Hair loss of fewer than 100 hairs a day may be normal. All women experience some hair thinning as they age, especially after menopause. Hormones and heredity play a part, as do poor circulation and illnesses such as diabetes, hypothyroidism and lupus. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies and the use of bleach or commercial hair dyes can contribute to hair thinning in later life. The good news is that, regardless of the cause of hair loss, nutritional support can help.
Causes and Nutritional Treatments
Hair loss is known in medical terms as alopecia. If hair falls out in patches it is called alopecia areata, which is usually a temporary condition that seldom results in total baldness.
Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA), also known as male pattern baldness, slows down or shuts off hair production under the influence of androgens, which are male sex hormones. Post-menopausal women sometimes have this type of hair loss, although it is usually not as extensive as in men.
Eating plenty of soy foods, such as tofu, tempeh, soybeans and soy milk, can help with hair loss. Soy foods appear to inhibit the formation of dihydrotestosterone, a hormone responsible for hair loss.
Saw palmetto and Pygeum, herbs traditionally used to treat prostate enlargement in men, also inhibit dihydrotestosterone production. More women are now taking these herbs in their post-menopausal years to reduce hair loss.
The immune system fights scalp inflammation that shuts down hair follicles and kills hair. Sluggish endocrine glands such as the pituitary and ovaries result in hormone imbalances implicated in AGA. Raw Thymus Glandular is a supplement that stimulates the immune system and improves the functioning capacity of endocrine glands. An effective dose is 500 mg daily.
Also helpful to fight AGA, wild yam or soy-based progesterone cream can be ordered from a compounding pharmacy with a doctor's prescription. Made-to-order creams based on individual laboratory results are superior to over-the-counter preparations. They are applied to areas of soft skin such as the inner arm or thigh.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) balance hormones and improve hair texture. EFAs are found in flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil and salmon oil. Taken as directed, these supplements will increase HDL (good) cholesterol and mend dry, brittle hair. When purchasing fish oils, look for "mercury and hexane free" on the label, because many sources of fish are contaminated with these pollutants. Another dietary source of EFAs is walnuts.
Biotin deficiencies have also been linked to hair loss. To avoid a deficiency, use hair care products that contain biotin and take 300mcg daily in supplement form. Food sources of biotin include brown rice, green peas, lentils, oats, soybeans, sunflower seeds, walnuts, brewer's yeast and bulgar.
Thinning and grey hair may also be due to mineral deficiencies. Stinging nettle, rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, sulphur and zinc, can be taken liberally as an infusion (a strong, steeped tea) and also used topically on the hair and scalp. Nettle also strengthens hair, restores thickness and shine, and supports the body's endocrine system.
B vitamins are also important to the health and growth of hair. A B-complex vitamin containing 50 mg of each B vitamin may be taken three times a day to ensure adequate intake.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is an organic form of sulphur that is necessary for the body to manufacture keratin, a protein that is the major component of hair. Follow the manufacturer's directions for the proper dosage. MSM has a slight aspirin-like effect on platelets and should not be taken with other blood thinners.