Hair loss is a common symptom for women who have Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid) and Hashimoto’s Disease. Many things can contribute to hair loss, not just thyroid issues, but this is certainly one of the top suspected culprits. Hair loss is distressing and can have a negative impact on confidence and self-esteem. Some women will notice their hair thinning over time, but for others it will seem to come on suddenly. You might notice more hair falling out when you brush your hair or that your part seems wider than it used to be. Regardless, it is not a good feeling when you start losing your hair.
The thyroid is a small, butterfly shaped gland that is located on the front of your windpipe. It is vital for life. It regulates every single biochemical reaction in your body from metabolism to cholesterol. When thing go awry in the thyroid, it can cause many symptoms and affect other hormonal functions in your body. The two most common problems that we see in our patients are Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto’s Disease is actually an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. Over time, it produces symptoms of Hypothyroidism (under functioning thyroid). In fact, Hashimoto’s is the most common cause of Hypothyroidism in the U.S. (note – link goes to Mayo Clinic article which says this).
Common symptoms of Hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain, or the inability to lose weight
- Ongoing, relentless fatigue
- Feeling cold
- Hair loss and changes to hair texture
- High cholesterol
- Dry skin
- Brittle nails or ridges in nails
Basically, when you have Hypothyroidism your entire system slows down. With Hyperthyroidism, the opposite occurs. Your metabolism speeds up and you lose weight, become anxious, have a fast heartbeat and/or heart palpitations, increased anxiety, etc. Because Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s Disease are much more common, we will focus on hair loss associated with these two conditions.
Why Does Hypothyroidism Cause Hair to Fall Out?
There are a multitude of reasons why a thyroid disorder can cause hair to fall out, and in many cases, it’s not only the thyroid problem that is causing the hair loss. The thyroid is known as one of the “master glands.” It regulates other physiological processes and also other hormones, and some of those conditions can also cause hair loss. In the case of Hashimoto’s Disease, the immune system views the thyroid as a foreign invader and produces antibodies, which will attack the thyroid gland, causing it to produce less.
A sluggish thyroid can also cause your digestive process to slow down. Your stomach doesn’t produce as much acid as it should, which can impede absorption of vitamins and minerals such as Iron. Iron is critical for hemoglobin in red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen and it’s possible that there isn’t enough oxygen being delivered to the hair follicles, which leads to hair loss.
In Hypothyroidism, there isn’t enough thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs. In some cases, there’s enough of the T4 (inactive form) hormone, but cells are unable to convert the T4 into T3 hormone. T3 is the active form and is what your body needs to produce energy in the mitochondria, which are the energy “powerhouses” in the cells.
Because there isn’t enough energy to go around, it’s directed to where it’s needed most such as vital organs and the life sustaining systems in the body. Hair growth is not a vital process to the human body, so less energy is directed to the follicles and hair falls out.
Vitamin Deficiencies Can Also Cause Hair Loss
To complicate matters more, there are vitamin deficiencies, which can cause hair loss. Many times, these accompany a thyroid disorder. Vitamins and minerals that are crucial to healthy hair growth include:
- Vitamin A
- Biotin and other B vitamins
- Essential fatty acids
Other Hormonal Imbalances
The endocrine system is made up of many different glands, which produce hormones. The thyroid is part of this complex system and they all work together, much like a symphony. If all systems are running optimally, the symphony sounds beautiful. However, if there are a few players who are out of tune, it can throw the entire sound off. It can also throw other “players” off and you end up with a symphony that sounds terrible. Hormones are like this too; if one is off, others can be affected. Other hormonal conditions that can lead to hair loss include:
- Insulin resistance
- Adrenal fatigue
- Estrogen dominance or estrogen deficiency
- Testosterone imbalance
- Progesterone deficiency
There are other things too which can contribute to hair loss including blood sugar imbalances, some medications, inflammation, and problems associated with an imbalanced gut microbiome.
Generally, if your hair is falling out because of hormonal imbalances, you will likely be feeling other symptoms as well.
A stressful event can also cause your hair to fall out. For example, if you are going through a divorce, have lost a love one, or have experienced any kind of major life event, it can affect your hair. In the case of a single stressful event, oftentimes your hair has a delayed reaction to the stress and can occur a few months later.
What is the Solution?
The good news is that once the root cause of hair loss is identified, hair will usually begin to grow back in. There are products on the market advertised to help your hair grow back such as Rogaine ™, however, those can only provide temporary relief of symptoms. If you haven’t identified the actual cause, as soon as you stop using these types of products, hair loss may begin again.
Dynamic Life Health Center Can Help
Dr. Berutti is Board-Certified in Internal Medicine and practices Functional Medicine. The practice of Functional Medicine is an integrative approach to health and looks at underlying causes. The focus is on restoring health to its natural balance and disease prevention.
At the Dynamic Life Health Center, Dr. Berutti will spend the necessary time with you to determine your individual needs. Her comprehensive lab work always includes a FULL thyroid panel along with a symptom check to determine exactly what is causing your thyroid condition. Additionally, her routine lab work includes testing for other hormonal imbalances and key health markers so that all of the pieces of the puzzle can be put together to determine what is really at the bottom of issues you are experiencing.
Other testing is dependent on your individual health history and symptoms so that the appropriate treatment protocols can be implemented. She can also help guide you to make any lifestyle and nutritional changes so that you can restore your health and reclaim your vitality.