It can be one of the distressing things about the menopause journey and even if it doesn’t shed it often loses its lustrous, glossy volume. We’re sorry to be the bearers of bad news and we totally understand the frustration – there’s a reason our hair has earned the common moniker ‘crowning glory’.
Personally, I’ve got fine hair and though I’ve always dreamed of having a voluminous mane, with age, it’s becoming even finer so this is something I’m struggling with too. I’ve also noticed my parting growing wider which is not unusual for many of us and – apologies again – but bald patches can also occur.
Why does our hair thin/reduce?
Like so many of the signs of peri/menopause alterations in hair quantity and texture can be due to hormonal imbalance. There are complex hormonal shifts going on in our bodies and it’s not just about estrogen. Thyroid function, high testosterone and/or cortisol, insulin resistance and too much estrogen all play a part. This is a key reason we offer 40+ and 55+ because they help balance estrogen, which is important in this hormonal dance.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record your nutrient levels are a crucial component to getting through peri/menopause on an even keel. Micronutrients like iron, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, all of the B vitamins especially Biotin, B6 and B12, EFAs (essential fatty acids), and silica can all help far more than a shampoo bottle that promises miracles – more on these nutrients later. (That bottle – if it’s all-natural – might provide a temporary boost though 😊. )
Environmental & Lifestyle Factors
We live in a toxic world so it’s prudent to take into account what you’re using for personal care, cleaners and what you’re exposed to indoors and outdoors. These often contain known endocrine (hormone) disruptors. In addition, too much stress – whether that be from the kids, a large work deadline or overexercising – isn’t a friend to our follicular health.
What Can You Do?
Get your thyroid tested.
Thyroid health can be a major issue during peri/menopause and problems often fly under the radar as the testing your GP may send you for only measures TSH levels when T3 and T4 are important too. It’s one of the reasons I recommend seeking out a functional medicine doctor for a broad spectrum test.
Again, it’s complicated but to put it simply if T3 and T4 are too low it can lead to hypothyroidism and if they’re too high they cause hyperthyroidism. Hair grows in a three-stage cycle – anagen (growth), catagen (rest) and telogen (shed) – and the thyroid hormone has the ability to turn this on or off in some cases. Here’s an interesting write up on thyroid and hair loss.
Ensure your liver, gut and blood sugar health is spot on.
The other hormonal issues we mentioned such as insulin resistance (blood sugar levels), high testosterone and/or cortisol, and estrogen dominance (ED) can all be helped by ensuring your liver is functioning optimally. When the liver isn’t healthy hormones can’t circulate and convert well and any excess isn’t flushed out causing them to build up in our system.
In addition, more and more research is coming out to link digestive (gut) health and balanced blood sugars to a smooth peri/menopause so the liver, the gut and blood sugar levels are key to hormonal balance (and weight management). From a hair point of view, if they’re out of whack it can lead to a disruption of the growth cycle, the follicles growing smaller (known as follicle miniaturisation) and/or hair shedding.
MAKE BEING STRESS FREE A PRIORITY
During menopause the production of estrogen moves from the ovaries to the adrenals which is why the stress hormone cortisol factors in big time to the meno years. It’s also why if it’s out of kilter it can lead to things like anxiety, weight gain, sleep issues and – yep – hair loss. So when we talk about mindfulness and practising yoga it’s not woo woo it’s essential for your midlife health.
Read this article here to see what science says about Mindfulness.
SOME EXCELLENT SUPPLEMENTS THAT MAY HELP:
Biotin (vitamin B7) contributes to the production of the protein found in hair, skin, and nails – keratin. It’s a water soluble vitamin which means the body doesn’t store it. I take Biotin in under the tongue in drop form daily, but it can be found naturally in egg yolks, cheese, leafy greens, mushrooms, nuts.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of hair loss, and as it’s an essential nutrient you must get it from food. Foods such as shellfish, spinach (as Popeye made famous!), legumes, broccoli, tofu, red meat and dark chocolate will all boost your iron. Red Seal’s Floradix Floravital is an excellent (and tasty) liquid iron supplement you can find at the supermarket.
Zinc is an essential mineral to hormone health and a lack of it has been associated with hair loss. It’s also key to many of bodily processes and immunity and as the body doesn’t store it we need to have a dose each day. A simple saliva test will let you know if you’re deficient which you can usually get at your local health store. If not, check with your GP. Zinc foods include nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, shellfish. Pumpkin seeds and oysters are well-known zinc providers!
Silica is a trace mineral. One of my hairdressers – a top celeb artisan in Sydney – recommends taking liquid silica to boost hair growth and volume. He suggests not getting a formula mixed with other ingredients just pure silica. It’s worth mentioning that silica’s also extremely good for bone and teeth health something 40+ women also need to focus on. Food sources include whole grains, oats, leafy greens, asparagus, cucumber, melons and green beans. Another bonus? Silica is helpful for skin elasticity and collagen (plumping) formation.
EFA’s (essential fatty acids) have been associated with hair loss. It’s essential to get the right balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids with the recommendation being 4:1. Most people on the standard supermarket diet get way too much omega-6 which has been linked with high blood pressure and blood clots as well as weight gain (this study shows this). How to avoid this? Omega-6 fats mainly come from vegetable oils like safflower and sunflower as well as the popular evening primrose oil. Omega-6 fatty acids have heart and cholesterol benefits and – most importantly for us – hormone balancing properties. To get the balance right it’s prudent to use omega-6 moderately and emphasise omega-3 rich foods such as oily fish, fish oil, walnuts, flaxseeds (and oil). Something like blackcurrant seed oil is rich in both omega-6 omega-3 fatty acids. It can get confusing but to simplify it: we need both but according to all reports most of us consume way too much omega-6. But don’t cut out the omega-6, just add more omega 3 fatty acids to help get the balance right. And on the subject of hair? You hair texture and strength should improve.
A Word About Autoimmune Disease & Hair
Autoimmune conditions such as Alopecia, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s disease can contribute to hair loss. Getting your liver, blood sugar and gut health on track should help but definitely seek out a functional medicine doctor for ongoing assistance.
The 21-Day Hormone Detox
All of these factors have contributed to why I’ve created the 21-Day Hormone Detox over on Youology.
When we get our hormone balance right with food and 40+ or 55+ our hair, skin, moods and health get back on track, we can fit into our favourite jeans and feel like us again.
Come and join us there, we’ll be starting our first group program April 8. (More on that next week).