Follicle Fallout: The Hair and Health Connection

By Martha Michael

How to Combat Hair Loss

It’s like a whisper. Your hair is quietly informing you that something’s not right -- and it has nothing to do with style. According to experts, the health of your hair can be an indicator of your overall wellness.

Mane Events

There are experiences every decade of your life that impact your hair, says an article on Oprah.com. It’s obvious when you look at cradle-to-grave photography of just about anyone that your head of hair looks healthier at some times more so than it does at others.

From the beginning, it isn’t unusual for a baby born with thick, dark hair to lose it all and have new locks within six months. But during the childbearing years, it’s not just the baby who sees changes. The hand that rocks the cradle goes through an evolution as well. About 50 percent of women report a “massive loss of hair” about three months following delivery, according to Lisa Ishii, MD, hair restoration expert at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore.

Because hair follicles stop shedding and go into a resting state during pregnancy, the buildup of excess hair falls out after you give birth. But most new mothers find their hair returns to its normal thickness, Dr. Ishii says.

Women may also experience temporary hair loss when they discontinue use of birth control.

Some experiences that typically occur in your 40s can also cause changes to your hairline. The stress of a divorce, a job change, or death of a loved one may trigger psychological factors that cause a physical reaction. "Your body is redirecting energy to give extra support to overworked vital organs rather than to growing your hair," Dr. Ishii says.

Simply understanding the situation better can help you survive and deal with the inevitable changes that take place during your lifetime. There are a lot of options, such as grief counseling or seeking the help of a therapist, for the emotional adjustments you need to make, especially while dealing with emotional losses.

And for physical changes that occur, seeing a chiropractor enables you to manage some of those inevitable limitations. Chiropractic care can offer you treatment for such natural occurrences as pain and tension that comes from the effects of stress and age; you can also engage in yoga, meditation or other forms of adaptable exercise.

Half the Mane it Used to Be

Experiencing hair loss may be the result of metabolic or hormonal stress, says an article on EverydayHealth.com. Your hair may begin to shed if your thyroid does not produce enough hormones. Called hypothyroidism, approximately 4.6 percent of Americans age 12 and older suffer from the condition. It is detected through a thyroid-stimulating hormone test, or TSH, and symptoms include weight gain, joint pain, fatigue and intolerance to cold.

A thyroid condition sometimes leads to alopecia areata, an autoimmune condition causing the individual to lose hair in patches.

Protein is also necessary for healthy growth of your hair. While most Americans have plenty of protein in their diets, some people do not digest it properly. Patients who have gastric bypass surgery can have problems with protein absorption, as well as individuals battling gastrointestinal conditions.

A Head for Numbers

Some health conditions cause more than just hair loss, says an article by AARP. The simple aging process brings about both graying and thinning of your hair, but if these occur while you’re still young it may mean you suffer from coronary artery disease.

A report by the BBC describes the results of a study by the European Society of Cardiology using data from 2,000 men younger than 40. Researchers found that hair analysis from individuals with coronary artery disease showed half of them had male pattern baldness and half of the participants were going gray.

Seniors sometimes experience unsightly changes to the quality of their hair. A diet with an inadequate supply of iron, omega-3 fatty acids, zinc or protein can turn a coiffure from full and dynamic to limp and dull. Dandruff on your eyebrows or on your head may be a sign of an inflammatory skin condition.

Making a distinction between sporting a style that’s turning heads versus one that has the sheen and volume of overall wellness may involve splitting hairs. But checking a mirror to see how you look and checking in with a chiropractor both contribute to staying ahead of any developing health problems.

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