Having a bad hair day? Our hair is incredibly important to how we feel about ourselves. But did you know that it’s also a reflection of our health? Common imbalances in our body can impact the health of our hair and the amount of hair we have on the top of our head. As a physician, women come to see me every day with the complaint of hair loss. I am glad they do, because there are many medical imbalances and nutritional deficiencies that can cause hair loss. There is a lot you can do through your diet and lifestyle choices that can impact quality and quantity of your hair.
The first three things I evaluate when a woman comes to see me with hair loss are their thyroid, iron levels and blood sugar balance. Having any of these areas significantly out of balance can have a tremendous impact on hair growth.
One of the first signs of an underactive thyroid is hair loss. The thyroid is the centerpiece of your metabolism, which impacts the turnover of cells in your body. When someone has an underactive thyroid, their metabolism slows down and hair loss speeds up. There are many nutritional changes that a woman can make to support her thyroid and improve her hair. Additionally, your physician may find that if your thyroid is depressed significantly enough, you may also need thyroid medication to support metabolism and hair growth.
The second area you may need to address is elevated blood glucose and inflammation in the body. Elevated blood glucose is a sign that a condition known as insulin resistance is present in the body. Insulin resistance is a prediabetic condition that throws all of your hormones in your body out of balance. As a result, people often feel more tired, gain weight around their belly, and the hair on the top of their head becomes thinner. In addition, this hormonal shift increases inflammation in the body, further accelerating their hair loss.
This condition can be reversed with a lifestyle change. One of the most powerful tools we have to help someone rebalance their hormones and support hair growth is a low-glycemic and low-inflammatory diet.
First, tackle the inflammation in the body by removing inflammatory foods such as simple carbohydrates, added sugar, alcohol and dairy. Then address the glucose levels. The low-glycemic diet is high in fiber, healthy fats and protein to help slow the digestion and absorption of the food, resulting in a decrease in the rise of glucose and insulin after a meal. At each meal, choose protein-rich foods like fish or beans. Balance that with foods rich in fiber, such as vegetables, beans and whole grains such as brown rice. Finally, make sure there are some healthy fats in each meal. Some examples of healthy fats include fatty fish, olive oil, nuts and nut butters. Balancing your protein, fat and fiber within each meal will slow the rise in blood sugar, make you feel full longer and stop the inflammation. Consequently, your hormones will be in better balance and your hair will thrive.
Next we need to support hair with hair-growing nutrients. Iron is critical for hair health, and iron deficiency is a very common cause of hair loss in women. Make sure to ask your doctor to do a full iron panel if hair loss is one of your concerns.
Biotin is known as the hair vitamin. It helps with the strength of the hair so it is less likely to break or fall off. You can get enough biotin to strengthen your hair with just two eggs a day. In addition, eggs are a good source of protein to help balance hormones and blood glucose.
Having a vitamin-D deficiency is linked to many health issues, including hair loss. It is difficult to get enough vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, over the winter months, so talk to your doctor about whether or not you should be getting it in supplement form.
Many women can also use minoxidil, which is an over-the-counter treatment that can be placed on the scalp in the thinning areas of the hair twice a day. It works directly at the hair follicle, and it’s proven to promote hair growth. This can start working immediately for people as they work to uncover the underlying imbalances in their body. It is generally recommended to give minoxidil four months to work. If you do not see any change within those four months, you can stop it and look for other therapies.
Remember that the health of your hair is impacted by the health of your body. If your hair is thinning, talk with your doctor and get some simple blood tests that may reveal the underlying cause of your hair loss.