One Of These 4 Hormones Could Be Causing Your Hair Loss

Integrative Medicine Doctor By Amy Shah, M.D.
Integrative Medicine Doctor
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard Universities. She was named one of mindbodygreen's Top 100 Women In Wellness to Watch in 2015 and has been a guest on many national and local media shows.

Image by Carles Rodrigo Monzo / Stocksy

It might come as a surprise to many of you, but the truth is that if you want thick luscious locks—you have to mind your hormones. And even though hair loss is typically thought of as a male issue, that statement is true for both men and women; in fact, more than one hormonal factor can contribute to or cause hair loss.

To any woman who's suffered from a hormone imbalance and the many symptoms that come with them—hormones seem to control everything don't they?—it won't surprise you to learn that hormone and hair loss are connected. Some women are also already struggling with hormone-related hair loss, so the issue is top of mind. It's more common than you think! When I recently asked the question "What topics would you like to learn about?" on Instagram, one of the most common responses from women was to learn about hair loss. 

The hormones that cause hair loss.

So what's the reason behind this epidemic of hair issues? It's likely due to modern life and the stress—both physical, mental, and hormonal—that many of us experience daily, which can cause a disruption in key hormones that protect our locks. Here are the main hormone imbalances involved in hair loss: 

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1. Testosterone and hair loss

This is the main hormone involved in male pattern hair loss and probably the one that is most targeted with medications such as Rogaine. There is a particular type of testosterone that seems to be to blame, called dihydrotestosterone, or DHT. This type of testosterone actually causes hair follicles to shrink and involute. 

What to do: One of the best ways to get rid of this excess testosterone is to start eating more fiber-rich foods, including fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

2. Thyroid hormone and hair loss 

The thyroid hormone is thought to be the "master metabolism" hormone, and it's probably the most straightforward culprit behind hair loss, especially in women. If you have dry skin, brittle nails, fatigue, and hair loss—it's a telltale sign that you're suffering from hypothyroidism.

What to do: If you have a normal thyroid test but you still have the symptoms, you can try thyroid-boosting foods like seaweed with iodine, green vegetables, iron-rich foods like nuts, and an iron supplement if you're still low.

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3. Insulin and hair loss

You might be surprised to see insulin on this list, but high insulin levels are one of the known causes of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a very common endocrine abnormality in women. It has long been known that PCOS is driven by chronically elevated insulin (hyperinsulinemia), which causes hair loss, acne, and weight gain, among other symptoms. And it's not just in women that insulin is important! Men with hyperinsulinemia seem to suffer from hair loss as well. High levels of insulin also cause more fat storage and estrogen production, which can trigger hair loss in men indirectly.

What to do: The best way to treat this type of hair loss is by cutting down the amount of sugar in your diet to less than 50 grams total per day. Another great strategy for balancing blood sugar is intermittent fasting. For example, eat your last meal at 5 p.m. two or three days each week, and eat your breakfast at your normal time. Insulin is most responsive in the late morning and most "resistant" late in the evening. This means that making your meals heavier in the middle of the day is a great strategy for keeping your insulin levels in check.

4. Estrogen and hair loss

Estrogen imbalance is another common cause of hair loss. Many women find that in pregnancy, when estrogen levels rise and then fall after birth, a large amount of their hair falls out. This is also true for many women during menopause, when estrogen levels are also falling. But it's not just about having more estrogen in the body to prevent hair loss because chronic estrogen dominance can cause hair loss as well.

What to do: Just like with testosterone, eating more vegetable fiber can be really great at binding to excess estrogen and moving it out of the body. Other strategies for estrogen balance include decreasing your reliance on plastics and your use of parabens, phthalates, and other endocrine-disrupter-containing products. These are often found in cosmetics, personal care products, and medications.

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How to balance hormones to prevent hair loss.

Hormone balance is a complex topic, but if you keep in mind that diet and lifestyle go a long way—things start looking easier right away.

In my practice, I often advise women—before they go on a wild-goose chase and spend thousands of dollars on supplements and lab testing—to change their sleep habits so they're getting eight-plus hours a night, increase vegetable servings to six to eight a day, and get some form of exercise daily. More often than not, these simples changes are able to reverse hair loss and correct any hormonal imbalances.

On top of that, supplements like vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, omega-3s, and hormone adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola can help move things along.

Other things I often suggest include scalp massages and inversions in yoga, which are both thought to be great for hair growth. This has been corroborated by many natural health practitioners, but of course, more studies are needed to confirm this!

Hopefully, that clears up some of the confusion and anxiety around hair loss. I advise you to also look at your medications and supplements to make sure hair loss isn't a side effect of any of them. And lastly, always check with your doctor before you make drastic changes to your diet, supplement routine, or try any medical treatments.

Amy Shah, M.D.
Amy Shah, M.D.
Dr. Amy Shah is a double board certified MD with training from Cornell, Columbia and Harvard...
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Amy Shah, M.D.
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