Thinning Hair and Hair Loss: The Top 5 Reasons-Medically Speaking

Thinning hair is one of the biggest causes of embarrassment that women have as they start to age.  But wait, before you allow this minor annoyance (yes minor-it’s not life threatening) to make you feel embarrassed, let’s take a look at what could be the root cause of thinning hair or hair loss, and how you can possibly correct it.


The Top 5 Reasons for Thinning Hair or Hair Loss

(1).  Thinning Hair/Hair Loss Due to Menopause:   If you’ve been looking in the mirror lately, and find that you are afraid to look at the huge amount of hair that’s not on your head, your hair loss is probably due to menopause.


How Does Menopause Cause Hair Thinning/Loss?

Because of declining estrogen levels, hair loss is accelerated and more common in women during menopause or peri-menopause.  When your estrogen levels fall, an imbalance between estrogen and testerone occurs, which can cause hair thinning in the androgen sensitive areas of your head. This is also known as male or female pattern baldness. Androgens are important in both men and women because they regulate hair growth; as well as your sex drive-this is probably why menopause is often referred to as “men-on-pause, because everything seems to come to a screeching halt.  So if menopause is the cause of your hair loss-what can you do about it?

The Fix:   See Hair Loss Caused by Dietary Issues


(2).  Hair Loss Due to Autoimmune Disorders:  Perhaps your hair loss could be the result of an autoimmune disorder.  Generally, many of you report that your stylists pointed out the changes in your hair texture and hair loss and advised you to consult with a doctor. You consulted with your doctor only to discover that you had one of the following autoimmune disorders.


a.  If  You Were Diagnosed with Thyroid Disease:  Hair loss can be due to both, an overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) or an underproduction of thyroid hormones (hypothyroidism). However, it is more common in hypothyroidism.  In addition, just like menopause, the hair loss can be rapid.  Large amounts might fall out in the shower or sink, often accompanied by changes in your hair’s texture, making it dry, coarse, or easily tangled.

How Does Thyroid Disease Cause Hair Thinning/Loss

Thyroid hormones affect metabolic growth and without them…well, your cells (including follicle cells) simply stop growing. When the thyroid gland is not functioning properly, the body will start to conserve energy by redirecting thyroid hormones from non-critical areas, i.e. your hair and skin, to more essential areas in effort to repair and regenerate those essential areas. This is the primary explanation as to why hair and skin are among the first to suffer as the thyroid hormonal levels start to drop. Moreover, research shows that hair loss is caused by a decrease in the metabolism of scalp follicles in people with low levels of thyroid hormones. In other words, there is very little metabolic reaction occurring in the scalp follicles so there is very little growth. The good news is that this type of hair loss can be reversed.

b.  If You Were Diagnosed with Diabetes:  Like Menopause and Thyroid Disease, diabetics can experience a large amount of hair loss suddenly.

 How Does Diabetes Cause Hair Thinning/Loss?

When you have diabetes, many skin problems can occur because your blood circulation is not optimal. Therefore, your wounds do not heal quickly and your body cannot fight off infections quickly.  As a result of poor circulation, you are unable to quickly re-grow or replace any hair that was lost during the normal telogen phase or shedding cycle. This results in overall hair thinning and or hair loss. In addition, hair thinning/loss could be a result of hormonal imbalances or scalp infections as well. And like thyroid disease, hair loss from diabetes can be reversed.

 c.  If You Were diagnosed with Lupus:  Finding hair on your pillow might be the first sign that you might have lupus.  In addition, when you have lupus the hair loss can be patchy and even extreme, and can occur all over your head.

 How Does Lupus Cause Hair Thinning/Loss?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease and therefore, the disease itself can cause hair loss because the body actually attacks the hair follicles, which is similar to Alopecia areata. There could also be a rash in the scalp that will also interfere with or damage the hair follicle. In this situation, the individual is left with a permanent area of alopecia. Drugs used to treat lupus, such as prednisone and immunosuppressive therapies may also be the cause of hair loss. Luckily, hair loss from lupus is usually reversible, except in the case of alopecia caused by follicle damage.


The Fix:  See Hair Loss Caused by Dietary Issues for These Autoimmune Disorders


(3).  Hair Loss Caused by Medications:  Some prescription drugs such as blood thinners and medications used to treat gout, arthritis, depression, heart problems, high blood pressure, diabetes, and lupus, etc., can cause hair shedding that might be mistaken for thinning. Medications can cause hair loss because they interrupt the normal cycle of hair growth. You have two phases of hair growth: The telogen phase, where hair rests and eventually falls out; and the anagen phase, which is when hair grows or replaces the hair that was lost during the telogen phase.


How Do Medications Cause Hair Thinning/Loss?

Medications can lead to two types of hair loss: Telogen Effluvium and Anagen Effluvium.  The most common form of medication related hair loss is telogen effluvium, which causes the hair follicles to go into their resting or telogen phase prematurely.  This generally occurs within two to four months after taking the medication. Usually 100 to 150 hairs are shed per day with telogen effluvium.  Conversely, if you have Anagen Effluvim, the hair loss occurs for a different reason.


Anagen effluvium hair loss occurs when the hair is actively growing during the anagen phase of the hair cycle.  The medication stops the metabolic reaction of the matrix cells, i.e. the cells do not divide normally.  The matrix cells are responsible for new hair growth so if they are not multiplying properly, you have fewer cells and therefore, less hair.  Anagen Effluvium hair loss usually occurs within a few days to weeks after taking the medication. Therefore, if you’ve been taking any chemotherapy medications, you will experience a loss of hair to most or all of your head; as well as in areas of your body-including your eyebrows and eyelashes.


The Fix:  Usually, hair loss due to medication can be reversed once you stop taking the medication.


(4).   If You Have Hair Loss Caused by Mechanical Stress:  The effects of styling your hair; as well as the habit of twisting, picking or pulling your hair, can cause hair loss or thinning hair.


The Fix:  Stop over styling the hair and wearing hairstyles that require you to pull your hair back into a ponytail, or wear tight braids. This will reduce mechanical stress to the hair follicles and scalp.


(5).  Hair Loss Due to Dietary Issues:  Nutritional deficiencies can cause your hair to shed.  The core nutrients that you will need to maintain or restore your hair include vitamin A, certain B vitamins, the vitamin biotin, vitamin C, copper, iron, zinc, protein, and water.


In addition to vitamins, there are two primary deficiencies that will wreak havoc on your immune system and ultimately your hair-vitamin D3 and omega 3 essential fatty acids.  By simply adding these two essential nutrients back into your diet, you could be well on your way to great health and great hair.   Both vitamin D3 and omega 3 fatty acids help to regulate your hormones, which is critical to good health.  When your hormones are regulated, your body functions properly and you will have less of a need for medications.  In addition, your cells will regenerate and grow properly, and ultimately, your hair will begin to grow healthy again.


How Does Nutritional Deficiencies Cause Hair Thinning/Loss?

Without proper nutrition, your hair shaft becomes weak, which can result in breakage or slow hair re-growth.  In additional, nutritional deficiencies can cause chronic diseases, such as the autoimmune diseases mentioned above; as well as hormonal imbalances and metabolic disorders. As noted above, these medical conditions can result in hair loss.  However, many of these conditions can be reversed when you replenish the essential vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health.


The Fix Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, yellow, red, and orange fruits and vegetables and a variety of meats to get all of the vitamins you need for optimal health.  In addition, you should consume foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as mercury-free salmon or walnuts two or three times a week; or sprinkle two tablespoons of freshly ground flax seeds per day on cereal or salads.  You can also supplement your diet with fish oil, cod liver oil, borage oil, or evening primrose oil. To get more vitamin D, you can take a vitamin D3 supplement or take a mercury free cod liver oil.