Many women complain about hair loss. The majority of them are in the perimenopause and menopausal phases of their lives. It is interesting to note that during these phases, hormonal imbalance tends to be in play along with other factors like stress, medications (birth control pills and synthetic hormones), thyroid dysfunction, and poor diet and lifestyle choices. Let’s explore some common causes of hormonal imbalance related to hair loss.
Progesterone and Estrogen Levels Out of Balance
During perimenopause, our vital hormones like estrogen and progesterone begin to decline in production. Unfortunately, when progesterone levels get too low, estrogen dominance (a state of having too much estrogen in one’s body relative to progesterone) can occur. This can trigger excessive hair shedding and ultimately, hair loss. Also, low estrogen levels and increased testosterone levels during perimenopause and menopause can result in hair loss.
Estrogen is your friend when it’s appropriately balanced with progesterone. It stabilizes your mood, provides energy, and contributes to a healthy sex drive. However, too much estrogen caused by weight gain, perimenopause or toxicity from exposure to endocrine disruptors (elements in our food, water, and plastic products), can lead to thinning hair. Also, during and after pregnancy, for example, estrogen levels peak and then dip, causing sudden hair loss for many women.
Progesterone is our natural androgen (testosterone and DHEA) receptor blocker. In other words, it protects the hair follicle from testosterone. Progesterone is the reason women’s hair grow so thick during pregnancy. To have adequate progesterone, we must ovulate regularly. Women on birth control pills and women with a condition called PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) do not ovulate, and do not make enough progesterone. (The progestins in the pill are NOT progesterone.) Another cause of progesterone deficiency is stress, which forces the body to convert progesterone into the stress hormone cortisol. Magnesium is essential for progesterone production and calms the stress response. Magnesium is another androgen receptor blocker. This is why women who want to recover their hair should be on magnesium. Bioidentical progesterone replacement is an option if you are low but must be done along with correcting insulin resistance and thyroid deficiencies.
Insulin Impairment, PCOS, Testosterone
Insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels, affects fat storage, heart health, and hair growth. One published study in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Risk found that women with some markers of insulin resistance have a greater risk for androgenic alopecia (AGA), or female pattern baldness.
Insulin resistance is a condition where we become resistant to our excessively produced amount of insulin in response to too much ingestion of processed foods high in refined sugars. It can lead to inflammation, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, facial hair growth and scalp hair loss in women. Other causes of insulin resistance include omega-6 vegetable oil, smoking, vitamin D deficiency, birth control pills, and a problem with intestinal bacteria due to antibiotic use.
Testosterone can cause hair loss. Although estrogen is the primary woman’s hormone, women also produce testosterone and other androgens like DHEA. As the body ages, women may begin to convert these androgens to DHT (dihydrotestosterone), a more potent form of testosterone. DHT is responsible for hair thinning and hair loss. Women with PCOS have high testosterone on blood tests. Some have normal testosterone but still show signs of testosterone insensitivity such as acne and facial hair. The testosterone of PCOS is usually caused by insulin resistance.
Too little or too high levels of thyroid can cause hair loss. When estrogen levels are higher due to low levels of progesterone, estrogen can compete with thyroid hormone at the receptor, creating low thyroid symptoms of fatigue, weight gain, and hair loss.
Cortisol and Stress
Hair loss may be the first indication that your stress level is taking a toll on your body. Stress seems to be a part of all of our lives and it is reaching epidemic proportions. Excessive physical stress, including high intensity exercise, or emotional stress associated with illness, injury, and trauma may cause hair to stop growing and enter a period of dormancy which is followed by hair falling out two or three months later
Cortisol is the stress hormone that gives the body its fight or flight response to stressful situations. High or low cortisol levels can cause hair loss. Increased cortisol levels due to prolonged stress can increase androgen production and raise blood sugar as well as block thyroid receptors. This can lead to hypothyroid causing hair thinning and hair loss.
How to Maintain Your Mane
- Get tested to see what your baseline hormone levels are, including estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and diurnal cortisol. Get a complete blood count, fasting blood glucose, iron levels, and a complete thyroid panel. These assessments can give you a better understanding of what hormonal issues may be at the root of your problem.
- Change your eating habits to eating more wholesome, nutritious, unprocessed foods by incorporating more fiber, more protein, fruits and vegetables, and drinking more water. Cut down on fast foods, processed and refined sugars, sodas, etc.
- Replenish your body with key nutrients that we are often deficient in that can affect hair growth such as vitamins A, E, B, C, D; omega-3 fatty acids; lysine; magnesium; selenium; copper; and zinc.
- Nurture your adrenals to keep cortisol in balance with adaptogenic herbs, meditation, light exercise such as yoga, Pilates, or walking daily. Manage your stress. Be sure to sleep. Deep sleep can help you heal in order to repair cellular damage. This helps with general hormone balance and can protect your precious locks from any further damage.
The Compounding Pharmacy of Beverly Hills is here to help you live healthy and happy. We are happy to discuss compounding options to assist you with hair growth. Contact us today!
Source: Zoom Heaton