Let's face it: from an evolutionary perspective, hair is pretty useless for modern people. Regardless, a person's hair is critical to their perception of youth, vitality, and sexuality. This is especially true for women because of the social ideal of beauty. According to one study, 28% of men and 52% of women suffering from hair loss were "very angry" about it.
In other words, hair plays an important role in judging our self-image, our social position, and our psychosocial state of health. Unfortunately, 25% of all women and 45% of men will suffer some degree of hair loss or alopecia (baldness) until they reach age 50. It is therefore important for many to identify and address the causes of hair loss.
All hair on your scalp is in one of two phases: a growth or anagen phase and a resting or telogen phase. Each hair usually goes through a five-year growth and rest cycle before it fails, after which the process is repeated. In a healthy person about 90% of the hair is in the anagen phase and 10% in the telogen phase.
A healthy person loses up to 125 hairs per day, so the clinical definition of hair loss is an excess of that number or a lack of regrowth. The four main types of hair loss, among the rarest, are male pattern hair loss, female pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia, telogen effluvium and alopecia areata (bald patches due to autoimmune disease). Diagnosis and treatment of female pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia have been extensively treated in our first blog entry on hair loss. Similarly, in other articles we have discussed treatment options for telogen effluvium and alopecia.
In this article, we will address the numerous causes of hair loss and quick tips to avoid them. The causes can be broadly divided into dietary factors (deficiencies or surpluses), internal factors (genetics, hormones, etc.), drug side effects, and environmental factors such as stress and lifestyle.
An unhealthy diet can lead to many nutrient deficiencies that eventually cause hair breakage and loss. Nutrient deficiencies associated with hair loss can be iron, zinc, biotin (vitamin B7), vitamin D, niacin (vitamin B3) and others. The good news is that any telogen effluvium that occurs due to nutrient deficiency can be completely reversed by a healthy diet and daily supplementation. Let's take a quick look at each nutrient.
2. iron deficiency
Iron is essential for the formation and healthy functioning of red blood cells. Common causes of iron deficiency in women are menstrual blood loss and pregnancy. In males, the causes of gastrointestinal bleeding can vary to malabsorption. In addition, some diets, such as vegan and vegetarian, increase the risk of iron deficiency in both men and women.
Some studies indicate that iron deficiency is associated with certain types of hair loss. A report from the Journal of the Academy of Dermatology states that iron is an important mineral for DNA production and further states that iron deficiency can lead to inadequate levels of important hair regrowth enzymes.
To prevent iron deficiency, make iron-rich foods an integral part of your diet. Eggs, beans, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli and kale should be eaten daily. Nevertheless, you should be careful not to consume too much of these things, as this in turn can have its own complication. A good way to get the right dose is to take an iron supplement daily.
3. Zinc deficiency
Research has shown that zinc plays a key role in the health of our hair. Zinc is needed for protein synthesis, which is essential for the hair growth cycle.
People who eat vegetables, lactating women, regular alcohol users, and people who eat poorly are at an increased risk for zinc deficiency. A study published in the Annals of Dermatology has compared blood levels of zinc in 312 subjects suffering from various hair loss disorders and found that they had significantly lower levels of zinc compared to a healthy control group.
The importance of avoiding zinc deficiency can not be downplayed, which is why a daily supplement is necessary for the health of your hair. You can also include zinc-rich foods such as nuts, lentils, hemp seeds, oysters, oatmeal, chicken, mushrooms, yogurt, and tofu in your nutritional program.
4. Niacin (vitamin B3) deficiency
Among medical researchers, it is widely known that one of the many symptoms of niacin deficiency is hair loss. Niacin or Vitamin B3 converts carbohydrates into glucose and converts dietary fats and proteins. As niacin is most abundant in meat and fish such as turkey and tuna, vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk of deficiency. The disease Crohn's disease also increases the risk of vitamin B3 deficiency. The best way to get the right dose of it and other essential B vitamins is through daily supplements.
5. selenium deficiency
Selenium is an important trace element that has several benefits to the body, including thyroid hormone metabolism, DNA synthesis, and protection against oxidative stress. Some experts say that hair and skin may lose their color in a state of selenium deficiency. In addition, a connection between thyroid abnormalities and hair loss could be proven.
Selenium deficiency is relatively rare. However, people undergoing dialysis treatment who have been diagnosed with HIV or have gastrointestinal disease are at increased risk. To include selenium, your diet should include onions, meat, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, fish, Brazil nuts, poultry, grains, seafood, and eggs. However, avoid taking more than 55 μg of selenium a day as an overdose can actually lead to increased hair loss.
6. Vitamin D3 deficiency
Vitamin D, commonly referred to as "sun vitamin", plays a key role in maintaining hair health. A 2013 study compared vitamin D3 levels in the blood between women with telogen effluvium and healthy women. The results showed that subjects with hair loss had significantly lower vitamin D3 levels. The mechanism behind the function of D-vitamins in hair growth is being further explored. Already now strong connections could be shown in animal experiments.
The best way to get vitamin D in your body is to spend 20 minutes each day in the morning or evening sun. Foods such as swordfish, whitefish, mackerel, maitake and portobello mushrooms, eel, salmon and halibut are rich in vitamin D3 and should be eaten daily. For vegans and vegetarians this may not be an option, so a daily supplement with vitamin D3 is recommended.
7. Biotin (Vitamin B7) deficiency
Biotin, part of the vitamin B complex, is different in that it can be produced in the gut. The water-soluble vitamin B7 performs a number of important tasks in the body. The European Food Safety Authority (EBL) has stated that the intake of biotin "contributes to the maintenance of normal hair". A report on the effects of biotin deficiency, published in the Seminars of Dermatology, supports the link between inadequate biotin and alopecia.
To prevent this, a vitamin B complex preparation should be taken daily. Alternatively, foods such as eggs, chicken, avocado, legumes, potatoes and nuts can be made an integral part of the diet. You should also avoid eating raw or uncooked protein as this will affect the absorption of biotin.
8. Amino acids & protein deficiency
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins necessary for muscle building and recovery. In addition, proteins are also important for the maintenance of healthy hair. Because proteins are an integral part of hair fibers, decreased protein intake can affect hair growth. Diet and lifestyle conditions that increase the risk of protein deficiency include depression, anorexia, malignant diseases, anemia and malnutrition.
Beans, nuts, poultry, seafood, quinoa, soy, eggs and dairy products are good sources of protein. However, only quinoa and soy provide all the essential amino acids among the plant sources, which is why vegans should supplement their diet with a dietary supplement.
9. Vitamin A overdose
Vitamin A has many benefits for the body, including maintaining healthy skin and promoting iron absorption. Excess vitamin A, on the other hand, can have adverse health effects, including hair loss. Healthcare professionals say that a recommended dietary intake of 900 μg in men and 700 μg in women should not be exceeded.
10. Vitamin E overdose
Vitamin E acts as a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative stress. However, it can also have harmful effects if taken in excess. Signs and symptoms of vitamin E toxicity include an increased risk of bleeding, reduced thyroid function and a possible negative effect on hair growth. The recommended daily supplement dose of 15 mg for adults should therefore not be exceeded.
Women are prone to anemia (low red blood cell count), especially if they suffer from prolonged or heavy menstrual bleeding. The disease is known as menorrhagia, which can lead to hair loss due to iron deficiency anemia. Causes of menorrhagia can be hormone imbalance, ovarian dysfunction, polyps, and anti-inflammatory and hormonal drugs.
Foods that help prevent anemia include soybeans, spinach, wholemeal bread, eggs, beets, honey, peanut butter, and nuts. A daily iron supplement is also a good option.
Malabsorption, according to clinical definition, is an inadequate dietary intake from the digestive tract. This leads to the inability to absorb certain nutrients, thus a deficiency. Signs and symptoms of malabsorption include flatulence, chronic fatigue, diarrhea, weight loss, and flaky skin rash. Diseases associated with malabsorption include cystic fibrosis, celiac disease and Crohn's disease.
Natural herbs such as alfalfa, dandelion root, hornet, fennel seeds, ginger, nettle, aloe vera, peppermint, goldenseal, buchu, curly sorrel, irish moss and rhubarb help all the different parts of the digestive tract to their optimal performance. Alternatively, probiotic and milk thistle supplements can work wonders for your digestion.
13. Kidney Disorder
The kidneys play a vital role in maintaining good health, including hair growth. A study examining nutrient deficiencies in people with impaired kidney function has shown that they have decreased levels of important elements such as zinc. Researchers attribute this, among other things, to a disturbance of renal excretion. Kidney damage can therefore lead to malabsorption of minerals such as zinc, which are necessary for healthy hair.
Poor diet, overweight and smoking have been shown to be associated with an increased risk of kidney disease. Kidney damage is best prevented by drinking plenty of water and urinating at least every three hours. In addition, you should reduce sodium (salt), sodas, red meat and processed foods such as potato chips and spreads.
14. Thyroid disorders: over- and under-function
The thyroid is part of the hormonal system that affects many of the body's key functions. The primary thyroid hormones are T3 and T4, which help to regulate metabolism, body temperature and heart rate. Excessive thyroid production, also called hyperthyroidism, can lead to weight loss and restlessness. People with hypothyroidism often have symptoms such as weight gain and fatigue. The International Journal of Trichology also says: "It is a well-established fact that endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair loss." This is attributed to the essential role of thyroid hormones in the development and maintenance of hair follicles (a small sachet under the skin,
Algae like nori, kombu and kelp are rich sources of iodine and good for treating hypothyroidism. On the other hand, cabbage vegetables such as white cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale and broccoli should not be eaten raw, as it contains chemicals called goitrogens that interfere with thyroid function. Thyroid problems can easily be determined by a simple blood test. Your doctor may prescribe various treatment options that restore the natural balance of your hair so that they can regenerate.
15. Hormone imbalance through pregnancy & hormonal contraception with the pill
Pregnancy is an extremely stressful time, both emotionally and physically. The need for essential nutrients such as iron, folic acid and zinc increases during pregnancy to ensure optimal health for you and your baby. Even if diet is not the problem, hair loss occurs in 40-50% of women during pregnancy. A scientific report suggests that hair loss during pregnancy may be the result of hormone imbalances occurring up to the time of delivery.
Some women report an acute onset of telogen effluvium immediately after pregnancy or as a side effect of discontinued pill use. In these cases, the hair loss will automatically stop as soon as the body has become accustomed to the new conditions. However, it may take up to three months after the hormone change is triggered until the telogen effluvium occurs and a further three months to new growth reoccur that replaces the loss. It is therefore important not to immediately press the alarm button in case of hair loss in such cases.
A study has found that thyme oil applied to the belly of women can reduce hormone imbalance by driving the production of progesterone. But there is still a lack of solid evidence, so talk to your doctor.
Signs of hair thinning and hair loss are common with increasing age. In fact, 25% of women already have lighter hair until they reach the age of 50. In rare cases, this form of hair loss occurs from the age of 12 years. This is then referred to clinically as male or female pattern hair loss. Although the disorder has not yet been sufficiently researched, it is mainly attributed to hereditary reasons. Alternatively, an excess of male sex hormones (androgens) in women can lead to hair loss, which is referred to as androgenic alopecia.
The most common drug to treat male and female pattern baldness is Minoxidil. However, a study has shown that rosemary oil has a similar preventative effect on hair loss, but without the side effects of Minoxidil. Androgenic alopecia and the various treatment options have been extensively discussed in a previous blog post.
17th H2 blocker
H2 blockers are medicines used to treat diseases such as heartburn (acid reflux) and gastric ulcers. However, long-term use of such acid-lowering drugs has been shown to have a negative effect on iron intake, as it requires an acidic environment in the abdomen. Accordingly, the long-term use of H2 blockers can ultimately lead to hair loss.
Drinking about 30ml of aloe vera juice daily can, as proven in a study, naturally relieve heartburn. Apple cider vinegar can also alleviate heartburn in some people, although the Belge are far less convincing. While taking an iron supplement daily can help address the iron deficiency problem, regular intake of probiotics and milk thistle can promote digestion.
18. Antiepileptic drugs
Antiepileptic drugs are a group of medicines used to treat epileptic seizures. Some medical experts say that hair loss can be a side effect of anti-epileptic drugs, especially Divalproex Sodium (brand name Depakote). The statement is supported in a review article examining the role of various vitamin deficiencies in patients with epilepsy. The study, published in the International Journal of Pharmacological Research, indicates that epilepsy patients have been diagnosed with biotin deficiency attributed to antiepileptic therapy. People taking therapeutic drugs for epilepsy should therefore consider taking a B-complex supplement to prevent hair loss.
Antiepileptic drugs can also be supported with certain supplements. Certain studies have shown that there may be a link between epileptic seizures and magnesium and vitamin E deficiency. Addressing these deficiencies could help reduce the dose of anti-epileptic medication. However, much more research is needed in this area, so first consult your doctor first.
19. Blood pressure medicines
Hypertension medicines for high blood pressure can cause hair loss by interfering with the hair growth cycle. A 2014 observational study found that various types of medication determined the severity of hair loss, but it was often reversible after the drug was discontinued and switched to a healthy diet. As a natural alternative, Chaga mushroom and garlic supplements have been shown to have a hypotensive effect without any side effects. As a food option, sweet potatoes, white beans, kale, broccoli, banana avocados, red peppers, tilapia, natural yoghurt, kiwi, peaches, nectarines and quinoa also reduce blood pressure.
Continued use of antibiotics reduces the intestinal bacteria, which has a negative effect on digestion, nutrient absorption and immune defense. In particular, the nutrient values of biotin (vitamin B7) and iron are significantly affected. Biotin, an important nutrient for healthy hair, is produced by these "good" intestinal bacteria. A decrease in gut microbiota can thus directly lead to a biotin deficiency.
The best way to fight it off is to boost the intestinal flora with a probiotic supplement that has 13 different types of "good" bacteria necessary for a healthy gut. Also, a daily dose of milk thistle is digestive. Another option is to make fermented foods an integral part of the diet. Examples are yoghurt, dark chocolate, sourdough bread, beer and wine, pickled cucumber, kefir, ripened soft cheese, tempeh, green peas, green olives, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, cottage cheese, natto, kombucha and beetroot kvass. Finally, a B-complex drug helps to remedy the deficiency caused by antibiotics.
21. Alcohol abuse
Excessive alcohol intake increases the risk of nutrient deficiencies, including zinc and iron. A 2017 study from the European Journal of Nutrition found that alcohol abuse can lead to decreased levels of zinc, resulting in hair loss. Limiting alcohol intake and supplements such as Schisandra, Milk Thistle and Omega-3 for a reduction in liver damage are recommended. Alternatively, soothing foods for the liver such as cabbage, tea, nuts, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, prickly pears, fatty fish, olive oil, coffee, beetroot and grapefruit should be consumed regularly.
22. Vegan & Vegetarian Diet
Herbal diets are mostly healthy. Studies have shown that long-term vegetarians have significantly less body fat, lower cholesterol levels, and less oxidative stress. Unfortunately, the price for it is an increased risk of hair loss due to iron, zinc, omega-3 and vitamin D deficiency. Although these essential nutrients are not completely lacking in fruits and vegetables, their bioavailability (usable content) is much lower than in meat. Dietary supplements are therefore a perfect way to compensate for these deficiencies, especially for vegans who have even greater dietary restrictions.
Under stress, the body goes into survival mode, disregarding unnecessary functions (such as hair growth) to conserve energy for essential processes. A study from the International Journal of Trichology has found that male and female pattern hair loss was associated with overproduction of androgenic stress hormones.
Since physical and emotional stress has been shown to trigger telogen effluvium and hair loss, it makes sense to take supplements and herbs that combat stress, such as vitamin B complexes, magnesium, ashwagandha, schisandra, gotu kola, maca and probiotics. For more information on how these substances reduce stress, see our article on telogen effluvium. Foods that reduce anxiety include almonds, algae, chocolates, acai berries, blueberries and whole grain cereals. Also, drink enough water to flush out the toxins and waste products.
24. Error when styling
A phenomenon called traction alopecia occurs as a result of frequent pulling on the hair or the use of strong chemicals over several years. This can be seen on certain hairstyles in which the hair is pulled back or braided. A study of 1,178 women, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, found that traction alopecia's symptoms were stronger in braided hair compared to using chemical hair products. In people of African descent, regular lichen has made the symptoms of traction alopecia worse.
If you think your hair loss is due to styling, try using a wide-toothed brush to prevent hair breakage, dab your hair instead of scrubbing, skip hairspray, and upgrade to a milder shampoo that does not contain any chemical ingredients.
25. Dramatic Weight Loss & Radical Diets
Weight loss due to stress, illness or radical diets can lead to hair loss. Fashion diets are popular for thinning their promises. However, they can be the very reason why you lose hair. Low calorie diets with low protein intake and poor nitrogen balance may cause the body to prefer energy production over tissue repair, which negatively impacts the hair growth cycle.
Thankfully, the ill effects of rapid weight loss on a diet can easily be reversed. A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that subjects who had telogen effluvium associated with rapid weight loss have shown signs of hair regrowth from a protein-rich diet. A daily dose of the nutrients discussed in the chapter "Dietary Causes" will help to ensure that the proper amount of nutrients reaches your hair follicles.
A study conducted on 740 men has shown a strong link between smoking and hair loss. In smoking, many factors are involved in the mechanism of hair loss. Above all, certain chemicals in cigarettes damage the hair follicles and promote oxidative stress, which leads to inflammation. These processes disrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to telogen effluvium.
Of course, the best way to counteract this is to stop smoking altogether. Your lungs and heart will be grateful to you. In addition, antioxidants help fight oxidative stress, so daily supplements like turmeric, garlic, chaga, reishi, milk thistle, and vitamin C are a good idea here. Foods with plenty of antioxidants include fish, nuts, tea, sweet potatoes, orange vegetables, whole grains, dark green vegetables, beans, dark grapes, red berries and blueberries.
Hair loss is an intensely researched topic, yet there is much that we do not know about it yet. As you can see, the causes are many-sided and show a lot of interconnected factors. For some causes, such as genetics, there is no cure yet, while others are difficult to correct due to hormone imbalances or autoimmune diseases and often require lifelong treatment. However, many cases of hair loss or telogen effluvium can be reversed through a healthier diet along with nutritional supplements. Unhealthy lifestyle choices that lead to a deterioration in hair quality can be rectified, as well as their negative consequences. Generally, promoting supplementation with food is a great way to ensure
Consolation LB, Bergfeld WF, Calogeras E (2006). The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 54 (5), 824-844.