(Health Secrets) A woman’s hair can operate like a canary in a coal mine, signaling danger. When hair begins to thin it is often the first sign of an underlying imbalance or deficiency that if not addressed can significantly undermine good heath in a big way. Prominent among these are hormone imbalances. Chances are good that when they are successfully addressed, hair will begin to re-grow and again look and feel the way it once did. And you will feel better too.
About two-thirds of all women experience hair loss, which is considered a dermatological disorder, at sometime in their lives. The American Academy of Dermatology says about 40% of women have noticeable hair loss by age 40. Many are told by their doctors that their hair loss is inevitable because they are aging. This sort of diagnosis does nothing to help restore hair or health.
Thinning hair and hormones
An emerging body of research is showing that a likely factor for hair loss is low thyroid, a condition known as hypothroidism. This disease is at epidemic levels and affects mostly women.
A ground breaking study investigated the impact of the primary thyroid hormones made in the human body, known as T3 and T4, on scalp hair follicles in their growth phase. The researchers found that T4 increased the proliferation of cells responsible for hair growth. When combined with T3, reduction in rate of follicle death was observed. In addition, T4 prolonged the hair growth phase. T3 and T4 together also increased production of melanin, the pigment that gives hair its color. This is solid evidence of the connection between thyroid hormone and a full head of hair.
Low level of thyroid hormone can cause hair loss because it slows the metabolic rate throughout the body, a reason that low thyroid and weight gain often go hand in hand. This slowing extends to scalp follicles, resulting in premature release of the hair shaft and root, and a delay in producing replacement hairs. Early graying is another indication of low thyroid, as is the loss of hairs from the temporal edges of the eyebrows.
Because thyroid hormones power metabolism, the sum of all physical and chemical processes in the body, the list of other symptoms indicating hypothyroidism is long. One of the most telling is a body temperature below 97.9 on a regular basis. Other symptoms include faint heartbeat, slowed pulse, low blood pressure, feeling cold all the time, dry skin, muscle weakness (including the heart muscle), depression, cystic breasts or ovaries, depressed immune system, goiter and constipation. Undiagnosed thyroid disease can put women at risk for serious conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis or infertility.
Is it a surprise to learn that the primary steroid hormone in women is testosterone, just as it is in men? Young healthy females have up to ten times more testosterone than estrogen circulating in their bodies. But levels of testosterone can begin to decline as early as the late 20’s or early 30’s, setting off hormonal imbalance and conversion. This can lead to hair on the top of the head thinning, while facial hair develops and the rest of the body hair coarsens. What’s behind this? Current thinking says a portion of the remaining testosterone and other androgens such as DHEA convert to another hormone known as DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is thought to be the reason why so many men have baldness on the top of their head. Research has shown that natural supplements can at least partially stop this conversion.
A new breed of doctors who specialize in anti-aging medicine or bioidentical hormone replacement are pretty much the only group with the knowledge to get you on the right track hormonally.
Stress and hormones
Unrelenting stress is a real issue for many people in today’s world, and thinning hair can be the result, followed by more serious disease. Before hair can re-grow, stress levels must be brought down significantly, and periods of calm restored.
There is a hormone at work here too, known as cortisol. This hormone is what powers the fight or flight response to stressful situation, and helps regulate glucose metabolism, blood pressure, immunity and inflammation. The thinking here is that cortisol should be active in the body only for short periods of time. However when high stress becomes continual and cortisol levels soar, all bets are off and thinning hair is only the beginning. The dysregulation of cortisol can lead to metabolic syndrome, blood sugar imbalances, increased inflammation, decreased bone density, lowered immunity, abdominal fat buildup, and finally heart attack and stroke.
We may think of stress as emotional, but high levels of prolonged stress can be the result of poor diet or just the aging process itself. When all of the body’s hormones are not fully present and in balance, ongoing stress is the result.
To keep cortisol at healthy levels, take whatever steps are necessary to reduce stress. Good ideas include allowing yourself time to relax everyday, exercising, and eating a plant based diet.
Stress and the hormone known as vitamin D
Hair loss may be the result of a deficiency in vitamin D. Disinformation from the sunscreen industry has caused many Americans to fear the sun and stay indoors, with not only hair loss as an outcome but increased risk of cancer.
Numerous cells and tissues in the body have receptors for vitamin D in addition to the skin. Studies of mice and humans lacking these receptors have shown that hair loss is one of the outcomes. Other possibilities linked to vitamin D deficiency include high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, gum disease, and tuberculosis. If the body is not getting enough essential fatty acids, it will be unable to manufacture vitamin D.