Hair Loss
26 Case Studies
40 Member Stories
2279 Research

Hair loss (alopecia) is a common complaint by individuals and affects males and females alike. It can affect localized areas such as the temples and crown of the head found in male-pattern baldness. The conventional medicine approach to treating baldness would be to treat the hair loss itself, from medication to laser therapy to surgery. The functional medicine approach to treating hair loss is to search for the trigger of the baldness and fix that. This approach examines symptoms of hair loss as a clue that something else is wrong in the body.

What is hair loss or balding?

Hair loss (alopecia) is a common complaint by individuals, male and female alike. It can affect localized areas such as the temples and crown of the head found in male-pattern baldness. It can also affect the whole scalp, and sometimes can even extend to other regions of the body. Typical hair loss is approximately 100 hairs daily, but people suffering from extensive baldness often notice increased hair loss after cleaning or styling their locks or when cleaning the sinks and sweeping their flooring. Hair loss may have a substantial emotional and social effect on individuals. Understanding the underlying causes can be particularly valuable in creating a compelling set of recommendations to mitigate baldness.

Hair loss can be alarming. Frequently, baldness is the last straw that motivates many to find help. They might have suffered for many years with all types of health problems, but if their hair begins to fall out, they're moved into action. Reversing baldness from a functional medicine approach is extremely different from the conventional medicine approach.

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Why functional medicine for hair loss is different

Is a functional medicine approach different from conventional medicine for hair loss?

Yes. The conventional medicine approach to treating baldness would be to treat the hair loss itself. An assortment of things could be prescribed, from medication to laser therapy to surgery.

The functional medicine approach to treating hair loss is to search for the trigger of the baldness and fix that. This approach examines symptoms of hair loss as a clue that something else is wrong in the body. Common hair loss causes are listed below.


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Root Causes of Hair Loss (Alopecia)

How does Functional Medicine view hair loss or balding?

Though hair loss and balding have a genetic component affecting many, there are also non-genetic, modifiable factors that may result in hair loss. Let's explore some of the most frequent causes, including your genes, which underlie baldness in addition to targeted recommendations to decrease the hair loss.


Heredity (or genetic factors):

Many people are convinced that their baldness is hereditary and runs in the family. This loss is especially true for male-pattern hair loss or female-pattern hair loss known as "androgenetic alopecia." This kind of balding typically occurs gradually as the individual ages, frequently following specific patterns like an M-shaped receding hairline for men and gradual thinning of hair in certain areas or within the whole scalp in women.

The genetics of hair loss is complicated. Over 200 independent, publication genetic correlates of male pattern baldness were identified in a current genome-wide association study (GWAS), with the vast majority of those being autosomal associated. In contrast, others were found to be X chromosome variations.[4] The androgen receptor (AR) gene, is associated with hormonally-related balding and might give rise to androgenetic alopecia.

Androgenetic alopecia is the most prevalent baldness disorder internationally. This hereditary baldness affects more than 80 million people in the US alone, creating a need for effective remedies. Hereditary balding might be caused in some part by excess androgens when testosterone is converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by 5-alpha reductase (5AR) in higher-than-normal rates. Approaches to slow the speed of balding includes reducing DHT levels or giving 5AR inhibitors.

Non-Rx options in the market include many options such as marine protein supplements, ginseng, procyanidins, L-cystine, caffeine-based lotions and shampoos, and capsaicin.


Toxins:

Many experience hair loss as a result of elevated levels of toxins in their bodies. Sometimes this is a result of high vulnerability to toxins regularly at work, but most frequently People live a regular life with a broken detox system. We're subjected to plastic toxins, heavy metal toxins, and toxins in our foods. Once people lose the capacity to eliminate the toxins, the body begins trying to remove these toxins through the hair. Hair loss is the effect.

The key to fixing this sort of baldness is identifying any potential source of the toxicity problem and assessing if the detoxification systems are functioning correctly.  Some people can't detoxify very well since their sulfur levels were depleted. This was a massive piece to the puzzle in getting well. After this deficiency is corrected, the health problems started to resolve, including baldness.

Many "detox" diets, teas, baths, etc., while potentially useful, do not usually fix what has to be fixed. Effective detoxification requires proper nutrients and suitable gut, kidney, liver, and gallbladder function. It is not until a patient understands the particular problem that detox can be achieved.


Hormone Imbalances:

Hormonal changes related to different life stages, including pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause or fluctuation in thyroid function and thyroid hormone levels, may also result in temporary and sometimes permanent baldness. Partnering with a health care provider who practices personalized lifestyle medication is vital to balancing hormone levels with lifestyle changes and supplements.

Hormone imbalances often cause hair loss. There could be an issue with male/female hormones, thyroid hormones, adrenal hormones, or a mix. In functional medicine, it is not enough to simply conduct a blood test to measure hormone levels and prescribe some type of replacement hormone to"fix" the problem. 

People with hormone imbalances will need to discover the root cause. Frequently the cause of the majority of hormone imbalances is improper detoxification. All hormones have a"shelf life"--a time period in which they are active. When the hormone is used, it must be separated and removed from the blood flow. At this time, the hormone acts like a poison. If the body can not eliminate the old hormones, the outcome is a hormone imbalance.

Another frequent hormone difficulty is with the thyroid gland. Both deficient and excessive quantities of thyroid hormones can lead to hair loss. The key is finding and fixing the cause if there's a thyroid issue.


Medical conditions & medications

Medical conditions may also be the culprit for some individuals' baldness. These conditions might include infections like ringworm, ailments with psychological health underpinnings (e.g., trichotillomania, a disease involving chronic, irresistible urges to extract body hair), and a relatively common condition called alopecia areata. The latter includes a lifetime incidence of 2% worldwide and is an immune-mediated condition that makes smooth, round patches of hair loss on the scalp or body; characterized by unpredictability, spontaneous regrowth in addition to possible relapse intervals.

Sometimes, drugs used to treat other health problems can cause hair loss as a side effect; these may include medications used for treating depression, heart problems, gout, arthritis, cancer,  and higher blood pressure. Assessing and treating the root causes of the medical condition may cause hair regrowth, so it's wise to seek out clinician specialists who understand how to use a Functional Medicine lens. 


Anxiety:

The physiological effects of stress aren't confined to specific organs such as the heart or brain. No, anxiety affects whole-body health, such as increasing the risk of hair loss through different mechanisms, among these being the pro-inflammatory milieu (i.e., hormones, cytokines, etc.) of anxiety from the body. In the last few years, the notion of a"brain-skin" link has taken hold as a means to understand how stress may influence difficult-to-treat skin ailments like psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and urticaria, in addition to its impact on hair loss.

It is believed that "neurohormones, neurotransmitters, and cytokines, released during a stress response may also significantly influence the hair cycle." The development of hair, the hair shaft creation, and baldness, together with other hair characteristics, could be impacted by the creation of the stress-related molecules. If hair loss is thought of as stress-related (which might be a possible underlying element in Telogen effluvium, alopecia areata, trichotillomania, and hormone-related baldness ), a broad assortment of mind-body, naturopathic, and Functional Medicine approaches could be useful.


Intestinal & gut issues:

Some individuals have experienced individuals hair loss that has been caused by an intestinal issue. Anything from leaky gut syndrome into the existence of a pathogen can lead to a patient eliminate hair. Intestinal problems give rise to toxicity. A leaky gut is essentially dumping toxins from the gut to the bloodstream. As intestinal issues often result in toxicity, they can also bring about hormone imbalances. Many of these causes and effects are interconnected.


Diet & nutritional gaps:

In certain circumstances, sudden weight loss or protein deficiency may cause hair loss. Also, certain nutrient deficiencies may impact hair thinning and loss. These include fatty acids, selenium, iron, niacin, and zinc; conversely, excessive intake of vitamins E and A may increase the risk of baldness. Although biotin (vitamin B7) is anecdotally regarded as helpful for combating hair loss, available published research suggests that biotin supplementation might just yield helpful baldness if a gross biotin deficiency (comparatively infrequent ) or baldness (e.g., uncombable hair syndrome) exist. Healthcare practitioners should use laboratory testing and physical examinations to check for nutrient insufficiencies or deficiencies.  A personalized diet and supplementation recommendation is powerful and effective.

Beyond the above common causes of hair loss, the following are also possible causes: radiation treatment, excessive hair styling, and specific forms of hair treatments.


Infections:

A lot of people with chronic viral, fungal, or bacterial infections experience hair loss. Individuals with illnesses like Lyme, Epstein Barr virus, or mold have their hair return to normal as they get well. Infections produce toxins, destroy cells, and absorb nutrients. The first key to fixing this illness is diagnosing them. Frequently these chronic infections are overlooked. Fixing these infections differs from healing an acute infection. Chronic infections often require getting individuals' overall fitter so their immune system can be effective in eliminating the infection.


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Summary

Hair loss or baldness is common, but it does not have to be permanent.  The functional medicine approach to treating baldness is to fix the underlying causes of baldness. Step one is to have a detailed history. Further testing is often needed to figure out what is causing the hair loss. The root cause therapy is usually pretty straight forward. Every individual is different. The treatment is different for each person.


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References

1. Mayo Clinic. Hair Loss. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/symptoms-causes/syc-20372926. Accessed January 11, 2019.

2. Mayo Clinic. Stress management. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/expert-answers/stress-and-hair-loss/faq-20057820. Accessed January 16, 2019.

3. Guo EL et al. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatol Pract Concept. 2017;7(1): 1–10.

4. NIH. Androgenetic alopecia. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/androgenetic-alopecia. Accessed January 14, 2019.

5. Hagenaars S et al. Genetic predication of male pattern baldness. PLoS Genet 2017;13(2):e1006594.

6. Hosking AM et al. Complementary and alternative treatments for alopecia: a comprehensive review. Skin Appendage Disord. 2018. doi: 10.1159/00049203.5

7. US Pharmacists. Treatment options for androgenetic alopecia. https://www.uspharmacist.com/article/treatment-options-for-androgenetic-alopecia. Accessed January 14, 2019.

8. Trüeb RM. Serum biotin levels in women complaining of hair loss. Int J Trichology. 2016;8(2):73-77.

9. NIH. Biotin fact sheet for health professionals. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Biotin-HealthProfessional/. Accessed January 16, 2019.

10. NIH Genetics Home Reference. AR gene. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/AR. Accessed January 16, 2019.

11. Villasante Fricke AC et al. Epidemiology and burden of alopecia areata: a systematic review. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2015;8:397-403.

12. American Academy of Dermatology. Hair loss. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/hair-loss. Accessed January 14, 2019.

13. Hadshiew IM et al. Burden of hair loss: stress and the underestimated psychosocial impact of telogen effluvium and androgenetic alopecia. J Invest Dermatol. 2004;123(3):455-457.

14. Botchkarev V. Stress and the hair follicle: exploring the connections. Am J Pathol. 2003;162(3):709–712.

15. Paus R. Exploring the “brain-skin connection”: leads and lessons from the hair follicle. Curr Res Transl Med. 2016;64(4):207-214.

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