3 Natural Solutions to Stop Hair Loss
Turns out that old bit of wisdom that the simplest explanation's often the correct one can hold true with hair loss. So before running out to buy Rogaine or thinking about a hair transplant ― consider your lifestyle ― and especially your diet.
1. Nutrition is Key
Perhaps the number one way to prevent and treat hair loss is through diet. If you're deficient in the minerals and nutrients needed to grow strong, healthy hair, then your hair is going to show it. Male or female, healthy hair starts with the diet. Here are five nutrients for optimal hair health:
The standard American diet is out of whack with respect to omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. Most people are eating way too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s. Medical experts say the ratio should be a well-balanced 1 to 1, but the average Western diet's omega-6 heavy by a factor of 15.1 Serious issues like chronic inflammation can arise from this imbalance, but hair health's at stake too. Common symptoms of omega-3 deficiency include dry, dull, brittle, and thinning hair.
Up your omega-3 intake by consuming wild-caught fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, or sardines or by taking a fish oil supplement. In general, seafood is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. Other food sources include walnuts, flax seeds, and grass-fed beef.
As we've already discussed, the typical American diet contains far too many omega-6 fatty acids. There is however, one form of omega-6 that we're not getting enough of ― gamma-linolenic acid (GLA).
GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid that's actually proven to be anti-inflammatory. In fact, one source of GLA, evening primrose, was used by Native Americans to reduce swelling. In Europe, this plant became known as the “King's cure-all.” Nowadays, some studies suggest that GLA even protects DNA.2
Unfortunately, it's the one omega-6 usually missing from the modern diet. Fact is, it's hard to come by in the diet, with spirulina ― a blue-green algae ― as one of the only food sources... and I imagine spirulina doesn't make it onto too many dinner plates. Otherwise, the best natural sources are borage oil, black currant oil, and evening primrose oil ― all of which come in capsule form.
In an interview with WebMD, a group of medical researchers from Cleveland say that “the treatment for hair loss is enhanced when iron deficiency is treated.” Drawing on more than 40 years of research, they conclude that iron deficiency has a closer link to hair loss than most doctors realize.3
Lead researcher Wilma Fowler Bergfeld, MD says that for both men and women, having too little iron in the blood makes hair loss worse. Their research is seconded by George Cotsarelis, director of the University of Pennsylvania Hair and Scalp Clinic.
“From our clinic's experience,” he says, “it is clear to me that if you replenish hair-loss patients' iron stores with iron supplements they are more likely to regrow hair, or at least stop hair shedding.” Cotsarelis notes that these patients don't have to be full-blown anemic, just iron deficient. So if you're suffering from hair loss and think you might be iron deficient, talk to your doctor.
A note of caution here ― you must get a doctor to check your iron levels. Taking an iron supplement when you don't need one can do more harm than good.
Collagen makes up about 30% of the protein in the human body. It's the most abundant protein in our system, and is often said to be the glue that holds the body together ― it's also a major component of our hair. In fact, collagen is one of the raw materials our bodies need to grow strong, healthy locks, but as we age, our natural collagen production declines. New research points to depleted collagen levels as a trigger for hair loss.
After completing a landmark animal study in February, 2016, Japanese researchers from Tokyo Medical University concluded that age-related hair loss is caused by disappearing collagen.4 Their results, published in the journal Science, found mice lacking a particular type of collagen suffered hair loss. Mice that continued to produce the collagen, however, were less prone to hair loss in spite of aging. The research team believes the same mechanism applies to humans.5
The number one way to get collagen into your diet is by regularly consuming bone broth, slow simmered soup stock made from animal or fish bones.
Now, you're not going to be nutrient deficient in saw palmetto, however, some studies indicate that saw palmetto supplementation helps prevent and stop hair loss ― especially in men. According to the American Hair Loss Association, 95% of hair loss cases in men are caused by androgenic alopecia, or what's commonly called male-pattern baldness.
Biochemically, a large contributing factor of male-pattern baldness is the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Saw palmetto prevents this conversion, making it a novel treatment for preventing and managing hair loss. In one study, men suffering from mild-to-moderate androgenic alopecia were given 200 mg of saw palmetto twice per day for roughly four-and-a-half months. According to researchers, the results of this pilot study “showed a highly positive response to treatment,” with 60% of men showing significant improvements in hair density.6
It's worth mentioning that because of its ability to balance male hormones, saw palmetto has also demonstrated numerous benefits for prostate health.
2. Ditch Harsh Hair Treatments
Many external factors ― like the way we treat and style our hair ― can contribute to hair loss. Habits like twisting, pulling, or even frequently running your hands through your hair can all cause hair to thin or fall out. Certain hairstyles can also contribute, like tight braids, corn rows, and ponytails. Harsh treatments like dying, blow drying (or any heat treatment), and chemically straightening up the ante even more, and can damage the hair shaft and root.
Basically, handle your hair with care. Comb it gently, let it air-dry when possible, and avoid hairstyles that create unnecessary tension.
3. Indulge in a Scalp Massage
Scalp massage increases circulation to the head and boosts blood flow to hair follicles. This increased blood flow is thought to strengthen hair follicles and stimulate hair growth. In fact, scalp massage is a common practice in both Ayurvedic (ancient Indian medicine) and traditional Chinese medicine.
In Ayurvedic medicine, scalp massage is usually performed with a warm oil, like coconut, in order to lubricate and condition the scalp. This natural deep conditioning treatment helps soften hair, making it more manageable ― easier to comb and less prone to tangling and breakage. It also helps spread the hair's own natural oils evenly around the scalp. Warm oil scalp massage is also thought to fortify hair against the damaging effects of the sun.
Some of the most popular base oils are coconut oil, sesame oil, olive oil, and almond oil. Essential oils like lavender, rosemary, or thyme oil are often combined with the base oil for added benefit. In fact, one research study found massaging the scalp with these aromatic essential oils was “a safe and effective treatment for alopecia areata.”7
In addition to inadequate nutrition and bad styling practices, many commonly prescribed medications can also contribute to hair loss. Birth control pills, blood thinners, anabolic steroids, and medications for depression, high blood pressure, and arthritis are only a handful of the prescription pills linked to hair loss. Thyroid conditions can also be associated with hair loss.
Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about any medications you're taking, or if you think you should get your thyroid or iron levels checked.
And remember to be nice to your hair.
Best wishes for wellness,
Editor, Health Wire
Aimee's health writing career began in Philadelphia under the instruction of award-winning medical journalist Susan Fitzgerald. Since then, she's had the opportunity to interview doctors, naturopaths, and even Navajo medicine men. She's a firm believer in natural medicine and its philosophy of treating the whole person.