(PEERtrainer Note: This is a segement of a recent Q&A session that was conducted for the PEERtrainer Hormone Reset Program. We are sharing the answer to this very important question, because it is connected to EVERYTHING that we are doing with our content, programs and focus. All of this helps us in our mission to help people feel fit, energetic and fully alive!)
Dr. Sara Gottfried: I want to say a couple of things here at the beginning about hair loss because I imagine some of you might be women in your 20s or 30s and perhaps this doesn't even effect you.
But the truth is that hair loss is a really important message from your body. It becomes crucially important, especially after you have a baby, when you start to lose hair a result of that or if you have one of the root causes that I'm going to go through.
This is definitely a really important issue. It's got a big emotional charge behind it, which is why I really take it seriously. I also feel like this is one of those places where conventional medicine unfortunately just falls down on the job.
I can tell you from seeing several doctors for my own hair loss, when I was in my 30s and early 40s, they basically said, "Eat more red meat and use Rogaine," which I did not find at all to be satisfying.
That's what got me motivated to learn more about hair loss. Can you imagine, Jackie?
Jackie Wicks: No. That's shocking, actually. Yes.
Dr. Sara: It's worthwhile for us to go through a few of the root causes. I actually want to mention some of what is in these questions, because I really feel like a lot of you who are listening will resonate with some of this.
The first question was a woman who said, "Starting about three months ago, I had hair loss with burning and an itchy scalp." She also says that the burning is elsewhere. It's on her ears, neck, and shoulders. She described a few other things, including difficulty with weight loss, trouble sleeping. She had her thyroid checked, was told it was OK. Her gynecologist checked some other hormones, including something called FSH, follicle-stimulating hormone. The details on that aren't that important, but it basically tells you how close you are to menopause, and the gynecologist told her it was fine.
But here's the part where I really want you to listen in. She says, "I am in tears about my hair. I never knew how much it meant until I started losing it. Please help. I am not lazy. I am not crazy. I am not having problems in my relationship. I am not depressed. I don't smoke. I don't drink.
I don't drink too much alcohol. I don't eat junk food. My life and my job are not stressful. I have plenty of me-time. I travel. I have hobbies. I have a great guy. I exercise regularly and eat tons of vegetables. What is wrong?"
When I read this, it just stopped me in my tracks, because this woman is really suffering. It's not like she is not resourceful. She has gone to not one but two physicians about this, and she's not getting the help that she needs. So let's get her some help.
Here is a list of some of the root causes related to hair loss. I'm going to hit the highlights, and as I said before, you could spend hours on this. In fact, Jackie, we should actually do a course related to hair loss. What do you think? There are so many women who struggle with this.Jackie Wicks: After you told me, you mentioned the statistic of after 50, or something like that, 50 percent. We were talking the other day, and you said 50 percent of people over age of 50 have a hair loss problem. Was that the statistic, or am I...
Dr. Sara: You're absolutely right. 30 percent of women in their 30's have significant hair loss, and 50 percent of women starting in their 50's. This affects a huge number of women, and it's the silent epidemic where women are trying to get help and they're basically being offered Rogaine.
Jackie: And meat.
Dr. Sara: Yeah, eat some more grass-fed, red meat. So let's up-level the prescription here. What would be helpful is just to share with you the way about the root causes. This isn't an exhaustive list. I'm going to give you a simplified version of it. Some of you might be saying, "Thank goodness."
The idea here here is that I want to go with, how does the 80-20 rule apply here? How do you really figure out the most common reasons why you have increased hair loss, and really address those first, so that you can be efficient about taking care of this. The number one root cause I see is related to the red meat.
It's low ferritin, low iron in your system. There's a number of ways to measure this. You can ask your doctor for a blood test, where you measure your iron and you measure your ferritin. Ferritin is the most sensitive way to measure how much iron you have running around in your body.
Not surprisingly, because you've heard this mantra from me before, when it comes to iron, you don't want too much and you don't want too little. When it comes to the numbers, I can give you some general information about that. You want a ferritin of around 70 to 80 to hang on to the hair on your head. When it's too high, that can be a problem, and when it's lower, that's an issue.
You want a ferritin of at least 40 to be able to create new hairs to replace the ones that you might have lost. Those are some general numbers of ferritin. Of course, I'm oversimplifying. There's other things that can affect ferritin besides your iron levels. But that's a general guide.
That's the number one root cause. What I found, for instance, with my own hair loss, was that it was a combination of these different root causes. It's very common for women to have borderline thyroid function together with low iron. That was my own story.
In fact, the next question that we got, I just want to read another part of it because it just really spoke to me. This is a woman who says, "I'm 55 and menopausal. I've been taking good supplements and overhauled my nutrition, except for some trouble sleeping." Oh, OK. Sorry, let me read that again. "Except for some trouble sleeping, I feel pretty good."
"But the hair loss I've had over the past year is really upsetting. I ordered a three month supply of Viviscal, and want to know if I'm heading in the right direction. I've had my thyroid tested, but my doctor says it's in the normal range, 2.865. She didn't want to test my adrenals because she said that she's never seen a problem with adrenal tests, but she didn't offer any other solutions to my hair loss. I need a new doctor."
What I wanted to pull out of this woman's story is a couple of highlights. One is, first of all, I don't think there's one magic treatment. I can't tell you the latest research on this Viviscal that she mentioned. I haven't done research on it. I don't know what the latest is. Maybe it's some fantastic formula.
But I can tell you, we've been trying to figure out what causes hair loss and how to correct it for decades, so I don't think it's the magic treatment. It might be a really effective treatment for certain root causes. Maybe at some point in the future we can talk a little more about Viviscal when I've had a chance to do the serious research that I like to do before I give an opinion.
Second of all, I love that this woman shared with us her thyroid results, the 2.865. Now, what I assume she means is that this number is her TSH, her Thyroid Stimulating Hormone level, which is the screening test that most conventional doctors will run when they're checking out your thyroid.
Now, we know from a lot of research on the thyroid, and we talked about a lot of that research during our Hormone Reset course together, we know that, if your thyroid is totally normal, ideally your TSH is somewhere between about 0.3 and 2.5. In fact, there's a number of endocrinology groups who agree with that.
If you want a more optimal range, I even like to run it a little tighter. I like to see it between 0.1 and 1.5. I just find that women feel their best, they're able to have that sense of buoyancy with their mood, their hair stays on their head, they feel like they can really serve on whatever calling they have, when their THS is in that range..
Now some women can't tolerate such a tight range, so even if we use this more conventional standard of 0.3 to 2.5, this woman is out of range. With 2.865, she is above that 2.5 cut off. One of the problems here is that in conventional medicine the lab that gives you the range for TSH is using a range for 95 percent of the population that's tested.
As you probably know by now, many women have either borderline or completely underactive thyroids, so that 95 percent range doesn't mean a lot. What I'm more interested in is what's the optimal range? What is the thyroid level that really makes you feel your best and helps that hair stay on your head?
I can't give medical advice as you know, but I just wanted to mention that if I had a woman in my practice who had hair loss and a TSH of 2.865, I would say, "Let's talk about some of the ways to improve your thyroid function."
Many of them we've already talked about in the course, but I would say go through the Gottfried protocol so that you are addressing those nutritional gaps. For instance, I found out that my copper was low. I also found out that I had mercury toxicity. Those are some of the reasons for my thyroid being borderline and also for my hair loss.
In terms of root causes, we talked about the low ferritin, low iron. Number two, the borderline thyroid and how that sometimes can go together with the iron.
Pretty much every hormonal change can cause hair loss. That's one of the reasons why women increase their hair when they're pregnant and then lose it when they're postpartum. After they deliver their baby and their estrogen and progesterone levels go down to zero from being sky high, that triggers hair loss. Dramatic hormone shifts can cause hair loss. That's a really common one.
Some of the things that we also see include a few other players. You know, I like to talk about hormones come also as if they're part of this cast of characters that we're trying to watch and manage.
The character here is insulin. If you're someone who is stressed out or...
I know that doesn't apply to the first woman that I mentioned, but if you're someone who has insulin that is higher than normal. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. It does a number of things to the body, including causing increased belly fat. But if your cells become numb to insulin. If you have insulin resistance, it also increases your chance of hair loss.
Number one low iron, low ferritin. Number two thyroid problems, borderline or low thyroid function. Number three dramatic changes in your hormones generally. Number four insulin resistance.
Number five I'm just going to group together some different less common reasons, including heredity. Take a look at your mother's hairline. That might be your future. Fortunately, there are some things you can do about it, but this is called "familial hair loss." That's a common one.
Another one I would put here is auto-immune problems. And when you have a doctor who's checking you out for hair loss, you should have a long list of labs that they should check, ranging from looking at your iron levels, looking at something called your CBC to see if you have anemia.
That stands for "complete blood count." Also looking at whether you have auto-immune problems. Looking at your fasting glucose. We want that fasting glucose to be less than 87. Otherwise there's a big chance that you've got a problem with insulin resistance.
We want to look at some other hormones. We definitely want to look at your thyroid, of course. I like to look at the balance between progesterone and estrogen.
One other thing I want to mention here is something related to testosterone and the androgen family. This will be the last thing that I mention here. Women who have either really high testosterone, like their DHEA is high or something called dihydrotestosterone.
Women who have high androgens, which is the name of the family that testosterone belongs to. These are the brothers and sisters. DHEA gets made into testosterone. Testosterone then gets made into dihydrotestosterone.
If those levels are high, any of those can cause hair loss. And if they're low, testosterone especially, it can cause loss of hair elsewhere, like pubic hair for instance.
Those are the most common causes of hair loss. The list is actually quite a bit longer, but that's valuable just to help people get into action.Jackie: This has been extremely informative, because even if you are not 100 percent experiencing it in an acute level like one of these questions. These are just things where if it affects such a high percentage.
If it does affect you in the future, at least you have a game plan. That you know, "OK, I'm going to ask my doctor these questions." It just gives you at least some starting point versus someone just saying, "Here's some Rogaine."
Extremely informative. I definitely want to do a full course on this, when you have a go to plan, you can really feel, at least confident that you know where to start.
Dr. Sara: That's right. You just described, Jackie, perhaps my most important mission, which is I want women to have choices. I want them to step into their power. I want them to feel empowered. Feeling beautiful, understanding the reason why they're losing some hair is a really important part of that.
Related Free Webinar With Dr Sara Gottfried: The 3 Hormones That Make Women Miserable