Help for Hair Loss and Thinning Hair
Jun 01, 2013 09:28PM
● By Linda Sechrist
Rarely have the interior dynamics of a healthy body been on a checklist for how to grow and maintain thick, shiny hair. Unfortunately, relying only on topical hair care products to add volume and luster means leaves one of the most significant aspects of hair overlooked—its inner origin. An extension of the body, the condition of an individual’s hair—male or female—largely depends on the body’s internal balance, which can go awry due to a variety of reasons: hormone imbalances; stress; a low functioning thyroid, malnutrition, autoimmune disease, hereditary factors; as well as idiopathic alopecia, a hereditary condition that affects approximately 30 million American women.
Dr. Carol Roberts, a medical doctor who practices Functional Medicine at the Perlmutter Health Center in Naples, advises that many individuals are surprised to discover that along with stress, their prescription medications are generally the biggest cause of dull or thinning hair as well as hair loss. She points out that even though all medications create nutritional deficiencies and toxicity, which are major factors in the condition of the hair, not everyone who takes prescription drugs is impacted in the same way.
A low functioning thyroid (hypothyroidism), which presents the symptoms of deep fatigue, itchy skin issues, changes to weight and body shape as well as hair loss, is far more common than most people imagine. To offset these, Roberts suggests a simple first step—iodine tablets, which can be purchased at the health food store and taken twice a week. “Iodine, a chemical element essential for the production of thyroid hormones that regulate growth and metabolism, competes with fluoride and chlorine, which are generally in our drinking water and swimming pools. Few people get enough iodine today so trying the natural route first is a safe measure,” says Roberts.
Some medications induce hypothyroidism. Several examples are lithium, birth control pills, ACE inhibitors for high blood pressure, beta blocker drugs such as INDERAL for hypertension and migraines, and diuretics, often used to counteract hypertension. Diuretics not only push fluids from the body but also valuable minerals. “Doctors have many different choices when it comes to prescribing medications. For example, Armour Thyroid is better than the typically prescribed drug Synthroid. Usually hair will grow back after switching medication. “Every woman alive knows how difficult it is to kill a hair follicle if it’s in the wrong place,” jokes Roberts.
Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy is a complex and complicated health issue, which can bring about a change in hair. “For instance, HRT that doesn’t include natural progesterone can interfere with thyroid function. Bioidentical HRT with estrogen and progesterone works best,” explains Roberts.
Drug Side Effects
“Chemotherapy poisons not just cancer cells but all cells, which includes those in the digestive track and hair follicles in the skin. Chemotherapy paralyzes the hair follicles, and the hair falls out,” advises Roberts, who notes that every drug has side effects and requires a “risk to benefits” assessment. While chemotherapy is the most well known reason for hair loss, antacid drugs, anti-convulsive medications, cholesterol lowering statins (like Crestor and Lipitor) and drugs for Parkinson’s disease are also problematic.
Attend First to Personal Health Habits
“Attend first to personal health habits such as feeding the body rather than just the mouth, and then look to medications,” emphasizes Roberts, who encourages individuals to use the Internet to learn about the side effects of a particular medication.
The Perfect Health Storm
Licensed Dietiitian/Nutritionist, owner of D-Signed Nutrition, and nutritionist at the Perlmutter Health Center, Dee Harris sees a lot of what she labels a perfect storm. “Many ofmy patients complaining of hair loss usually have a combination of imbalances: hormonal, nutritional, gastric, immune and/or detoxification. When exaggerated by a poor diet of processed foods, poor food choices, increased life stressors, and multiple medications, it can cascade and cause dull and lifeless hair in addition to skin problems”, says Harris, who has also seen changes in hair and skin with people who have systemic candida. This overgrowth of fungus can also cause immune and digestive problems. She emphasizes the need to find the root cause of the problem. “As a nutritionist, I work as a team member with the physician to address medications, labs and treatments while recommending, teaching and supporting the patient through lifestyle changes and improved diet and nutritional support.
To help patients reach their goal of restoring health Harris works in collaboration with First Line Therapy Lifestyle Educator, Robin Joy Rigsbee, who works with patients to help them not only make changes in their diet but also learn how to shop as well as prepare and cook meals that nourish the body. “Few people know where to begin, how to shop and cook for better health, or how to manage stress. When a patient follows my suggested lifestyle changes, they have the capacity to reduce their medication dosage and sometimes even eliminate them,” advises Harris.
Look Good…Feel Better
LaDonna Roye, a hairstylist specializing in hair color and owner of LaDonna Roye Hairstylist, in Naples, began carrying wigs, clip-in hairpieces and extensions when she noticed that many of her clients were losing their hair. “Reasons varied, ranging from hormonal changes to medications and chemotherapy treatments, says Roye, who is a volunteer trainer for the American Cancer Society’s Look Good…Feel Better (LGFB) and for Recover with Confidence, a new level of support for women with medically induced hair loss.
“For some women, thoughts of losing their hair, particularly the attention that it draws, is as devastating as the cancer itself. Most women don’t know where to turn to for assistance with questions such as, do I wear a scarf or hat, do I just go bald, or do I get a wig? Caregivers in the medical profession aren’t equipped with this information,” says Roye, who also advises that “fashion wigs”, which are often a lot of work, and require care and upkeep, aren’t the answer. Additionally, women who lose their hair through chemotherapy generally have very tender, sensitive scalps. The harsh materials that are usually the hallmark of fashion wigs can be agonizing.”
In addition to adding a private fitting room to her salon and helping women with personalized wig fittings, Roye plans to educate local health care providers, giving them a place where they can refer patients. She is also planning a one-day workshop in July to educate her clients as well as the general public on hair loss.
Perlmutter Health Center, 800 Goodlette Road North, Suite 270, Naples; 239-649-7400. PerlHealth.com.
D-Signed Nutrition, LLC, 27499 Riverview Center Blvd. Ste 214, Bonita Springs; 239-444-4204 ext 1112. D-Signed4Health.com.
LaDonna Roye Hairstylist, 12980 Tamiami Trail North, Suite 18, Naples; 239-254-9100. LaDonnaRoye.com.