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This blog is a personal one for me, as I am a sufferer of thinning hair, bald spots and the constant fear of never having my long luscious locks again. I know that it can be worse – Alopecia is something that I have feared over the years (and know a few close friends who suffer from it). With that said, however, let’s delve into what is the reason behind thinning hair (in women especially) and how can we try to fix, stop and understand it.
Growing up, I always had thick, wavy hair: the kind that hairdressers always complimented me on. Meanwhile, I cursed it and spent hours blow drying it. I always used the right shampoo, took good care of my hair, never had issues with it falling out until I hit my mid-twenties.
I remember waking up one morning and washing my hair and the clump of hair that came out frightened me. Ever since that day, I spent days obsessing over my hair, and my hair loss began. When I think back to those days, it was so subtle compared to my thinning hair today. I always mentioned it to my hairdressers back then and even my doctors at the time; however, I was always told that we go through regular shedding cycles, that losing up to 100 hairs a day was normal and not to worry. Still, I always knew and felt that it was more.
As time went on, I started to investigate hair loss in more depth, especially after I began to go to school to become a Holistic Nutritionist. I found out that there are a few factors that contribute to women (and men as well) with thinning hair, hair loss and even alopecia. They can range from iron deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, pregnancy (postnatal is very common), digestive disturbances (celiac, colitis), and lack of protein to stress. There are so many components to thinning hair, hair loss and alopecia – where did mine begin?
Luckily for me (not so lucky for them), my best friends and hairdressers have often been my backbone through the cycles of hair loss that I have encountered. If you have experienced hair loss, thinning hair, etc. yourself, then you will relate to this experience. One day you wake up, and you find clumps in the shower, bald spots while blow drying your hair or, like me, “parking stalls” – patches on the front of my scalp, which look like I have shaved a section of my hair. It is heart-wrenching, an emotional roller coaster, and often so frustrating because most of the time people will say it isn’t that noticeable even though it is the only thing you can see, and it drives you crazy. It affects you internally as well as externally, with self-esteem issues, confidence, and even your stress levels. It is something that you can’t stop thinking about, and quite often the only thing you can see when you are doing your hair (well, for me at least).
I have spent almost ten years trying to figure out the main reason for my hair loss, and once I started to understand my health and the things that could be affecting it, I decided to change a few things. To be honest, I have tried so many things, but my first suggestion is that if you are suffering from hair loss, thinning, or even unexplained bald spots, make sure to see a naturopath. The most important thing we can do is assess the underlying reason for the hair loss (if you are anaemic, have low thyroid, suffer from IBD, have a hormone imbalance). When we investigate the issues instead of avoiding the cause or trying to treat it externally without examining further, the symptoms will continue and often worsen – stress included.
For me, it was a few years after having my daughters that it really began to get worse, and after hearing “it is normal to lose your hair after you have a baby” a million times, I finally decided to get my thyroid checked and was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism years later. One of the main symptoms of a low functioning thyroid is hair loss (on top of hormonal imbalances, autoimmune disorders and STRESS). I also had a complete blood panel done and found out that I too was low in iron (most women are, due to their menstruation cycles). I also had digestive disturbances. All these components can lead to hair loss, and I had a handful of them.
I started to heal my digestive tract by following an anti-inflammatory diet and omitting gluten, soy and corn from my diet. Having Hypothyroidism had other effects in my body, but the hair loss was so significant that I started to supplement with glandular supports to increase my T3 levels. I also started to take Biotin, Enhanced Collagen and vitamin B’s to help with the growth of my hair (all 3 make a huge impact when it comes to healthy hair growth), as well as to help support other hormone levels in my body.
Unfortunately for women, when we have a rise of androgen in our system (released from our adrenal glands from too much stress) our levels of testosterone will rise, and this will affect our hair growth (facial & body hair) and cause hair loss from the forehead to the crown of our scalps. So stress also plays a huge role! More importantly, the foods that we eat also contribute to healthy skin, hair and nails. The vitamins and minerals that we obtain in our diets and even the protein that we eat (protein is essential for hair growth and its health) are critical for hair growth. However, if we have a poorly functioning digestive tract, then we won’t be obtaining our nutrients from those foods and often can be deficient – leading to hair loss and slow growth.
If you are like me, you understand the emotional rollercoaster that comes with thinning hair (both for men and women). It can seem overwhelming and catastrophic in some moments. I have learned through all the health issues that I discovered after becoming a holistic nutritionist, the importance of eating whole foods, eating organic, taking the right supplements, reducing stress in my life and asking the questions I need to regarding specific issues in regards to my health.
I have found that over the last few years, the most significant support to reducing my hair loss and increasing the “new” growth in the areas where it had fallen out has entirely been the change in my diet, lifestyle and supplement regime. I have increased my collagen supplementation to up to 6 tablespoons a day (for healthy skin and to heal my digestive tract), Biotin, Omega 3 fish oils, Vitamin B Complex, Vitamin C and I also drink bone broth in the evening. The combination of supplementing correctly, changing my diet to include more plant-based foods, organic and Omega 3-rich foods, and healthy fats has drastically altered the health of my hair and helped with the loss of my hair from my diagnosis a few years ago.
With time and patience, we can help our bodies heal naturally. Hair thinning and hair loss is quite common (more so in men). However, for women, it generally can have a variety of reasons which is why it is so hard to get it under control without asking questions or researching more. I encourage all of you that know or experience hair loss to reach out, ask a naturopath, a Holistic Nutritionist or even a physician and to try the recommended supports I have talked about above.
For more information on the products mentioned above, please visit www.organika.com for great recipes, recommendations and blogs about various health and beauty tips.
-Chelan Wilkins, RHN- Busy mother of two, and Organika’s National Education Trainer.