In the United States, the average age of Female Menopause is about 51. During the lead up and times after this physiologic transition, many women will complain bitterly of changes in their hair. Many times, these complaints are of thinning and hair loss but other complaints such as brittle, dull, or lackluster hair are common. In my office, women will tell me that they see more and more hair in the drain of the shower or on the floor of their bathroom. Several times I have had women bring in baggies full of fallen hair. It is devastating to many of these women who feel their self-image changing rapidly and dramatically.
Female menopausal hair loss is common, and it increases with age and notably, it increases with the change in hormonal balance that occurs with the menopausal transition. There are a few hormones that are particularly responsible, and it is true that declines in actual blood levels or receptor sensitivity to Estradiol and Thyroid hormone are the primary causes. Other factors that are often associated with hair loss include genetics, food sensitivities (gluten is a major culprit), systemic inflammation, and nutrient imbalances such as iron and ferritin, though there are certainly a number of other nutrients that can lead to hair loss.
In my next blog, I will go into a more detailed discussion of what can be done from a medical standpoint to deal with female menopausal hair loss, but for now, I would recommend that women who start to lose their hair in the 40’s and beyond do several things that can lay the physiologic ground work for a healthy head of hair. I would first make sure that you pay very careful attention to hair hygiene. It is important to keep the scalp clean and vibrant. Frequent hair washing (at least 4 times a week, if not daily) is crucial to keep the hair follicles free of dirt and debris and to stimulate the blood flow through the mechanical action of massaging the scalp. And it is important to use an extremely high-quality hair product. Few hair products in grocery stores or corner pharmacies have the quality necessary to adequately care for the hair. In addition, far too many of these products contain chemicals and additives that are actually toxic to the skin or hair. I would recommend a high-quality product that is organic and made from natural ingredients. One product that I have seen outstanding results with is called Monat®. This product has ingredients are naturally-based, safe, pure and sustainable and they work in harmony with each other to create an exceptional product that yields a healthier head of hair.
When it comes to nutrition, avoiding inflammatory foods is essential. One of the most inflammatory foods known is gluten. Gluten is one of the primary proteins in wheat. Over the years, genetic modification of the wheat used in the U.S. has led to gluten proteins that are essentially foreign to the human body. These proteins can lead to systemic inflammation that may manifest in hair loss. I would recommend at least a 4-month trial of a gluten free diet to see if hair growth improves with this dietary modification. I cannot count the number of times I have heard dramatic positive stories of what gluten free has done to my patient’s health and well-being. The skin, gut and hair improvements can be impressive. Beyond gluten, I would recommend a nutritional program that consists primarily of vegetables and proteins. Some fruit and an avoidance of gluten, carbohydrates and processed grains. More specifically, an anti-inflammatory diet is an excellent way to start. Finally, I would make sure that everyone includes a pharmaceutical grade multivitamin in their program. Only with high quality multivitamins can you be sure to get the optimum daily quotient of micronutrients necessary for good health and optimal hair support.
Female menopausal hair loss is a major concern among aging women in the U.S. today. With some very simple changes in daily routine, hair health can be dramatically improved. In my next blog I will discuss some medical issues that are associated with Female Menopausal Hair Loss and what can be dome to improve hair health from a medical perspective.