If you have been told thinning hair is just your genes or hormones and you have no control, good news is below!
It turns out there are multiple factors involved in hair health. Hair growth is a process that requires good health (mental and physical) to perform optimally. With this understanding, we have many points of impact to utilize on the way to stabilizing hair loss and potentially even re-growing.
If hair is the tip of the iceberg, let’s take a look at what’s under the water line. As with most things in health optimization, mitochondria are involved. They are essentially the energy-producing components inside each cell. They have their own DNA (mtDNA) and are absolutely critical in cellular function. If they are not performing optimally, manifestations can include inflammation, cancer, aging, and much more. A recent study, Reversing wrinkled skin and hair loss in mice by restoring mitochondrial function1, showed in a creative way how mitochondria are also involved in hair loss.
They took mice, and induced mitochondrial stress at the mtDNA level by giving doxycycline, an antibiotic, and comparing their hair and skin appearances over time. Quick aside; know anyone who as taken long term daily antibiotics such as doxy for acne? I certainly have dispensed as a pharmacist many times…
They also showed the hair came back after doxycycline withdrawal!
Accumulating evidence suggests a strong link between mitochondrial dysfunction, mitochondrial diseases, aging, and aging-associated diseases26, 28, 30, 38, 63. Notably, increased somatic mtDNA mutations and decline in mitochondrial functions have been extensively reported during human aging26, 28, 30. Studies also suggest a decrease in mtDNA content and mitochondrial number with age32, 33, 64. The major finding of our study is that the ubiquitous depletion of mtDNA predominantly leads to wrinkled skin and hair loss accompanied by inflammatory phenotype. Wrinkled skin and hair loss are obvious features of skin aging and aging-associated phenotypic changes in humans. We discovered that these aging-associated phenotypic changes could be reversed by restoring mtDNA content to wild-type level. To our knowledge this observation is unprecedented.Reversing wrinkled skin and hair loss in mice by restoring mitochondrial function Bhupendra Singh, Trenton R. Schoeb, Prachi Bajpai, Andrzej Slominski, & Keshav K. Singh Cell Death & Diseasevolume 9, Article number: 735 (2018)
This convinces me there are systemic angles to hair loss…you?
As we stay under the water line, looking at systemic contributors to hair loss, stress is a huge factor. Stress is not an
The stress hormone, cortisol, is known to affect the function and cyclic regulation of the hair follicle. When cortisol is present at high levels it has been demonstrated to reduce the synthesis and accelerate the degradation of important skin elements, namely hyaluronan and proteoglycans by approximately 40%.J Drugs Dermatol. 2016 Aug 1;15(8):1001-4.
Stress and the Hair Growth Cycle: Cortisol-Induced Hair Growth Disruption.
Thyroid is constantly documented in the information I have read. This is a great summary:
Your thyroid hormones bind directly to receptors in the base of your hair follicles, controlling hair growth and color. Thyroid hormones regulate hair stem cells too, meaning they can start and stop new hair growth.Why Hair Loss Happens and How to Regrow Hair Naturally2
The two main thyroid issues people have are over-producing thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism) or under-producing them (hypothyroidism) — both cause your hair to fall out. A thyroid imbalance is a common issue — thyroid medication is the second most prescribed drug in the U.S. (the first is opiate painkillers).
I have seen a number of times, working with a patient’s thyroid levels on an individualized basis, an improvement on the hair front. The key is to do detailed testing (more than just TSH) and likely utilize T3 in supplementation versus T4 alone (levothyroxine – the most common). See this success story as one example.
As inflammation manifests in the mitochondria, and the mitochondria have shown to be involved in hair loss, anyone who has chronic inflammation should be interested in resolving. Inflammation is multi-factorial, but there are a number of strategies that can be developed on a personalized basis.
I am adding oxidative stress (the target of antioxidant marketing)in this section as well, as it often goes hand in hand with inflammation. Oxidative stress is first noticed in the mitochondria, and as we saw above, anything that impacts them can be involved in hair loss. Toxins and heavy metals are producers of oxidative stress.
Metals are one of the body’s primary sources of oxidative stress to the body.Wendy Myers, Limitless Energy: How to Detox Toxic Metals to End Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue, loc. 406
Another is “healthy” vegetable oils, or more properly called industrial seed oils.
The consumption of seed oils high in the omega-6 polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) linoleic acid (LA) contributes to low-grade inflammation, oxidative stress, endothelial dysfunctionDiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH. Importance of maintaining a low omega–6/ omega–3 ratio for reducing inflammation. Open Heart 2018;5:e000946.
andatherosclerosis. doi:10.1136/ openhrt-2018-000946
Inflammation and oxidative stress combine to present a Pandora’s box, but with a little time and work, it can be sorted out; and doing so is a very important step.
Sex hormones are highlighted often in hair loss, and rightly so. While they are a factor, it is good to start with the above thoughts first, but running a hormone panel will provide good information and may be a part of the plan.
Oral prescription medications, such as finasteride, that block DHT ( a part of the testosterone metabolite pathway) is not the first place to start in my opinion; even though it would mean not filling another prescription! There can be very serious sexual side effects, potentially even permanent.
- With many contributors as possibilities, I would recommend, working with someone individually to assess where to start. This just happens to be something I have experience with! Please have a look here if interested. The Human Potential Coach training I completed provided many strategies to reduce chronic stress. In addition, I have worked with many clients over the years on thyroid and hormone balancing.
- Knowing people like supplement ideas, these are general ideas. For low thyroid support; iodine and selenium are great starting points. Collagen is good for skin and hair.
- A compounded prescription idea is to combine minoxidil (the active ingredient in Rogaine) with finasteride (mentioned above) to be used TOPICALLY. This requires a prescription and a compounding pharmacy (happy to help!). Please reach out and schedule a FREE 15-minute call if interested in this route.
- One supplement, in particular, I have seen work in many people directly, without any interventions in stress and thyroid no less, is a product called Nutrafol. They combine a host of ingredients that target multiple points along the pathways that impact hair growth, including mitochondrial and inflammatory. I have seen in men and women, again with no other changes (although they are still recommended for many), this product cause hair regrowth inside of 3 months. Here is a study on their product. We do sell it on our site, as Island Drug is a proud wholesale partner.
Working with people to address this health concern has been particularly rewarding. Hair is such a point of emphasis due to the obviously dominant role it plays in outward appearance. The challenges hair loss prevents with its under-the-waterline factors, is something that this service is set up particularly well for; the pharmaceutical angle as well as the stress reduction and other tactics the Human Potential Coach training.