Originally published November 27 2008
Thinning Hair in Women: Warning Sign of Underlying Health Issues
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) Hair is probably a woman's most important feature. Signs of thinning hair can take the sail out of almost any woman's day. It may seem vain to pay so much attention to hair, but signs of thinning hair are really the first signals of such conditions as hormonal imbalance, vitamin deficiency, excessive stress or poor nutrition, all symptoms of declining health status. Paying attention to hair can reveal developing conditions before they get out of control. When you have restored your hair to a full head of vibrant healthy strands, chances are the rest of your body will also exhibit vibrant health.
Nutritional deficiencies may be signaled by thinning hair
Your hair loss may be caused by vitamin D deficiency. Studies show that a large segment of the American population is deficient in this essential nutrient, with hair loss being one of the primary symptoms of this deficiency.
The vitamin D receptor (VDR) is expressed in numerous cells and tissues of the body, including the skin. Studies of mice and humans lacking these functional receptors have demonstrated that absence of the VDR leads to the development of alopecia, a fancy word for hair loss. Hair loss may be an early warning that you are at risk of other maladies linked to a deficiency of vitamin D. The list includes diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, multiple sclerosis, gum disease, seasonal influenza and tuberculosis.
Lack of exposure to the sun almost guarantees vitamin D deficiency. Researchers have mapped the U.S. and found that the farther north a person lives, the more likely she is to have vitamin D deficiency. If access to the sun is not an option, supplementing vitamin D with cod liver oil, or capsules of D3 will help. It is now suggested that women receive a minimum of 2,000 units of vitamin D per day. Many cutting edge practioners advocate 10,000 units per day, the amount obtained from a day wearing a bathing suit in the summer sun.
Omega 3 fatty acids affect the biological process of vitamin D. They are responsible for producing cholesterol and at the same time for removing its excess, as well as for most other bodily functions. In order to manufacture vitamin D, the body needs cholesterol. If the diet does not contain enough essential fatty acids, the body can't produce its own vitamin D. In addition to containing usable vitamin D, cod liver oil also provides omega 3 fatty acids.
Hair loss may also be the result of deficiencies of the amino acid lysine, copper, and zinc. However, if your diet is comprised of a wide selection of whole foods including daily servings of fresh vegetables and fruits, this may not be the cause of your hair loss, especially if you are getting enough protein. Hair stands are composed of protein, but if the diet is short on it, the wisdom of the body will divert its use from making hair to sustaining more necessary bodily functions. Taking a whole food supplement such as bee pollen, spirulina or chlorella will help with getting and assimilating needed amounts of the full spectrum of nutrients.
Thinning hair may reflect hormonal imbalance
A woman's hormones can begin to decline and lose balance as early as the 30's. One of the most shocking examples of this imbalance is hair growth appearing on the upper lip or chin, or a coarsening of hair on the rest of the body while the hair on the head thins. This is most likely the result of excessive dihydrotestosterone (DHT) conversion. Although estrogen is the primary hormone of women, they also produce testosterone and other androgens such as DHEA. As the body ages women may begin to convert these androgens to DHT just as men do. Women with a history of polycystic ovarian syndrome tend to have higher levels of testosterone and DHT than other women, and may be more susceptible to this excessive conversion.
To find out if hormonal imbalance is causing hair loss, full range hormone testing can be done. Physicians who administer bio-identical hormones can provide this testing, as well as physicians who specialize in anti-aging medicine. If this is not an option, there are reliable laboratories available online that receive specimens of saliva by mail and provide complete hormone testing results.
Supplements of saw palmetto prevent the excessive conversion of androgens to DHT. It is an herb that comes from the flowers of a beautiful palm tree known as saw palmetto or sabal palm. A dosage of one 160 mg. capsule daily should effectively block this conversion and get the hair back on head and off the face. Saw palmetto has been demonstrated to be safe for prolonged use. If hormone testing is not an option, another way to find out if excessive DHT conversion is causing hair loss is to take a saw palmetto supplement for a period of three months. If hair loss stops where you don't want it and starts where you do want it, your question will be answered.
Excessive levels of hormonal conversion to DHT are highly associated with prostate abnormalities in men and may be a cause of prostate cancer. Saw palmetto has been documented to increase prostate health. The health effects of this conversion in women are not yet fully documented, yet common sense suggests that reducing excessive levels of DHT in women may be helpful in assuring breast and ovarian health.
Declining levels of thyroid hormone can also spark hair loss. It's estimated that forty percent of American women are suffering from significant hair loss related to low thyroid hormones, with redheads particularly at risk. The hormones produced by the thyroid are responsible for metabolism, the sum of all the physical and chemical processes. The thyroid hormones control the efficiency and speed at which cells work. Every cell in the body including the hair depends on proper thyroid function for development. If thyroid production is insufficient, hair growth will slow and hair will eventually thin.
Other symptoms of declining thyroid function are dry skin, sensitivity to hot and cold, unexplained weight gain, missing outer third of eyebrows, constipation, brittle nails, high or low blood pressure, susceptibility to infections, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, joint or muscle pain, cystic breasts or ovaries, chronic sinusitis, slow heart rate, TMJ syndrome, dental problems, headache, and increased cholesterol levels. This list reveals how critical proper thyroid function is to well being.
The good new is that low thyroid can easily be corrected by supplementing the body with bio-identical thyroid hormones. Armour thyroid is the natural form of thyroid hormone. For more information about the thyroid and hair see http://www.naturalnews.com/024388.html
Too much stress can cause hair to thin
Hair loss may be the first indication that your stress level is taking a toll on your body. Stress is nothing less than epidemic today, and this high level can actually cause hair loss along with many more serious health problems. Excessive physical or emotional stress associated with illness, injury, and trauma may cause the hair to stop growing and enter a period of dormancy which is followed two or three months later by the hair falling out. When physical or emotional equilibrium is regained, hair will again begin to grow, usually about 6 to 9 months later.
A more serious situation develops when stress is constant and almost unrelenting as it is for many people in this society. Hair thinning will continue unless effective means of dealing with the stress are put in place and calmness can be restored. Prolonged hair loss caused by chronic stress is a warning that other bodily systems are in jeopardy.
Cortisol is the stress hormone that gives the body its fight or flight response to stressful situations. It is an important hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and involved in maintaining proper glucose metabolism, regulation of blood pressure, insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, immune function, and inflammatory response. When stress is constant and prolonged, cortisol levels stay elevated and the body enters a state of chronic stress.
Higher and prolonged levels of corisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density, decreased muscle tissue, higher blood pressure, lowered immunity, heightened inflammatory response, and increased abdominal fat. If no steps are taken to reduce the stress level, heart attack or stroke may follow.
To keep corisol levels healthy, the body's relaxation response should be activated. Learn to relax the body with various stress management techniques and make changes in your lifestyle to minimize the stress. Eat a diet of whole food that emphasizes vegetables and fruits. Take supplements like bee pollen, spirulina and chlorella to make sure nutrition is complete. Add alfalfa to keep your body fully mineralized, as stress raises the need for minerals. The B complex vitamins as well as vitamin C are needed to support the adrenal gland while dealing with chronic stress.
Hair products containing toxic chemicals promote hair loss
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is the dominant ingredient in almost all shampoos sold in traditional outlets such as supermarkets, drugstores and discount centers. In addition to having toxic effects on your immune system, SLS has been shown to corrode hair follicles and impede hair growth. It has been blamed for many cases of hair loss. The Material Safety Data Sheet provided by the U.S. government says exposure to SLS can lead to burning, coughing, wheezing, laryngitis, shortness of breath, headache, nausea and vomiting. The American College of Toxicology says SLS stays in the body for up to five days and maintains residual levels in the heart, liver, brain, and lungs.
Over-treated hair is another cause of hair loss in women. Hair dyes, permanents, and relaxers do serious damage to the hair and scalp whether they contain lye or not. They are made with toxic chemicals that must be detoxified by the liver, and are identified by the immune system as foreign invaders. Thus health of the liver and the immune system are compromised by use of these products. When the liver is busy trying to detoxify an onslaught of foreign chemicals, estrogen metabolism may not be properly completed and breast cancer may be promoted. An immune system busy fighting off an invasion of foreign chemicals may not be able to prevent infection or identify and destroy abberant cells. Damage from dyes and relaxers can only heal when those potions are no longer used on the hair.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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