Hair Loss and What to Look For
When experiencing hair loss, people often instinctively focus their attention on what they are putting on their hair instead of what is going on inside their body. As important as it is to invest in the right products, hair loss is typically indicative of other (internal) issues that are at play behind the scenes. As a naturopathic doctor, I like to get to the root cause of hair loss and here are some of the top things I look for:
Let’s start with the basics. Hair is primarily made up of protein so it’s critical that you are getting enough in your diet. If you are not consuming enough protein, your body will steal it from your hair follicles to use it for other essential metabolic needs. Approximately 2-3 months of insufficient protein consumption can lead to hair loss, in addition to other symptoms such as hormonal imbalance, fatigue, and brittle nails. People often overestimate how much protein they are consuming daily. There are a number of free apps out there that can track your macronutrient intake and give you a sense of how much protein you are actually getting through your diet (try @myfitnesspal or @cronometer). My recommendation for minimum daily protein intake is
- Women: 0.8g x kg
- Men: 1.2g x kg
Your thyroid is a small butterfly shaped gland that sits right below your Adam’s apple. This small but mighty gland is responsible for controlling the speed of your body’s metabolic functions. Having an underactive or overactive thyroid can cause digestive concerns, infertility, stubborn weight loss, low mood, dry skin and hair loss/texture changes. Hair loss will typically be all over the head rather than in one area, which is also referred to as “diffuse shedding.” Naturopathic doctors and functional medicine practitioners use your blood work to determine whether your thyroid is functioning optimally.
If you are vegetarian, vegan, have heavy periods or IBD you may want to test your iron levels. You may also be feeling extremely tired or experiencing diffuse shedding.
High cortisol (your stress hormone) can result in poor hair cycling, which involves the “resting phase” of your hair growth increasing in duration while the “growing phase” becomes shorter and shorter. Diffuse shedding can also occur 3-6 months after a stressful period in life including postpartum or post-infection.
High DHT (dihydrotestosterone) levels can lead to male pattern baldness - think balding in your frontal hairline as well as the crown of your head. Elevated androgens can be caused by inflammation, PCOS, high triglycerides, obesity, insulin resistance (excess sugar), and genetic predispositions.
Vitamin Deficiencies (i.e. B12, Vitamin D)
I run blood work for these two nutrients for almost all my patients because I constantly see suboptimal or deficient levels. These vitamins can have a serious impact on: energy, immunity, mood, nerves, and hair growth.
The overarching theme is clear - optimal hair health is a product of not only what you put on your hair, but also what you put in your body. If your hair loss is being caused by one or more of the factors listed above, you do not have to worry - there are many natural treatments that can help including:
- Nutritional counselling;
- Lifestyle modifications; and,
- Botanical and nutraceutical supplementation
Speak to your naturopathic doctor if you are looking for support with your hair and overall health concerns.
Dr. Natasha Nitsopoulos
Dr. Natasha Nitsopoulos, ND is a board-certified Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto, who is passionate about helping her patients to optimize their health by developing individualized treatment plans that are specifically tailored to their needs.
She uses a combination of comprehensive lab testing, physical examinations and in-depth health history in order to investigate the root cause of her patient's health concerns. In order to facilitate healing and restore health she uses evidence-based therapies such as nutritional counselling, lifestyle modifications, botanicals, nutraceutical supplementation, and acupuncture.
Dr. Natasha's practice addresses all types of health concerns, however, she has a special interest in skin issues, digestive complaints, hormonal health, preconception care, and weight management.