There are many factors that can contribute to hair loss, and many of us assume aging is the main culprit. People are more prone to losing hair strands in the winter, most likely due to dry scalp and less circulation in colder months. But while more than half of Americans 40 and older experience some degree of hair loss, aging and seasonal changes alone don’t account for it. And in many cases, significant hair loss — especially in women — can signal underlying imbalances related to hormones, nutrition, cardiovascular health, immunity and inflammation.
The good news is that you can fight hair loss and boost overall health by improving your nutrition, balancing hormones and increasing circulation. People who’ve temporarily lost their hair to chemotherapy or other medications know that the regrowth process is a testament to the body’s remarkable ability to rejuvenate itself.
Sometimes you lose hair because of a nutrient deficiency. This is no surprise. Your body just doesn’t function effectively without the right balance of vitamins, minerals and cofactors.
A healthy diet should include lean proteins, healthy fats, nuts, seeds, sprouted whole grains and legumes, lots of vegetables and some fruit, particularly berries. Hair consists of protein, so eating more high-quality protein, like wild cold-water fish, organic eggs, concentrated (non-denatured) whey, sprouted legumes, spirulina and other superfood sources can be helpful. It’s also a good idea to increase omega-3 fatty acids, which are excellent for skin and for the scalp. Sometimes hair loss can stem from an iron deficiency, which can be evaluated with a simple blood test. For iron, look to green leafy vegetables as well as black strap molasses. Zinc is also important — good food-based zinc sources are cashews, oysters, spinach, beans, mushrooms and flax seeds.
Underactive thyroids can also cause and hair loss. This gland secretes hormones that influence metabolism and cellular energy. Sea vegetables, such as kelp, nori and dulse, are loaded with iodine, which can help re-energize the thyroid. In men, and in postmenopausal women, overproduction of DHT (dihydrotestosterone) is a leading cause of baldness. Certain herbs that help address excess DHT such as saw palmetto may help with hair loss in men, as well as women. Have your doctor test your hormones to see if there’s an imbalance that may be improved with natural herbs and supplements.
Address Allergies And Sensitivities
Sometimes hair loss can stem from endocrine-immune imbalances, which are often triggered or aggravated by food allergies and other allergic reactions. Food sensitivities and allergies are becoming increasingly common, along with environmental allergies to toxins and pollen counts. Identify food sensitivities with an elimination diet or with the help of an allergy specialist who can perform specific tests to help you sort through symptoms. Common food allergies and sensitivities can be triggered by items like gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and shellfish. Regular seasonaldetox can help reduce inflammation and balance immunity to address these issues over the long term.
Stress also can cause more hair to fall out. Chronic stress fuels inflammation, which can potentially damage hair follicles, disrupt hormone balance, impair circulation and deprive cells of enough oxygen and nutrients. Walking in nature, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and other stress-reduction techniques can help us rebalance.
There are also two gender-specific vitamin supplements I recommend for a variety of reasons, including their abilities to provide excellent nutritional support and help promote healthy hormone balance: Women’s Longevity Rhythms and Men’s Longevity Essentials Plus. In addition to essential vitamins and minerals, these supplements contain antioxidants, herbs like saw palmetto, as well as biotin and other B vitamins — all good for the scalp.
In addition to saw palmetto, there are a variety of herbal supplements that have been shown to increase hair growth, as well as providing other benefits. Here’s a short list:
- Eclipta Alba, also called false daisy, has been used to support liver and eyes. A number of studies have shown that it can also encourage hair growth.
- Cuscuta reflexa has been used as a muscle relaxant, antioxidant and antiviral. It’s also been found to grow hair.
- Tectona grandis seeds have long been used by Indian practitioners to increase hair growth. One study found they are at least as good as the prescription drug minoxidil.
- Carthamus tinctorius L. and Phyllanthus emblica L. (Indian gooseberry) were found to have potent activity against the enzyme that increases the conversion of testosterone into DHT. Applied topically these herbs have been used traditionally to promote hair growth.
These are only a few of the natural options that help hair. Others include silica, royal jelly and moringa leaf.
The bottom line is this: There’s no reason to accept hair loss as a given fact of aging. As with any other health issue, it’s important to look for underlying causes (rather than just treating the symptoms), generating deeper overall benefits. With this strategy, fighting hair loss is part of a holistic approach to long-term health.