Why am I losing my hair?

hair lossAlright ladies, let’s talk hair loss. Why? Because it’s more common than commercials of celebrities you know damn well don’t use Pantene. I’m looking at you Gisele Bundchen. If there’s an upside to hair loss, it’s that it’s likely due to one of two possibilities – hormonal, or nutritional and because of that, there’s a good chance that you can correct it.

Hormonally, there are a couple likely suspects that can result in hair loss in women. One is low thyroid hormone. Thyroid hormone is the metabolic hormone in our body. In other words, it is responsible for the metabolic rate of all the cells in our body.

Low thyroid hormone results in a slower metabolic rate throughout our whole body. This shows up as things like constipation, difficult weight loss, feeling cold all the time, mood issues, dry skin and . . . hair loss. Put another way, if the cells slowdown in what they are supposed to do, skin won’t heal as well and hair may fall out.

To find out if you have low thyroid hormone, you need a good blood test and find someone that knows how to interpret it correctly. I’ve seen many women who are told their thyroid is normal when in fact, there couldn’t be more dysfunction.

The second hormone responsible for female hair loss is testosterone. As women we need a little testosterone, but too much causes problems, including hair loss. How do you know if you have too much testosterone? One, is lab testing. But in the absence of that, if you have low libido and unwanted facial hair growth, these are classic signs of excess testosterone in women.

So on to the nutritional causes.

Hair needs a number of nutrients for optimal growth and maintenance. One is protein. Low calorie “crash” diets and chronic malnutrition of protein almost always lead to hair loss. But if you’re not following a diet or malnourished, protein can still be an issue.

We need good digestive function to actually break down and use the protein we’re eating. If you have digestive issues (gas, bloating, seeing undigested food in your stool), you may be low in protein, despite your diet, leading to hair loss.

Then there are a number of other vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that have been shown to be necessary for proper hair growth. Without going into them in detail, they include iron, zinc, biotin, essential fatty acids, and a bunch of the B vitamins.

So what do you do? Try each of these together for a couple of months and see what happens. A multivitamin, along with a B complex (be sure it contains folic acid), a little extra zinc (make sure it also has copper), some biotin and an essential fatty acid supplement should do the trick. But again, you’ll want to try this for at least a couple of months to correct nutritional deficiencies. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t notice a difference two days after you start taking your supplements.

Notice I left out iron. Iron deficiency by itself commonly leads to hair loss. However I don’t recommend supplementing with iron unless you definitively know you are deficient in it. You can know this by a marker on a blood test called ferritin. If you have hair loss and low ferritin (below 20), iron supplementation may be beneficial and may help with your hair loss.

The bottom line is there are only a small handful of causes behind female hair loss. Ideally you’ll find a practitioner who can run the appropriate tests to rule out certain issues such as testosterone, thyroid hormone, and iron. Once those are ruled out, assuming you have good protein digestion, you can try a handful of nutrients for a few months to see if it was simple as a nutritional deficiency.

PS: Take it from a recovering stick-straight blond with caramel highlights who’s naturally a slightly-wavy haired brunette, lay off the processing, at least a little bit of it. Hair takes a beating from all that craziness. And chances are, you’re a pretty hot momma without it.