Science is now allowing us to question if genetics is the sole cause of hair loss in men and women. Everything from chronic, emotional stress to lifestyle-induced hormonal imbalances to nutritional deficiencies can lead to hair loss.
For a large percentage of people who suffer hair loss, the condition occurs because of the side effects of another condition or the adverse effects of medications. Genetics may be touted as the most common cause, but ignoring the contributing factors will only cause further hair loss.
Various hormones regulate nearly every function of the body and an imbalance is classified as a leading cause of hair loss. However, hormonal imbalance is a rather vague and confusing grouping of symptoms or health conditions. Several hormones will be discussed to best understand the complexity of the problem.
Hormone-induced hair loss
The thyroid gland produces several hormones that regulate the metabolism and energy levels of the body. Thyroid conditions can be genetic, but are commonly brought on my poor lifestyle choices that will facilitate the problem.
The exposure to toxic chemicals is a major contributor to hair loss. Chemicals found in cleaning products, added chemicals in our food supply and the cumulative effects of environmental toxins can cause the thyroid to be sluggish, over-active or cease to function altogether.
Thyroid medications are not always the simple solution to re-grow one's hair. One may not be able to re-grow hair without correcting the underlying causes of the hormonal imbalance and the lifestyle factors that may have caused it in the first place.
Why am I losing my hair now?
As mentioned, there are several types of medication that can cause hair loss. The leading culprits include blood-thinning medications and beta-blockers for heart conditions, anti-inflammatory drugs, birth control pills and antidepressants. A variety of common health conditions can also contribute to the problem.
Diabetes is commonly thought of as a blood sugar condition, but in reality it's related to a hormone called insulin. Diabetes is linked to obesity, lack of physical activity, poor dietary choices and is classified as a major preventable and reversible health condition.
A side effect of diabetes is often hair loss. By utilising the proper management techniques, one may be able to reverse diabetes and re-grow hair.
Stress linked to hair loss
Accidents, injuries and other physical traumas can cause up to 75 per cent of hair to fall out. Hormones help the body react and heal from injuries, but the injury may also sacrifice the body's effectiveness to respond to stress.
Various health conditions can develop when the body's ability to heal is sacrificed, such as diabetes. Blood sugar spikes in response to physical stress and excessive blood sugar will prevent the body from healing.
The long-term use of strong anti-inflammatory medications to treat pain can cause excessive hair loss as well.
Emotional disturbances are not only linked to physical pain, but also the remainder of what we call life. It's common to lose hair when one experiences financial stress, relationship woes, death of loved ones or even challenging work environments.
A complicating factor is that many emotional disturbances can cause depression and are treated with antidepressants—another cause of hair loss.
Does diet play a role?
One's body is known to strip essential nutrients from non-vital systems to replenish the vital ones. Hair is not vital and is commonly stripped when faced with nutritional deficiencies.
Severely restricted caloric diets, dangerous fad diets and the failure to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods can contribute to hair loss and poor hair growth. It is important to eat a balanced diet with plenty of nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.
No minerals, no hair
The anti-baldness diet should contain adequate vitamins and minerals from natural sources. It is more common to be mineral deficient than vitamin deficient. Some minerals can be very effective to prevent hair loss and help to naturally restore it. The main minerals include zinc, copper and iron.
Foods that are rich in minerals are found naturally—not in a bag, can or box. Foods that are high in the mineral zinc include—but are not limited to—celery, asparagus, potatoes, bananas and eggplant.
One of the greatest benefits of a diet high in vegetables is the effect that it has on one's immune system. Copper is one of the most important minerals for one's immune system, but is also critical for healthy hair. Good natural sources of copper include legumes and nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts.
Rarely people think they should consume iron, but iron is instrumental in many processes in the body, including hair growth. Foods rich in iron include celery, corn, nuts, peas, spinach, chicory, carrots and cucumbers.
for hair growth
Vitamins play a significant role in the health of hair. They are also a prime example of how a deficiency can cause other health conditions which can contribute to hair loss. Health conditions are treated by medications, and medications are once again known to cause hair loss.
It's important to consume certain foods that provide specific vitamins for our hair. The most important vitamins include pyri-
doxine, Vitamin C, and B vitamins.
Pyridoxine deficiency is known to affect the skin and scalp that can contribute to loss of hair. Pyridoxine is naturally found in foods such as avocado, whole-wheat products, oats and corn.
Vitamin C is usually thought of as citrus fruits, but local produce is also known to have high amounts of absorbable Vitamin C. Vegetables such as peppers and dark green leafy vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cabbage have significant amounts of Vitamin C.
Vitamin C can also be found in a variety of other fruits and vegetables such as carrots, papayas, apples, bananas, avocados and melons.
The B vitamins are very important to help combat the damaging effects of stress, anxiety and depression. They are known to promote a healthy brain, nervous system and provide support to organs that produce hormones that can affect hair loss.
Vitamin B7 or biotin is specifically very important for hair growth. The best sources of biotin are meat sources and egg yolks. Additional plant sources of biotin include mushrooms, peanut butter, whole grains, peas, chickpeas and nuts.
Hair is made of proteins
Vegetarians and individuals who consume very little meat products run the risk of baldness due to the lack of hair growth and regeneration. Proteins are critical in the growth, health and maintenance of hair.
Animal products that have sufficient amounts of proteins include meats, dairy products, fish and eggs. Good plant-based sources include the variety of nuts, legumes and whole grains.
Hair may seem not important but hair loss may affect one's self-confidence and emotional health, contributing to more serious health conditions. Improving one's lifestyle factors is important, regardless of genetic tendencies.
The ultimate goal is not to treat baldness, but to treat the lifestyle factors that can contribute to it.
• Dr Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organisation's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.
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