Hair Loss (Alopecia) – Possible Causesby Lauren Deville on Jul. 20, 2012, under Natural Medicine Tips
Hair loss is actually a pretty common concern for the patients that I see. It’s not dangerous, but can be very psychologically damaging, especially for my female patients. There can be a number of causes.
There’s the obvious – male pattern hair loss. This is officially “androgenic alopecia,” and it’s caused by a particular metabolite of testosterone called DHT, dihydrotestosterone. Female hair loss associated with advancing age is caused by the same thing. Treatments for it, both in the traditional medical model and naturopathic medicine, focus on limiting the conversion of testosterone to DHT. However, the medications (Rogaine and those similar) do have their side effects, and (the bad news): hair loss will resume as soon as treatment is discontinued, whether traditional or naturopathic.
There are a couple of other causes too. The autoimmune condition alopecia areata is also a possibility – usually in this case, hair falls out in clumps or breaks easily. In some cases hair grows back on its own. Traditional treatment involves immune system suppression (steroids). Naturopathic treatment involves immune system modulation – this approach may look different depending on the patient. One key definitely involves stress reduction.
Hormonal imbalance can also be the culprit. Hair loss is relatively common in menopausal women, but it can also be seen in hypothyroidism, at the end of pregnancy, or following withdrawal of hormonal birth control treatments. In this case, hormone balancing would be the appropriate approach.
Occasionally fungal infections (tinea capitus) may be the cause, in which case topical antifungals are the appropriate approach, and perhaps natural systemic antifungals. (I say natural because I definitely would not recommend systemic pharmaceutical antifungals except in severe conditions – i.e. not this. Those drugs are nasty.)
Hair loss can be secondary to malnutrition, from eating disorders like anorexia or just poor diet choices. Certain nutrient deficiencies can cause hair loss, or simple lack of the necessary protein building blocks. In this case, obviously dietary adjustment is the appropriate treatment – or, if the diet is adequate but the patient can’t absorb nutrients, then supporting the gut would be the wisest approach.
If all else fails, I’ll look for heavy metals. Sometimes these can cause hair loss.
And meanwhile, I will almost always treat with homeopathy, regardless of the cause. A well-chosen remedy can go a long way to reducing unwanted hair loss.
Dr Lauren Deville is board-certified to practice Naturopathic Medicine. To receive her free e-book, “Ten Nutritional Supplements Everyone Should Have,” or to receive her monthly health and wellness newsletter, please sign up at www.drlaurendeville.com.