By Dr. Nicole Sundene
"My hair is thinning. What vitamins should I take for hair loss?"
Nancy M, Scottsdale, AZ
Female hair loss is much different than male pattern balding. Rarely do I NOT find a hormone imbalance when my female patient's hair is falling out. While I will discuss which vitamins hair needs to grow today it is important we always address and Treat the Root Cause of hair loss. We cannot just gloss over it with some vitamins.
Ladies your hair is your "Fifth Vital Sign." Hair loss is the #1 Women's Health alert your body sends when something is seriously wrong! I actually cannot think of a single time in over fifteen years that a patient did not have a mild to moderate level of hormone imbalance with their hair loss.
While nutritional deficiencies such as B vitamins, biotin, zinc, pantothenic acid, iodine, selenium, iron, and so forth can cause hair loss it is often multifactorial and there is a number of different physical issues I find on blood chemistry causing my patients to lose their luscious hair. If you are in your 20's enjoy your amazing hair and try to use some of my tips for prevention!
Women often have a hormone imbalance and nutritional deficiencies causing hair loss especially with Postpartum changes, PCOS, Hashimotos, Hypothyroidism, Adrenal Fatigue, and Menopause.
First and foremost let's analyze hair loss from a somewhat bizarre-sounding Chinese Medicine standpoint.... Chinese Medicine considers hair the ”glory of the kidneys." What that crazy talk means is that your hair is an excess of your total well-being it is your glory. If your "glory" is burnt out or burnt up so then so shall your hair be from an energetic standpoint.
“Kidney chi” is our “energetic bank” in Chinese Medicine, and if our energetic bank is all dried up, then there is not much left over for such frivolities as hair! Think about it. The healthiest women in my practice that eat super healthy all naturally have long healthy hair. In Chinese Medicine when they are referring to the kidneys they actually are talking about the Adrenal Glands. Too much constant stress taps the Kidney Chi Bank and can contribute to female hair loss.
Second and most importantly, I would like to just say FLAXSEEDS, FLAXSEEDS, FLAXSEEDS! If you get nothing from this discussion with me as a Female Hormone Specialist and Naturopathic Doctor on hair loss and how to grow your hair faster, please add 1-3 tablespoons of freshly ground flaxseeds to your daily routine. You can do up to three tablespoons twice daily if you are a flax seed fanatic like me, It's basically a functional food full of omega-3's, proteins, and phytoestrogens that help balance imbalanced hormones. So unless you have a Food Sensitivity to them they are the PERFECT women's health food to stir in your oatmeal, add to applesauce, and mix in to your smoothies.
I am pretty sure on my death bed I will still be mumbling about the importance of flaxseeds.
On the advice of my vet, since fish oil gives my dog the runs, I now give my Golden Retriever freshly ground flaxseeds and in just a week his coat became shiny, less itchy, and the bare patches filled in (normally this time of year he pulls his hair out like a mad man from Seasonal Allergies.
Thirdly we want to have PROTEIN. Flaxseeds are a great source of omega 3 oils and protein, but I would also drink a protein smoothie a day; you can add your flaxseeds to a smoothie with collagen and protein powder. You need to be taking either collagen, bone broth, or hyaluronic acid also in somewhat high doses until your hair is growing in again. You can get organic high quality brands through your account with Fullscript.
Omega Up! If you are doing the flaxseeds hardcore, you are getting enough omega 3’s to ensure shiny strong hair, if not, then try a tablespoon of fish or flax oil daily (no cod liver oil for pregnant women because the vitamin A is a teratogen.) Flaxseed can be used as a salad dressing, go in your smoothies, oatmeal, or drizzle on roasted or steamed veggies.
Multivitamin: B-vitamins and iron are crucial to hair growth as nearly the whole B family plays a role in hair growth. While it is nice to pretend like you are getting all your nutrients from your food the reality is a simple multivitamin can prevent a lot of different women's health issues I see with anemia, depression, and hair loss being the top three. If you are menopausal and no longer bleeding you should not supplement with iron without having your Ferritin stores tested. Your Ferritin stores should be above 75 at minimum for female hair loss. while too much iron is toxic not enough is the #1 cause of female hair loss that I almost always find. So please check your iron levels!
Multimineral: A mineral-rich diet is important for healthy hair growth. Deficiencies in calcium and iron are very common unnecessary causes of women's hair loss!
Biotin: Your multivitamin may not contain that much biotin so check the label and see if you are getting the RDA. I usually recommend 10,000 mcg of biotin daily for hair loss patients. Be sure to stop taking your biotin 2 weeks prior to any thyroid or hormone testing as it can cause abnormal results.
Skip the Sodium Lauryl Sulfate! A known carcinogen and skin irritant, look for SLS-free shampoos.
Skip the daily shampooing! You can still rinse your hair every day and condition it, but daily shampooing is stripping your scalp of essential oils. If you have a dry scalp, seborrheic dermatitis, or dandruff this is especially important. This saves not just your hair, but your water and shampoo bill. See? You can afford that more expensive SLS free shampoo after all now….No excuses, organic isn’t really that much more expensive when you look at it as a whole because now you are washing your hair every 2-3 days and using less shampoo.
SLS= Poison for your scalp!
Don’t forget to get a bit trimmed off your ends every 12 weeks or so. If you are growing your hair out it is okay to skip a few hair cuts but try not to skip them completely.
Try some handstands! If you aren’t a gymnast, you can still hang your head off the edge of the bed to increase blood flow to the scalp periodically throughout the day, or you can do some extra downward dogs if you are a yoga fiend like me. We recently bought a Yoga Trapeze stand which makes inversion therapy fun and easy!
Rosemary and Mint! The invigorating herbs of the Laminacea family bring more circulation to your scalp as I just talked about in the above handstand blurb. Rosemary has been associated with improving hair growth for quite some time. It is also anti-aging and good for memory and ADHD.
Buy organic rosemary essential oil and add a few drops to your favorite shampoo and conditioner. Start with 1-2 drops and then work up to about 5-10 drops of the pure essential oil (remember never apply any essential oil straight to the skin unless it is lavender.)
Horsetails and Nettles: have long been touted as hair-growing herbs because of their high silica and mineral content; unfortunately, as our soil becomes more toxic, I don’t feel comfortable using them unless they are certified organic. The reason for this is that they suck up minerals like silica from the soil along with toxic heavy metals such as cadmium and arsenic. So when I make nettle and horsetail tea I use organic herbs. I generally buy my organic herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs and Starwest Botanicals as my trusted suppliers. Please do your research and be sure you are buying good organic products for your herbal medicines!
While I am happy to share my basic Naturopathic strategy for female hair loss, please ensure you are working with a skilled hormone doctor that knows how to test you to determine the cause of your hair loss. If we do not identify and treat the cause of female hair loss it will just continue to get worse. So ladies please pay attention to this important "5th Vital Sign" ...Your Hair!
Treat yourself to a Naturopathic visit with me if you need my help. Simply pop over to my SCHEDULE page. Most decent insurance plans cover the labs I would need to order for hair loss (not Medicaid but Medicare is fine.) So if you are dealing with this I would be happy to run some screening tests so we know what is going on with your hormones, vitamins, and nutrition. It is important not to ignore female hair loss, while usually, I find hormone imbalance, sometimes more severe diseases such as Autoimmunity are actually to blame. Therefore we should never ignore hair loss! While hair is important to many of us women for vanity reasons it is also a clear indicator of my patient's overall health and well being.
Thank you for the great women's health questions. Please continue to send them to me on a postcard to my address below. Remember if your Naturopathic question can't fit on a postcard then you need to BOOK A VISIT!
Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology, Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema, and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 23 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones, she presents to women the best-integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 28 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan (not Medicaid) and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones, and Naturopathy!