Hair Loss and Your Nutritional Status

Hair Loss and Your Nutritional Status

Hair loss in both men and women can have major psychological and social issues; however, the reasons behind hair loss in all genders could be quite different. The losses of hair in both groups could be related to hormonal changes, environmental, stress or surgical issues. We will try to answer most of your questions about this important and times stressful topic.

What are the Cycles of Hair Growth?

Hair goes through three cycles:

  • The anagen phase (growing phase) can last from two years to eight years. This phase generally refers to about 85% to 90% of the hair on your head. Chemotherapy usually affects this part of the hair cycle.
  • The catagen phase (transition phase) is the time that hair follicles shrink and takes about two to three weeks.
  • The telogen phase (resting phase) takes about two to four months. At the end of this phase, the hair falls out. This the most common cause of hair loss in women.

Shorter hair like eyelashes, arm, leg hair, and eyebrows have a short anagen phase — about one month. Your scalp hair can last up to six years or even longer.

Many people think that hair loss only affects men. However, it is estimated that more than 50% of women will experience noticeable hair loss. The most significant cause of hair loss in women is female-pattern hair loss (FPHL), which affects about one-third of susceptible women, which equals out to some thirty million women in the United State

Hair loss and Pregnancy!

Have you ever seen a pregnant woman with gorgeous locks of full hair only to be lost after delivery? Is there a science behind hair loss post-partum? What can you do about the chunks of hair that are coming out and is there any vitamins that can help? The main reason behind the post-partum hair loss is hormonal. During pregnancy the surges in hormones stop the usual loss of 100 strands of hair which is normal for your scalp. This causes many pregnant women to have luscious hair during pregnancy, but all good things must end, and they do come to a crashing end. Post-delivery many women must catch up with their stagnated hair loss and at times chunks of hair or entire regions of scalp are lost. This can cause panic if you are not aware of it and this process can last as long as one year. But don’t be alarmed there is a happy ending and that is that almost all hair loss is reversed, and your beautiful hairline is restored.

What are the Do’s and Don’ts? 

Avoid causing more stress on the hair and scalp by avoiding excessive brushing, chemical treatments and tight bands or caps. Improve oxygenation and blood flow with scalp gentle massage and healthy diet and vitamins. Proper sleep is also associated with improved hair growth, but this may be difficult as we know while taking care of a newborn.

    1. Skip the styling

      Try to hold off on fancy styling and let your hair air-dry till the thinning tapers out. Avoid causing more stress on the hair and scalp by avoiding excessive brushing, chemical treatments and tight bands or caps. Improve oxygenation and blood flow with scalp gentle massage. Also hair styles that pull on the hair may cause thinning and breakage in specific sites based on the hair style.

        2. Eat well

          Hair needs good nutrition to grow and be healthy, especially protein and key vitamins and minerals. Whether through diet or supplements, be sure to get enough of the following:

          • Protein
          • Iron
          • Vitamin D
          • Vitamin C
          • Zinc
          • Folic acid
          • Vitamin B12
          • Biotin

          Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins in your diet is the best way to make sure your body is getting all the nutrients it needs.

          Foods that are suggested by some to improve hair health include dark leafy greens (for the iron and vitamin C), sweet potatoes and carrots (for the beta carotene), eggs (for the vitamin D), and fish (for omega-3s and magnesium). 

            3. Take your vitamins

              Vitamins shouldn’t be a substitute for a varied diet, especially when you’re a new mom with a baby to take care of. But they may help as a supplement if your diet is not well-balanced. While no specific vitamins have been shown to affect hair loss, they are important for overall health. It is often recommended to continue your prenatal vitamins after your baby is born, especially if you are breast-feeding. Collagen is a protein that is found naturally in your body. It gives your skin, hair, and joints structure and strength. As collagen production decreases in our body as we age, collagen supplements have risen in popularity. Collagen is important in giving hair strength and for that reason, many patients wonder if collagen supplements can help to address postpartum hair loss. Some say that taking collagen supplements can help to boost the growth of new hair following the hair loss and can strengthen hair for a fuller look. Biotin appears to also help restore the healthy hair. However, you must remember that no study has shown that any vitamins stop or reverse hair loss but improve on future hair growth.

                4. Use volumizing shampoo

                  While there’s no evidence for it, conditioning shampoos sometimes weigh your hair down and make it look thinner and limper. Volumizers may add body to your hair and help you maintain a lustrous look.

                  Weight Loss Surgery and Hair Loss

                  Weight loss surgery puts patients on a lifelong journey of vitamin supplementations. A large cohort study showed that patients in this community were still deficient up to 50% while on multivitamin therapy. The biggest issue in this community is that they have a challenging time absorbing certain vitamins along with the fact that vitamins that need to be taken are often large horse pill that cause nausea and stomach upset due to the changes in the stomach size post-surgery.

                  What Vitamin Deficiencies Commonly Occur Post Bariatric Surgery?

                  The most prominent issue is vitamin absorption which will be easier with under the tongue absorbed vitamins that do not require swallowing large pills or gut absorption which is very difficult for many individuals but specially patients post bariatric surgery. One of the main deficiencies in these subset of patients is Biotin which leads to hair loss and major anxiety post bariatric surgery.

                  Hormone Associated Hair Loss Among Both Men and Women.

                  Hormonal changes are one of the most common causes of hair loss. Hence a medical practitioner may ask questions but also draw hormone levels, thyroid levels along with vitamin levels specially vitamin B panel including Biotin(vitamin B7). Recommendation per doctors is usually  Biotin 1000 mcg to 5000mcg daily. *

                  Estrogen promotes healthy hair growth and low levels due to stress, and menopause are some of the causes of low estrogen levels.

                  Now among people a major cause of hair loss and concern is elevated levels of Dihydrotestosterone. Testosterone does not seem to affect the hair follicle negatively but conversion to Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by 5 alpha reductase enzyme(5α reductase). This causes the DHT levels to surge in both men and women causing rapidly to age and fall out. Drugs that are inhibitors of the 5α reductase enzymes, such as Dutasteride (Avodart) and Finasteride (Proscar)  have become well known in treatment of hormone driven hair loss in both men and women.

                  Minoxidil (Rogaine) is used for all kinds of hair loss and the theory is to improve the blood flow and oxygen flow to the hair follicle. This is a prescription drug and must be provided under supervision of a doctor.

                  Experience Hair Loss After Having COVID-19

                  A COVID-19 infection can affect people in many different ways. Some may be asymptomatic, while others have severe symptoms or long-term effects.

                  A COVID-19 infection can cause physical and emotional stress, which can lead some to develop another bothersome outcome “hair loss”.

                  Many people notice hair loss in the months after recovering from a COVID-19 infection. More than 20% of people hospitalized with COVID-19 lose hair in the 3 to 6 months after discharge. Other studies that include people with milder symptoms suggest that hair loss after COVID-19 may be much more common.

                  There are many reasons why you may lose your hair, and stress is a common cause.

                  The clinical term for hair loss that’s related to stress is telogen effluvium. It usually happens about 3 months after a stressful event, and it can commonly last for up to 6 months. Telogen effluvium often happens after other stressful life events such as having a baby or a major surgery.

                  Cases of telogen effluvium have grown a lot since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic they are up over 400%. And rates of this condition are highest in people of color and other groups disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

                  While scientists don’t fully understand why this is the case, it is thought to be related to the stress of having COVID-19. There’s no evidence yet that the COVID-19 virus directly causes this hair loss.

                  If you have a stressful event, such as a COVID-19 infection, there may be some steps you can take to prevent hair loss. This includes having good nutrition, managing stress, and taking care of your hair as mentioned above.

                  Summary!

                  In summary hair loss is very concerning but most hair loss is limited and reversible and may improve with healthy lifestyle, nutrition and if needed supplements and vitamins. At times if the issue persists or worsens then an evaluation by a specialist and endocrinologist or gynecologist or both may be beneficial.

                  This information is only for educational purposes and is not medical advice or intended as a recommendation of any specific products. Consult your health care provider for more information.

                  *These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

                  References

                  1. "Hair Loss in Women: Causes, Types, Diagnosis & Treatments." Cleveland Clinic.
                  2. Baker, Lisa C. "Postpartum Hair Loss: The 4 Best Treatments." Healthline.
                  3. "Hair Loss in Women: Causes, Types, Diagnosis & Treatments." Cleveland Clinic.
                  4. "Postpartum Hair Loss." Dr. Michele Green M.D, 18 Nov. 2021.
                  5. "Biotin Vitamins 5000 Mcg." Frunutta.
                  6. Patel, Deepa, et al. A Review of the Use of Biotin for Hair Loss. National Library of Medicine, 2017.
                  7. "Invati Advanced Hair Loss Treatment & Thinning Hair." Aveda.
                  8. Sawaya, R., et al. Vitamin, Mineral, and Drug Absorption Following Bariatric Surgery. 2013, National Library of Medicine.
                  9. Frunutta Dissolvable Vitamins.
                  10. "Biotin Vitamins 5000 Mcg." Frunutta.
                  11. "5α-Reductase." Wikipedia, 5 Dec. 2004.
                  12. "Avodart." Drugs.com
                  13. "Proscar." Drugs.com
                  14. "Minoxidil." Wikipedia, 13 Jan. 2004
                  15. "Frunutta Dissolvable Vitamins Shop." Frunutta.
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