Bad Hair Days: Hashimoto’s & Hair Loss

My journey with Hashimoto’s affected my health in many ways. From chronic pain (especially in my calves and shoulders) and weight gain to puffiness in my face, hands, and feet. It was a mystery for so many years until I learned that every strange and new symptom in my body was a side-effect of Hashimoto’s. I haven’t shared much about my adventures with hair loss, but when my normally thick, healthy hair began to thin, it took me some time to realize what was happening. If my brother-in-law hadn’t pointed it out, I might have stayed in denial and fear mode. By the time I had lost enough hair to clog the shower drain, I had to consider how and why Hashimoto’s might be at play here, as well. If you’re noticing a change in your hair, read on to find out if changes in your thyroid may be the cause and what you can do to reverse the process! Is this normal? For many women living with an autoimmune thyroid disease, one of the most noticeable symptoms at some point is hair loss.

If you’ve noticed any of the following changes in your hair, it may be a sign of a thyroid issue:

  • Dry, brittle hair
  • Coarse texture
  • Breakage
  • Hair loss in the eyebrows, especially the outer third
  • Hair loss all over the head or in patches

If you’re struggling with any of these changes, please know that you are not alone. Our hair is a very real part of our identity. Often, we associate it with youth, vitality, and beauty. Ever had a bad hair day?  We all have, and it does affect our mood. 

On top of the many other symptoms of Hashimoto’s, hair loss affects us physically, mentally, and emotionally. Feelings of discouragement, frustration, and sadness are common. There is hope, however. If hair loss is a new symptom for you, or you’ve struggled with hair loss concerns for some time, it is never too late! There are many steps you can take, such as balancing thyroid and other hormones, addressing nutritional deficiencies and improving overall nutrition to reverse hair loss and restore hair growth.

What Causes Hair Loss?

When the thyroid is functioning properly, it produces hormones that correctly regulate your body’s metabolism. When the thyroid is over- or under-functioning, thyroid levels become imbalanced and cause a host of symptoms in the body. Thyroid hormones T3 and T4 control the growth and resting phases of hair follicles. Hair loss occurs when the hair follicles enter a longer “resting” phase, as energy is redirected from hair growth to focus on more critical body functions. Thinning hair on your scalp or the outer third of your eyebrows is one of the first signs of this change in thyroid levels though it can take several months due to the long length of the hair cycle.

Nutrient deficiencies can lead to hair loss. Low levels of ferritin, iron, total iron-binding capacity (TIBC), the amino acid L-lysine, and low serum albumin levels can impact the health of our hair. Although a lot of emphasis has been placed on zinc deficiency as one of the main reasons for hair loss, according to this study, there is not sufficient evidence to support that low levels of zinc cause hair loss. Ferritin deficiency is commonly talked about when it comes to hair loss, and even though a deficiency may be associated with hair shedding, researchers have yet to define an absolute optimal level. Kantor et al. found that a ferritin level of 70 in conjunction with a normal sedimentation rate (SR) of less than ten is recommended.

What Can I Do?

If you are experiencing hair loss, one of the first steps to take is to have your thyroid levels tested. A complete basic thyroid panel consists of the following lab markers:

  • Free T4
  • Free T3
  • Reverse T3
  • TSH
  • Thyroid antibodies: Thyroperoxidase (TPO) and Thyroglobulin (TG)

This blood test will help identify whether your thyroid is producing the right amount of hormones or not.   Be sure to request these specific markers when talking to your doctor because unfortunately, many traditional practitioners default to testing only T4 and TSH.

Fortunately, you have the option to self-order low-cost thyroid labs if your doctor doesn’t want to order a complete panel. Self-ordered labs are an excellent option if you have a high deductible or co-pay, or you simply want the option to check your levels between doctor visits.

Be sure to review your results and explore your options with your doctor or other qualified provider. It may be appropriate to begin or adjust your current dose of thyroid medication. I have found patients do better with natural desiccated thyroid such as NP Thyroid by Acella Pharmaceuticals, and there are others such as Armour, Naturthroid, and Westhroid-P when dosed and titrated correctly. 

It is also important to understand that hormone replacement alone will not completely restore hair loss. Though it may aid in the recovery of your hair and many other symptoms associated with Hashimoto’s, thyroid hormone replacement is only one piece of a complex puzzle.  It’s critical to assess nutrient deficiencies, lifestyle, and diet as well.

My Hair is Still Falling Out!

Many of us living with Hashimoto’s have seen multiple doctors, specialists, and other experts trying to seek help with limited results. Unfortunately, this may be due to the fact that we have other underlying issues such as secondary autoimmune conditions, leaky gut syndrome, adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, food sensitivities, and more. This is why I always recommend working with professionals who are trained in the functional and integrative medicine model.  As a nurse, I can assure that mainstream healthcare is primarily structured for symptom management only, it does not necessarily address “whole body” care and addressing root cause issues.

One example of a common secondary autoimmune condition is alopecia areata, a condition in which the body attacks its own hair follicles. Symptoms of alopecia areata include

  • Small bald patches
  • Tingling or pain in the area of hair loss
  • Hair thinning on one side of the scalp
  • Noticeable pitting in the nails

If you suspect that you are experiencing this or any other mystery symptoms, be sure to keep a journal or list of symptoms and share it with your functional or integrative healthcare team. Finding the right knowledgeable healthcare advocates and wellness team is essential.

As a reminder, iron and other nutrient deficiencies can lead to hair loss as well. One of the best ways to prevent this is to test (don’t assume!) for deficiencies and to eat an anti-inflammatory diet based on your unique food sensitivities.

It is also important for you to be mindful of your blood sugar and eat regular meals throughout the day to prevent spikes. Blood sugar imbalance can lead to inflammation, hormone imbalance, thyroid and adrenal issues which all affect the health of your hair.

If you’re not sure where to start food-wise, there are many delicious thyroid-friendly recipes you can explore on my website. High-quality nutraceuticals are an essential part of managing Hashimoto’s in particular and women’s wellness in general.

Always use organic, natural hair products!  Standard shampoos and conditioners contain gluten, sulfates, and many chemicals that can damage hair and inhibit future growth. Choose products that are non-toxic.

I hope you found these tips helpful for reversing hair loss and accelerating hair growth!  For more information and updates on all things related to Hashimoto’s be sure to sign up for my newsletter and follow me on Facebook.  If you desire strategic, individualized care planning, I offer private consulting for women only. I only take a limited number per month.  To learn more, please visit my online calendar here.

Resources:

Targeted Hair Supplement:  I really like this nutraceutical for healthy hair and for preventing hair loss.  Many of my clients have reported excellent results over the past two years.

Natural Hair Care: Conventional shampoos that contain chemicals are a leading cause of hair loss. I encourage you to give this all-natural hair treatment a try. It is sulfite-free, gluten-free and I promise that you’ll love it. My hair is healthy, shiny, and more manageable thanks to this method.

Nutrition:  I am a strong advocate for testing and not assuming food sensitivity issues especially for women with Hashimoto’s.  It’s fine to try an elimination diet, however, this is still based mostly on subjective symptoms. For autoimmune conditions, inflammation should be addressed in all channels of the immune system.   If you happen to be interested in testing, I offer this specific panel to also identify chemicals, medications, food additives, functional foods, and molds your immune system may be sensitive to and that cause inflammation in your body. My team can also prepare for you a comprehensive and individualized meal planning tools guide and a recipe book based on your unique test results.

Low-Cost Self-Ordered Labs: You have the option to self-order your own complete basic thyroid panel for a very low price ($143 as of this post) CLICK HERE . You will receive a lab requisition via email to be taken to your local Quest Diagnostics lab testing center and your results will be emailed to you in a timely manner – usually much less wait time for results than what you may be used to.  They also offer a variety of nutrient/vitamin panels you might consider as well.