While a little hair loss in the shower or when brushing your hair is completely normal, losing large amounts is not.
When a woman’s hair starts to fall out, it causes anxiety and crushes self esteem. Our hair is a symbol of health, femininity, youth and is a part of what makes us feel like ourselves. Often people are in tears with worry and despair in my office with this not so uncommon problem.
Hair loss is something I see a lot of in my practice which is no surprise seeing as I see a lot of patients with hormonal disorders. It is, in a word, catastrophic for these women and I feel so much compassion for them.
The Most Common Cause of Hair Loss In Women: Androgenic Alopecia
When sex hormones are out of balance it can cause a condition called androgenic alopecia. In women, this begins as a gradual thinning of the parting line and then radiates out from the top of the head.
This essentially means that hormones are the root issue, and you are converting some of your hormones into a form of testosterone that is causing the hair to fall out in a diffuse pattern.
Androgenic alopecia can be caused by an array of hormonal disorders such as:
- Adrenal fatigue
- Congenitial adrenal hyperplasia
- Male pattern baldness
- Adrenal or ovarian tumours,
- Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis disorders.
To effectively diagnosis and treat this, a solid knowledge of the endocrine (hormone) system is critical and comprehensive lab work must be ordered. In addition to the above conditions, thyroid conditions must also be ruled out in a comprehensive hormonal assessment.*
How Do You Treat Androgenic Hair Loss?
There are various potential causes of hair loss but with thorough assessment and laboratory testing we can most often get to the root cause which dictates treatment. Often women are trying a “throw as much mud at the wall and see what sticks” approach - taking loads of supplements and medications, and yet many of the things they’re using they don’t need for the type of hair loss they have.
Sadly, it is often the case that the assessment women are getting is incomplete, so it is out of desperation that women are swallowing loads of supplements and using potions all on their own, without professional direction. Almost without exception I order lab work to fill in the holes and get the information required to get a clear picture of what is happening, so that I can fix it with targeted, individualized treatment.
Almost always with hormones it is never as basic as simply blocking this pathway or replacing that hormone but thankfully there is a way to get the hair loss to stop. Usually this involves working on a few different hormonal pathways simultaneously to get back into balance. Sometimes this involves blocking certain hormones, sometimes it involves hormone replacement, and sometimes it involves supporting hormone production; it is always highly individual.
A great example is the issue of managing blood sugar levels as being core to treatment with androgenic alopecia. A lot of people don’t realize it, but it is vital to address insulin resistance when treating androgenic alopecia and this in turn requires assessing adrenal health, diet, stress management and sleep.
In my practice treatment involves using a variety of interventions to arrest the hair loss through balancing the hormones including any combination of prescribing again herbs, to nutritional changes, to hormone replacement, to lifestyle changes.
Between detailed analysis of a comprehensive lab work up, taking a good history with my patients and spending the time to customize their treatment plans, usually this can make a world of difference.