Hair Loss, Stress & Vitamins: Getting to the Root Cause
Familiar with the phrase, “tearing your hair out”? It’s not unnormal to feel this sensation under times of extreme pressure and stress, but what if this age-old mantra was less about our desire to rip ourselves in two, and rather our hair falling out of its own accord? Yes, you read that right. Periods of intense stress have the potential to lead our hair to fall out. So if you find yourself brushing out clumps each day, clogging the shower drain with broken ends, or a head of hair no longer as luscious as it was, it could be time to take a look at how stress is influencing your hair loss (and what vitamins you can use to support your locks).
Hair Loss & The Stress Response
The stress response in our bodies is a natural one. We are animals by nature, a part of the predatory chain until recent years, and the adrenaline hit that comes with stressful moments is designed to support our body for survival. What’s not natural is prolonged chronic stress. It’s often more mundane than an immediate panic, but it’s constant - and this misdirection of energy within the body has a cascade of effects; hair loss just being one.
To understand how we can best support our hair through stress-related loss, let’s begin to break down the different types of hair loss that can be caused:
- Telogen effluvium: In telogen effluvium, significant stress pushes large numbers of hair follicles into a resting phase. Within a few months, affected hairs might fall out suddenly when simply combing or washing your hair.
- Trichotillomania: Trichotillomania is an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows, or other areas of your body. Hair pulling can be a way of dealing with negative or uncomfortable feelings, such as stress, tension, loneliness, boredom, or frustration.
- Alopecia areata: A variety of factors are thought to cause alopecia areata, possibly including severe stress. With alopecia areata, the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles — causing hair loss.
Vitamins & Supplementation To Support
We know now, through both decades of research and anthropological experience, that many conditions in the body can be reverted through the correct balance of vitamins and supplementation. Stress-related hair loss is no exception to this rule, and here are the top four ways to support it:
- B-Group Vitamins: One of the best-known vitamins for hair growth is a B-group vitamin called biotin. Studies link biotin deficiency with hair loss in humans. Often biotin supplementation is used as a holistic hair loss treatment across the board, those displaying severe deficiencies have been shown to have the best results.
- Zinc: Not only is zinc a powerful essential mineral in supporting the skin and immune system, but it also promotes healthy hair growth. This mineral plays an important role in hair tissue growth and repair, and helps keep the oil glands around the follicles working properly - a crucial step in the process. Interestingly, hair loss is a common symptom of zinc deficiency.
- Ashwagandha & Other Adaptogens: Adaptogens are one of the most powerful inclusions in a modern diet. Ashwagandha, especially, has been praised for its stress-regulating properties, helping to lower overall cortisol levels. As well as addressing the root cause, ashwagandha contains many beneficial amino acids and antioxidants that reduce inflammation and are essential for hair growth.
- Silica: While silica doesn’t promote hair growth, it does strengthen hair and prevent thinning by delivering essential nutrients to the hair follicles. For this reason, it is best to consider using silica alongside a hair-growth promoting supplement; with trial and error, you can find the best balance uniquely suited to you!
Foods To Support Hair Growth
While we definitely believe in the power of supplementation to help heal the body from extreme imbalances, often if sufficient intake is gained through the diet, supplementation is not necessary. Use the vitamins above to help bring the body back to homeostasis, then maintain your healthy head of hair by eating foods rich in these nutrients. Fish, especially SMASH fish, can be a rich dietary source of zinc and B-group vitamins (as well as omega 3s for glowing skin). Large helpings of dark leafy greens also offer these beneficial nutrients but in less concentrated amounts per portion.
Getting To The Root Cause
For those suffering from stress-related hair loss, supplementation and a nourishing diet will support the body throughout this time, but often the symptom will not resolve until the root cause is addressed. Stress is one of the leading health epidemics of our generations, and every day we are still discovering new ways that it’s influencing the body. If it is determined, through testing and through observation, that stress is indeed the cause of hair-related worries - a holistic approach requires us to address the problem at hand. At Food Matters, recovering from chronic stress is a key pillar in our approach to thriving health and wellness, and there are many simple techniques and practices you can employ to help counter this phenomenon. From foods, meditation, and exercise, here is a definitive list to help you on the next stage of your healing journey.
If you are interested in learning how to use food and nutrition as medicine to support your body through challenging times, discover the Food Matters Nutrition Certification Program today.
Take the stress out of cooking with 21-days of guided meal plans, shopping lists, and nutrition support. You’ll find all of this, and more, in our signature Clean Eating Program.