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Hair Loss Is Frustrating For Everyone

Hair loss, called alopecia, concerns many people as they age and is confusing to understand.  Both men and women experience some form of hair loss, however, this condition is far more prevalent for men than women.  Hair loss may be genetic, as in male patterned baldness (also experienced by some women) and this may be caused in part by high levels of andosterone hormone (a form of testosterone).

Hair growth is cyclical undergoing growth and resting phases.  For hair to grow, proper protein synthesis must occur to form the keratin structure, the strands mature; then eventually enter their resting phase which causes it to slough off allowing for new hair growth in the follicle.

Many factors contribute to premature hair loss.  Exposure to harsh weather conditions, chemicals used on hair such as shampoos, conditioners, and dyes, excessive brushing, and frequent blow drying.  As well, some medications, especially chemotherapy drugs, may cause hair to fall out.  Nutritional deficiencies may be contributing factors.  Low levels of zinc, Vitamin A, iron, and essential fatty acids undermine strong hair growth requirements.  Poor digestion and inefficient absorption of nutrients in the stomach due to improper levels of hydrochloric acid and damaged villi in the small intestine present challenges to healthy hair.  If intake of protein is low, this will slow keratin production in turn slowing down growth of new hair.  Most people consume plenty of protein, often too much, however; current dietary trends appear too high in simple carbohydrate foods found in sugary and starchy foods and sugary fruits as well as damaged fats from fried foods and improperly cooked foods.

Gluten sensitivity affects hair growth.  The gluten protein and its derivative gliadin (found mainly in wheat, barley, and rye grains) incur antibodies to gliadin that attack hair follicles.  Celiac disease, a malabsorption disorder, may cause hair loss.  According to Dr. Michael Murray  (2006) in Textbook of Natural Medicine, Ed. 3, V. 2, p. 1713, removal of gluten from the diet often reverses celiac symptoms and restores digestion functions.

Low thyroid function may be a contributing factor. The thyroid manages many systems of the body regulating body temperature, tissue growth for nerves and bones, reproductive hormones of which aldosterone is one, regulates emotions, weight, skin, and hair quality.  The thyroid also stimulates enzymes for glucose metabolism and the efficient breakdown of fats and proteins.

Chronic stress may influence hair loss.  Stress alters hormone balances, especially sexual hormones as these provide the raw materials to form the needed stress hormones  adrenalin and cortisol.

Bringing balance to one’s diet with real foods, not processed and refined food products, proper supplementation as needed such as essential fatty acids and antioxidants, addressing any thyroid or digestive disturbances with your health care provider or professional nutritionist, getting plenty of rest, exercise, fresh air, and managing stress support healthy hair.  Check hair care product labels and remove any with harsh chemicals and dyes.

Krystle Shapiro, LMT, MSHN recently completed her Masters degree in holistic nutrition.  She owns Touchstone Massage Therapy and Nutrition Plus!  She may be reached at 208/290-6760. 

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