8 Reasons Why is My Hair Falling Out and Thinning
Are you crying out why is my hair falling out in strands or by the handfuls? Well, you are not alone. I feel for you, it’s as though with every wash a heartbreaking amount of hair washes away. It’s devastating the amount that collects on the brush, or just continuously sheds. So, what is going on?
We are complex creatures, and there’s never a one size fits all kind of answer. But it’s my hope this list gives you a place to start if you are wondering why your hair is falling out in strands or by the handfuls.
I partnered with my cousin, Kayla, on this one. Kayla is an alternative health advocate and has been researching this topic for quite some time. She has visited several dermatologists trying to get to the bottom of why her hair is falling out in large amounts. It started for her nearly a year ago. She has compiled this list as a starting place to try and give you ideas on where to begin your journey to regaining your luscious locks.
What is causing my hair to fall out?
Hair can be a reflection of our identity, it’s associated with youthfulness, femininity, and beauty. It can be a deeply traumatic experience for not only women but also men to lose their hair.
Hair loss is unfortunately common, but not well researched or even discussed. It can cause a drop in our self-confidence, and we may empty our wallets trying every promise on the market from supplements to shampoos with little to no avail.
The reason these hair loss “solutions” may not work for you is because there is still an issue deeper than the surface that needs to be addressed. Here we will discuss some of the root causes (pun unintended) of hair loss.
1. Hypothyroidism Hair Loss
Most of you have probably heard of hypothyroidism, and it is one of the top contributors of hair falling out.
When your thyroid is not working optimally, your hair suffers and falls out (may also affect the outer third of your eyebrow as well). It is one of the most underdiagnosed / misdiagnosed conditions due to incomplete lab testing.
Approximately 300 million people worldwide suffer from Hypothyroidism, and half of those people are unaware of their condition.
It is wise to seek a Naturopathic doctor and check how your thyroid is functioning to rule this out as the cause of your hair falling out.
2. Hormone Imbalance Hair Loss
Many women are plagued with hormone imbalance which can be caused by poor diet, our environment, hormone therapy or birth control. There are many different imbalances that can occur like estrogen dominance or elevated testosterone levels.
Estrogen dominance can and is commonly caused by plastics in the environment, heavy metals, hormone replacement, chronic stress, and more.
There can even be a progesterone or estrogen deficiency which can cause hair loss. Progesterone has hormone balancing effects on testosterone and estrogen, and even has hair follicle protecting abilities.
Many, if not most women are low in progesterone. The reason why many women may be low in progesterone is because of day to day stresses we face, which steals progesterone and converts it into cortisol. This effect is called the progesterone steal.
A deficiency in estrogen can actually lead more hair follicles into resting phase, so this is why I advise getting complete hormone lab testing to check for imbalances. Lab work these days is so accessible. I was able to order my own labs online at an affordable price.
3. PCOS Hair Loss
This is an extremely common hormone imbalance issue in women which can also cause hair loss, and because it is one of the primary causes for hair loss, I believed it deserved its own heading. High Testosterone, usually known as PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome) can cause androgenic alopecia. Hair that thins mostly on top like the crown of the head.
Women with PCOS have insulin resistance, so women with this condition have excessively high androgens which suffocate hair follicles. Many women have diminished their symptoms greatly with a change in diet and lifestyle, and even reversing hair loss.
4. Gut Dysbiosis Hair Loss
You won’t find this mentioned as frequently as a common hair loss trigger, but it indeed can be. And it only makes sense, when our digestive system isn’t working properly we become deficient in all areas, and develop inflammatory problems.
The antibiotics disrupt the microbiome and destroy microbes that make biotin. Biotin is a B-vitamin essential to many processes in our body including hair, skin, and nail health. Biotin is claimed to be an uncommon deficiency because it’s readily available in our diets.
However, the epidemic of gut dysbiosis and intestinal permeability (leaky gut) is wreaking havoc on our ability to absorb nutrients from our foods. This is one of the reasons organic foods are so important to supporting good health.
After the antibiotics, scientists found that there was an overgrowth of lactic acid bacteria (Lactobacillus murinus), which robs your body of biotin. When the mice were fed even more lactic acid bacteria, they grew worse and developed apparent baldness.
In the same study, scientists were able to reverse the baldness with a normal diet with added biotin. Our microbiome is a delicate balance easily thrown out of kilter by medication and diet. Here’s the biotin supplement I am currently taking, it’s too soon for me to fairly say I have seen a difference.
Another study had great success with mice by feeding them a probiotic rich yogurt. They found it reduced inflammation in the mice and improved their hair growth. The mice grew thicker, shinier hair, faster.
Also, careful with medications we all know antibiotics harm our flora, but so do NSAIDS (Ibuprofen, etc…). Considering adding fermented probiotic rich foods to your diet, like sauerkrauts and yogurts. If you don’t like sauerkraut, there is no limit to what can be fermented. This is a recipe for fermented beets, it’s less pungent than sauerkraut.
5. Stress Hair Loss
As we all know, stress cannot only give you grey hair but it can also make you lose it. It’s not a big shocker, but it’s worth a mention because the second most common type of hair loss (from hormonal hair loss) is stress induced hair loss.
It’s called Telogen Effluvium, and it can occur at any age and typically after 3-4 months after a stressful event. For some, it can actually happen in a matter of a couple weeks after the stressful event.
‘Telogen’ means end phase of the hair cycle, and ‘effluvium’ means outflow. Basically, it means you’re losing way more hair than you want to! There are two types, acute telogen effluvium and chronic telogen effluvium.
Acute telogen effluvium cases happen suddenly after a stressful event (like surgery or anything stressful emotionally or physically) or some months after the fact. This type of hair loss stops within a few months, six at the most. Though it may run longer if there’s an underlying problem, like an iron deficiency.
With acute telogen, you are shedding all the hair that switched into telogen phase after the stressful event, and new growth is actually pushing out the old hairs.
Chronic telogen effluvium according to most trichologists and dermatologists, is when you shed telogen phase hair over a period longer than six months. When it should have resolved itself. However, one very influential hair loss expert Dr. Donovan believes it isn’t simply profuse shedding for more than six months, but rather a separate condition in itself entirely.
Much of the time with chronic telogen effluvium the trigger cannot be identified, and it is the trigger that needs to be found to solve the hair loss. The scalp often stings and burns, and the hair loss may improve and then return again.
However, as much hair as these patients lose (300-400 strands a day) most people don’t notice the hair loss as much as the sufferer does. I know the constant shedding and clumps of hair falling out is scary and disappointing but please don’t feel discouraged! There is a trigger and you are on the right path to discovering it.
Try to find a way to cope with the stress, find an activity to you enjoy, exercise, and/or meditate.
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6. Medications Hair Loss
Just like antibiotics can disrupt our microflora and cause hair loss, so can other medications. Medications like anticoagulants and anticonvulsants may alter your body’s chemistry and disturb the hair cycle into telogen phase.
You may be taking prescription drugs that cause hair loss and not even be aware of it. There are many people losing their hair from the acne drug Accutane, but it usually resolves itself after withdrawing from its use. Here’s a small list of drugs that can cause hair loss
- Thyroid Drugs
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Beta Blockers
It is worth mentioning that some people may experience hair loss from suddenly becoming allergic to the dyes in their medication. You may suddenly develop an allergic reaction to a drug, even if you have been taking it for years (especially if you have a history of autoimmunity).
7. Inflammation Hair Loss
Inflammation is the biggest silent killer of our time, and it’s affecting your hair too. Inflammation of the scalp, typically called Folliculitis, can cause small red and itchy bumps that cause hair loss. It is typically caused by an overgrowth of staph or other fungi’s.
The inflammation may be also caused by an autoimmune condition where the body attacks its own hair follicles, like in the condition alopecia areata.
There can be local inflammation on the scalp itself like folliculitis or there can be systemic inflammation within the body that disrupt hair growth.
It is unlikely your hair will stop shedding if your body is in constant inflammation, and since hair is the second fastest-growing tissue in the body (from bone marrow), the energy spent on growing hair might go toward healing or attacking the body.
Everyone can find better health in following a low inflammatory diet. Lowering your inflammation might be life changing for you and the health of your hair.
Inflammation can also be triggered by stress, so a lot of these triggers may come in full circle for you. Supplementation to combat inflammation can be instrumental too, like fermented cod liver oil, CBD oil, Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA), and Tumeric.
8. Low Ferritin or Copper Hair Loss
In order to keep circulating blood iron levels normal, your body pulls iron from its storage. Which unluckily for you, your hair stores iron and when your body needs iron for essential organs, it pulls from your hair. Essentially pulling the plug from your hair.
Low ferritin hair loss is extremely common, but most people will never know about it. If you go to a doctor suspecting iron anemia / deficiency hair loss, you may walk out with lab results saying otherwise.
This happens all the time because often only hemocrit and hemoglobin levels are checked, which for the most part usually are normal because your body has iron storage called ferritin. It would be good to also include ferritin in your bloodwork for a more complete picture of your iron levels.
However, to complicate things if you have inflammation this can cause an increase in the ferritin in your blood, giving you an inaccurate reading. If you suspect acute or chronic inflammation, it would be good to check for inflammation too, by also having your lab work include CRP and Sed Rate .
According to some functional medicine doctors, your ferritin needs to be at least 50 ng/mL to stop hair falling out, and 80 ng/mL to regrow your hair back. People still debate why some people can have thick hair with ferritin at 12 ng/mL, but it seems for whatever reason hair loss sufferers need higher levels of ferritin.
A lot of people can get away with taking iron and correcting low ferritin, but there are some people that may feel stuck because if they take supplemental iron, they risk raising their iron blood levels too high. There might be an underlining mineral imbalance in these certain cases.
For example, if you suffer from anemia like symptoms but your iron levels test normal this may be due to a copper deficiency. Your body needs adequate copper to use the iron stored in your body . A blood test can test for copper deficiency, by checking copper and ceruloplasmin. Copper supplementation may be needed. Copper is essential to hormone regulation, iron usage, and many other body processes.
Many people may be asking “why am I losing so much hair”, but don’t speak up about it because they think it’s too vain to worry about. Obviously, we all know there are much worse things going on in the world, but that doesn’t mean you’re not suffering.
Your hair falling out is your body telling you something isn’t right. We may all try to convince ourselves and deny the brain fog, chronic fatigue, and other daily ailments but when you are holding strands or clumps of hair in your hand, that’s a solid sign from your body it’s asking for help.
Things to address when your hair is falling out:
- try to alleviate the stress
- check your thyroid function
- follow a low inflammatory diet
- add probiotic rich foods (caution with some bacterial strains they use biotin)
- add supplementation to help with inflammation
- test for anemia caused by either iron or copper deficiency
- test for hormone imbalance
- test for inflammation
In my frustrations, I’ve experienced doctors hesitant to treat my hair falling out or prescribed band-aid solutions like drugs and shampoos. That’s why I am recommending Naturopathic Doctors. It’s ideal to get complete lab testing and someone who supports your decision to heal what’s causing the hair loss, the underlying condition. I hope this list helps you discover your trigger!
(Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and I do not claim to treat or diagnose hair loss, hair falling out, or any other illnesses. This content is informational purposes only. This content is not a substitution for professional medical advice. If you are experiencing hair loss, please seek help from a Doctor.)