and stimulates hair growth (or not), and both -insufficient and excess thyroid hormone can cause your hair to fall out. Adequate levels of T3 and T4 thyroid hormones are needed for normal hair growth and they also encourage pigmentation of the hair.
Insulin resistance is affecting many women especially in mid-life when our insulin receptors are naturally getting more resistant to insulin. It’s causing a number of hormone conditions. It increases free testosterone, which, as you’ll see below, can lead to hair loss. Insulin resistance also causes reduced blood flow and oxygen levels, contributing to the miniaturization of hair follicles, leading to balding.
How do you know if you have a blood sugar issue? The easiest is to have a look at a recent blood draw result and check out the following markers:
fasting glucose should be below 90 mg/dL,
HbA1c should be between 4.1 & 5.4%
Insulin should be between 2 – 8 IU/mL
High testosterone is another potential suspect for hair loss. Hair loss linked to high testosterone tends to be on the crown and front of the head – above the forehead. High testosterone in women is much more common than you might think! It occurs when your blood sugar levels stay high (insulin resistance). This leads to suppression of Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG), and when SHBG is low, testosterone is allowed to build up in the blood, as it isn’t being bound by SHBG and gets converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a more potent form of testosterone. DHT can be hard on hair follicles, which will lead to the balding forehead pattern.
Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is a sex hormone that is produced from testosterone. It plays a role in male pattern baldness as well as frontal hair loss in women. In women who have a genetic predisposition to hair loss, an enzyme within the hair follicle (5-alpha reductase) binds to testosterone and converts it to DHT, which then binds to additional receptors deeper within the hair follicle, causing less growth.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that occurs more and more frequently in women of childbearing age. It is characterized by high levels of androgen (male) hormones, high blood sugar levels, insulin resistance, and obesity. It is called PCOS because of the cysts that may grow on the ovaries (although many women with PCOS don’t have ovarian cysts). The excess circulating androgens convert to DHT, as explained above.
Estrogen dominance is another common imbalance that can lead to hair loss. When estrone (E1) and estradiol (E2), get out of whack, you can experience hair loss (as well as other not-so-fun symptoms like thyroid nodules and lumpy breasts). If you are unsure if this applies to you, take the hormone quiz to find out. You might want to consider joining in the Fall Cleanse program to reverse hormone imbalance. Let me know if you are interested, I'll let you know when registration is open.
And lastly, stress can cause hair loss too! But this is probably not new to you...
Stress will elevate your Cortisol levels and accelerate hair loss - even a short, but intense stress period can cause this. And remember that you will always only experience the actual hair loss about 3 months later.
If you’re not sure if you have high cortisol levels, you can get in touch to get them tested.
The base for you to get your hormones in balance lays in a healthy microbiome, liver and blood sugar balance. I would suggest that you start with getting these 3 in balance and you'll get your health hair back.
Autoimmunity is a state in which the body’s immune system attacks its own body’s tissues. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease of the skin and its outgrowth (hair). In this case, the body’s immune system attacks your hair follicles. It causes your hair to come out in round patches, most often on the scalp. In this case, the problem actually lays in the health of your immune system. So removing the triggers and healing your gut can much improve your condition.
Environmental causes of hair loss
When it comes to hair loss, you might want to start with what you are or have been putting on your hair: what kind of chemical treatments like perming, bleaching or coloring have had done on your hair over the years? Even the sulfates in shampoo can break down the protective oils that coat the hair, leading to drying and more breakage. You can easily find sulfate-free shampoos to eliminate this potential cause of hair loss.
Heavy metal toxicity is another possible cause for hair loss. It can contribute to hair loss by disturbing the hair growth cycle. Here are some possible sources of heavy metals in your environment and food and this could have been way in the past if you never eliminated them:
living in a highly polluted area
history of low stomach acid,
tuna, salmon (from Norway) or other high mercury fish…
use of botulinum toxin
Mites could be involved in your hair loss. Demodex folliculorum and Demodex brevis are two species of microscopic mites found on humans. Actually, they seem to be higher in people from cold climate or Nordic countries and are also linked to Rosacea. They don’t usually cause symptoms unless they activate the immune system or are present in large amounts. They live in or near hair follicles. They can cause inflammation or altered hormone metabolism (increased DHT) that leads to hair loss.
What you can try to address these:
Address heavy metal toxicity - contact me for a detox protocol
Apply topically organic tea tree or lavender essential oil (5 drops mixed with 60ml/2 oz of coconut oil) for the mites.