Hair loss can be a scary problem for both sanity and vanity. It’s a bit shocking to see extra hair in the shower or in your hands as you brush through your lovely locks. Before rushing to the salon or the doctor and starting creams, sprays or meds, let’s talk and take a look inside your body.
The best way to treat hair loss is to find the cause and treat that! The cause or trigger starts long before the hair loss begins, so think beyond any recent changes and consider your history. Below is a list of the most common reasons for hair loss. We’ll discuss each reason in more detail below, but then it will be your responsibility to figure out which one (or ones) are the biggest factors for you.
Common reasons for hair loss:
- Undereating or low carb eating (long-term)
- Poor protein intake, digestion and/or absorption
- Low iron or zinc
- Gut inflammation
- Thyroid issues
- Insulin Resistance
- Imbalanced hormones
- Medication side effects
Undereating or low carb eating (long-term)
Your hair needs fuel and it gets that fuel from the food you eat! Think beyond macronutrients here. Your hair needs vitamins and minerals too, so be sure you’re eating a nutrient rich diet. Following a low carb or vegetarian diet long–term increases risk for hair loss. Yet another reason we emphasize diet phasing in The 131 Method.
Poor protein intake, digestion and/or absorption
Various amino acids like lysine, cysteine and methionine are important for hair production and growth (1-2) but we only get these amino acids if we’re eating the right foods and our gut is working right to digest and absorb these foods. Instead of supplementing, aim to investigate what could be going on with the gut, or identify if you’re consuming enough foods with a variety of amino acids. Amino acid and hair growth is one reason many people find collagen hydrolysate powder to be beneficial for hair; it’s essentially broken down amino acids that are easy for the gut to absorb.
Low iron or zinc (3-4)
There are various reasons for having low iron or zinc, so if you supplement, investigate why you might be low to begin with. Zinc supports the immune system and helps block androgen build up (5). Iron is necessary for hair growth and is an important nutrient for thyroid health, which is another potential reason for hair loss (6-7). Have your doctor check your iron ferritin and ensure levels are at least 50 ng/mL. Iron is commonly supplemented when not necessary and can do more harm than good, so check your levels before supplementing.
Food sensitivities or other gut inflammation triggers can impact protein absorption and increase stress, both of which impact hair loss. Inflammation makes the hair follicles more sensitive to androgens (8)
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition with various metabolic imbalances including elevated insulin and a high level of androgens (male hormones) that cause hair loss, acne and facial hair.
Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can impact hair health (9). Get your levels checked by your provider.
There are several studies indicating stress plays a role with hair loss (8). This includes physical, emotional and mental stressors. We discuss the role of stress and mindset quite a bit in The 131 Method, so if you know this is an area that needs attention in your life, consider it as a possible culprit.
In hair follicles, insulin has a direct impact on hair growth and increase of DHT concentration, which leads to hair loss (10). Insulin also impacts circulatory blood flow to the scalp where nutrients like oxygen are delivered. This leads to hypoxia which contributes to hair loss (11).
Give the body some grace and time after childbirth. Postpartum hair loss is common (12). Moms often retain their hair while pregnant. After the baby comes, the normal hair cycle resumes and that hair releases.
Both men and women can have hair loss related to elevated androgens (a testosterone related hormone). For some individuals the 5-alpha reductase enzymes that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is too fast and can cause certain androgens to dominate and impact the hair follicle. Additionally, for you ladies, hair loves progesterone and estrogen, so if you’re not ovulating (due to birth control or other reasons), you may experience cycles of hair loss (12-13). There are various topicals and supplements that can target the 5-alpha reductase enzyme if that is identified as a root cause for hair loss. However, we encourage identification of the problem first before testing supplements, so those will not be listed in this article. For more advanced testing into hormone metabolism and 5-alpha reductase activity, visit: www.dutchtest.com.
Medication Side Effects
Some medications that can contribute to hair loss include: antibiotics, antidepressants, birth control and acne medications. Speak to your doctor about any medication side effects.
First steps to try:
- Ensure you’re eating enough and you’re phasing your diet– do a calorie check-in.
- Continue gut healing.
- Consider adding 2-4 tbsp hydrolyzed collagen (Great Lakes Hydrolysate or Vital Protein brands) for easy to absorb amino acids.
- Do a stress and sleep reality check.
Blood tests that may provide more hair loss answers:
- CBC with diff (for immune system check)
- Ferritin (for iron storage levels)
- Zinc, serum
- TSH, Free T3, Free T4 and reverse T3 (for full thyroid info.)
- Fasting insulin and glucose
- Rule out PCOS, if that’s a possibility
- Dutch test (www.dutchtest.com) for more hormone and androgen information