Hair loss can be devastating and may come on out of the blue, with or without other symptoms. While men can experience hair loss for any of the reasons listed below, often genetic factors are at play. On the other hand, hair loss in women is less likely to be linked to genetics and is often the result of imbalances that can be identified and resolved. Because the body prioritizes hair less than other critical functions of the body, it's been thought that hair loss may be a warning sign of underlying imbalance. By identifying the "root cause", you may prevent further health problems. Check out the seven most common causes of hair loss that we see at BioLounge.
Iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss, especially in women throughout child-bearing years. Iron availability and cellular concentrations are dependent on the amount of iron in the diet, the individual's ability to digest and absorb iron, healthy iron metabolism and blood loss (this is a critical aspect of iron balance in those menstruating).
It’s important that all of these factors are assessed when iron deficiency is suspected. In addition, studies show that we cannot solely depend on serum iron levels, hemoglobin or hematocrit to assess iron status. Instead, ferritin is the best measurement to rely on when identifying iron deficiency and deciding how to improve iron status. This is a simple and inexpensive blood test that can provide essential information.
2. Micronutrient deficiency
Many vitamins and mineral deficiencies can lead to hair thinning and hair loss. Studies show direct connections between low levels of zinc, vitamin D, vitamin E, biotin, riboflavin, folate, B12, copper and selenium. Even those eating a balanced and whole food diet are at risk of micronutrient deficiency due to genetic and environmental factors. Micronutrient deficiency, once identified, can be easily resolved with therapeutic levels via supplementation of nutrient-based infusions. If you’re concerned about micronutrient status, high-quality intracellular micronutrient testing is available. Reach out here if you would like more information.
3. Micronutrient toxicity
Fat soluble vitamins, ADE and K hold a risk of toxicity because they store well within our cells, while water soluble vitamins are easily excreted in urine. Vitamin A toxicity has been linked to hair loss when over 10,000IU is taken per day on an ongoing basis. Changes to nails and skin rashes can be accompanied by hair loss when vitamin A dose is too high for too long.
4. Low thyroid function
Low thyroid function, or hypothyroidism, is a common condition in which the thyroid gland does not produce sufficient levels of thyroid hormone. The cause of this ranges from autoimmunity, to iodine or selenium deficiency, stress, or even issues with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland within the brain. Hair thinning and patchy hair loss are associated with hypothyroidism along with symptoms such as cold hands and feet, low energy, weight gain, dry skin and constipation. While conventional testing only looks at TSH levels and T4, this is often insufficient to assess the complete picture. It’s essential to test for those levels as well as total T3, free T3 and free T4, thyroid antibodies and reverse T3 when ruling thyroid imbalance in or out.
5. Hormone imbalance
Probably the most prolific cause of hair loss associated with hormone imbalance, aside from low thyroid, is a condition called PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). Hormone imbalances associated with this condition include irregularities in testosterone production, prolactin and DHEA. That said, hair loss in this context, is accompanied by menstrual irregularities and metabolic changes and should be treated comprehensively.
Shift in reproductive hormones, especially associated with menopause, can also lead to hair loss. The reduction in estrogen experienced throughout peri-menopause and menopause can lead to reduced hair growth on the scalp, changes in hair texture and increased hair growth on the face or genital area. It's also possible for these changes to happen outside of menopause, and reproductive hormones should be assessed in bloodwork if hair loss and associated symptoms are congruent with an imbalance.
6. Protein, fatty acids, polyphenols and other dietary considerations
Hair loss has been reported and is associated with dietary insufficiencies as a result of prolonged fasting, caloric restriction, poor diet quality, and insufficient digestion. Studies have linked protein deficiency and even some specific amino acids such as L-lysine to hair loss. While other studies have found that diets low in fatty acids, fresh fruits and vegetables can lead to deficiencies and imbalances associated with hair loss. Research has linked interventions such as increasing olive oil for better fatty acid intake or boosting green tea consumption due to the high level of polyphenols as effective dietary approaches to hair loss. These studies demonstrate that it's critical that all nutrients are assessed when hair loss is occurring, not just micronutrients.
Chronic or even short-term acute stress can lead to hair loss. In fact, we saw a significant surge in women's hair loss throughout the pandemic at BioLounge in tandem with elevated stress. Researches have attributed this to the spike in corticosteroids secreted by the adrenal glands in times of stress. This increase in stress has been shown to directly impact the hair follicle, leaving it in a resting state. Additionally, the production of corticosteroid drains the body of essential nutrients, therefore causing the hair loss.
There are many reasons that you may be experiencing hair loss. Focusing on an organic, diverse and whole food diet is foundational for improving every factor covered in this article, however, you may need a more aggressive and targeted approach. Evaluating your individual factors behind hair loss can be accomplished by working with one of our experienced providers that will comprehensively assess your symptoms and pertinent laboratory testing. Reach out for more information.