Over 25 million female American women are losing their hair and suffering the emotional distress that comes with this process. The latest research has shown that hormones seem to be the major player in this embarrassing condition. Fortunately, there are solutions in both nature and nurture that support hormone balance and a return to normal function.
While classic baldness has always been associated with men what has become increasingly more common today is the “female pattern” hair loss. Women rarely lose hair to the extreme that men do; however, many experience a significant reduction in the diameter of the hair shaft leading to an overall hair thinning. This pattern most often develops around the onset of menopause. Before menopause 13% of women experience hair thinning compared to 37% that experience this after menopause.
Women have a critical balance of 3 major sex hormones: progesterone, estrogen, & testosterone (androgens). When women stop ovulating at the onset of menopause there are fluxuations of the various hormones. For many women this process can become extreme. Research has shown that lifestyle plays a significant role in the regulation of these hormones and the effects of middle-age hormonal fluctuations.
The major hormone involved in hair loss is called dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which is the result of testosterone being in contact with the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is found in the skin and scalp. When DHT is present, it interacts with the hair follicles cell membrane receptor and disrupts the process of hair growth. This process is called androgen alopecia and is caused by excessive androgenic hormones coupled with high levels of oxidative stress.
Several researchers have reported a correlation between excessive sebum in the scalp and hair loss. Excessive sebum often accompanying thinning hair is attributed to systemic inflammatory conditions in the body and an enlargement of the sebaceous gland. The researchers believed excessive inflammation into the sebum causes a high level of 5-alpha reductase which clogs pores and further increases inflammatory processes.
Several factors are critical for reducing inflammatory conditions in the hair follicle. The first step is to inhibit the excessive androgenic hormone formation. Saw Palmetto is a very effective anti-androgen that blocks the cell membranes from absorbing high levels of DHT. This helps balance hormones in the body. Other DHT inhibiting nutrients include green tea extract and systemic enzymes.
The second step is to enhance intracellular anti-oxidant stores with glutathione boosting sources. Boosting glutathione within the cell protects the scalp and follicle mitochondria from oxidative stress. Low glutathione increases a molecule called Protein Kinase C which accelerates the loss of hair follicles. Major anti-oxidant sources that boost glutathione include N-Acetyle Cysteine, Inositol, Lutein, Quercetin, Resveratrol, Grape Seed Extract, & Zeaxanthin.
Cytokines serve as molecular messengers that regulate different inflammatory processes. One particular pro-inflammatory cytokine is TNF-a. When TNF-a is over-secreted in the sebaceous gland and hair follicles, it causes rapid inflammation and hair loss. Low vitamin-D and improper Omega 6:3 ratios within the cell can lead to increased TNF-a and elevated inflammatory pathways. Certain nutrients act specifically on the TNF-a pathway including Curcumin, Ginkgo Biloba Extract, Stinging Nettle Extract, Green Tea Extract, Fish Oil, & Borage Oil/Evening Primrose Oil, and systemic enzymes.
If you have been losing hair, you should immediately begin implementing an anti-oxidant rich diet, get regular exercise, and maintain low stress levels. Utilize high doses of anti-inflammatory based herbs such as turmeric, ginger, & dandelion. Reduce or eliminate sugar and grain consumption. Incorporate healthy fats and use only grass-fed and free range meat products. Consider a super-anti-oxidant supplement that contains an assortment of many of the above mentioned nutrients.
Dr. David Jockers