Hair loss is devastating, especially for women. Losing hair can happen slowly so we may not even realize what's happening. Or it can happen rapidly and leave us feeling dismayed and scared.
I experienced both types of hair loss. Here's my story and here's how I solved it.
My hair was always fine and a bit thin as a thyroid patient, but my hair would grow. Around age 34, after pregnancy, my hair volume decreased, and my hair became more brittle, dry, and limp.
The fine hair around my face and at my temples started receding, which was alarming, but I assumed the hair loss was temporary.
Around age 36, when I was finally diagnosed with a thyroid condition, I was comforted to learn that thyroid treatment would help my hair loss (as well as my 40-pound weight gain, low energy, fatigue, and other hypothyroid symptoms).
My thyroid treatment was going great for the first couple of years. The stubborn extra weight was finally coming off, my energy got better, and my hair was healthy.
Then all of a sudden, my hair loss took a terrible turn.
In the shower, I noticed huge clumps of hair coming out in my hands and often clogged the shower drain. Now the hair on my entire scalp was thinning rapidly. Within a month, I had lost two-thirds of my hair volume. What little hair I had left split to the roots.
Suddenly my elastic ponytail holders were all too big. Where my ponytail used to be thicker than a marker, suddenly it was no wider than a pencil.
There was no choice but to chop off my hair.
My spirit sank with grief over the loss of my hair. It made me question who I was as a woman. But I also felt vane and guilty that my hair was so important to my identity.
Then I learned that other women feel the same way about their hair, and hair loss for women (and men, too!) is incredibly distressing.
Losing my hair left me feeling powerless, devastated, and embarrassed.
But what had happened to my hair?
Could I do anything to grow my hair? Or was the hair loss permanent?
I began investigating every possible cause of my hair loss, including thyroid medication, lab testing, supplements, adrenal issues, and mineral imbalances.
Working with my doctor, we began systematically looking for answers.
And it worked. I stopped the hair loss and saved my hair.
Here's are 5 causes of hair loss and how I grew my hair long and thick.
- Optimal Thyroid Treatment
- Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
- Mineral deficiencies
- Supplements and medications that cause hair loss
- Hormone imbalance
1. Optimal Thyroid Treatment
Every function in our body requires thyroid hormones, including hair follicles and hair growth. There are two primary forms of thyroid hormones, T4 and T3, but your body needs to convert T4 into T3.
First, we need the right amount of thyroid hormone for our body. Then we need to be able to convert thyroid hormone optimally.
T4 medications provide fuel, but they don't solve thyroid hormone conversion.
That's why some patients feel worse when increasing their T4 thyroid medication. The T4 builds up, and that can lead to more hypothyroid symptoms and hair loss.
My first step in growing my hair was to make sure I was on the right thyroid medication for my body and address my T4 to T3 conversion issues.
2. Stress and Adrenal Fatigue
Adrenal and thyroid function are directly connected and share similar symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, headaches, low libido, anxiety, weight gain, and hair loss.
Testing adrenal function with the 24-hour saliva test was an essential part of solving my hair loss. The test helped my doctor see where my cortisol levels were too low or too high and solve my adrenal fatigue.
When the body is in crisis, it draws resources to the organs to survive. However, that can the body take vital resources from other areas, including hair follicles.
From this experience, I learned to watch for any changes in my hair -- hair loss, dry hair, brittle hair, dry skin, and peeling fingernails as a possible sign of adrenal stress.
Managing my stress is essential for my health and hair growth, especially when healing my adrenals.
That meant resting when I need it—making my health the first priority in my day, not the last.
Instead of hard workouts at the gym, I lowered my exercise goals. After a workout, if I felt worn out, I needed to listen to my body.
When it came to diet, choosing clean foods that minimize stress. I became more mindful of work stress, family stress, and emotional stress.
3. Mineral Deficiencies
Iodine and selenium both play an essential role in thyroid hormone creation and conversion. The thyroid uses iodine to make thyroid hormones (primarily T4 and some T3). At the same time, the liver requires selenium to convert that T4 into T3.
Many of us don't get enough iodine in our daily diet, as the old idea that we get enough iodine from salt isn't accurate.
Vitamin C and magnesium are two necessary minerals for adrenal function. Personally, I do well when I get the optimal amounts of iodine, selenium, magnesium, and Vitamin C.
However, the body is dynamic, and my needs change daily.
4. Drugs with Hair Loss Side Effects
According to WebMD (1), some drugs can cause hair loss, including:
- Acne medications
- Antifungal drugs
- Birth control pills
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Drugs that suppress the immune system
- Breast cancer drugs
- High blood pressure medications (beta-blockers and ACE inhibitors)
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Thyroid medications
- Weight loss drugs
That's right. Thyroid medications may cause hair loss. I've heard from many thyroid patients who started losing their hair, or the hair loss worsened with the thyroid medication.
Many of the medications noted above treat conditions that may be related to thyroid disorders. Trying to solve one health issue may result in other problems like hair loss. If you think about the different medications you're taking, was there a time when the hair loss started or became worse?
5. Sex Hormone Imbalance and DHEA
Hormone balance plays a vital role in hair growth. Some women may experience low levels of estrogen. However, others may have an imbalance in the estrogen to progesterone ratio, called estrogen dominance.
Iodine helps balance estrogen in favor of the "good" estrogen, so this is another reason for addressing mineral deficiencies.
Both high and low testosterone can also cause hair loss.
DHEA can increase the level of both testosterone and estrogen, resulting in hair loss.
During this time, I made the mistake of adding too many medications and supplements including DHEA. While a DHEA supplement may be great for some people, for others it may have a disasterous affect on hair loss.
How I Solved Hair Loss and Grew Longer, Thicker Hair
After tracking medications, symptoms, and history, I discovered the hair loss became worse when I did these three things:
- Increased my thyroid medication dose too high (causing Reverse T3)
- Staying too long on a physiological (low) dose of hydrocortisone for adrenal fatigue
- Starting a DHEA supplement for hormone balance
With this valuable information in hand, I worked with my doctor to methodically solve each issue and grow full, thick hair. As well as feel healthier and solve other thyroid health issues.
If I can grow my hair back at age 45, there's hope for you too!
While it's easy to focus on treatments, supplements, and testing, the essential steps for stopping my hair loss meant learning to be kinder to myself, love myself, allow myself to grieve, and take action even if that meant one small step.
Learn more in my Thyroid Coaching program and get help.
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