How do I treat hair loss and menopause?
If you’re over the age of 40, female, and rapidly losing hair on the sides, top, and front of the head, you’re not alone. In fact, 20–60% of women will experience thinning hair as a result of menopause before age 60. Here’s why.
Normal Hair Growth
Approximately five million hairs cover the human body. Most of these are small, “vellus hairs” spread across the surfaces of the skin, with the exception of the palms, soles, and lips. Much larger “terminal hairs” grow on the scalp, eyebrows, armpits, and genital regions. Genetics determine hair color, thickness, texture, and volume.
Hair growth starts from the live bulb that contains cells that multiply. As these mature, follicles grow through a process known as “keratinization”. Hair grows in cycles based on the life of the bulb, and follicles go dormant. During this phase hair is shed until a new bulb is formed in the remnants of the follicle.
Hair Loss and Menopause
Based on years of research scientists know that women begin to lose estrogen and progesterone as the body winds down its reproductive function. Ovaries produce less estrogen and progesterone throughout the perimenopausal phase, which can last years before the actual cessation of menstruation. This decrease in hormone levels is directly related to lack of hair growth and weak hair structure during this period of life. When estrogen and progesterone drop, hair becomes thinner and grows more slowly. Excess male androgens, also produced in menopause contribute to thinning hair by shrinking hair follicles as well.
Body Chemistry and Aging
As women age, the progesterone and estrogen that once offered protection from hair loss fail to produce the same results, instead triggering an increase in androgen production. Testosterone, now more abundant reacts with enzyme 5 alpha reductase, to create dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Some studies indicate this may be a factor in female pattern baldness. While scientists don’t know for sure, DHT appears to send hair follicles into a “resting” phase more quickly, causing hairs to become thinner over time with every growth cycle. Eventually follicles may diminish entirely.
Diet Supplementation for Thinning Hair
Nutrition plays a key role in restoring hair during the menopausal phase. The following vitamins, minerals and nutrients are recommended to support hair loss in middle-aged women:
Vitamins A, D & E
Based on one six-month study, supplementation with 1.5g/day of L-lysine and 72mg/day of iron resulted in a 36% reduction in hair loss. Orthosilicic acid increased strength and thickness of hair in another six month controlled study. It also decreased hair brittleness after 20 weeks. Supplementation with L-cysteine, along with yeast, and pantothenic acid returned hair to a normal rate of growth after a six-month trial period.
Healthy women naturally shed upwards of 70–100 hairs each day from the scalp.
If you’re experiencing greater than average hair loss and have entered perimenopause or menopause, talk with your doctor about diet and possible supplementation with vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.