Helping Women With Hair Loss
Hair loss among women is a fairly common symptom among our patients at CMRS. Unlike its counterpart in men, the good news is that it is usually fully reversible, although it may take some time since hair grows and rests in a 6 month cycle. Hair growth and integrity of the follicles are complex phenomena that require multiple minerals, vitamins, cofactors, and hormones in order to remain balanced. Although typical cases will result in our attention and supplementation in each of these areas, in my experience hormonal factors carry the most weight in relationship to the causation of hair loss in women. Unlike with men where genetic issues and follicle sensitivity produces irreversible loss of hair, hair loss in women mostly should be considered a sign of hormonal dysfunction that requires immediate investigation and treatment. The hair loss is usually just the tip of the iceberg, and the body is suffering in multiple other ways when hair is being lost.
The most common hormonal factors in female hair loss in order of prevalence are adrenal stress, thyroid dysfunction, problems related to progesterone, and finally testosterone issues. Some patients will have a combination of hormonal dysfunctions going on at the same time. Stress is an extremely common precursor to female hair loss. Stress disturbs adrenal gland function, making it go into overdrive, or eventually depleting its hormonal output. Disturbance can be measured by urine or saliva hormone levels. Over the years, we have been able to arrest and reverse female hair loss in a large majority of cases simply by helping the patient address the stress issues in her life, and nutritionally supporting and balancing adrenal gland function. Adrenal support is helpful in almost all cases, but may not be enough if other hormones are also disturbed.
Every woman with hair loss should also be tested for thyroid, progesterone, testosterone, and DHT abnormalities. Both an overactive and underactive condition of thyroid gland disorder will be associated with hair loss issues. The diagnosis sometimes is clear from blood testing, but in many other cases the diagnosis must be made from the many clinical signs and symptoms and the characteristic body temperature disturbance. Natural thyroid hormone replacement therapy for underactive thyroid glands, and nutritional support, autoimmune workup, and sometimes even standard radioactive iodine treatment in overactive cases will make a huge difference in hair quality and hair loss fairly quickly in these cases.
The hair loss that so commonly occurs in women who have just delivered a baby is a good example of progesterone-related problems. Levels of progesterone drop dramatically and suddenly after delivery, and its relative post-partum deficiency is the likely cause of hair problems in these cases. But low progesterone levels are not confined to new mothers. In fact, progesterone deficiency with estrogen dominance is an epidemic today, as seen by almost across the board deficiencies noted on salivary testing of women coming in for hormone related complaints. High levels of environmental estrogens, poor nutritional status, use of oral contraceptives, and the frequency of lack of ovulation all lead to low progesterone/estrogen ratios. Since progesterone is antagonistic to DHT, the testosterone metabolite that wreaks havoc with hair follicles, low progesterone leads to hair loss in women. We use pharmaceutical grade transdermal natural progesterone skin cream, and sometimes topical progesterone/minoxidil spray for scalp treatment in these cases. Results are slow and gradual, but definite.
Finally when women show the hair loss pattern typical of men, i.e. recession at the temples, and thinning at the frontal hairline and on the crown of the head, I always think of testosterone and DHT problems. Sometimes testosterone and DHT levels are found to be elevated, and sometimes not. Women with polycystic ovary disease often have high testosterone levels and show both hair loss in the male pattern as well as acne. The problem here is excessive sensitivity of the follicle to the effect of DHT. DHT is the “dark side” of testosterone which produces the unwanted effect of hair loss in the male pattern. Dietary considerations are important here since many of these patients are insulin resistant and must be on a low carbohydrate diet in order for treatment to be effective. Sometimes I will use the standard herbs that men use to try to block DHT effect on their hair follicles and prostate glands. Those would be pygeum, saw palmetto, and beta sitosterol. Every so often I will prescribe the DHT blocking drug Propecia for a woman with male pattern hair loss, and have seen some good results from this.
In summary, women should not ignore accelerating hair loss showing up in shower drains or on pillows. By the time thinning is eveident in the hair itself, a lot of hair has been lost. Don’t wait for that to happen. Then too remember, if the hair is suffering, then so are other body cells and tissues. If you suffer this problem, it important that you consult a qualified natural medicine physician for help. Save your hair, save your health. Get help for hair loss.