Root Cause of Hair Loss + How to Combat It - Nikki Yelton RD

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Root Cause of Hair Loss + How to Combat It

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There are many common causes of hair loss, which can be addressed and treated, leading to healthy, strong hair. Learning and understanding the root cause of hair loss is the first essential step in any hair loss battle.

Woman losing her hair

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Hair loss. Two small words that can create compounding trauma and stress. Learning and understanding the root cause of hair loss is the first essential step in any hair loss battle.

Unfortunately, one of the most challenging aspects of hair loss is the inability to replace hair. Often, it becomes a scramble to quickly learn how to prevent hair loss in the first place. Luckily, there are many common causes of hair loss, which can be addressed and treated, leading to healthy, strong hair.

THE HAIR GROWTH CYCLE

To understand why hair loss occurs in the first place, it’s necessary to understand how hair growth occurs. There are 4 stages in the hair growth cycle, including:

  1. Anagen (Growing)

The first growing phase is the longest. In fact, 90% of your hair strands are currently in the anagen phase. This is when the hair follicles produce and grow hair, until ultimately being cut or falling out.

  1. Catagen (Transition)

The transition phase occurs for about 10 days. During this second phase, hair follicles shrink and hair growth slows.

  1. Telogen (Resting) 

During the resting phase, hair doesn’t grow or fall out. Per its name, these hair strands are simply resting. This stage lasts around 3 months.

  1. Exogen (Shedding)

The shedding phase occurs for 2-5 months. This is when hair is shed from the scalp. Actually, each person loses approximately 50-100 hairs per day!

The stages in the hair growth cycle

Note: Every hair on your head is currently in different stages, as new hair grows and old strands fall out.

Once we understand the hair growth cycle, we can better implement changes to encourage more hair growth and prevent hair loss from the get-go.

WHY IS HAIR LOSS MORE COMMON WITH LEAKY GUT AND AUTOIMMUNITY?

By definition, autoimmunity occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. When hair loss is a chronic symptom, white blood cells are likely responsible for attacking healthy hair follicles, leading to detrimental damage. As a result, the hair growth cycle halts or slows down, the follicles shrink, and eventually die. 

In addition, leaky gut, a common precursor or possible cause of autoimmunity, can lead to nutrient deficiencies, inflammation, and other imbalances in the body, further promoting hair loss. Leaky gut specifically contributes to hair loss because an increase in gut permeability exposes the hair follicles to immune damage. It also causes gut inflammation, which increases the number of inflammatory cytokines that reach the hair follicles. 

For these reasons, addressing and healing gut dysfunction and autoimmune disease is essential!

AUTOIMMUNE CONDITIONS COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH HAIR LOSS
  • Alopecia- Alopecia occurs when the white blood cells attack healthy hair follicle cells, leading to hair falling out. Basically, the immune system thinks there is a foreign invader in the follicle and goes on the attack in order to protect the body. This results in destroying the hair follicles, causing hair loss. 
  • Lupus- Lupus can affect multiple organs or systems in the body. It often goes through cycles of flare up and remission. Those with lupus often struggle with skin rashes and sores, which can occur on the scalp and cause hair loss. Typically, hair will grow back during periods of remission unless scarring occurs in the affected follicles. 
  • Hashimoto’s– In Hashimoto’s, the immune system attacks the thyroid causing it to be underactive. This causes a dysregulation of hormones. When the thyroid is underactive, it doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, which means the hair follicles are not as stimulated as they need to be. 
  • Grave’s Disease- Grave’s Disease occurs when the immune system attacks the thyroid causing it to be overactive. In this case, antibodies bind to thyroid cells, causing an overproduction of hormones. This hormonal imbalance causes hair follicles to enter the resting phase early, shutting down hair production.
Root cause of hair loss
OTHER COMMON CAUSES OF HAIR LOSS

There are many root causes of hair loss in men and women. Other common causes of hair loss include:

  • Hormone fluctuations- When the balance of hormones like T3 and T4 (thyroid hormones), androgens, or dihydrotestosterone (DHT) are disrupted, the body as a whole is affected, including the development of hair at the root. 
  • Genetics- Sometimes genetics are to blame for hair loss. For male pattern balding, hair loss is strongly correlated with the AR gene found on the X chromosome. In the case of female pattern baldness, it has been found that an enzyme aromatase plays a role in hormone regulation and involves your genes.
  • Nutritional Deficiencies –  Micronutrient deficiencies such as zinc, iron, selenium, biotin, niacin, copper, and vitamins A, C, D, and E are associated with structural changes to the hair follicle that results in hair loss. Healthy hair requires amino acid metabolism, which relies on proper nutrient absorption.
  • Stress- Stress disrupts the cycle of the hair follicle and can lead to hair loss. When in the telogen, or resting, stage, the hair sheds. A stress trigger can cause telogen effluvium, which is when all hair follicles shift into the resting phase at once. This stunts growth.

This helps explain why postpartum seasons, stressful jobs, or a hypothyroid diagnosis often result in hair loss. However, through functional testing, symptom analysis, and working with a functional practitioner, you can identify the cause of your hair loss. 

HOW TO COMBAT HAIR LOSS

If you have been diagnosed with autoimmune disease and struggle with hair loss, there is good news. It is reversible! 

The key to combating hair loss is two-part:

  1. Heal the gut
  2. Reverse autoimmunity

As a result, the stem cells supplying the follicle with new cells are not being attacked, so hair follicles have the potential to regrow. Healthy hair follicles are no longer victims of the immune system and are free to grow healthy, strong hair! 

Ways to prevent and combat the root cause hair loss

This is how you do so:

  • Address Hormonal Imbalances– Work with a trusted practitioner to provide in-depth hormonal testing. Be sure to look at a complete thyroid panel, as well as the status of stress and sex hormones.
  • Heal Your Gut- Limit your consumption of inflammatory foods. Instead, focus on whole, seasonal foods. Bonus: consume plenty of gut-healing foods, like bone broth, collagen, and licorice root tea. Also, it’s important to effectively manage stress and prioritize sleep.
  • Perform Regular Head Massages– Massaging your hair follicles is more than just relaxing, it also stimulates hair growth and oil production to support a healthy hair growth cycle.
  • Change Your Shampoo– Most shampoos and hair products are loaded with toxic ingredients and chemicals. Consider switching to a non-toxic brand to promote healthy scalp, follicles, and hair. Detox market is my favorite place to find non-toxic hair products, lile shampoo and conditioner.
  • Consider Supplementation– There are many supplements, herbs, and nutrients to support hair growth on a foundational level. Under the guidance of your health practitioner, try supplementing with collagen, antioxidants, sulfur, biotin, and B-vitamins. 
THE BOTTOM LINE

Hair loss affects thousands of men and women. In the case of chronic hair loss, it’s essential to understand the root cause in order to effectively combat it. For professional help addressing any underlying gut or autoimmune condition, check out my Microbiome Makeover program. In the program, we use a 7 step protocol to heal the gut and reverse autoimmunity— the two most important steps in combating symptoms like hair loss. 

root cause of hair loss and how to combat it
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"When it comes to balancing our body, healing the gut, reversing autoimmunity, and achieving optimal health—we are a lot like a car that won’t run right. In order to fix the problem once and for all instead of relying on jumper cables, we must get underneath the hood, run the diagnostics, and replace the battery so that it runs good as new."

-Nikki Yelton, RD

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