Have you ever had a super stressful situation, like the loss of a job, a loved one, or a relationship, and a few months later, your hair starts falling out?
But many have wondered: why does stress cause hair loss?
When you’re under stress, your hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis acts as if a tiger is chasing you. It doesn’t matter if the danger is life-threatening, or you’re just worried about being late. You get the same reaction. Your adrenals produce adrenaline, which increases your blood pressure and your heart rate, and then you produce cortisol in order to fuel the fight or flight.
Now if you don’t need to run away from danger, all that extra cortisol is highly inflammatory. Cortisol and its metabolite cortisone are catabolic hormones which break down tissue.
And one of the tissues that it tends to break down are your hair follicles. Now, you don’t always see hair loss right away, so sometimes it’s hard to say that it was a stressor that caused it.
This is because your hair responds to your hormone levels in a delayed fashion.
You have three different types of hair. You have hair that’s in a growing phase, hair that’s stagnant, and hair that’s shedding. When you’re under stress, you have more shedding because of the catabolic effect of cortisol. When your hypothalamus is occupied by constantly orchestrating a stress response, your hair growth promoting hormones get less stimulus. Healthy hair growth is dependent upon estrogen and T3 production.
In the most severe cases of cortisol-related hair loss, your hair can fall out in clumps. I have seen patients who have lost all the hair on their head due to major stress. Once the stressors resolve, the hair can grow back.
Your adrenals get worn out by the constant stress response. Adrenal fatigue can contribute to slow hair regrowth from lower DHEA production. DHEA helps you metabolize protein and fat.So with less DHEA, you don’t have the building blocks for healthy hair growth.
It’s important to support your adrenals and your hypothalamus to calm down the HPA axis, so that your hair can actually grow back.
Because your adrenals and thyroid are controlled by the same hypothalamic hormone, POMC, stress can affect thyroid hormone production. Hair loss may be related to your low thyroid hormones, particularly T3 which stimulates hair growth. You’ll see a generalized thinning and excessive shedding, but it won’t be the patchy loss that you see with the cortisol-related hair loss.
Stress can affect your sex hormones, so if you’re under stress for a long enough period of time, all your progesterone is going to fuel cortisol production. Your periods can become irregular, and your estrogen levels will fall, which will affect hair growth. Because your estrogen levels fall, more testosterone is free, which can accelerate hair loss, especially in the male pattern, which is in the front and on your crown.
So what can you do about stress related hair loss?
First and foremost, you have to deal with the stressor.
You may not be able to change the financial situation, the loss you’ve had in a relationship, or the death of a loved one, but you can change the way you react to it. Consider therapy, meditation, deep breathing, or any other tactic you use to calm down. I have a CALM meditation that is available in my Hormone Reboot Training, which is designed to train your body to make GABA, a calming neurotransmitter produced by the parasympathetic nervous system.
Another important step you need to take is supporting your hypothalamus.
If your hypothalamus is constantly being triggered by your stress response, it’s going to cause system-wide miscommunication – with your adrenal glands, your thyroid and your ovaries or testes. I recommend using Genesis Gold® to support your hypothalamus and provide it with the nutrients it needs to regulate your hormones and help stimulate new hair growth.
I have had patients who did not necessarily have hair loss, but thinning hair, notice that their hair was getting thicker with less shedding after taking Genesis Gold®. Hair growth is not going to happen right away because your hormones have to get back into balance first. About two to three months later, you’ll start noticing new hair growth and less shedding.
Some people notice that their hair quality changes. I have always had thick hair, but before Genesis Gold®, it was dry, brittle and frizzy. Within months of taking Genesis Gold®, my hair became incredibly soft and luxurious. I can credit the phytonutrients, but it’s really because my hormones got into better balance. Stress can make your hair very unhealthy as the inflammatory cortisol strips the follicle of nutrients, causing dry, unhealthy hair.
The third thing that you need to do in order to reduce stress-related hair loss is to get enough sleep.
If you’re not getting deep sleep, you’re not in that restorative phase long enough to grow new tissues, which includes hair. You need at least seven to nine hours of deep sleep in the dark every night. If you’re sleep deprived, something’s got to give, and your hair is not crucial to your survival. So the nutrients and the resources are going to go to vital organs like your heart, kidney, liver, brain before it goes to your hair. You want to make sure that you’re getting deep sleep to reduce your adrenal stress response and help grow healthy hair.
If you have any questions about stress-related hair loss, you can join me in my hormone support group. I do Facebook Lives on a regular basis to answer your questions. You can get access to the group by signing up for my Hormone Reboot Training, which is free. Plus you’ll get access to some amazing mini courses I teach to help you to learn what you need to do in order to heal and balance your hormones.