Hair loss can happen to women at any age. While it is a symptom that is routinely dismissed as merely cosmetic, it is a sign that there is a biochemical imbalance in your body. Finding the cause of this imbalance is the key to reversing hair loss.
I practice functional medicine which addresses the individual as a whole, not merely as a diagnosis or set of symptoms.
Functional medicine employs comprehensive testing to find the underlying factors that are contributing to your hair loss. I do not only check for deficiencies, I can assess how well you are absorbing key nutrients, if you are suffering from small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), or if stress is causing your thyroid to become imbalanced
I use targeted treatments to address the root cause of your hair loss. By addressing causes like longstanding infections, autoimmune disorders, heavy metal toxicity, adrenal fatigue or hormone imbalance I often see regrowth within weeks.
Below are nine common causes of hair loss in women and how functional medicine can help.
1. Adrenal Fatigue
Many are diagnosed with thyroid disease without ever finding out that adrenal fatigue was a major factor in the progression of their condition.
The adrenal glands are responsible for secreting 'stress hormones' that help our bodies get through things like all-nighters, family get-togethers, work deadlines, emotional distress, grief or infection.
Adrenal fatigue happens when, due to environmental, psychological or physical stress, the adrenal glands can no longer 'keep up.' This results in fatigue, poor sleep, constant thirst, fainting or dizzy spells, light sensitivity, low mood, anxiety and a feeling that you never fully 'recharge.'
Nearly every case of hair loss has a stress component but symptoms are often delayed. A patient may have a particularly stressful 3 weeks and only 3-6 months later start having hair loss symptoms.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition in which it is extremely beneficial to be under the guidance of a doctor. Diet, nutritional supplementation and lifestyle changes are all implemented in cases of adrenal fatigue.
Read more about Adrenal Fatigue
2.Hypothyroidism: An Under-Active Thyroid
Thyroid disease is very common in women, with 90% of cases diagnosed as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. This is a disease in which the immune system attacks thyroid tissue, lowering hormone levels.
A conventional medicine practitioner usually replaces the depleted thyroid hormone in order to relieve symptoms. This approach, while often necessary, fails to address the multiple factors causing thyroid dysfunction.
Functional medicine testing can assess the underlying causes that can lead to an under-functioning thyroid gland. Some of these potential causes can be ‘hidden’ viral infections like EBV, environmental toxins or digestive problems.
There are ways to treat most of these underlying problems, restoring healthy function of the thyroid is often possible.
Restoring healthy thyroid function can allow you to begin to regrow your hair.
Approximately 1 out 10 women suffers from anemia caused by iron deficiency. Associated symptoms include fatigue, cold hands and feet, headache, dizziness and hair loss.
Functional medicine testing can assess your iron levels and, importantly, determine how well you are absorbing iron.
Your doctor can order a simple blood test to see whether you have this type of anemia. In most cases, additional iron intake either through food or medicine is necessary.
Anemia is not just caused by an iron deficiency it can also be caused by B vitamin deficiencies - specifically B12, B6, and folate. This type of anemia is common but often missed by general practitioners not trained in nutritional medicine.
Supplementation of iron without doctor supervision can be dangerous because excessive iron can initiate inflammation throughout the body - always work with your doctor when incorporating supplements into your regimen.
4. Telogen Effluvium
Telogen Effluvium is when hair growth temporarily stops and becomes dormant. This condition can be due to a variety of causes including the flu, heavy metal toxicity, stress, illness, pregnancy, or stopping birth control pills.
Like so many conditions, the treatment will depend on the cause. In the case of heavy metal toxicity, for example, the functional medicine approach to Telogen Effuvium becomes focused on safely chelating (removing) the heavy metals out of the body.
The next step would be to restore the body from nutrient deficiency and provide a nourishing biochemical environment which encourages hair growth.
Read more about Toxicity
Trichotillomania is a psychological disorder characterized by a strong impulse to pull out hair. It most commonly affects younger girls.
There are many potential causes of this condition which should be evaluated by a practitioner. Monoamine amino acid therapy has been shown to yield successful results.
After a thorough functional medicine evaluation we can determine the best way to address any biochemical imbalances.
6. Medication Induced Hair Loss
Medications Implicated in Hair Loss
Some Parkinson’s medications
Vitamin A derived drugs
Just because a medication you are taking is on this list does not necessarily mean it is the sole cause of your hair loss. Consult your doctor before you reduce the dosage or go off of a medication.
If it is determined that a medication is causing your hair loss, many things can be done to mitigate the effects. It is important to know what you’re taking and the risks and benefits of each medication.
7. Nutritional Deficiencies
The deficiencies below are just a few that can cause hair loss. Functional medicine testing is necessary to determine what your deficiencies are, as taking supplements indiscriminately can cause even more imbalances.
Biotin Deficiency: this is a water-soluble vitamin necessary for healthy hair growth and maintenance. Supplementing with 1mg/daily has been shown to improve hair loss (especially hair thinning) if biotin deficiency is present. Effects can be seen as soon as 1 week.
L-Arginine: is used to produce nitric oxide, a key factor in maintaining and promoting new hair growth.
Vitamin E: has potential to support youthful hair thickness and growth. In a study with 30 people, nearly all subjects showed improvement in hair thickness and density.
It is important to only take pharmaceutical-grade mixed tocopherols for the best results and ensured safety.
Lack of Protein: If protein intake is low or the body is not able to digest and use protein efficiently, the body will begin to shut down hair growth.
Vitamin B Deficiency: Often seen in women who are dieting off and on for long periods of time, who have had dramatic weight loss, or in those women taking over-the-counter or prescription antacid medication.
Antacids decrease stomach acid and hinder B vitamin absorption.
For supplementation it is best to take a vitamin B complex, as this will increase the likelihood of balanced repletion.
Chronic antacid use contributes to B vitamin deficiencies and B12 in particular because stomach acid is necessary for B12 absorption. Chronic B12 deficiency can cause nerve pain, depression symptoms, and fatigue.
8. Autoimmune Disease
Many autoimmune diseases can have the symptom of hair loss. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where there is damage to the connective tissue as well as other organs (including hair).
Lupus is a serious disease with many potential complications. Functional medicine can be used to identify and treat the specific factors that may be causing the condition so the best possible outcome can be achieved.
9. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome is the most common female hormone disorder.
Symptoms of this disorder include excess facial hair, acne, weight gain, and infertility.
Those affected commonly have insulin resistance and excess androgen production (testosterone) resulting in body hair, acne, and hair loss.
PCOS is the most common cause of female infertility and is associated with developing type 2 diabetes.
The application of function medicine for PCOS can have wide ranging benefits including symptom resolution.
A Permanent Solution for Hair Loss
Finding the cause of your hair loss is crucial to restore your hair as well as your health.
Many of my patients were had been told that hair loss is a 'natural part' of aging, or a 'normal' side effect of hormone fluctuations only to find out that the actual cause of their hair loss was a bacterial infection or an autoimmune disease.
Finding the root cause allows us to treat the root cause so you can be symptom free and optimally healthy.