There are many reasons why hair loss occurs, including nutrient excesses and deficiencies, impaired circulation, and hormonal imbalances. Let’s begin by describing the structure and growth of hair.
The Structure of the Hair
Hair is a connective tissue composed of strands of protein. These are linked, or crosslinked in various ways. The type of crosslinking makes some individual’s hair straight, while others are curly, waved, or kinky. (Perms alter the crosslinking of hair proteins). The particular protein structure determines the health and appearance of the hair.
The hair follicle goes through three different growing phases called the anagen, catagen, and telogen phases. If certain nutrients are deficient during any one of these phases, hair loss may occur.
Individual Nutrients and Hair Loss
- Zinc and RNA Transferase – Zinc is required for RNA (ribonucleic acid) transferase; an enzyme involved in the synthesis of all body proteins. Impairment of zinc metabolism will affect all protein structures of the body. Zinc is also required for synthesis of carboxypeptidase, a digestive enzyme required for digestion of dietary protein.
- Copper and Lysyl Oxidase – Lysyl oxidase is a copper-dependent enzyme involved in connective tissue synthesis. Copper imbalance often leads to lackluster hair and hair loss. Excessive copper, by interfering with the sulfide bonds in the hair, literally causes dissolution of the hair structure. This may cause certain individual’s hair not to hold a perm. Copper is also required for tyrosinase, an enzyme required for melanin production. Melanin is a pigment substance which gives color to the hair.
- B-Complex Vitamins – Many hair products contain B-complex vitamins, especially vitamin B6, PABA and biotin. These vitamins are involved with amino acid metabolism. Amino acids are the building blocks from which proteins are constructed.
- Male Hormones – It has been noted that excessive male hormone levels can cause “male pattern” hair loss in both men and women. Balancing body chemistry can often balance these hormone levels and restore hair growth.
- Protein Deficiency – A protein deficiency is a well-known cause of hair loss. Protein deficiency causes a reduction in the linear rate of growth in the hair and in the diameter of the hair shaft, which causes the hair to shed easily. Poor digestion and utilization of protein can cause hair loss even if one’s protein intake is adequate.
- Other Important Nutrients – Deficiency of sulfur, vitamin B6 and B12 have also been shown to cause hair loss. Exceedingly high dosages of vitamin A can also cause hair loss.
Body Chemistry and Hair Loss
- Fast Oxidation – Fast oxidizers have elevated sodium levels. Sodium is eliminated in part through the skin and hair. The first inch or two of the hair represents a section of active growth where minerals can be stored and called upon during stressful periods. As sodium accumulates in the tissue, it can “petrify” the hair follicle resulting in hair loss. Fast oxidizers are also prone to a deficiency of copper and zinc, which may contribute to hair loss. Excessive male hormone production by the adrenal glands is also associated with fast oxidation. Fast oxidizers have low glycogen reserves, and commonly convert some of their body protein to sugar to burn as fuel. A loss of the hair protein is much better than loss of protein from vital organs and tissues.
- Slow Oxidation – Hair loss in slow oxidizers is associated with excess tissue copper. A copper imbalance causes dissolution of the hair structure, resulting in impairment of hair growth and “lifeless” hair. An excess of tissue copper also contributes to low sodium levels in slow oxidizers. When the tissues are low in sodium, transport of vital nutrients into the hair follicle is impaired. An elevated copper level and/or adrenal exhaustion also causes calcium accumulation in the soft tissues of the body, including the hair. Calcium accumulation impairs transport across cell membranes, impairing the flow of nutrients to the hair. Slow oxidation is also associated with sluggish thyroid activity, which is known to be associated with hair loss. Blood pressure is often low in the slow oxidizer, and circulation is often poor due to impaired adrenal and thyroid activity. Blood circulation to the scalp may be impaired, contributing to hair loss.
- Hypothyroidism and Hair Loss – The alopecia (hair loss) of hypothyroidism is well known. Thinning of the hair is one of the recognized signs of low thyroid activity.
- Stress and Hair Loss – Frequently, hair loss occurs directly following a stressful situation. Stress can be physical, such as an illness or chemotherapy, mental, or emotional.
Through a deeper understanding of the role of nutrients and metabolic balance in hair growth, it is often possible to prevent and even reverse the troubling symptom of hair loss.