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Last updated on December 19th, 2018
Here you will learn about seven overlooked hair loss causes and practical solutions you can start implementing today.
A few months ago, I panicked. I had been losing more and more hair for some time. When I washed it, the drain got covered with hair. It was scary! I felt I had to do something right away so as not to lose it all.
In that panic mode, I first started looking into serums, masks or treatments I could apply topically. It turned out I would have to do them 2-3 times a day and the results are not guaranteed. Who has the time to do that? And in my opinion, shampoo and conditioners won’t work to cure hair loss – the contact with the scalp is simply too short. If you are interested to learn what happened when people bought a shampoo that claims to reduce hair thinning and boost hair growth, visit here. Please read the comments to the post, too.
Then I changed my perspective and started looking into my hair loss causes. Here is great news! I have stopped my hair loss. What a relief! And I am excited to present you with possible solutions for your hair loss. These are often overlooked hair loss causes. The solutions are practical and easy and beneficial for your overall health.
First, though, a note about my approach. I understand that the scientific method generally requires the observer to try something while controlling for all variables, and measuring the result. Because I panicked, however, I did a lot of research and then tried several things all at once, in the hope that my hair loss would stop. It worked, and I’m grateful for that. I discussed this with my functional medicine physician, Myrto Ashe, M.D., and she assured me that my approach is consistent with functional medicine. In functional medicine, the doctor and patient will try several approaches at once. Since all of them are beneficial to the body anyway, it doesn’t matter in functional medicine which approach works; what is important is that the condition improves. So, in my case, I can’t tell you with certainty what worked for me, but I can tell you that the overall approach worked wonders, and I feel a lot better about my hair! So I thought I would share this with you.
The Most Common Hair Loss Causes
Hair Loss Causes – Thyroid Disorders
Unfortunately, there is a variety of thyroid disorders and according to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), one in eight women will develop a thyroid disorder at some time in her life. Women are more susceptible to thyroid diseases. Hypothyroidism (not enough thyroid hormones) and hyperthyroidism (too much thyroid hormones), especially if they are caused by an autoimmune condition, can cause hair loss (source). Work with your physician to check your thyroid if you are losing too much hair and have other symptoms of thyroid disorders, and make sure you are tested properly.
As you might remember, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s in 2010. In 2014, I started working with Dr. Ashe, a functional medicine practitioner, who helped me reverse the thyroid condition. To the disbelief of conventional doctors, my thyroid has been producing normal amounts of thyroid hormones for 2 years now. I periodically have my thyroid checked to see if it continues working well.
Hair Loss Causes – Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids and is critical for our health. Lower levels of vitamin D are associated with the development of autoimmune diseases, and with the increased severity of an autoimmune condition if you already have one. Chronically low vitamin D can even cause death as a result of cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, there is evidence that higher levels of vitamin D can prevent cancers (source).
Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, bad mood, depression, insomnia, back pain, joint pains, muscle weakness, headache, and hair loss (source).
As you can see, vitamin D is a crucial vitamin to monitor. The best way is to have a lab test done called Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy. That way you can tailor the amount of vitamin D to take for your body.
This is the vitamin D I take that you can purchase on Vitacost.com. Make sure you take with fatty foods or drink for better absorption.
Hair Loss Causes – Iron Deficiency
While kids are tested for iron deficiency routinely, we as adults do not often suspect that we might be iron deficient. Surprisingly, 10% of women suffer from anemia due to iron deficiency.
It is often overlooked as a cause of hair loss. The good news is that when iron deficiency is addressed, people normally re-grow their hair (source).
The levels of iron can be easily measured by taking a ferritin blood test. Ask your doctor for the test, especially if you have other symptoms associated with iron deficiency that include fatigue, cold feet and hands, brittle nails, and restless leg syndrome. While my blood test was within the “normal” range of between 15 and 150, it was on the lower side (only 34). My doctor believes that the optimum range is between 40 and 70.
I made a point of eating more iron-rich foods and use my cast iron pans more often. Cast iron cookware leaches iron into food, especially if you cook acidic foods. (At first, my husband did not want to use cast iron, thinking it was too old-fashioned and would be hard to clean. He quickly reconsidered these thoughts, and we use ours almost every day.) To read more about that, click here. You can see the cast iron pans we use here and here and here.
Hair Loss Causes – Biotin Deficiency
Biotin is a vitamin of the group B and also called B-7. The symptoms of its deficiency are non-specific such as dry skin, dry hair, fatigue, hair loss, dry eyes, depression and conventional doctors do not normally look into biotin deficiency.
I had my biotin level measured as part of the NutrEval test that is instrumental in identifying all vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Among other things, the test identified that I have a high need to supplement biotin.
After a lot of research, I purchased this biotin from Vitacost.com and have been taking it daily. Please advise your doctor before you decide to take biotin.
Hair Loss Causes – Too much Vitamin A
While Vitamin A is a very important vitamin for maintaining good health and the health of your hair, over-supplementation of vitamin A can be one of the to hair loss causes (source). The last time I took NutrEval in 2017, it recommended that I supplement my diet with 3,000 units. I was taking 7,500 units, so I immediately reduced the amount of vitamin A intake.
Hair Loss Causes – Stress
Large amounts of stress might push a significant number of hair follicles into a resting phase. In a matter of a few months, the affected hairs may fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair (source).
This sounded applicable to my situation. In addition to the normal stressors of everyday life, I also participated in the Fasting Mimicking Diet, where for 5 days each month for 3 months, I ate a very limited-calorie vegan diet, consisting of a specific allowed number of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. As you can imagine, that creates stress on the body. In fact, the diet is designed to create stress so that sick and cancerous cells become weakened to a point where the immune system will be able to hunt them down and rid the body of them. As a result, organs shrink during the diet so they can regrow with healthy cells after the completion of each 5-day cycle. (I like the diet, and got good results from it, and my husband even likes the diet. I have witnessed so many benefits of the diet – better glucose regulation (which means that I can be hungry but still be in a good mood), fat loss in the abdominal area, more energy, and better vitality overall, to name a few. If the temporary hair loss I experienced was a result of the Fasting Mimicking Diet, it was a very small price to pay.)
Physical and emotional stress is, unfortunately, a normal part of our daily lives. Do you have good advice on how to manage stress? I tried to do meditation but I could get into it. Have you heard of Ashwagandha? It is an herb that helps the body to deal with stress, requiring less cortisol.
Hair Loss Causes – Hair Coloring
This is not what I was personally concerned with because I am able to use Hairprint Color Restorer with success, which has not been damaging my hair.
While I have a lot of posts on my blog warning people about possible health risks associated with using hair colors, I certainly understand why we can feel a need to use chemical hair colors. What I am trying to do is to help you decrease hair damage, the risk of allergy, and the risk of possible long-term health effects if you choose to use a permanent hair color. And for that purpose, I have created an unprecedented Permanent Hair Color Rating List e-book.
(There are a ton of comments to my Madison Reed Hair Color post where people share that they feel that the hair color caused their hair to fall out. Of course, I do not know what was actually causing their problems and have no opinion on that topic. You can read these comments here.)
That said, let me tell you how a permanent hair color can contribute to a hair loss. There are two ways hair loss can occur as a result of a permanent hair color application.
First, allergens contained in permanent hair color, such as PPD, may cause allergic contact dermatitis of the scalp, which can result in hair loss. In this medical journal, you can read a described case of a 41-year old woman who lost almost 90% of her hair due to the allergy to PPD.
This study found that permanent hair colors that ammonia-free permanent hair colors have higher risks of inducing of dermatitis and subsequent hair loss than the ones that contain ammonia.
Second, hair loss can occur as a result of weakened hair that can break easily. Technically it is hair breakage, not hair loss, but it is hard to tell the difference as a layperson. The way permanent hair colors work is that the cuticles of the hair shaft get opened up with the help of hydrogen peroxide and ammonia or ethanolamine to deposit the hair color inside the hair shaft. This process makes hair lose protein, makes hair porous, and ultimately prone to breakage (source). In fact, hair color brands that use ethanolamine instead of ammonia are found to damage the hair more.
You can learn which hair colors brands use less damaging ingredients in the Permanent Hair Color Rating List as well.
What can you do right away to stop hair loss?
While it takes time to figure out and restore your thyroid, vitamin, and mineral imbalances, fortunately, you can do something right away today.
Leave your hair alone
Minimize combing, brushing, dyeing, perming, straightening, blow-drying, and styling so as to traumatize the hair as little as possible. Stop washing your hair every day. I know your hair won’t look great when it is dirty. You can gradually transition to washing 2 times a week. This is my latest achievement. At first, I started washing every other day and then switched to once in three days. Your hair will adapt.
If you have to blow dry your hair, use cool air – not hot! Air drying is the best.
Wash your hair with lukewarm water
Hot water has a higher pH and, therefore, is prone to open up the cuticles of the hair. Some recommend rinsing with cold water to make your hair shiny. The reason for that is that when your hair cuticles close up, the hair looks smooth and shiny. Why do we need to open them up in the first place? Constantly opening and closing cuticles of the hair creates further damage.
Wash your hair gently
When you wash your hair, do not rub it vigorously, do not flip it back and forth, and do not tangle it. Leave the hair in one place and apply shampoo and conditioner gently. It is probably best to use a shampoo without soap because soap is alkaline. You might have to resort to using a shampoo and conditioner that contains ammonium quaternary compounds (quats). You can read more about their benefits and concerns here. And lastly, do not comb your hair it is wet.
Conclusion about hair loss causes
I recommend looking into the root causes of hair loss. Don’t waste your money on expensive shampoos, conditioners, and serums advertised to reduce hair thinning. In fact, Monat shampoo, which claims to treat hair loss, has really bad reviews on the BBB website. You can read my review of it and the link to the BBD website here.
In the end, I do not know specifically what helped, which is okay because a holistic approach is a multi-faceted one. In real life, we do not have the luxury of conducting a perfect experiment: changing one variable while keeping every other stagnant. Life is not stagnant. So if somebody tells you that they know exactly what you can do to stop your hair from falling out, question their motives.
Good luck! And please let me know what you think and what questions you have. Know that I am available for private consultations over the phone or Skype. People who had consultations with me found them very helpful. You can read their testimonials here and here.
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You can learn simple techniques to choose safer permanent hair color and make informed decisions about your hair coloring, which may save you from an allergic reaction that may result in irritation, hair loss, or anaphylactic shock.
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