Updated: Jul 14, 2022
Did you know that about 50% of men and women will deal with hair loss at some point? I see this happen for a very high number of people in my practice.
COVID has made this problem even worse. Verywell Health recently interviewed me for the article Pandemic Stress Has Caused a Hair Loss Crisis, discussing this phenomenon’s origin.
What is the culprit with COVID and hair loss? Stress!
Telogen effluvium, the clinical term for stress-related hair loss, typically occurs around three months after a stressful event. For example, people can experience hair loss after childbirth or a major surgery. Spiked stress levels can disrupt the hair's natural growth cycle and lead to excessive shedding and hair loss.
This problem is not just affecting COVID patients. The world has been under unprecedented stress levels in the past two years, and telogen effluvium has also affected many people who have not even caught the virus.
To combat this type of hair loss, you need to reduce cortisol, your stress hormone.
Beyond stress, other factors also can affect hair loss:
Hormonal Imbalances cause hair loss, particularly high androgen levels, which are often seen in women with PCOS. Shifts in hormones in pregnancy, childbirth, and perimenopause also cause hair loss, but it will be temporary.
Vitamin Deficiencies: Several nutrients are also essential for hair growth, including Biotin, Iron, Zinc, B6, B12, and Folic Acid. Therefore eating a diet rich in these specific nutrients can also go a long way to contribute to hair regrowth.
Autoimmunity: Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system is triggered and attacks a part of your body in a phenomenon called molecular mimicry.
Thyroid Imbalances: When T3 and T4 thyroid hormones are low, it affects other processes in the body. This includes the development of hair at the root.
Hereditary: Unfortunately, hair loss can have a genetic component.
Harsh chemicals on your scalp can cause hair loss by damaging your hair and causing thinning and breakage.
Certain medications can also cause hair loss.
What should you do?
The first thing you can do is work on decreasing stress. To reduce stress and, therefore, cortisol, you need to prioritize sleep. Cortisol levels drop, and melatonin increases when we sleep, so getting adequate sleep is crucial in reducing cortisol levels.
You can also practice deep breathing. Deep breathing is an easy technique for stress reduction that you can use anywhere. You can use your breath to bring your body into the parasympathetic nervous system and lower your cortisol levels. Beginning practices such as meditation, mindfulness, gratitude journaling that help your body relax are also beneficial in reducing cortisol levels and increasing hair regrowth.
Try eating a rainbow to get a variety of nutrients into your diet. You can also supplement with nutrients, but supplements only tend to help with hair growth if you are deficient in that particular nutrient.
If you are not sure where to begin or would like to look further into your hair loss, reach out to a Functional Medicine Practitioner to dig into your unique cause of hair loss.