BY DR. ANDREA PURCELL
Hair loss in menopause occurs in approximately 50% of women between the ages of 50-60 years old.
Early intervention is important. The longer the condition continues, the more invasive the treatment usually has to be. I encourage all women to act as soon as they think they are losing more hair than is normal.
Early intervention is often the difference in managing the hair loss and needing to take invasive measures. Seeking treatment sooner helps maintain the hair that she does have and prevent shrinkage of the hair follicles.
Any woman in menopause can attest to the fact that menopause is a wild ride. Whole body changes abound affecting our physical, mental and emotional states. Hair loss is one of the most common menopausal symptoms yet it is often overlooked. This is likely due to the fact that hair loss may not happen with the more obvious menopausal symptoms, it typically occurs 5-10 years into menopause. This delay often makes hair thinning a confusing symptom.
To make it even more frustrating hair loss is often over looked or dismissed as a vanity complaint by conventional medical offices.
Hair growth occurs in three phases, including two resting phases and a growth phase. With age, growth phase-time decreases, while time spent in the resting phases increases. When age-related changes are combined with hormone-induced changes, hair loss tends to intensify.
The most common causes of menopausal hair loss include stress, hormonal imbalances, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Menopausal hair loss is often the result of a slow decline in hormone levels.
Estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, thyroid, and adrenal hormones play a role in hair follicle health. Estrogen promotes hair growth in the growth phase, leading to thicker, healthier, faster-growing hair. Progesterone blocks testosterone from shrinking hair follicles and prevents hair from falling out prematurely.
Thyroid conditions also will contribute to hair loss, splitting, breakage and dry brittle hair.
Stress should not be underestimated. Stress can contribute to any health condition and is a common cause of hair loss. Surgery falls into this category as it is a major stress on the body. It is common for women to experience hair loss 2-4 months after a stressful life event or surgical procedure. The delay between the stressor and the onset of symptoms can prevent a woman from connecting the dots as to the cause of her hair loss. Women under considerable stress whether it be physical, emotional or mental find that hair starts to thin and fall out. Acute stress can literally cause a woman to say her hair is shedding everywhere. Women will describe big clumps of it coming out in the shower. Littering the bathroom floor and covering her clothes. Stress induced hair loss is caused from the over production of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that flood the system and enhance shedding.
Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Due to agricultural practices, soil quality is deficient in many minerals that are essential for good health. When the soil is deficient the plants are not able to incorporate them and we are not able to consume them. Some of the most common mineral deficiencies essential for hair growth include magnesium zinc, biotin, manganese, iron, selenium including many trace minerals. Other important nutrients include B-vitamins including vitamin B12, folic acid, L-Lysine and Vitamin D.
Like many aspects of women’s health, hair loss is complicated and requires a comprehensive approach in order to get results:
- Physical exam
- Comprehensive Laboratory Testing – Thyroid, Sex hormones, Vitamin and Mineral levels, Adrenal testing.
- Treatment recommendations to encompass hormonal balancing, stress management and correction of nutrient deficiencies.
- An experienced practitioner who understands the interconnectedness of the condition and will guide you to a healthy head of hair.
When followed, this approach works to stabilize hair loss and promote the growth of new hair over a 3-12 month period.
In review, hair loss affects a significant number of menopausal women. Hair loss experienced at any point in a woman’s life is nothing less than devastating. Too often it is perceived as a vanity complaint and not given the attention that it deserves. A proactive approach started early on will provide peace of mind immediately, and symptom relief gradually, over a 3-12-month period.
See “Hair Loss in Menopause” published in this month’s issue of Natural Awakenings Magazine! TAKE ME TO THE ISSUE
Good morning Dr. Purcell and thank you so much for the update. What an outstanding article. I am always amazed at the depth and the extent of your professional skills. I will definitely pass this wealth of information and source on to everyone. So many can benefit from you expertise. Thank you so much for including me in the distribution of such needed and valuable information. Clinton