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Hair Loss and Hormones
By Lauren Loya, M.D.

Most women do not consider hormone imbalances as the cause of their hair loss. Bottom line, when your hormones are out of whack, hair loss can result. Some causes of hormonal imbalances leading to hair loss are:

  • Thyroid problems
  • Pituitary gland issues
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Pregnancy
  • Use of birth control pills
  • PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
  • Over production of androgens
  • Estrogen dominance

We discuss a few of the common imbalances below: Many people have undiagnosed Thyroid imbalances that lead to hair loss, among other symptoms such as: depression, increased cold sensitivity, unexplained weight gain, fatigue, elevated cholesterol, dry skin, heavier than normal or irregular menstrual periods, muscle ache, and impaired memory.

A regular TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) may not detect a thyroid malfunction since the patient may have thyroid conversion issues versus production issues. The pituitary gland produced TSH which signals to the thyroid gland to make T4 (inactive hormone). T4 converts to T3 but when the body is under stress, T4 may convert to Reverse T3 which blocks the T3 from getting into the cells). More in-depth testing is needed to determine if a conversion problem exists.

Adrenal Fatigue can also contribute to hair loss. The adrenal glands sit above the kidneys. The middle part of the gland produces adrenaline which provides people with the "fight or flight" reaction during stressful situations. The outer part of the adrenal gland produces cortisol which counteracts adrenaline.

Adrenaline was meant to be produced intermittently to help with stressful situations. Think back to the caveman days when one had to run from a bear. In our modern lives, we are stressed seemingly all the time. The adrenal glands can't tell the difference between stressful situations like running from a bear and sitting in traffic or dealing with financial or work stress. Therefore the adrenals often work over time. If a person is constantly stressed, the adrenals are producing a high level of cortisol. When this occurs, symptoms such as poor sleep, weight gain, and thyroid malfunction (leading to hair loss) can occur.

When a woman's estrogen levels are too high (in relation to progesterone), this condition is known as estrogen dominance. Those with estrogen dominance may experience hair loss on their head and unwanted facial hair. Additionally they may experience depression, fatigue, low sex drive and irritability. Saliva testing can be used to detect abnormalities in the progesterone and estrogen balance.

Pregnancy and childbirth can also lead to hair loss. Women normally lose between 50 to 100 strands of hair a day. However during pregnancy this process slows. That is why women often have beautiful, abundant hair during pregnancy. After childbirth the loss of hair usually begins approximately three months later. Significant amounts of hair may fall out but is usually not permanent.

PCOS is one of the most common female (hormone) disorders and is one of the causes of female infertility. This imbalance of a woman's sex hormones (e.g. progesterone, estrogen) affects as many as 10-15% of all women, many of which are undiagnosed. If left undiagnosed, PCOS can lead to different chronic illness such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. PCOS can lead to depression, irregular periods, mood swings, excess facial hair as well as hair loss.

Take the first step by getting tested for hormonal imbalances to determine if a problem exists. It is important to work with physicians who specialize in hormone imbalances and who use comprehensive testing methods such as expanded blood panels and saliva testing. If a hormone imbalance exists, patients may consider natural hormone therapies (such as BioIdentical Hormones) versus synthetic hormones.

Dr. Lauren Loya of the Hormone Restoration Center, can be reached at (412) 432-7909 or visit www.hormonecenter.net.

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