Your hair doesn’t just affect your looks- it’s also often an indicator of your health. The average person loses 50 to 100 hairs a day as part of the normal hair growth cycle, and with around 100,000 hairs on your head, this amount of hair loss should not be noticeable. Noticeable hair loss or thinning may be a sign of a more serious health condition. Possible causes of hair loss include:
1) Male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness is the most common cause of hair loss, especially in men. It is a hereditary condition where certain sex hormones trigger a pattern of permanent hair thinning. This condition can begin as early as puberty. As people age, hair generally thins out. Usually, it is more apparent as men enter andropause and as women enter menopause.
2) Temporary hair loss can occur after pregnancy, major surgery or sudden drastic weight loss. It may also occur after a period of extreme stress or as a result of hair-pulling (click here to read my case of the disappearing eyebrows).
3) Hair loss can also be caused by certain medical conditions including scalp infections (ringworm), thyroid imbalances (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism), autoimmune illness such as alopecia areata or SLE (lupus), PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and iron-deficiency anemia.
4) Certain pharmaceutical medications may also cause hair loss or balding as a side effect. These include Accutane (isotretinoin), Naproxen, Zantac (ranitidine) and drugs used to treat heart problems, cancer, hormone-related issues and depression.
5) Another culprit may be environmental toxins. Ongoing exposure to heavy metals such as mercury may result in hair loss which becomes gradually more apparent. Toxins in our environment cause hair loss by disrupting basic cellular functions in the body, thereby interfering with hormone production and regulation, as well as other vital processes.
If you notice your hair thinning, you should first rule out any underlying health conditions. Whether the culprit is a hormonal imbalance, medical condition or heavy toxic load, it is important to treat the cause and not just the symptoms. If you recently underwent an intense period of stress, be sure to replenish your system using adaptogens and nutraceuticals to minimize the effects of stress on your body. Click here to learn more about stress and premature aging.
Before reaching for Rogaine (minoxidil), Propecia (finasteride) or a wig, make sure that your body has all the building blocks for healthy, strong hair.
“Having a balanced diet, while putting a little extra emphasis on things like protein and iron, gives your hair a boost,” says Neil Sadick, a clinical dermatology professor at the Weill Cornell Medical College. Besides protein and iron, other vital nutrients that support a healthy hair and scalp include silica, biotin, zinc, folate, vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. Consult a licensed naturopathic doctor on proper dosages of these nutraceuticals- the amount found in multivitamins are generally not enough for therapeutic effects.