top of page

"Why is My Hair Falling Out?" Exploring the Causes and Treatment Options for Hair Loss



Woman looking at hair in hairbrush

It's no joke that hair loss can take seriously impact one's self-esteem and overall sense of confidence. The journey towards healthier, fuller hair is often multifaceted, involving a combination of medical, nutritional, and lifestyle interventions. In this blog, we will explore a functional medicine approach to various aspects of hair loss. We will discuss targeted nutrients for optimal hair growth, hormonal influences, pharmaceutical options, and cutting-edge treatments like PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) hair restoration. Additionally, we'll delve into the impact of lifestyle habits, such as stress management, adequate sleep, and an anti-inflammatory diet, on maintaining a vibrant head of hair.


Understanding Hair Loss:

Hair loss can manifest in different forms, each with its own set of causes and characteristics. Common types include:


1. Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA):

Also known as male-pattern baldness or female-pattern baldness, AGA is the most common form of hair loss. It is a hereditary condition that leads to a gradual reduction in hair volume and thickness.

Characteristics:

  • In men, it often starts with a receding hairline and thinning at the crown.

  • In women, it typically causes diffuse thinning across the scalp.

Causes: Genetic predisposition, coupled with the influence of hormones, particularly dihydrotestosterone (DHT), plays a significant role in AGA.


2. Telogen Effluvium:

Telogen effluvium is characterized by a sudden increase in hair shedding due to a higher proportion of hair follicles entering the resting (telogen) phase prematurely.

Characteristics:

  • Generally, there is a noticeable increase in hair fall during brushing or washing.

  • Hair loss is diffuse and not limited to specific areas.

Causes:

  • Severe stress, illness, surgery, or hormonal changes can trigger telogen effluvium.

  • The body shifts more hair follicles into the telogen phase, leading to increased shedding.


3. Alopecia Areata:

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, resulting in patchy hair loss.

Characteristics:

  • Typically presents as smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp or other areas of the body.

  • Hair loss can be sudden and may progress to total baldness (alopecia totalis) or loss of all body hair (alopecia universalis).

Causes: Autoimmune conditions often contribute to alopecia areata, with genetic factors playing a role.


4. Cicatricial Alopecia:

Cicatricial alopecia, also known as scarring alopecia, involves the destruction of hair follicles and their replacement with scar tissue.

Characteristics:

  • Scarring on the scalp accompanies hair loss.

  • Hair follicles are permanently destroyed, hindering regrowth.

Causes: Inflammatory conditions, infections, or physical trauma can lead to cicatricial alopecia. Once scarring occurs, it is often irreversible.


Hormonal Causes of Hair Loss:

Hormones can play a pivotal role in hair growth and hair loss. 

Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a very bioactive form of testosterone, is largely responsible for hair loss associated with Androgenic Alopecia (AGA). While it might be easy to call DHT the bad guy in this situation, it is also responsible for many of the physiological benefits of testosterone including sexual function. 


Thyroid imbalances can also contribute to hair loss. Thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) play are involved in the transition between growth (anagen) and shedding (telogen) phases of the hair cycle. Suboptimal thyroid hormones can cause follicles to prematurely enter the shedding phase and have difficulty re-entering the growing phase. Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune hypothyroid condition, can cause significant hair thinning of both the scalp and eyebrows along with brittle hair and nails. Optimizing thyroid hormones can significantly improve hair quality over time. 


Nutrition for Healthy Hair Growth:

Ensuring a well-balanced diet rich in specific nutrients is crucial for promoting hair health.


nutrient dense foods

  • Protein: Found in lean meats, fish, eggs, and plant-based sources like legumes.

  • Iron: Essential for oxygen transport to hair follicles, found in spinach, lentils, and red meat.

  • Vitamins A: Promote the production of sebum, an oily substance that conditions the scalp that helps to nourish and protect the scalp and hair. Carrots, sweet potatoes, and citrus fruits are excellent sources.

  • Vitamin C: Supports your internal collagen production for hair growth. 

  • Biotin (B7): Deficiency of biotin can lead to hair loss. Correcting biotin deficiency may also help improve hair growth. 

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Nourish hair follicles, provide anti-inflammatory benefit and can be obtained from fatty fish, chia seeds, and flaxseeds. 


Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Hair:

Beyond medical interventions, healthy lifestyle habits can have significant impact when it comes to hair growth and maintenance. These are also important to keep in mind if you are moving forward with PRP or stem cell treatments for optimal outcomes.

  • Stress Management: Chronic stress can contribute to hair loss. Incorporate stress-reducing practices like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises into your routine.

  • Adequate Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support overall health, including hair growth. 

  • Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Embrace a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Antioxidants in these foods combat inflammation, promoting a healthy scalp.


Pharmaceutical Options:

There are several pharmaceutical options available for hair loss. Here is a brief summary of the most common medications used. 

Minoxidil:

  • Oral Minoxidil: Originally developed as an anti-hypertensive medication but has been used for many years to treat hair loss. 

  • Topical Minoxidil: Applied directly to the scalp, it enhances blood flow and prolongs the anagen phase.

Finasteride:

  • Inhibits 5-alpha reductase, reducing the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Administered orally in tablet form, typically taken once daily. Effectively slows hair loss and promotes regrowth, particularly in androgenetic alopecia in men.

  • Potential side effects include sexual dysfunction. There is also a risk of developing post-finasteride syndrome which includes severe and prolonged sexual and urogenital side effects. It is VERY important to discuss risks and benefits with a knowledgeable healthcare provider before starting this. 

Dutasteride:

  • More potent than finasteride, it inhibits both Type I and Type II forms of 5-alpha reductase. Administered orally in tablet form, typically taken once daily. Shows promise in cases where finasteride may be less effective, but its use for hair loss is considered off-label. Consultation with a healthcare professional is also essential with this medication to assess suitability and monitor potential side effects.


There are genetic influences that determine how responsive someone will be to certain medications. It can often be useful to test for these genetic markers before beginning a pharmaceutical for hair loss. 


PRP Hair Restoration Treatment

Platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a non-surgical option for restoring hair growth for those dealing with premature hair loss such as androgenic alopecia or alopecia areata. PRP is an advanced form of non-surgical, regenerative injection therapy, using the growth factors and proteins found in the platelets of blood drawn directly from the patient. PRP regulates inflammation, promotes blood supply to the scalp, and induces new cellular growth at the level of the hair follicle to restore hair growth, thickness and quality. 




Woman touching hair


What Next?

The journey to healthy, vibrant hair involves a holistic approach encompassing nutrition, hormonal balance and sometimes higher level interventions. A comprehensive Functional Medicine workup can determine the underlying cause of hair loss and get you on track to regaining a healthy head of hair.





19 views0 comments

Comments

Couldn’t Load Comments
It looks like there was a technical problem. Try reconnecting or refreshing the page.
bottom of page