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Common Causes of Hair Loss and Natural Solutions

Hair loss or hair thinning is a symptom of something else going on. When you address the root cause, whether it's stress, hormonal imbalance or nutritional deficiency, hair re-growth is possible.
Jan 28, 2022 | Joy McCarthy

The emotional impact of hair loss is significant and should not be underestimated. I can certainly relate. When I was younger I had significant hair loss in my twenties which I talk about in my first book Joyous Health. I wasn't losing hair in chunks but rather my hair was dramatically thinning.

It wasn't overnight but once I addressed the root cause including hormonal imbalance, nutritional deficiency and I also stopped colour-treating my hair - my hair grew back thick and healthy.

Hair grows about half in inch per month (6 inches per year) so patience is key. 

It took about three months to notice a modest change and 6 months to notice a significant difference. Keep in mind, hair growth at half an inch per month is just an average which means you may be perfectly healthy and just have slower growth than that. You will notice slower hair growth if you have curly hair, but you already knew that :)

Know that you lose between 50 and 100 hairs per day as part of normal shedding. If you don't brush your hair at least once per day then it may seem like you're losing more hair when you wash it because they will all fall out at once. Don't be alarmed, but do brush your hair regularly (twice daily) as it supports healthy hair growth by stimulating circulation of the scalp. When you stimulate circulation this brings nutrition to your hair follicles.

In this article, we are going to look at some common causes of hair loss/thinning plus natural solutions to combat those causes.

Causes + Solutions for Hair Loss

Stress

Not surprisingly, stress is one of the main causes of hair loss. One of the reasons why hair loss or thinning hair occurs as a result of stress is because when cortisol (stress hormone) levels are elevated it accelerates the degradation of important skin elements, namely hyaluronan and proteoglycans (components of hair follicles) by approximately 40%. Why does this matter? Because hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid) is essential to reduce inflammation and help form new blood vessels - both essential for healthy skin and healthy hair follicles.

Stress hormones also alter the hair growth phases and elevated cortisol has been shown in animal studies to inhibit new hair growth and extend the resting phase of hair.

And finally, stress impacts digestion. When digestion is altered this impacts the absorption of nutrients.

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Solutions

Practice stress management strategies daily. You may not be able to control the stress in your life, but you can control your reaction to stress.

  • Set aside "me" time every single day whether that's listening to music or going for a nature walk. Make self-care a priority.
  • Regular yoga and meditation or breathwork
  • Consider adding adaptogens to help the body better adapt to stress.
  • Some good stress supportive formula blends I recommend include: AOR Adapt, Designs for Health Stress Arrest and I am a big fan of mushroom supplements. Be sure to check with your healthcare practitioner on what is best for you.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Both poor diet and stress (it's a nutrient-hog) can lead to nutritional deficiencies which impact hair health. Your nutritional status plays an integral role in your whole body health and hair loss is a symptom of poor nutrition. These are some of the nutrients that support healthy hair.

  • Vitamin A – helps to produce sebum and moisturize the scalp, thus keeping hair shiny and healthy.
  • B Vitamins – creates red blood cells which carry oxygen and nutrients to the scalp and hair follicles.
  • Biotin - This is a B-vitamin but an important one because a common deficiency sign of biotin is thinning, dry brittle hair with progression to loss of all hair on the body. Biotin is important to stimulate keratin production in hair and can increase the rate of follicle growth.
  • Vitamin C – protects hair from oxidative stress caused by free radicals and helps to produce collagen, a protein that supports hair health.
  • Vitamin D – plays a role in creating new hair follicles.
  • Vitamin E – a key antioxidant that helps to prevent oxidative stress (this study showed how people with hair loss experienced a 34.5% increase in hair growth as a result of supplementing with vitamin E for 8 months!).
  • Iron - essential for a healthy hair growth cycle. The hair follicle matrix cells are some of the most rapidly dividing cells in the body, and lack of iron may contribute to hair loss via its role as a cofactor for DNA synthesis
  • Zinc - While the exact mechanism of action is unclear, one possibility centers on zinc’s role as an essential component of numerous enzymes important in protein synthesis and cell division. Zinc is essential for another signalling pathway which is a critical component in the pathways that govern hair follicle growth.
  • Protein – your hair is made up primarily of proteins and is vital to support the health and strength of your hair.

Most North Americans are eating the Standard American Diet full of processed foods, refined carbohydrates and severely lack adequate nutrition. While I do not recommend you start supplementing with each of these nutrients because you'll be popping more pills than eating food, look to your diet and fill it with lots of variety and nourishing foods. Food first before supplementation, always.

Solution: If you suspect you may have a nutritional deficiency speak with your natural healthcare practitioner or a functional medicine doctor or certified nutritionist who can help you.

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Poor Diet

As I just reviewed in the previous point, stress causes nutritional depletion and a diet high in processed foods and low in whole foods causes wide-ranging nutritional deficiencies. A poor diet is a very common and overlooked cause of hair loss and hair thinning. This is very evident in eating disorders when not enough nutrition is being consumed and hair loss is common. Of course, an eating disorder is an extreme case of a diet lacking in nutrients, but most North Americans are eating far too much sugar, salt and bad fats.

Solution: I have endless inspiration for eating a joyous meal full of nourishing and delicious ingredients! There are hundreds of free recipes to support healthy hair right here, as well as my three cookbooks: The Joyous Cookbook, Joyous Detox and Joyous Health.

Harsh Hair Products

The conventional hair care industry is a chemical cesspool. Companies are concerned more about the efficacy of their products with little care or knowledge about how certain chemicals may be impacting your overall health. There are many ingredients in hair care products that could be both potentially harmful to your overall health and most certainly not promoting healthy hair. Some ingredients to watch out for:

  • SLS and SLES are chemicals that produce foam. They are harsh detergents that can irritate the scalp by stripping away natural oils and increase the risk of hair loss.
  • Chemical fragrances can cause an allergic response in the scalp. When the skin is inflamed or damaged, this can slow hair regrowth.
  • Phthalates are found in fragrance and are well-established hormone-disrupting chemicals.
  • Propylene Glycol is a skin irritant. It is used to help the consistency and it helps the scalp absorb other chemicals in shampoo.

Solution: Check out the Joyous Health Hair care lineup. We never use any harsh detergents or any harmful ingredients. Instead, we use organic rosemary essential oil and lavender.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormones are chemical messengers of your body. They are produced by the endocrine system and send messages throughout your body to regulate many physiological processes including hair growth. Here are some examples of how hormones influence hair growth.

  • Dihydrotestosterone - high levels of this hormone are related to hair loss in both men and women as it weakens the hair follicle.
  • Estrogen - low levels of estrogen may cause an increase in hair loss which is why this is so common in perimenopausal and menopausal women as estrogen extends the duration in which hair spends in the growth phase.
  • DHEAs and cortisol - high levels of cortisol or low DHEAs may contribute to hair loss.
  • Free and total testosterone - high levels of testosterone in women may accelerate hair loss.

Solution: You can get blood work done by your physician but also consider working with a natural healthcare practitioner (such as an ND or nutritionist) who can do a comprehensive assessment of your hormones. The Dutch Test is a good place to start but you'll need a practitioner to order the test and assess the results for you. Note: I do not do one-on-ones or offer this service. Once you know what you're dealing with then you can make a plan of action. I would first recommend assessing your diet. A great place to start is the Joyous Detox - my cookbook of whole-foods based recipes that are detox friendly and will support your liver in detoxification. Food is a very powerful tool - but really the tip of the iceberg.

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Thyroid Function

Thyroid conditions such as hypothyroidism impact hair growth. When T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones) are disrupted it affects the development of hair at the root. Hair falls out easily, sometimes in chunks and may not be replaced by new hair growth. This is commonly seen when part of the eyebrow falls out from the outside of the eye. It is essential to rule out any thyroid dysfunction when hair loss or hair thinning is happening. 

Solution: Get full bloodwork done on your thyroid function. Make sure you have a full thyroid panel done including TSH, free T3, free T4, and thyroid antibodies to assess thyroid gland function. All should be completed to properly diagnose a thyroid condition that may result in excessive hair loss.

Additional Considerations

  • Restrictive hairstyles such as always wearing your hair in a tight bun or ponytail can weaken the hair follicle and cause hair loss. Additionally, anything that can potentially harm the hair follicle such as extensions or weaves can promote hair loss.
  • Harsh chemical treatments such as bleaching and hair dyes can cause hair loss.
  •  Collagen - taken in supplement form can help the quality of your hair. It is the most abundant protein in the body and is a building block of hair. It surrounds each and every strand of hair and numerous studies have shown a lack of it can promote hair loss. I use Genuine Health's Bovine Collagen. Use code JOYOUS20 to save.
  • Bone Broth - both a source of collagen and gelatin as well as easily absorbed minerals and amino acids, bone broth is an excellent choice to nourish whole-body health, gut health and support healthy hair. I have a delicious chicken bone broth recipe.

I know this is a lot of information to take in but I truly hope it gives you some good guidance or a starting point on getting to the root cause of your hair loss.

Wishing you joyous health,

Joy xo

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