Our hair is in a constant state of renewal, growing, being shed, and then growing once again. There are many different factors that can influence how much hair is grown and lost each day. Environmental factors such as brushing, use of hair products, and other hair treatments can potentially cause hair to fall out. Some people also begin to lose hair when they are stressed (either because it falls out or because they pull it out). In most of these cases, the lost hair will continue to grow back in the natural course of things. Eventually, however, nature (or other factors) intervenes and the hair that falls out does not grow back.
Progressive hair loss can be caused in either men or women as they age due to hormonal changes that are dictated in part by heredity. Male pattern baldness, for example, is commonly inherited from a person's mother's family. In other words, if your grandfather has male pattern baldness, you are susceptible to it, too. Non-inherited hormonal imbalances, either caused by internal problems (such as thyroid issues) or external hormonal influence (birth control pills) may also result in premature hair loss.
Hair loss may also be due to fungal infections, vitamin deficiencies (such as iron), or side effects caused by medications. Chemotherapies used to treat cancer, for example, specifically target rapidly dividing cells in the body. In addition to halting cancer cells, they also kill the constantly renewing cells involved in hair growth, resulting in hair loss. (This hair will begin growing once again, however, once chemotherapy is complete.)
Why get Hair Loss Treatment?
Although hair loss is a natural part of aging, it can still be distressing, particularly if it occurs early in life. Those that have not begun to lose their hair may wish to begin preventative treatments to slow hair loss or stimulate hair growth. Those that are recovering from hormonal imbalances, inflammatory disorders, infections, or chemotherapy may also benefit from treatments to stimulate hair regrowth. For some, hair loss is taken in stride, but for others, hair restoration may be important for a person's well-being.
Conventional Hair Loss Treatments
Minoxidil (currently marketed as Rogaine) is a medication that can, which applied to the skin, help slow hair loss and promote regrowth. Although it is not completely clear how minoxidil works, the drug itself appears to have the ability to dilate blood vessels. Whether this assists in the hair regrowth or not is unclear, but the drug has been shown to be effective in younger men (18-41) and those with central balding patterns.
Finasteride, the active ingredient of Propecia, is an anti-androgen treatment that has proven effective for reducing hair loss and stimulating regrowth by countering the activity of the male hormones that cause male pattern baldness. Although quite effective for many men, it should not be taken or handled by women that are pregnant or could become pregnant, as it could interfere with proper development of the fetus. This drug is taken in pill form, once a day, and remains effective for as long as the pill is taken.
Spironolactone and cyproterone acetate are androgen blocker sometimes prescribed for women that have unwanted facial hair, oily skin, acne, or hair loss due to hormonal imbalances. Each of these requires a prescription and should never be taken by women that are pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from other serious medical illnesses.
In addition to these medications, some people also opt for surgical hair transplant procedures. Certain areas of skin contain follicles that are not susceptible to male pattern baldness, so during the surgery, these follicles are grafted onto the area where the balding is occurring. Following recovery from the surgery, these new "hair plugs" will continue to grow hair normally. Although the surgical techniques for hair transplants have radically improved over the years, they also carry some risks, as infections, bleeding, or scarring can occur at the transplant site. Some patients also dislike the risk of additional hair loss or unpredictable hair growth patterns that may follow these procedures.
Patients Medical's Hair Loss Treatments
We can recommend natural dietary solutions to help reduce hair loss and stimulate hair growth through natural means. If you are experiencing unusual, premature hair loss, we will also suggest a complete physical exam, as it may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance or some other medical disorder.
Healthy hair growth can be promoted naturally by a low-fat diet rich in proteins. High-fat diets containing lots of meats can inadvertently boost testosterone levels, speeding the progress of hair loss. Since anemia can also induce hair loss, it is important to make sure iron intake is also sufficient, perhaps adding whole grain cereals, eggs, dates, raisins, and dark leafy vegetables.
Whereas calcium, vitamin B, vitamin C, and vitamin E can promote healthy hair, too much vitamin A may result in additional hair loss, so vitamin supplements should be selected carefully.
As stress may also increase the risks of premature hair loss, stress therapies may additionally be recommended. (See our article on Stress for more information.)
Begin Your Journey to Wellness with Patients Medical
Our job at Patients Medical is to listen, to connect the dots between a patient's medical history, symptoms, and their underlying causes. Patients Medical is a superb place for women and men to secure integrative and holistic health care from providers who give personalized care, partner with the patient to focus on the root cause of their illness, support their recovery, and help them maintain good health.
To make an appointment with one of our physicians, please call us at 1-212-794-8800. We look forward to hearing from you.
Next Steps For Supplement Therapy:
Many of us will benefit by taking supplements for the issues discussed on this page. Our Holistic and Integrative Physicians recommend the following supplements for your use for the issues discussed on this page.
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