By Frank Nuber RPh.
Women’s hair loss is far more upsetting for women than thinning hair is for men. For a woman, her hair can be her crowning glory and losing too much hair can be a serious and frightening blow to her self-esteem. A common complaint I hear from my clients is that their hair is thinning, or they’re losing far too much of it on a daily basis.
Is It Just Vanity?
Being concerned about hair loss may seem vain. Everyone has a bad hair day, right? In actuality, it’s not vanity at all. It may feel like one more thing piling on to the already long list of things that seem to be “going wrong” with your body – poor sleep, lack of concentration, faulty memory and low libido. Then your hair begins to thin, or worse, fall out in clumps. All of these symptoms, including hair changes, are indications that your hormones are out of balance. A number of factors can cause hormone imbalance, and it’s easy to ignore when the signs are mostly invisible. When they begin to affect how you look, as in hair loss, that’s when most women take action.
Your hair is typically one of the first areas, along with skin and nails, to manifest signs of hormonal imbalance, poor nutrition and illness. It’s normal for a woman to experience a small amount of hair loss each day, around 50 to 100 strands is average. Excessive hair loss and hair thinning indicates that something else is at work. A complicated set of factors, including hormonal and metabolic imbalances, emotional stress and nutritional deficiencies can be attributed to the cause of accelerated hair loss.
Unfortunately, many conventional doctors downplay hair loss as an inevitable part of aging for both sexes. Their answer is usually to treat it with topical products such as Rogaine® that enhance existing hair but offer no real solution to the causes of hair loss. So, the symptom is being treated, but the hair loss will continue because the underlying issue is being ignored. This leads many women, especially those in perimenopause, to believe there’s nothing they can do to stop their hair loss. Frequently, these women are
told they’ve developed “alopecia,” a medical issue that has become a catchall term for those experiencing hair loss. In reality, female hair loss has differing degrees of severity, causes and treatment. The good news is I’ve seen many cases resolve over time with an active, holistic and hopeful approach.
I don’t claim to know the ultimate cure for hair loss. But I don’t think a balding woman should resign herself to shopping for hair thickeners and wigs when there are so many other choices she can make to support natural hair growth where it counts – at the root, not just of her hair, but also of her whole health picture. So let’s discuss a few of the reasons why women lose their hair.
A strand of hair is composed of extruded, compacted dead cells. Everything you put into your body eventually comes out in your hair, usually within three to six months. Similar to growth rings in a tree, the strata of cells in a strand of hair paint an unflinching picture of where you’ve been and under what conditions. This is one reason many alternative health practitioners look at the quality and quantity of patients’ hair as a valuable diagnostic tool. But hair itself is only the visible part of the story. Hair grows from living follicles in the skin of the scalp. At the shaft, or root, of the hair all of your major systems are at work, including your circulatory, endocrine and central nervous system. That’s why it hurts when someone pulls your hair!
Hair Loss Demystified
Every hair follicle cycles through four distinct phases on a regular basis: growth or anagen, transition or catagen, resting or telogen and returning growth or mesanagen. A full cycle can last anywhere from two to five years per follicle. Unusual hair loss and thinning occurs when a follicle is stuck in the telogen or resting phase. Bald spots occur when a large group of follicles turns off all in the same area. Most of the time this happens slowly, but in severe cases can happen all at once, causing a clump of hair to fall out. It’s almost as if someone turns off a switch internally. The reasons for this happening are highly individual, but can include any combination of the following:
- Stress (emotional and physical)
- Hormonal imbalance, specifically androgen sensitivity
- Immune system irregularities
- Thyroid disorders
- Nutritional deficiencies (especially iron or vitamin A)
- Cosmetics (allergies and harsh treatments)
- Dental treatment
- Blood loss
In the next issue, I’ll discuss more elements of hair loss in women. If you’re worried about your hair loss and other treatments haven’t helped, give me a call, I can improve your bad hair day.
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