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About the author – Villy Tsvetkova is a holistic health and lifestyle coach who helps women achieve optimal health and wellness by reviewing all the physical, mental and spiritual aspects in their life.
Hair loss is a very common complaint amongst women (and men!), but let me tell you, there is nothing normal or pleasant about it. We want think, shiny strands on our head, not on our brush or in the shower! Unlike invisible symptoms, the hair is the crown we wear every day and it can be very distressing to see it thinning and/or not growing, in length or volume.
Why do we get Hair Loss
Hair issues do start primarily within, however they can be made worse and are for sure not helped by using the wrong hair products topically.
Hair thinning (as discussed below) is different to Alopecia, which is an autoimmune condition. According to the current research, autoimmune conditions cannot be cured, but it is believed they can be put in remission and via this route, hair can grow back.
Through my own hair battles over the years, years of studying and also working with female clients, I’ve seen several clear hair thinning patterns emerge.
Disclaimer. The Information shared on this page is for educational purposes only and it should not be treated as a personalised recommendation. Always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before making any dietary or other changes. Never stop medication without your doctor’s approval.
The most common reasons for hair loss in women:
Nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies
Iron, Zinc and the B vitamins (Vit B12, biotin and B5) all affect the health of the hair. Optimal levels of Vit C and Vit D also contribute to healthy hair. All these are massively affected by digestive issues or not enough intake in the first place.
What to do.
If you suspect problems, focusing on improving gut health is a really good place to start. Digestive issues do not always present as symptoms, so optimising your gut health is always beneficial. Most dis-ease dynamics begin there! You can also have your vitamin and mineral levels tested.
Hypothyroidism, which means the Thyroid is underperforming aka being slow, affects the whole body and is a very common reason for hair loss in women.
As well as Hyperthyroidism (overworking Thyroid), though this is not as common as Hyperthyroidism. Guess what? The Thyroid needs good levels of Zinc and Iron to work efficiently amongst other nutrients like selenium.
Symptoms of underactive Thyroid include;
- cold intolerance
- brain fog
- weight gain (and difficulty losing it),
- dry skin and hair -hair loss.
What to do.
Testing your Thyroid levels is a very good idea. The standard initial tests offered are TSH and in some cases T4. These unfortunately do not show the full picture. What you need (+ a health professional who understands functional levels vs conventional/allopathic levels) – TSH, T4, T3, Free T4, Free T3, antibodies + ideally reverse T3 too. I educate clients about this silent epidemic all the time + how to go about getting better care.
Insulin resistance is present when cells don’t respond well to insulin. Insulin *escorts* sugar out of the blood and into the cells. Rampant in the western world because we eat a diet high in refined carbs that makes the body release a lot of insulin to manage the high level of blood sugar from said diet. In women, high levels of insulin trigger the ovaries to produce high levels of testosterone in relation to the female hormones progesterone and estrogen. Excess testosterone can cause women to lose hair from the top of the head (+ have hair growth on the body, face, as well as symptoms like irritability, frustration etc.). This is common for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) dynamics (see hormonal imbalance below.)
What to do
Focus to transitioning to a wholefoods diet and moving away from highly processed, refined foods (pretty much anything packaged). This of course includes all refined sugar, but also bread (even wholemeal), pasta and the likes. Need more info on what foods to avoid? Grab my FREE Kitchen Makeover guide.
If you’re going for tests, ask your doctor to test for fasting insulin, fasting glucose and HbA1c. You need all three of them for proper assessment and this is not readily offered, but the tests are available.
- Estrogen vs progesterone ratio – during peri menopause years these hormones can get imbalanced with testosterone levels. While estrogen and progesterone production naturally falls off during those years, we continue to make testosterone. The levels of free (active) testosterone also tend to rise with age, again contributing to an imbalance.
- Whole licorice root is effective at reducing testosterone. It also is an adaptogenic herb – usually geared toward boosting cortisol (by slowing its breakdown in the body). Hypertension (high blood pressure) is a contraindication for its use. Whole licorice is also an effective phytoestrogen which can be helpful for stabilizing estrogen levels in late perimenopause and menopause as well.
- DHT. This is a derivative of testosterone and several times stronger. It is believed that it is not so much the level of testosterone that matters for hair loss, but more so the level of DHT (we could have normal or even low testosterone and still struggle with DHT).
DHT is found in skin, hair follicles, and the prostate (so, in men and women). There is more to it, but put simply, the actions of DHT and the sensitivity of hair follicles to DHT is what causes hair loss. “DHT shrinks hair follicles, making it impossible for healthy hair to survive.”
What promotes DHT – high stress, inflammation (muscle, joint pain, intestinal), blood sugar dysregulation incl. diabetes, genetics.
The testosterone to DHT conversion can helped (best test – see below) through food & lifestyle as well as topically (see the end of the post).
Zinc again comes into play here as it helps to stop the over conversion of testosterone to DHT.
What to do about Hair Loss
This is a HUGE topic. Aside from testing, here are the areas that matter most:
- Improve your diet as mentioned above + work on gut issues (with a practitioner) & optimise nutrients, especially Zinc, Iron, Selenium. Silica and collagen also help.
- Work on your stress levels.
- Get as much quality sleep as possible.
- Move your body in a healthy/appropriate for you way – too much is just as bad as too little. Vigorous exercise can be very counterproductive if you struggle with exhaustion and general lack of energy.
- Minimise toxic exposure – from food and environmental toxins (water, make up, air, cosmetics, plastic around food etc.)
- Focus on bringing more joy into your life!
- Testing. When it comes to hormones, testing and not guessing is the way to go due to the fact that similar symptoms can represent different dynamics. The most accurate way to check the levels of the mentioned hormones is through a dry urine test, called DUTCH. It’s a comprehensive test and alongside sex hormones and how the body uses & detoxes them, it gives a pretty good idea about the adrenal hormones (stress or low energy, anyone?) as well several other very helpful markers, like melatonin (sleep) and inflammation levels in the body. Allopathic medicine doesn’t offer it. Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Hair Loss caused by Stress.
We could write a whole novel here! Hair loss tends to show up usually 2-3 months after a stressful event.
2 types of stress – physiological (illness, gut issues, ongoing inflammation, too much exercise, food intolerances etc.) & psychological (work, family, workload etc.)
What to do.
Identify all possible sources (be very honest here, looking at a full inbox first thing in the morning may be the norm for a lot of us, but it can be a huge source of stress!) and create ways to *view* things differently + *clear* stress from your body on an ongoing basis. The above suggestions for hormones and gut health will all help massively (it’s all interconnected!). We are all different, you need to find what works for you. These are universally helpful:
Journalling (first thing in the morning or last thing before bed);
Keeping a gratitude list (list 3 things you’re grateful for in the morning and before bed – it’s simple, but the positive effect is massive with time); carve at least 15 minutes a day of quiet/me time; meditation (all forms); deep belly breathing (check this post); practice creating healthy boundaries (massively important, but to takes time so be gentle with yourself); identify sources of joy and incorporate them more often into your life; move your body safely for you (yoga, stretching, HIIT, pilates etc.)….Perhaps you need to work on forgiveness, letting go of old grudges, or taking more ownership of your life. A quote by Byron Katie I find super helpful “Life is simple. Everything happens for you, not to you.”
The Upside of Stress is a fantastic book that teaches how we can all reframe what we perceive as stress. I recommend it to every single client. Who doesn’t have stress these days? And hearing that we need to *manage* it, as if we don’t already have enough things to do, often times creates more of it!
- Walks in nature cannot be beat for changing our mood instantaneously. If you can’t always get into nature, just walk outside listening to your favourite tunes.
- Baths with sea salt, magnesium and essential oils are super relaxing.
- Massages of all kinds are not just something *nice* to have, but actively promote toxin release so go treat yourself!
- More ME time. Simple things like pottering about or taking ourselves on a date to some place new could create wonders for our happiness.
- Infrared saunas can be great to reduce stress
Hair Loss After pregnancy
It’s almost a given as hormones start rebalancing after birth + babies take a lot of the nutrients the mother consumes during pregnancy. Focus on nourishing the body with highly nutritious food and identify deficiencies/insufficiencies if needed.
Little infections/irritations (fungal) in the scalp (loss in hair follicles) especially bald patches. Have these checked by a doctor.
Genetics. Our genetic make up plays a role, for sure. We are all different. The effect of the genes on our health is usually a lot more minimal than the effect of our lifestyle. And as we’ve learnt in the last decade or so through the science of epigenetics, genes can be turned on and off, through lifestyle. Not everything can be fully avoided, but not everything is lost either! For example, you mum and grandma both suffered from hair loss and now you have it too. As we’ve seen, so many factors play a role. But even if we just take the Thyroid, it’s very possible they both had thyroid dysregulations that went unnoticed and contributed to hair loss. Or perhaps both were prone to insufficiencies for certain nutrients and didn’t know about it.
The Pill. Hormonal contraception can cause hair loss in women more genetically predisposed to hair loss, or more sensitive to androgens (male hormones, naturally present in women too) in the follicles.
All medications. Medications can affect the state of our hair as we all have different reactions to them. They can alter the state of our gut balance and hence affect the absorption of nutrients (i.e. antibiotics are a prime example, but so do over the counter medication like aspirin).
Low carb diets in women. Low carb is all relative as we all have different body needs for carbohydrates. A beneficial short term low carb consumption can become problematic for some in the longer run. The super popular at the moment Keto diet certainly doesn’t suit everyone. Hair loss can happen for a number of reasons with the change of eating habits – not enough calories, not enough nutrients (deficiencies or insufficiencies) affecting gut, liver, thyroid health and adrenal health. More on low carb here.
Not eating enough food. This one is simple. Not enough food means not enough of the nutrients our bodies need to thrive!
Toxic hair products. Conventional shampoos, conditioners, sprays and whatnot, including hair dyes can have a detrimental effect on the look and state of the hair.
Topical Help for Hair Loss
Hair products matter a great deal! It’s estimated that around 60% of what we put on our skin gets absorbed into the blood. Obviously the skin has protective barriers, however, toxins entering the body via the skin can be more of a concern as they don’t go through the intestinal and liver checks first, and instead end up in the bloodstream directly! Make no mistake, our hormones are directly affected by chemicals.
Ideally, use products with less toxic ingredients in them.
- You’re not flooding your body with unnecessary toxins
- You’re not coating your hair in plastic. Yes, this is what the silicones, found in many hair products, are. They give an initial illusion of shine and better hair as they literally ceal the hair strands, but with time, hair cannot breathe and becomes dry, porous and generally difficult to manage. It’s hard to *improve* plastic as it prevents the nutrients from products to get to the hair!
- This video is a fab explanation of that exactly happens.
I have some amazing news for those of you wanting to help your hair from the outside too.
I came across a very innovative and forward thinking anti-ageing hair care company last year and the products are nothing short of amazing.
A bit about my hair pain. I have been all over the hair market (from cheap to salon grade products) as my hair is very thin, wavy, frizzy and generally hard to manage. Last year I gave up on wasting money as nothing was working (especially the natural stuff) and switched to a cheap organic shampoo and conditioner.
Well, my hair was the worst it’s ever been, due to a combo of low lights causing extreme dryness, and a scalp that had decided all of a sudden to turn oily. My blond lowlights looked brassy! I saw a friend of mine, who is also a functional medicine health coach, talk about the line and sport shiny, conditioned hair and I was sold!
Plus, unlike beauty and general health, I had no solid recommendations for clients wanting better hair products so I literally jumped at the opportunity to test the line when it launched in the UK last May.
What do the products do:
- They detox the scalp and create the best environment for hair growth by unclogging the hair follicles and removing all product and hard water build up. Did you know that the scalp is the fastest aging part of the skin? It ages 6 x faster than the skin on the face and 12 x faster than the rest of the skin on the body. Unless the scalps is healthy, we can literally kiss healthy hair a sweet goodbye! Why does no one talks about this??
- They are super concentrated and contain only 40% water vs the standard 80% (yes, even high end brands). Goodbye washing money down the drain.
- They are completely free of all toxins.
- After the first 3 months of detox and rebalancing (sometimes much quicker), the hair starts to show more visible signs of improvement – in hair growth and texture.
- They help the hair grow quicker and grow thicker, reduce drying/styling time and my favourite – increase the days between washes because, healthy scalp!
- Vegan and leaping bunny approved.
- Third party clinically tested by several independent labs for efficacy.
- Recommended by the American Hair Loss Association
- Plus, more…..
- A unique blend of oils that penetrate all layers of the hair shaft (unlike coconut or argan oil) and mimic our natural body oils
- Procataline – protects against oxidative stress (what ages us)
- Crodasorb – protects against UV damage
- Capixyl – thickens and strengthens the hair, and treats the presence of DHT topically. It works very well on lashes too and it’s one of the ingredients in the company’s very popular lash serum (works on natural and added lashes). “Capixyl” is an innovative and unique active complex designed to prevent and stop the hair loss process, stimulate hair growth and reduces inflammation in the scalp.”
Check out which products are most suitable for your hair to begin with with this short hair quiz.
If you would like to work with Villy or are interested in her hair care range or courses you can find out more here.
Have you seen this post on Swell hair Care yet?