There is nothing worse than a shower drain full of hair, especially if it’s yours and it’s falling out fast. Or perhaps you run your fingers through your hair and come up with a handful. Your hairbrush is full and you’re finding stray hairs – lots of them – on your pillowcase. What’s going on?
Your hair is constantly falling out and regrowing, and most people lose an average of 50 to 100 hairs a day. However, if you’re noticing an increase in shedding or if your hair is noticeably thinning, you’re probably losing more.
Your hair grows in cycles during which it actively grows for about two to three years and then rests for a couple of months. During the growth phase, a hair generally grows about 1/2 inch per month. At the end of the resting phase, the strand of hair falls out and a new strand begins to grow. Noticeable thinning of your hair is due to an above average number of hairs resting at the same time.
In Chinese medicine, the Kidney organ system governs the hair on your head. The Kidney system is also responsible for body functions related to growth, fertility, menopause, and aging. As we get older, your Kidneys become weaker, and one way that weakness is reflected is through the health of your hair. Hair loss, gray hair, and unhealthy hair are all signs that your Kidneys could be a little stronger.
In addition, your Kidney system is one of the Chinese organs most deeply damaged by stress. The adrenal glands sit right on top of your Kidneys, and in Western medicine, adrenal fatigue is the direct result of unrelenting stress. Extreme levels of stress can cause your hair to prematurely go into its resting phase, causing hair loss and thinning.
Beyond stress, there are other reasons that your hair may be falling out. Among them:
Poor diet. Remember the season of Survivor (Australia) when Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s hair fell out by the handful? The contestants didn’t have anything to eat, and Elizabeth’s hair began to fall out as a result of poor nutrition. Extremely low calorie diets or a diet low in protein can cause your hair to fall out.
Hormones. Many women complain that once they went through menopause their hair became much thinner. The decrease in estrogen after menopause can be another culprit in hair loss. In addition, an imbalance in your thyroid hormones can raise the levels of a chemical called DHT, which causes your hair to fall out faster than normal.
Low iron. Iron deficiency is a common cause of hair loss. Low levels of iron decreases the level of red blood cells necessary for healthy hair follicles.
Medications. Some antidepressants, diuretics, and certainly chemotherapy can cause hair loss.
Health conditions. Scalp infections, frequently fungal in nature, can cause your hair to drop. In addition, diseases such as diabetes and lupus can be associated with hair loss.
Hair treatments. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but how you treat your hair can have a direct impact on the health of your mane. Harsh chemicals, tight braids or pigtails, and brushing too vigorously can damage your hair and scalp and cause your hair to fall out.
So what can you do if your hair is falling out? Make sure your diet is sufficient in protein and iron, to nourish your body and hair. Don’t supplement with iron unless you’re sure your levels are low. Check with your doctor if you think low iron or hormone imbalances might be to blame. Also ask your doctor about adjusting the dosage or changing your prescription if hair loss is a side effect of any medication you’re taking. If stress is the problem, work on coping using Yoga, meditation, visualization, acupuncture, and any other relaxation techniques that work for you.
A practitioner of Chinese medicine would deal with your hair loss by strengthening your Kidney system through acupuncture and the use of herbs. A common herbal formula for hair loss and premature graying is called Seven Treasure Formula for Beautiful Whiskers, which nourishes the Kidney and benefits the hair.