We all know that women, especially, love a full head of big bouncy goldilocks. Or brunettelocks...or auburnlocks...or fill in the blank. (smile) In my consultations, I often hear women comment that their hair, skin, and nails exhibit noticeable changes as they age. There can be many reasons for this to happen, and much is related to hormone shifting within the body. But, hair 'symptoms' can also be a sign of some other key nutrient deficiencies and endocrine related conditions.
Here's a few examples:
Hair Loss in Pre-Menopausal Women:
Some of the key contributors to this include gastric hypochlorhydria (lack of acid in the gut for digestion), low iron, low minerals, low amino acids, and hypothyroidism. In the case of hypochlorhydria, the symptoms can appear much the same as having too much acid resulting in prescriptions or remedies for suppressing acid which is a bad idea. Hypothyrodism always makes the light bulb go off in my head when hair loss is mentioned, and I suggest a thyroid panel be tested along with the hormone work-up. Everyone is becoming more aware these days (I hope) that thyroid lab values cannot always be trusted. There are some great books that I will point you to if you want to dig into that statement further. "Overcoming Thyroid Disorders", David Brownstein M.D. (the thyroid guru today) and " Hypothyroidism, the Unsuspected Illness (1976), Broda Barnes, M.D. (the thyroid guru of yesterday). Both are on the same page about misdiagnosis and what to look for.
Hair Loss in Pregnancy or Birth Control Pills:
B-complex vitamins and in particular B6 and folate are important to have on board in the daily vitamin regimen to prevent or lessen this problem.
Hair Loss in Post-Menopausal women:
The list is similar to Pre-Menopausal women: hypochlorhydria, low iron, low minerals, low amino acids, hypothyroidism (especially), but also low DHEA.
Hair that is Dull and Lifeless:
Hurry right out today and get started on Essential Fatty Acids (with mixed tocopherols) and B-Complex Vitamins. Now AGAIN I will mention that ALL nutraceuticals are NOT created equal. That's why I carry specific brands and high pharmaceutical grade products. Prescribed Supplements is the way to go and they need to be recommended and managed by a TRAINED and LICENSED professional.
Hair (scalp) HURTS when brushed: VITAMIN D-fiency. (smile) No really, it's true. Start taking Vitamin D3. I can help you with the dosing for your age and lifestyle.
Now here's the fun part for me today!!!! I attended a training session last week with Dr. Jonathan V. Wright. The doctor who wrote this and other blogs for Suzanne Somers. Here's his article and interview with Suzanne on all-things-hair. You will want to read this if your pony tail is getting thinner.
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jonathan Wright for my last two books, BREAKTHROUGH and KNOCKOUT. Subsequently he has agreed to do a series of interviews on my blog to provide vital information for many of the issues women face today. The first was on Vit K and its benefits to help menstrual clotting. Today we will tackle the issue of thinning hair and weak nails.
SUZANNE: Hi, Dr. Wright. Thank you for continuing this important series for my readers. I meet so many women who are complaining they are losing their hair or have weak nails. What causes this?
DR. WRIGHT:There are several conditions which cause women to lose their hair. First we have the relatively rare condition called “alopecia areata”, in which an entire “patch” or even multiple “patches” of hair fall out, surrounded by entirely healthy scalp with lots of hair. Secondly, we have even more rare “alopecia totalis” in which all the hair—everywhere on the scalp—drops out. But the much more common condition I want to discuss today commonly begins at peri-menopause (and sometimes even before then!) and is just “thinning out all over”, when we find too much hair in the shower or bathtub drain type of hair loss. A typical observation about this kind of hair loss is “Gee, when I put my hair in a ponytail, the ponytail is getting skinnier and skinnier!”
SUZANNE:This is a big problem for women. I remember when I was young there was a certain age where women just didn’t wear their hair long anymore because it got too thin. Everyone got those “mom” cuts by age 40. And also I hear a lot of complaints about nails getting weaker and weaker.
DR. WRIGHT: Some women will tell me their nails have been in poor condition for years, while others will say they are gradually getting worse and worse. Even adding gelatin or calcium – the nails chronically chip, peel, crack, “layer back”, are too thin and break way too easily.
SUZANNE:Do thinning hair and weak nails have same cause?
DR. WRIGHT:Yes, they do have the same cause, but surprisingly, even though both problems have the same underlying cause, I’ve very rarely heard, in 37 years of natural medicine practice, from one woman who has both problems at the same time.
SUZANNE: So what is the cause?
DR. WRIGHT:Recent research has established a link between low levels of iron and relatively uniformly distributed female scalp hair loss.
SUZANNE:So if we supplement with iron will it help our hair and nails?
DR. WRIGHT:It goes deeper than that. Finding the connection to “thinning all over” hair loss and low iron levels is progress, but surprisingly, low iron levels, hair loss, and poor quality nails all have the same underlying cause for women of all ages: it’s “gastric hypochlorhydria”, translated into English: low stomach acid.
SUZANNE:Most people would never link low stomach acid to these other issues. How does low stomach acid cause iron deficiency, hair loss, and nail weakening?
DR. WRIGHT:If stomach acid is low, protein isn’t efficiently digested – and hair and nails are made up of… protein! If we are deficient in protein, our bodies know that we can live without hair or nail proteins, but we can’t survive without heart muscle proteins or other important body proteins. So if we are short in supply of protein, the hair or nails are the first to go. Optimal stomach function—which includes optimal stomach acid—is also key to optimal digestion and absorption of iron, many other minerals, and at least two key B vitamins. It’s no wonder hair or nails “go bad”! If a woman in her twenties or thirties is losing a lot of hair, we now know it’s from too little stomach acid and pepsin. This can be replenished with Hydrochloric Acid with Pepsin capsules. (HCL-pepsin). With women in their forties who are losing their hair, often it’s a combination of low stomach acid, low thyroid, and sex hormone loss – mainly estrogen and progesterone. In this case we replace missing hormones with bioidentical estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid. Then we also replace the missing or low hydrochloric acid. But there is one more key element on the outside track – DHEA. Sometimes DHEA is the key missing element.
SUZANNE:That’s your cocktail for hair loss, I love it. How great to have a natural remedy to replace what’s missing rather than a drug to put a Band-Aid on things. So in women losing their hair, you would look for a doctor who specializes in anti-aging medicine and ask for a gastric analysis?
DR. WRIGHT:And from my experience, I would say it will probably reveal low stomach acid for sure, and/or low thyroid, and/or a lack of DHEA and/or natural sex hormones. Once those are replenished, the hair and nails get thicker and stronger.
SUZANNE:I have a friend who was very upset that she was losing her hair. She started taking 3-4 Hydrochloric Acid with Pepsin (HCL-pepsin) capsules (available at health food stores) with each meal and her hair is coming back and her bloating is subsiding. She’s thrilled! I’ve been taking HCL-pepsin for several years, and I’m happy to say, my nails and hair are both in great shape. I’ve covered many of these topics in my book, BREAKTHROUGH. If my readers want more extensive information on low stomach acid, hair loss and nail weakening, where should they look?
Dr. WRIGHT:For a brief review of low stomach acid and related problems, you might see my recently published book Stomach (Praktikos Books, Mt. Vernon, Virginia, 2009) or the older book Why Stomach Acid is Good for You (M. Evans & Company, New York, 2001) written by Lane Lenard, Ph.D., and me.
Thank you, Dr. Wright.