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Understanding the Causes of Hair Loss

Natural Treatments For Hair Loss in Women

What Causes Hair Loss In Women?

Hair loss is a common concern affecting many women at various stages of life. It is normal to a certain degree, as most people shed between 50 to 100 hairs daily. But when the loss exceeds the growth, the symptoms become noticable and should be investigated further. 

Understanding the underlying causes of hair loss is crucial for effective treatment and prevention. In this blog post, we will explore the different types of hair loss, common causes, diagnostic approaches, treatment options, and preventive measures.

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Types of Hair Loss In Women

Androgenetic Alopecia (Male/Female Pattern Baldness)

Androgenetic alopecia, commonly known as male or female pattern baldness, is a hereditary condition characterized by a predictable pattern of hair thinning related to hormonal changes. In men, it typically starts with a receding hairline and progresses to baldness on the crown. Women usually experience diffuse thinning over the crown of the head. Genetic factors play a significant role in this type of hair loss.

Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks hair follicles, leading to hair loss in small, round patches. It can occur suddenly and progress unpredictably, sometimes resulting in total scalp hair loss (alopecia totalis) or even complete body hair loss (alopecia universalis).

Telogen Effluvium

Telogen effluvium is a temporary form of hair loss triggered by physical or emotional stress, illness, or hormonal changes. It occurs when a significant number of hair follicles enter the resting phase (telogen) simultaneously, leading to diffuse hair shedding. Recovery typically happens within six months once the underlying cause is addressed.

Anagen Effluvium

Anagen effluvium is rapid hair loss resulting from medical treatments like chemotherapy or exposure to toxins. This type of hair loss occurs during the anagen (growth) phase of the hair cycle. Hair regrowth usually begins once the treatment ends or the toxin is eliminated from the body.

Common Causes of Hair Loss

Genetic Factors

Genetic predisposition is a primary cause of hair loss, especially in androgenetic alopecia. If you have a family history of baldness, you are more likely to experience hair loss at some point in your life.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal fluctuations due to thyroid issues, pregnancy, stopping breastfeeding or menopause can significantly impact hair growth. Low levels of estrogen and progesterone in menopause can lead to more hair loss, and high levels of androgens like testosterone in conditions like PCOS can also cause this. Insulin is another hormone that we often forget about regarding hair loss. When it is chronically elevated such as in diabetes it causes inflammation in the hair follicle leading to increased hair loss over time.  

Nutritional Deficiencies

A balanced diet is vital for healthy hair. Deficiencies in essential nutrients such as iron, B12, vitamin D, Vitamin A, protein, and zinc can lead to hair loss. Ensuring a nutrient-rich diet supports optimal hair health. Under-eating in general can also contribute to hair loss, in which ensuring you are getting adequate calories daily is pertinent for healthy hair. 

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions, including autoimmune diseases, scalp infections, post-viral infections such as long-Covid and dermatological conditions, can cause hair loss. It is important to screen for these conditions when identifying the root cause to hair loss, as managing these underlying health issues is crucial for hair regrowth. 

Medications and Treatments

Hair loss can be a side effect of various medications, including those for hypertension, depression, and cancer (chemotherapy). Discussing potential side effects with your healthcare provider can help manage this issue.

Stress and Psychological Factors

Physical and emotional stress can trigger telogen effluvium which is hair loss 3-6 months after experiencing any type of stress. This doesn’t always have to be an emotional stress, as even the physiological stress related to chronic illnesses, a surgery or pregnancy can trigger hair loss. If you think about it, our hair is not a vital organ, so if your body is under stress, it will prioritize sending nutrients to more vital organs like our heart, brain, GI tract, etc. Cortisol and adrenaline- two molecules that spike with emotional or physiological stress, can cause local inflammation in the hair follicle leading to more shedding. Managing stress through relaxation techniques, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle can mitigate its impact on hair health.

Tension Hairstyles

Constant pulling on the hair can cause traction alopecia leading to hair loss from certain styles.

Testing For Hair Loss in Women

Medical History and Physical Examination

A thorough medical history and physical examination are essential for diagnosing hair loss. Your healthcare provider will assess your hair loss pattern, inquire about family history, and identify any potential triggers.

Laboratory Tests

Blood tests can detect nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and underlying medical conditions like hypothyroidism or autoimmune diseases contributing to hair loss. These tests are crucial for developing an effective treatment plan.

Scalp Biopsy

In some cases, a scalp biopsy may be necessary to determine the exact cause of hair loss. This involves taking a small sample of scalp tissue for microscopic examination.

Treatment For Hair Loss In Women

Conventional Treatments

Conventional treatments for hair loss include medications like Minoxidil and Finasteride, which promote hair growth and slow down hair loss. 

Naturopathic Approaches

Nutritional Treatments For Hair Loss:

A diet rich in vitamins and minerals is essential for maintaining healthy hair. Foods high in iron, vitamin D, and zinc should be included in your diet to support hair growth and prevent deficiencies. Eating whole foods and lots of protein is an important foundational piece if this is not already in place. Hair is 87% protein so ensuring you are feeding your hair from the inside out is very important. Collagen protein is especially helpful for hair growth and can be a helpful supplement to add into the diet. Addressing nutrient deficiencies based on lab tests is also highly important. 

Hormonal Treatments For Hair Loss: 

Working on hormonal support through detoxification of excess hormones like androgens or cortisol, or treating a hormone deficiency with bioidentical hormone replacement therapy such as in menopause can be helpful. There are many dietary and supplemental strategies to achieve this, but it is best to seek individualized care based on hormone lab work. 

Stress Management: 

Getting stress under control is vital if this is the underlying cause of hair loss. Eliminating the stressor is important, but this is not always possible depending on the situation. Working with a therapist can also help with these obstacles. Naturopathic medicine can offer unique support to help the body’s physiological response to stress as there are many natural supplements that can help lower cortisol and adrenaline. In addition to supplementation, lifestyle changes like breathwork, yoga, improving sleep habits, cold exposure, meditation, and setting boundaries can be extremely helpful. 

Immune Treatments:

Immune support is important if there is an autoimmune or infectious origin such as with alopecia areata or post-viral hair loss. Many immune supporting herbs can be helpful to address this, as well as achieving sufficient vitamin D, supporting stress and auto-immune specific dietary changes.

Topical Treatments:  

Topical treatments such as light therapy, or herbal topicals can help stimulate regrowth and reduce the level of inflammation in the hair follicle.

Proper Hair Care Practices For Hair Loss:

Adopting proper hair care practices, such as using gentle shampoos, avoiding excessive heat styling, and regularly trimming your hair, can prevent damage and promote healthy growth.

Understanding the various causes of hair loss is the first step towards effective treatment and prevention. From genetic factors to nutritional deficiencies and stress, multiple factors can contribute to hair loss. By digging deeper with testing and adopting a holistic approach that includes conventional and naturopathic treatments, as well as lifestyle modifications, you can manage hair loss and promote healthy hair growth.
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, a licensed Naturopathic Doctor

If you are experiencing hair loss and would like a personalized treatment plan, schedule a consultation with our clinic. As a licensed naturopathic doctor in Ottawa, I specialize in natural and holistic approaches to hair health. Contact us today to book an appointment and start your journey towards healthier hair.

Your Doctor: Meet Dr. Miller

Dr. Miller is a Naturopathic Doctor who has a special focus on digestion and hormone health. She completed her doctor or naturopathic medicine degree at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and holds a Master’s and Bachelor’s of science in Human Health and Nutrition from the University of Guelph. Her extensive knowledge of nutrition and her strong foundation in scientific research allows for a very thorough approach to your care.

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