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by NIKKI POPE, January 25, 2021
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by glands. They traverse the circulation to reach organs and tissues that need them. As such, these signaling messengers affect your growth, development, metabolism, and reproduction, among many other processes.
Hormones usually work in perfect balance, but some factors may cause them to tip the scales. Stress, improper nutrition, or lack of sleep and exercise are just some of the things that could drive your body to disturb hormonal production. Such could lead to hormonal imbalance, which is one of the major factors behind hair loss.
Androgenic alopecia, which is commonly known as male/female-pattern baldness, is a problem 50 million American men and 30 million American women face. It can affect males in their early 20s – and women well into their 40s.
In men, hair loss is characterized by a receding M pattern. As for women, it starts with hair thinning, though it rarely leads to complete baldness.
The culprit behind this condition is the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is converted by 5-alpha reductase from Testosterone.
According to a study, DHT, which is five times more potent than testosterone, can shrink the hair follicles. It can also shorten the hair’s growth cycle, which results in thinner, brittle strands that shed faster.
Add to that, DHT also makes the hair’s resting phase longer. Since new hairs are generated slower than the falling ones, hair thinning ends up more pronounced.
Apart from DHT, the thyroid hormones T3 and T4 could also trigger hair loss. It is usually the case in hypothyroidism, where there is an underproduction of hormones, and hyperthyroidism, where there is an excessive flood of thyroid hormones.
T3 and T4, like many other hormones, are responsible for several bodily processes. They exert action on hair roots, where the strands grow. However, hormonal imbalance can make the locks fall out, which could lead to loss of hair in the scalp – and the eyebrows too!
Hormone-Related Hair Loss in Women
Women have special life milestones that can lead to hair loss, largely due to the hormones that govern these processes.
Pregnancy is a landmark event in many women's lives. True enough, the joy of bringing another life into the word is definitely immeasurable. It is, however, not devoid of challenges. There are vomiting episodes, horrendous labor pains, and of course, the process of childbirth.
While it comes with many consequences, one that stands out is hair loss. While it is deemed a minor inconvenience by many, it proves to exert additional stresses to a woman’s psyche.
Hormones are usually to blame for pregnancy-related hair loss, as the process itself involves a soup of such substances. As hormones are shifted towards the growing baby, the body suffers from stress. This puts 30% (or more) of the woman's head hairs in telogen or the resting phase of the growth cycle. As a result, expectant females stand to lose as much as 300 strands a day.
Pregnancy-related hair loss is not abrupt though, as it takes about 2 to 4 months to see some noticeable changes. It's not permanent too, as this hair problem usually subsides after 6 months.
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Polycystic ovarian syndrome or PCOS is a hormonal condition that often leads to hair loss, among many other things. Hair thinning is highly noticeable on the front part of the scalp.
This is due to the higher-than-usual production of androgens in the body. As mentioned, androgens such as testosterone can be converted to DHT, a hormone responsible for hair loss.
Unfortunately, there is nothing much one could do about this. Although this is the case, certain treatments (as stated below) might help restart hair growth.
Menopause is a milestone that affects an adult woman's life. Commonly occurring after age 45, it's a stage where the woman's ovaries stop producing hormones. Not only does this lead to a cessation in menses, but it brings about hair loss as well.
Menopause-related hair loss is usually characterized by widespread hair thinning, especially on the top, side, and front parts of the scalp. In some cases, chunks of hair fall out after showering or brushing.
Expectedly, this type of hair fall usually results from the low levels of estrogen and progesterone. After all, these hormones help promote faster hair growth. Apart from that, they help the strands stay on your scalp for a longer time.
And since there are low levels of estrogen and progesterone, the body makes up for this by producing more androgens. It is indeed a double whammy, as androgens are the biggest triggers of hair loss.
What You Can Do
Since hormonal-related hair loss is due to imbalance, the best thing to do is to keep your hormones stabilized. Here are some tips on how to balance your chemical messengers - and avoid hair loss along the way:
Protein serves as the building block of the cells. As such, it also provides the needed nutrients for the production of hormones. With that being said, you must consume enough protein – which should account for 25% of your daily caloric intake.
Sugar may give you that much-needed rush, but it could affect your hormonal balance in a bad way. That's because a diet rich in sugar and carbs triggers the release of insulin – as well as androgens. These male hormones are later on transformed to DHT, which trigger mechanisms that bring about hair loss.
Exercise is not only good for the heart, it's essential for hormone health as well. For one, it could help boost the production of estrogen in women, which is a necessary hormone for good hair growth.
To counteract the body’s production of DHT, you may consider supplements that help block its action. Examples of supplements that may block the DHT production include Biotin, Green Tea and Saw Palmetto. Apart from blocking DHT conversion, it also helps improve your hair’s keratin levels.
Contraceptive pills help regularize the menstrual cycle – and inhibit hair loss as well. Since some contraceptives may actually accelerate hair shedding, women with PCOS are usually prescribed with pills that contain more estrogen. These include desogestrel-Ethinyl estradiol, norethindrone, norethindrone-Ethinyl estradiol, or norgestimate-Ethinyl estradiol.
Hormones play integral roles in the body. With that being said, an imbalance can trigger a variety of mechanisms, hair loss included. To reduce such chances, it’s best if you followed the above-mentioned techniques on keeping your hormones leveled.
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