Who would think that body hair could reveal information about your health—and quite a lot of information at that, as it turns out? Each one of our hairs can grow from between two to six years before finally falling out to have a replacement hair waiting to sprout.
Hair that is brittle, dry, or thinning can be signs that something is not right with the body that should be nourishing it. In fact, your hair is a good barometer of how the rest of the body is functioning.
As you might have guessed, one of the best ways to achieve a head of thick, lustrous hair is to follow a diet rich in essential nutrients, healthy fats, protein, minerals, and vitamins. But there are other causes behind hair health as well, some preventable, some not.
Here are six health reasons behind why your hair might be falling out or getting thinner:
1. Autoimmune disease
There are around 100 different autoimmune diseases, and all parts of the body can be affected—where the immune system doesn’t differentiate between healthy cells and invading pathogens, causing it to turn on the body. These diseases include alopecia areata, which causes hair loss or spot baldness on the head or on other parts of the body. There is no cure, but the hair can grow back over time.
2. Hormonal imbalance
Both men and women can lose their hair when hormone levels are out of whack and become irregular. But the good news is, when treated with the right medication, the hair will grow back. Increases in the male hormone testosterone can do the opposite and cause an overgrowth of hair in both men and women.
Everyone loses hair during their lifetime, but just because your hairbrush is full of discarded hair doesn’t always mean you are going bald. Male pattern baldness, known as androgenic alopecia can start in your twenties, often starting with a receding hairline. There is no cure for hereditary pattern baldness, and it can affect women as well, although usually showing more often as hair thinning rather than bald patches. Although there is no cure, some treatments can be effective in slowing hair loss, or stimulating new growth. Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that half of all men over 50 are bald or on the way to losing their hair.
4. Thyroid imbalance
Loss of hair in hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism usually occurs as an overall thinning. Other symptoms may appear, such as fatigue, weight gain, or depression. After treatment for the thyroid condition, the hair will return, although unfortunately, the thyroid treatment itself can cause hair loss. The good news is it will grow back.
5. Iron deficiency
If your diet is poor, you may be lacking in certain nutrients. One of these, iron, produces hemoglobin, which allows blood to carry oxygen to the cells responsible for hair health and growth. It’s easy to see how the hair might become unhealthy and fall out without adequate nutrition. The good news here is that the problem can be fixed; extra vitamin C in the diet will enable iron to be used more efficiently, so pay attention to your diet, and you may have to introduce extra iron, too. It turns out that iron deficiency is the most common worldwide nutritional deficiency.
6. Heavy drinking
Alcohol itself is not known to encourage hair loss; however, excessive consumption can contribute to a poor diet and loss of nutrients (which probably includes iron). So cutting down is advisable and not just to keep your hair but also to improve your health. Heavy drinking can change your appearance in other ways, too, from causing excess weight, to bad skin, to bloodshot eyes—not a pretty picture.
Are you worried yet? Don’t fret. Here are some tips on how to keep your crowning glory in good condition:
• Improve your eating habits.
• Using fingertips to dry your wet hair is preferable to brushing or combing. Also, choose a hairstyle that is easy to maintain. Blow-drying your hair regularly will also weaken it.
• Don’t use shampoo and conditioner on a daily basis, as it is detrimental to the hair structure. Wetting it is okay, and just towel it dry gently afterward.
• If your hair is thinning, don’t try to keep it long, which will only accentuate the problem. It might work out better to go for a smart, short look. Long, thin hair will also become more fragile.
• Reduce your stress by getting more exercise, meditating, or by spending time unplugged away from your computer or smartphone. Your hair will respond and reward you!