Your hair can offer clues about your health. Up to 60 percent of women may experience hair loss at some point or another. I’ve been one of them, so I know the pain. My hair turned brittle and thin due to hormone imbalance and anemia, and I was able to successfully restore it to health using the tips below.
One of the focal points of my practice is to help women reverse hypothyroidism, autoimmune issues, and hormone imbalance. Hair loss or thinning hair often accompanies these imbalances, so I am frequently offering tips on how to reverse it and encourage new hair growth. By addressing hormones, diet, and lifestyle, you can stop the shedding!
Is this you?
- Noticing clumps of hair coming out in the shower
- Increased shedding
- Thinning hair around hairline
- Easier to see scalp
- Reduction in hair volume
- Changes in hair texture (more coarse, brittle)
Many women spend hundreds of dollars on magic potions to apply topically, but unless you address the underlying imbalance, you’re wasting your money. These conditions can contribute to hair loss:
- hyperthyroidism (contributes to fine hair)
- high prolactin levels (can be a breast feeding side effect)
- low iron levels, low ferritin, low B12
- low levels of stomach acid
- high or low estrogen or low progesterone levels, or dropping hormone levels associated with menopause
- high testosterone
- an increase in DHT (androgenic hormone responsible for male pattern baldness– can affect women too!)
- stressors such as sudden weight loss, post-pregnancy (a happy stress, but a stress nonetheless), surgery or extreme stress
- certain medications: anti-depressants, beta-blockers, or NSAID pain relievers
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- scalp conditions, alopecia
- chemical treatments or harsh styling
The most common causes of hair loss I see in my practice are due to hypothyroid, female hormone and stress hormone imbalance, and PCOS. Anemia is up there too. The good news is that these conditions are completely reversible over time with proper nutrition and a hormone balancing protocol.
The body depends on a normal functioning thyroid gland for all metabolic functions, including hair growth and skin regeneration. If the thyroid falters, the body slows down, and weight gain, constipation, fatigue, and lack of hair growth–or hair loss– can result. Dropping female hormone levels (estrogen and progesterone) may cause hair loss, as is the case after menopause in some women, or an increase in androgenic hormones (testosterone or high DHEA) can also cause hair loss. This is typically what happens with PCOS.
Post-pregnancy is another time when hair can start falling out. Typically the thinning will slow and resolve on its own, but make sure and use the natural products I recommend below (especially important for pregnancy and nursing so you don’t introduce chemicals into your body and into fetal tissue or breast milk!). If you continue to experience hair loss after several months, coupled with fatigue and weight gain, have your thyroid checked. Pregnancy can trigger hypothyroid or Hashimoto’s autoimmune hypothyroidism.
Low iron and ferritin levels or a deficiency in the B vitamins can contribute to hair loss or brittle, breaking hair. It’s easy to get iron levels tested, but it’s also important to determine what’s causing the deficiency. Are you vegetarian/vegan and not getting the iron and B vitamins you need? It’s difficult to find absorbable forms of iron in a vegetarian diet, and B vitamins are richest in animal foods and eggs. Do you have inflammation in the gut that’s preventing you from absorbing nutrients from your food? Inflammation in the GI tract can affect probiotic bacteria levels which can adversely affect B12 synthesis. Are you lacking in high quality protein and the right fats? Make sure you’re getting a variety of proteins such as wild fish, grass fed beef, eggs and lamb, for example, and essential fatty acids from fermented cod liver oil, wild salmon and grass fed beef, for example. These foods are essential for balanced hormones, too.
You also need proper enzyme and stomach acid (hydrochloric acid) production to break down proteins in foods so deficiencies don’t result. Taking a digestive enzyme with betaine HCl can help assure you’re digesting and absorbing all the nutrients from your food.
Specific autoimmune conditions or severe candida overgrowth can cause hair loss. If you have a diagnosis, you can work with a practitioner to determine how to address the condition and determine the best diet to support hair growth.
Solutions for Hair Loss
This video has some excellent tips and resources.
What you eat matters! As I mentioned above, if you have vitamin and mineral deficiencies because of a poor diet, the health of your skin, hair, and nails will suffer.
- Get at least 15 grams of protein from organic animal sources at each meal.
- Aim for a diet higher in healthy fats (coconut oil, avocado, olive oil, salmon, sardines, almonds, butter) and low in refined carbs/sugar
- Drink bone broth for the collagen and gelatin– it’s great for skin and hair!
- Plenty of leafy and starchy veggies will provide minerals.
- You can supplement with Floradix, an excellent liquid herbal iron supplement, or take a B vitamin complex to boost those levels.
- Try collagen peptides in smoothies, coffee, tea, or I use this elixir. Collagen made a HUGE difference in my hair (and skin and nails) when I struggled with hair loss.
- Take a digestive enzyme to ensure you are digesting well and absorbing nutrients from your food.
- Get plenty of probiotic foods, such as fermented raw kraut and coconut water kefir, to boost the good bacteria in your gut so that you’ll digest better and absorb all the nutrients from your food. You can try a probiotic supplement, too.
- I also recommend taking essential fatty acids. You can get them from krill or fish oil. Important nutrients for hair growth are calcium, magnesium, copper and zinc. Biotin and silica work wonders. (See my recs in supplement list below).
- Get zinc. It restores growth. Best sources are oysters, grass fed beef, and grass fed lamb.
I also often recommend this supplement, which contains botanicals and nutrients to promote hair growth, while you’re addressing the root cause. It contains zinc, biotin, B vitamins, silica, and additional nutrients, and I can testify that it works AMAZINGLY well. I could tell a huge difference in my hair after less than a month. My clients love it.
It pays to address any digestive issues and fix your gut, because you aren’t only what you eat, but more accurately, what you absorb. If you’re not absorbing all the nutrients from your food because your gut is inflamed or leaky, deficiencies develop. Click here for more on healing leaky gut.
Help for Hormones
If you suspect hormone balance is the issue, you can do saliva testing to determine if your hormones are out of whack. I offer this in my practice. Once I have the results, I can design a hormone balancing protocol and adjust your diet to support healthy adrenal and female hormones. The saliva testing also checks DHEA and cortisol levels, so if stress is a factor (isn’t it always?), we can rebalance cortisol, too. You can do thyroid testing through your doctor or order testing yourself through Direct Labs. This is a good route if you have trouble requesting the right blood tests from your doctor. See the resource section below for more on hypothyroid issues.
Your Products Matter
Hair loss can result from harsh chemical treatments and styling treatments. Time to detox your cosmetics and shampoos and go au natural. Which is a good thing anyway, because all those chemicals can build up in your body and cause endocrine disruption and infertility.
You can make your own shampoo! Check out all the “no poo” and low poo options available. You can also use apple cider vinegar as a rinse once weekly to remove build up which can slow hair growth. Also use a good hair mask weekly. I like a mash of avocado, olive oil and egg yolk. And scalp massage is a wonderful way to stimulate follicles. I do this several times weekly.
I’ve personally kicked my chemical shampoos and my hair looks better than ever. It really helps restore hair growth! I like the Shea Moisture line, which is what I finally settled on. I also like the Acure leave-in conditioner . You can see before and after pics of my hair on this protocol in this post.
Supplements I recommend for hair loss/encouraging hair growth:
- Floradix for iron (important: do NOT take if you have sufficient iron levels. Get tested!)
- H-S-N complex: this is the formula that contains zinc, silica, biotin, and nutrients that promote fast hair growth! I use and love it.
- B vitamin complex
- Nordic Naturals fish oils or krill oil
- Biotin (don’t need it if you use the HSN complex mentioned above)
- Probiotics for healthy gut
- Gelatin or collagen peptides. Here’s my article on collagen.
- DHT blockers like saw palmetto, pumpkin seed oil
- Bamboo leaf tea— rich in silica and promotes AMAZING hair growth!
Articles on hypothyroid:
About Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
All about the Thyroid
Great article on how to encourage hair growth.
For hormone balance:
- Consider saliva testing for female hormone levels, cortisol and DHEA
- check thyroid hormones: TSH, T3, T4, reverse T3, TPO & AB antibodies
- Check iron and ferritin levels
- You can order your own lab work here.
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Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
Hey. Really enjoy your posts. Can you tell me why probiotics might make my tummy worse right now? I take a really good one that has several different kind.
Very helpful post! I got tested recently and my iron levels are really low and I have all the tell tale signs of anemia, so I just ordered the Floradix. With two little ones, I don’t have time to shuttle to the doctor every so often for iron shots, so I’m hoping the Floradix helps me get my iron levels back to normal levels. My hair has been falling out in clumps since pregnancy #2, and at this rate I’m going to be bald by next year! I also sprung for the Cosmedix to help with re-growth and will report back on how it works. Thank you – this was so helpful!
What a lot of solutions for women with this problem. Lots of things for them to check out. Will share your blog post on my facebook page as this can be so distressing. I believe also that many of the ingredients in our hair care products are harming our hair.
glad you found it useful nikki 🙂
Lynn: probitoics can make you feel worse if you are already very low in beneficial probiotics in the gut and then add high doses on top of that. try working up slowly.
Thank you very much for your post. I heard your podcast and you mentioned this article as I was brushing my hair noticing that it seemed a lot of hair was coming out. I had bone broth for breakfast and generally follow your suggestions. I don’t take a pro-biotic but people keep mentioning that. It’s a good kick in the bum to finally find one that works for me.
will the avocado mixture help dry itchy scalp due to alopecia/hair loss?
yes, it will soothe. also try applying coconut oil to your scalp nightly before bed — that would work better.
Hello, I got the link of this site from my cousin in scotland. I myself live in Germany. I took a lot of NSAID pain relaevers from october 2012 till march 2013. As far as I understand this here is the couse of my hair loss. I was never informed about this side effects. How long will this last? I still loose hair but it is growing also. I tried almost everything to stop it, but did not find a solution.
I’ve always had extremely fine hair and, once your over 65 it gets finer and thinner. Over the years I’ve used every volumizing shampoo out there. Many are drying, and most don’t make any difference. So for years I’ve just relied on gels etc to create more fullness. I picked up a small trial size of Shielo’s Volume Shampoo and am so happy I did! My hair is very short and now, instead of just lying there flat and sparse-looking, it actually has fullness and covers more of my scalp! I also occasionally use the Shielo conditioner, and that is good too, but not really necessary to achieve some fullness. Another huge plus is that it’s made here in the US.
I have lost about 2/3 of my hair over the last 6 years. Quit with conventional medicine and trying to figure it out the holistic way.
I am new to the eating meat thing and am trying to get my gut in line first. I think the rest will follow. I also juice and smoothie. Wonder if that’s doing more harm than good though. Can’t think that eating a hamburger for breakfast is helpful….I heard someone say that on the podcast. Want to get this stuff even better. That’s the goal anyway. Suggestions appreciated. P.S. Ferritin is low, would floradix help this?
Yes, floradix would help. (low iron also linked to hair loss)
Great tips. The information you share in your post is very helpful and enlightening. I was also suffering from this problem after pregnancy but really drinking water is proving the best tip for control hair fall and healthy hair. Thanks for this nice sharing.
I’m already on thyroid hormones for my hypothyroidism but now I feel like my hair loss is even worse. I can’t go to my doctor anymore because he’s not on my new insurance… I’m trying age defying shampoo and a hair thickening spray. Which obviously isn’t working. I wish there was a more natural way to fix a thyroid because this is making me feel worse because I already naturally have thin hair but at least it filled my scalp. It’s making me so upset. I’m going to try biotin to see if that helps.
I am 21 years old, and I was diagnosed with PCOS more than a year ago. The most PCOS symptom that has been bothering me since I was 12 years old is hair loss. I started out with really thick hair on my head, and it started shedding beginning with the frontal area, until now it’s all over my head, but the frontal is the most visible. My endocrinologist prescribed me with Metformin 1000mg, Junell birth control pills and I recently started with Spirnonolacton when my doctor found out that my DHEA was highly elevated. I also supplement my self with a multivitamin and Biotin 500mcg. I just want to know if my hair will ever grow back again and how long should it take for my hair to grow back to its natural state?
You hit my hairloss problem on the head, I have crazy high DHEA. It’s been the bane of my existence for the past five years. I’m 25 so it’s been a bummer to have diffuse thinning. Do you mind elaborating on what your protocol would be on helping lower DHEA, so that my estrogen and progesterone can have a chance to work their magic? Thanks!
I am 55 and lost much hair in the last year. My hair was always fine and thin but now you can see the scalp. Going through menopause and getting older fast is bad enough, but loosing my hair is so depressing to me.
I also started to grow hair on my stomach and face. I went to my GYN and they found out that my testosterone is way above the normal level.. Her solution was to get a hysterectomy or at least to take out
What are the effects of having the ovaries removed? My GYN said they are not useful anymore because I’m post menopause, but I also hear that they still produce some useful hormones and many women get depressed. after ovary removal..
Please can you help , struggling with on going hair loss , low iron and b12, will my hair grow back when these levels improve?
My scalp is itchy, does this mean it’s still falling
I’ve decided I gotta change my shampoo and the no poo isn’t working for me right now. I’m checking out the Morroco — thank you!
Sally, check out my no poo article too: https://www.maryvancenc.com/2015/01/my-no-poo-experience/
I have been diagnosed with scarring alopecea/lichen planopilaris. It’s classified as an auto immune disease. Once the hair leaves the follicle, the follicle then scars over with no hope of growing back. I am very motivated to help my body heal in any way I can. I have gone off my beta blocker, am eating as clean as possible, increasingly organic. I’ve increased fish oils, biotin, B12. I stopped coloring my hair and use organic shampoo. Will anything else help? I feel very defeated and hopeless about my hair’s future, my dermatologist says it will only get worse.
I’m 53 and went through menopause early. I have been on bio identical hormone replacement for almost three years and still have not been able to balance out my hormones. My symptoms are HAIR LOSS, atrophy, dry skin, hot flashing, waking at least three times in the night, and anxiety. I’m seeing a holistic doctor and feel I’m not getting enough guidance on what to look for when balancing my hormones. My thyroid and other labs are all normal.
This is what I have tried:
I increased my Biest until the hot flashing during the day stopped. I still have one or two hot flashes in the night. The vaginal dryness is gone and the dry skin is better. I take half of my Biest in the morning and the other half at bedtime. I started to get nipple tenderness so I increased my Progesterone slightly until the tenderness went away. I take half of my Progesterone in the morning and the other half at bedtime. I still have the hair loss. Is there something I’m overlooking or need to do different?
Thanks for any suggestions or help!
Hi this was helpful thanks.
I’m not quite 20 and have PCOS. My hair has been falling out rapidly for a few months and it is getting thin and brittle. I used to have really thick hair! I would like to take natural treatments such as vitamins. I didn’t see this on your site, but Do you recommend silica at all? Or can you recommend some other treatments I could use?
I typically recommend diatomaceous earth (very rich in silica): https://www.maryvancenc.com/diatomaceous-earth/
and this complex: https://maryvancenc.ehealthpro.com/products/h-s-n-complete-120-capsules
Very very authentic article..perfect one through detailed evaluations of cases..maybe …thanks..
I found this article really interesting but wish that it was more relatable. I was taking a medication called Topamax several years ago for mood swings with little to no side effects- came off of it because my husband and I wanted to become pregnant. After I was done breastfeeding my second child I restarted Topamax. After several months on it I noticed that clumps of my hair were falling out. I contacted my doctors. We have run several test- thyroid, iron, vitamin levels, blood counts, and so on. All regular- minus my vitamin d. I was prescribed a vitamin D regimen for over a month to correct this. 4/5 month after being off of Topamax I am still noticing hair loss. I have seen a dermatologist and nobody really seems to know what to tell me.
Hoping you can shed some light for me please, I just found this article and it resonates with me a lot.
I suffered with 4 months of severe hair loss from a hormonal imbalance around 12 months ago due to coming off the pill it skewed all of my estrogen levels up.
The loss has been fine for a long time, but I was suffering estrogen dominance and pms before my period… Very moody, sore boobs, hormonal acne etc… Long after the loss had stopped and I figured it was likely my gut as everything else in my diet was already on point with this article.
So 3 months ago I added a 10billion cfu probiotic into my regime and all of my symptoms have gone and I feel better than ever, however, I woke up a few weeks ago thinking I have a lot more baby hair coming through but this week, my hair seems to be shedding again.. The only trigger I can think of which fits the right timescale is the probiotic because it has fixed all of my Estrogen issues. Is this likely to be a long term shedding again like in the case of severe estrogen withdrawal, or a minor corrective wobble?
I can’t give you advice about a complex health issue over the internet without knowing your health history. You can visit the contact page to get in touch about scheduling a consult if you’d like more guidance.
I am 61, always had a lot of hair – my crowning glory – thick. In the last 2/3 months it has been falling out. I would say I have lost 1/4 or 1/3 of my hair!
I had blood work done and my doc says everything is normal and that it must be stress (that could be true as well. I think it may be poor diet, low iron, low Vit D).
I also believe my TSH is LOW. Altho I asked for T3/T4, Reverse T3 she said the TSH reading is includes the aboe three results.
My Hgb: 12.2
Doc wants me to see a dermatologist for perhaps a prescription.
I’ve started taking D, B, Iron, Cal, Mag, Zinc, etc. Along with my anti-depressants and BPressure med.
A Bit Confused in California
PS. In the last few months I have been using the Shea line of hair care, as I thought it would smooth and enhance what limited ‘curl’ in my hair. My hairdresser thought that this hair line may be bad for my hair as the product is made for African-American hair – and my hair isn’t.
Recently I thought the Shea line may be the culprit that is causing my hair loss.
Any more ideas?
Confused in California
Hi Christine, You may have deficiencies due to poor digestion, inability to absorb nutrients. Your thyroid and hormones may also be the culprit. I’d recommend a full thyroid panel along with hormone and digestive assessment. And regarding your question about Shea moisture, I highly doubt that is causing hair loss. It’s a natural product with no harsh chemicals.
How does one lower dhea sulfate and raise shbg? These are my issues mostly in Peri though so I’m sure there more but these I feel
Are causing the extreme hairloss
It’s difficult to actively lower DHEA. You want to find out why it’s elevated and address that. High DHEA can be caused by low cortisol/chronic stress, high blood sugar, PCOS mainly.
I have been taking large dose of dhea for over three years no problems till 3weels ago I have a huge bald spot about 7 inches x 3 inches on back of my scalp it happened very fast ! It is still coming out. I am using saw palmetto,biotin,zink,bvitamins,folic acid,minoxadil topically,also topically green tea ,spearmint extract,coconut oil,getting ready to try onion juice topically this sucks everyone has a different option any ideas for dht build up in follicals
I agree, it is important with the diet and blanching out one’s hormones to prevent hair loss. But ti is also for the products, I use Regenepure to help out.
I feel where your coming from, Sometime not one thing will work. but you have to keep trying. I have found my routine, Steady Diet, Exercise (very important) and the right ingredients in your shampoo. I personally use Regenepure. and they have a full line of products. I mainly use Regenepure DR Shampoo because of the Ketoconazole. i read its been proven to help with DHT and so far so great 🙂 but its not just the products, diet and exercise. you need to make it a routine, repetition and consistency. Thats the key to results.
My dheas are finally in range and all testosterone levels are great now. My question is will my hair improve and ow long should it take to see some improvements if they were indeed the cause of my hair loss/breakage
You stated hormone unbalance causes the menopause hair dry brittle total texture change. Mine changed at the time I started getting irregular periods and hot flashes beginning of perinenopause and I am already taking thyroid meds and it hasn’t helped it. I am taking b complex, d3 k2, and magnesium and my hair is as dry and brittle as ever. Why are there not cures for this or more complaint? I have no other hair issues but the texture once I started thyroid meds my hair stopped falling oit hut the texture is still like a witch I can’t describe it it is completely dry and dead looking. How do I fix it?? ? ? Please HELP or am I stuck w this witch hay hair forever? Devastating!
All 4 beauticians I saw have told me the same thing products won’t help menopause hair texture because the problem is internal not damage. Please tell me what cured your brittle hair. I did have all labs done and most r normal other than my perinenopause ones .
Hi Krissy, I have a few posts on how I fixed my hair. You have to make sure thyroid and iron levels are optimized above all. And of course your diet matters. Collagen and zinc made the biggest difference for me personally once I fixed my thyroid and iron/ferritin levels. Start with this post: https://www.maryvancenc.com/how-i-beat-hair-loss/
and this one https://www.maryvancenc.com/grow-strong-healthy-hair/