Hair products and good management techniques are the two main factors that most naturals look at to gain length. We do often talk to about having a healthy diet and exercising too but less attention is paid to reasons why hair may genuinely be growing slower than normal or shedding faster than it should. Here are 5 medical causes that could cause perturb hair growth cycles.
1. Taking Supplements that you do not need
There is a school of thought that if you take certain vitamin or mineral supplements, you can promote hair growth or thicken hair. Some people self prescribe larger than normal doses of these supplements. In actual fact, taking supplements in excess or those that you do not need may lead to hair loss (Clin Exp Dermatol, pp 396–404, 2002). If you truly believe you are lacking in vital minerals or vitamins, it is definitely worth having some blood work done before you start on a course of supplements.
2. Thyroid Check
If your thyroid is underactive, you are likely to suffer from increased hair shedding as the balance between the hair which should be growing (anagen phase) and hair that should be shedding (telogen phase) is disturbed (Arch Dermatol, pp 349–352, 1972). In essence, hair that should still be in the growth phase somehow switches to the shedding phase. It is not known scientifically why this happens. The observations, however, so far are that hair follicles do have attachment areas for thyroid hormones and for people with an underactive thyroid, supplementing with synthetic hormones leads to a rebalancing of the hairs’ anagen and telogen phase. So if you suspect an underactive thyroid, do have it checked out, it could improve your hair.
3. Iron Check
This is yet another case where there are more observations than explanations. The observation is that women who either have low iron but not anemia as well as those with anemia can experience increased hair loss. Similar to the underactive thyroid, this is due to hair that should be in the growth phase switching to the shedding phase (Clin Exp Dermatol, pp 396–404, 2002). Supplementing with iron allows restoration of the balance. However, hair loss in women with low iron or anemia is not universal, some women do not experience this. Additionally in some cases supplementation does not necessarily change the balance. Although the evidence is unclear, there is a link of a kind to iron supplementation improving hair quality for some women.
4. Hormone Check
Women produce a small amount of testosterone in addition to making larger quantities of estrogen. The balance between these two hormones can affect hair growth. Estrogens are known to play a role in hair growth and are part of the reason why in pregnancy the growth cycle of hair is elongated. For women, testosterone in higher than normal quantities can cause scalp hair to become thinner and shed more as well as promote thicker hair growth in typically male areas such as the chin and chest. If you have any problems with your menstrual cycle or if you notice that your hair is thinning and shedding more, do have a hormone check.
5. Eating Disorders
The primary reason hair grows is because we consume food. A diet that is low in protein will generally still allow your hair to grow although it may be more brittle. A diet that excludes protein can lead to hair breakage, hair loss and slow/no hair growth (Am J Clin Nutr, pp 1158–1165, 1967). There is a cultural stereotype that black women in general do not really suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia but this is just a stereotype. If either of these conditions affect you, do seek medical help.
Ladies have you dealt with any of these issues? Please share.