In women the major cause of hair loss before the age of 50 is nutritional, with 30% affected. – International Journal of Cosmetic Science
Recently I was lead to the book “8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS,” by Integrative Doctor Fiona McCulloch, N.D. I was greatly impressed with how McCulloch breaks down the root causes of hormone imbalance (PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome is essentially a hormone imbalance) and very clearly provides solutions to each underlying area of concern. Because everything and every system is connected in the body, I appreciated that McCulloch outlined and addressed the following variables that could be affecting your hormones: Inflammation, Insulin Resistance, Adrenal Fatigue, Excess Androgens, Thyroid, Environment and Diet. McCulloch provides short quizzes to take in each category to discover how these factors could be potentially off balance, thus contributing to hormone imbalance. Dr. MuCulloch also touches on other topics such as fertility, acne, menopause, obesity, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as nutrition and lifestyle suggestions to support all areas of concern. However, the most important bit of information I took from the book focused on the importance of Ferritin levels (iron storage) in relation to hair loss.
Major Key to Stop Hair Shedding
MuCulloch’s understanding of hair loss (a huge indicator of hormone imbalance) centers on a special consideration, which seems to be critical for proper hair growth. She sites research published in 2002 from the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, which highlights the importance of nutrition and diet for optimal hair growth. More specifically, this research pinpoints the importance of Ferritin levels (iron storage), as well as the amino acid l-lysine for hair rejuvenation.
…women with increased hair shedding and decreased hair volume, ninety-five percent had a serum ferritin of less than seventy…treating iron deficiency, bringing the average ferritin levels from thirty-three to eighty-nine, caused a significant decrease in hairs entering into the shedding phase. A ferritin level of under forty has also been linked to a significant increase in telogen hairs. – MuCulloch
McCulloch explains that hair follicles contain stores of ferritin, which encourages them to grow and without enough ferritin the hair simply falls out. She recommends a ferritin goal of eighty for women with androgenetic alopecia.
The main cause appears to be depleted iron stores, compromised by a suboptimal intake of the essential amino acid l-lysine. Correction of these imbalances stops the excessive hair loss and returns the hair back to its former glory. However, it can take many months to redress the situation. – The Journal of Cosmetic Science
Although I have never been diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome), I have always suspected through nutritional research that my own personal hair shed was due to several underlying variables (not genetic), including hormone imbalance, despite my hormone panels coming back normal. Having been diagnosed with Androgenetic Alopecia (female pattern hair loss) 5 years ago, I was ecstatic that McCulloch touched on this topic, which is so little understood. She even states, “…addressing iron levels is the single most important factor for women with hair loss.”
Topical Solutions to Decrease Shed
McCulloch identifies two topical treatments for hair shed, which have been well studied and have shown to be promising for optimal hair growth. The first is rosemary leaf extract and the second is topical melatonin. MuCulloch sites a 2013 study showing that rosemary improved hair growth in mice with androgen-induced hair loss. Three to four drops of rosemary oil mixed in a carrier oil, like jojoba, is recommended topically thirty minutes prior to washing hair. Additionally, a topical application of 0.1 percent solution of melatonin has shown significant improvement for alopecia–occipital and frontal hair loss–according to a 2004 study in the British Journal of Dermatology. Melatonin acts as an antioxidant and in effect protects the hair follicles.
The Take Away
Overall, “8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS,” has shed light on an important topic for women-balancing hormones for optimal health. This book is a wealth of knowledge, offering a clear explanation of the types of PCOS, safe and natural treatment methods, impactful research and a very detailed outline of supplement, diet and lifestyle solutions. Even more, McCulloch not only points out allopathic methods for treating the underlying categories responsible for hormones imbalance, but she takes it a step further by introducing natural alternatives with research to back them. Published in 2016, McCulloch’s book further emphasizes the importance of examining Ferritin levels for women with significant hair loss/hair shed because being in the normal range, simply isn’t enough. Most importantly, this book offers a lot of hope for women suffering with hormone related conditions, including hair loss. I believe all women who suffer from some kind of hormone imbalance would greatly benefit from reading McCulloch’s book.
Areas to Address for Hormone Imbalance/PCOS
- Insulin Resistance
- Adrenal Fatigue
- Excess Androgens
- Hormonal Imbalances (test with Doctor)
- Low or High Thyroid
- Environmental Factors
- Nutritional Factors (food intolerances, GMO’s, etc.)
- Stress Management/Lifestyle
Please find a link below to McCulloch’s book, “8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS,” as well as links to the studies surrounding hair loss that she sites in her book.
<3 Eat Your Greens Out
McCulloch, Fiona. “8 Steps to Reverse Your PCOS.” 2016. Greenleaf Book Group Press: Austin, Texas
Rushton, D. Hugh, M.J. Norris, R. Dover, and Nina Busuttil. 2002. “Causes of Hair Loss and the Developments in Hair Rejuvenation.” International Journal of Cosmetic Science https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1046/j.0412-5463.2001.00110.x
Rushton, D. Hugh, and Isobel D. Ramsay. 1992. “The Importance of Adequate Serum Ferritin Levels During Oral Cyproterone Acetate and Ethinyl Oestradiol Treatment of Diffuse Androgen‐Dependent Alopecia in Women.” Clinical Endrocrinology https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2265.1992.tb01470.x
Murata, Kzuya, Kazuma Noguchi, Masato Kondo, Mariko Onishi, Naoko Watanabe, Katsumasa Okamura, and Hideaki Matsuda, 2013. “Promotion of Hair Growth by Rosmarinus officinalis Leaf Extract.” Phytotherapy Research https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.4712
Fischer, Tobias, G Burmeister, H W Schmidt, and Peter Elsner. 2004. British Journal of Dermatology. “Melatonin increases anagen hair rate in women with androgenetic alopecia or diffuse alopecia: results of a pilot randomized controlled trial” British Journal of Dermatology: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2004.05685.x