Natural Solutions to 6 Common Reasons for Hair Loss
By Elizabeth Leppart, MS, LN
January 26, 2021
Are you one of the many seeing clumps of hair on your brush or maybe clogging up the shower drain more than usual? This can be a scary symptom that leaves you wondering how and when it will stop. Hair loss and thinning hair is often an indicator of something bigger going on, and to address it you need to get the root cause (pun intended). Before you invest in expensive shampoos, serums or medications, read on for some common causes of hair loss and hair thinning, along with natural solutions you can employ today to put a stop to this distressing symptom. (I also want to add that hair loss is also a post side effect of COVID-19 which is not something we will be addressing in this post.)
Back to those roots, what’s going on with your hair most likely isn’t a result of fancy cosmetics, but instead due to a lack of key nutrients from food and supplements, along with stressed mental health. When our dietary, and emotional, needs are not being met, our hair can be one of the first noticeable things to suffer. Let me explain why.
6 Common Reasons for Hair Loss
Lack of ProteinIt’s all too common to fall short on protein consumption, women especially. A misguided food-restricting diet culture sometimes means meat is the first thing to go. However, protein’s building blocks are the foundation for the growth of all our tissues, including hair. Think about it this way: Every cell in our body needs protein. Even a simple strand of hair is made up of protein fibers. If your body is provided with less-than-optimal protein levels, it must choose where to use its resources. Even if you’d prefer hair be first in line for these nutrients, given the option of supporting vital organs and muscles or supporting hair, you can see what will take priority. Just a note here, animal protein is especially important for healthy hair compared to plant-based options and here’s why. Keratin, the key protein for hair, requires all 9 amino acids. These complete 9 amino acids are found in all animal proteins, while most plants only carry some of them. Animal proteins also support your hormone health, which in turn supports hair health in a roundabout way. A common example of this is hair loss due to an underactive thyroid hormone; individual amino acids found in highest concentration in animal protein help activate your thyroid hormones. Beyond this, animal protein also contains key minerals needed for hair growth, such as zinc, iron, and B vitamins. We recommend at least 3-4oz three times a day with meals with the end goal being12-14 oz per day for women and 16-20 oz per day for men.
Excess SugarBeyond the thyroid, other hormonal imbalances are a common cause of poor hair growth. Too much insulin (our master fuel-supply hormone) over time can lead to male-pattern baldness, even in females. What leads us to produce too much insulin? You guessed it … sugar! And we don’t mean just the obvious candies and cookies – all carbohydrates break down into sugar in the body. Therefore we suggest focusing on nutrient-dense carbohydrates like fruit and vegetables and skip the high carb, nutrient-poor processed carbs. So next time you’re tempted by those ever-present sweet treats, you may want to pass. Remember, you’re doing it for your hair!
Lack of Healthy FatsEssential fatty acids are also essential for hair growth. These nutrients are called “essential” because we can’t make them within our bodies, therefore we must consume them from food or supplements. Some good food sources are cold-water fatty fish, grass-fed beef, nuts, and seeds. The trouble is, most of us just don’t get enough of these essential nutrients from diet alone. Therefore we commonly recommend supplementing with 4-6,000mg of both Omega-3 fish oil and Omega-6 GLA. Along with diet, these two supplements are our go-to’s for providing essential nutrients to support tissue growth from the inside out, including hair growth. Many of our clients can attest!
Gluten SensitivityA common misconception we often hear as nutritionists and dieticians is that gluten intolerance only shows up as digestive discomfort. Did you ever think it could impact your hair growth? Spoiler alert, it can and does. Gluten is a common culprit of damage to our intestinal health, often referred to as “leaky gut,” leading to malabsorption of key nutrients, many of which are necessary for proper hair growth. To make matters worse, a leaky-gut due to gluten commonly impairs thyroid function, the importance of which was mentioned above! Even if you eat a strict gluten free diet, you may be exposed to gluten through cosmetics (scary but true) so be sure to check that your hair and skin products are certified gluten free to be safe. A personal example, one of our nutrition educators works at a school and in her annual school yearbook photo she noticed how a change in her diet was reflected in her hair. After meeting with one of our nutritionists she removed gluten from her diet and started eating the Nutritional Weight & Wellness Way (real food!). She has stuck with it, healed her digestion, took therapeutic amounts of Omega-6 GLA (like mentioned in #3 above), and now, year after year her school photo has shown a thicker and fullerhead of hair!
Hormonal ImbalanceIf you’re experiencing hair loss in conjunction with symptoms like irregular menses, PMS symptoms, unexplained weight gain, have recently started hormonal birth control, or are entering menopause, it could mean your hormones are out of balance. Some of these hormonal shifts are inevitable as we go through life, but it doesn’t mean we have to suffer through them with unwanted side effects! Eating real food in balance throughout the day as mentioned above, along with adequate sleep and movement, are the basics to help keep our hormones in check. For more help with this I’d highly encourage you to meet via Zoom or phone with myself, or any of our nutritionists and dietitians as we have helped hundreds of women balance their hormones throughout the years.
Excess StressWhen we are under stress our fight or flight response kicks in, and cortisol (our “stress hormone”) gets put into overdrive. This signals our hair follicles to pump the breaks on hair growth so we can focus on more important functions necessary for survival. Now you probably won’t notice any significant hair loss from life’s occasional stressors, but if you’re undergoing chronic stress day after day, this is one of the ways it might catch up to you. We know stress relief is often easier said than done and much of life’s stressors are out of our control. But one way to support our bodies in times of stress is to provide ourselves with proper nourishment. Eating real food throughout the day and skipping out on processed food will take some of the load off cortisol, reducing our internal stress.
For even more information on How Food Can Help Hair Loss and Thinning, listen to this Dishing Up Nutrition episode on that exact topic (or read the transcript!). That said, if you’re overwhelmed by the constant hair loss and with the list of suggestions here, I can definitely understand. If that’s the case, I highly encourage you to schedule a Zoom meeting or phone call with one of our nutritionists and dietitians who can help review your personal health history and get you, and your hair, back on track to feeling well.
Learn more preventing hair loss and thinning check out these resources: