Getting to the Root: Causes of Hair Loss

I have a food-first strategy when it comes to hair loss. You can help hair loss with your fork. Start by dialing in your macronutrients and micronutrients. If you’ve been low-carb for a while, add a ½ sweet potato to dinner. Make sure you get adequate fat from avocado, hemp seeds, and nuts. Add 5 to 7 Brazil nuts to your green smoothie to get the selenium your thyroid needs.

Grains contain small quantities of lysine, but legumes contain even more; therefore, meals that combine the two—Indian dal with brown or black rice, beans with black rice and tortilla, falafel and hummus with gluten-free crackers—are a good way to get complete protein in your diet and keep hair on your head.

When it comes to filling micronutrient gaps, you may want to take a multivitamin while you perform testing to see what nutrients may be missing. This will ensure that you get the B vitamins, copper, zinc, and selenium that you need.

Another natural treatment strategy includes a 1,000-mg daily supplement of evening primrose oil, which as I mentioned, blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). Sometimes you have more than one cause of your hair loss, and these are simple and natural strategies that won’t harm you.

If you are wigging out because of hair loss and need to do something while investigating root causes, the only drug approved for women by the Federal Drug Administration is minoxidil.8 You can buy minoxidil without a prescription. It’s actually a drug for lowering blood pressure, but when applied topically, it slows hair loss and promotes regrowth. It dilates blood vessels, allowing more oxygen, blood, and nutrients to reach the hair follicles, resulting in new, thicker, and better hairs. Minoxidil comes in two doses: 2 percent (for women) and 5 percent (for men). There’s some debate about which strength is better for women. According to the research, 5 percent appears superior to 2 percent in women, although some women report greater adverse scalp reactions with 5 percent.9

How to Use Minoxidil

Once you decide to commit to daily minoxidil, I recommend parting your hair down the middle, snapping a few photos to document the width of your part and your hairline. Make sure your hair is dry when you start.

Apply the dose to your scalp (2 percent or 5 percent).

Wash your hands immediately after application as it can stain clothing and bedding.

Allow to dry for 2 to 4 hours. Don’t shampoo, apply hair products, or blow dry for four hours.

Apply twice per day or as recommended by your health professional.

Then wait patiently for four months and watch your hair grow. Unfortunately, this is not a cure—when you stop using minoxidil, hair loss will return unless you’ve corrected the cause.

Taken orally, finasteride acts systemically to reduce androgens by inhibiting the enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT. While most people take these treatments to hang on to their hair, they are actually treating the downstream symptoms of high testosterone and DHT.

Both these treatments for hair loss have been studied primarily in men. Are they safe for women? Minoxidil has been used for more than thirty years, so it’s got a longer track record. But the real answer is this: we don’t know.

Bottom line: When it comes to your hair loss and prescription therapies, we want to reproportion your hormones, not search and destroy. So I highly recommend that you get to the root of your hair loss by finding the cause. Work with a collaborative health professional. View hair loss as an important message from your body that needs to be decoded. Often when you heal your hair loss, you heal other systems in your body, such as your gut, immune system, and endocrine system.

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