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Fight Stress-Related Hair Loss with These Science-Backed Methods

Does stress play a role in hair loss? These scientific studies say yes. Read on to find how to combat this troublesome side effect of stress.
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Can stress cause hair loss? There are a lot of anecdotal stories about stress leading to hair loss or other hair-related symptoms, like a sudden change in color. Although there are few studies that nail down the exact link between hair loss and stress, there are enough related triggers that definitely relate hair loss to stress.

Many of the causes for hair loss are unknown and unproven. The most common form of hair loss in both women and men is telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a condition where the hair goes into the loss phase faster than normal. This causes noticeable hair loss because the rate of new hair growth cannot keep up with the rate of hair loss. TE is thought to be linked with some forms of stress, but there have been few scientific studies that have examined or proven the link. TE is most common in women after pregnancy, due to the sudden fluctuations of hormone levels.

Another commonly associated form stress and hair loss is alopecia areata, which is attributed to many causes, including age, hormonal changes, stress, illness, and even some medications. AA is considered an autoimmune hair disorder, where the cells in your body overreact and attack healthy body tissue, preventing effective hair growth. This form of hair loss can remain in small patches, or cause hair loss throughout the entire body.

It is a common assumption that high levels of stress can lead to excessive hair loss, but this commonly-held theory has not been entirely proven in scientific studies or human clinical trials. However, some animal studies and the other effects of stress on the body indicate that stress may be a determining factor in some forms of hair loss. Read on to discover more about how this troubling condition can occur and what you can do to help stop stress-related hair loss.

The Link to Stress and TE

TE normally occurs in women between the third and fifth month after childbirth. Pregnancy lowers the normal rate of hair loss in a woman. After childbirth, the body sheds the excess hair from the pregnancy down to normal levels. Other triggers can include thyroid problems, weight loss, medical illnesses, general anesthesia, changes in hormone levels, or the use of some medications. According to the University of California, TE is also associated with some forms of stress. The University of California states that individuals suffering from TE hair loss will regrow their hair within 6 months of the stress ending.

The Link to Stress and AA

Many nerves exist in and around hair follicles. According to some studies, the nerves and nervous system products (called neuropeptides), could be responsible for some forms of hair loss during times of stress. One neuropeptide, called substance P, is a brain chemical involved in pain transmission. Substance P is released from the nerves around hair follicles during the inflammatory part of the alopecia cycle. This could affect hair growth.

A 2003 study conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine studied the link between substance P and stress-inhibited hair growth. The researchers found that premature catagen development and deleterious perifollicular inflammation were caused by a restriction of substance P. When the mice were given a substance P supplement during the resting hair growth phase, hair growth increased. However, when the mice were given substance P during the growth phase of hair, it triggered hair loss because the follicles were forced into premature conversion to the intermediate stage of the hair cycle. This indicates that substance P may be responsible for regulating normal hair growth. Hair follicles also synthesize and secrete cortisol (a stress-related hormone).

A 2005 study from the Hamamatsu University School of Medicine indicated that the synthesis of cortisol by hair follicles indicate that hair may respond to stressors in a more direct way than previously thought possible.

Other Theories about Stress and Hair Loss

The South China Morning Post cites a few other theories about what causes stress-related hair loss. According to the news publication, vitamin B12 may be responsible for some forms of hair loss. Vitamin B12 is depleted during times of stress, which may affect the hair growth cycle. Vitamin B12 is responsible for delivering blood, nutrients, and oxygen to the body’s tissues. Hair is a non-essential tissue, meaning that the body will regulate low vitamin B12 supplies to vital tissues first. This could lead to hair loss.

Other triggers may upset the normal balance of hormones in a person’s body. According to the University of California, upsetting the balance of hormones could lead to increased hair loss, exemplified by the added hair loss seen after childbirth. However, it is likely that stress has to continue for prolonged periods before hair will be affected.

Stopping Stress-Related Hair Loss

As the exact link between hair loss and stress is unknown, it can be a challenge to determine how to fix the issue. However, there are a variety of steps you can implement to lower stress levels and see stronger, healthier hair. Try these methods to slow stress-related hair loss:

Look for Hair Loss Triggers

Certain conditions are known to trigger hair loss. If you are going through any of these triggers, you may be able to find the exact cause for your sudden hair loss. The main triggers for sudden hair loss include: Medications: Some medications can cause hair loss, according to The New York Times. Check with your doctor to find out the side effects of any medications you are taking and whether hair loss could be one of them.

Hair Loss Triggers
Rapid weight loss: Losing weight quickly may push your body into starvation mode. If this occurs, you may see sudden hair loss, simply because the body does not have enough nutrients to continue normal hair growth levels. Both diet-induced weight loss, illnesses, and medically-induced weight loss can lead to hair loss.
Childbirth: Rapid hair loss is common between 3 and 5 months after childbirth. This is when a woman loses the extra hair grown during pregnancy. If a woman is not prepared for this event, it can be quite shocking. However, hair loss normalizes within a few months.
Changes in diet: If you have suddenly switched diets, it could trigger hair loss. B vitamins are known for their hair-boosting properties, so if you suddenly stop eating as many B vitamins, you may see increased hair loss. Other extreme diets could also lead to hair loss, such as switching to an all-vegan diet, drastically restricting calories, or moving to a predominantly fast-food diet lacking in necessary nutrients.
Hormone changes: Sudden changes in hormones can cause strange hair loss behavior. Any hormonal change, such as changes that occur after starting a new hormone treatment or stopping a new hormone treatment could cause sudden hair loss. Regular hormone changes, such as those that occur during puberty or menopause could also trigger hair loss.

Reduce Stress

Stress can play a role in hair loss, although the exact link is not entirely clear to scientists and health professionals. However, you should be able to reduce some of your hair loss by reducing the amount of stress in your life. Try to reduce stress by avoiding the stressful activity. That is not always possible, so if you are forced to continue in a stressful situation, combat the effects with these calming activities:

  • Meditation: Meditation is proven to release stress according to the Mayo Clinic. You can try visualization, yoga or tai chi, mindfulness meditation, or mantra meditation. Relax purposefully: Sometimes the act of releasing stress intentionally will help lower stress levels in the body. A 2011 study from Germany showed that actively releasing stress from the body released it from the mind as well.
  • Have fun: A 2011 study from Kyung Hee University showed that laughing and having fun released stress from the body and mind. Try to engage in a fun activity at least once a day.
  • Exercise: Many studies have shown that exercise releases endorphins, which combat stress levels in the body. Exercise also helps the body produce serotonin, which fights feelings of depression.

Take Hair-Healing Supplements

Certain supplements have been proven to help hair grow stronger and go through a shorter hair loss phase. These supplements will help you reduce hair loss during times of stress.

  • Saw palmetto: Saw palmetto is a natural DHT blocker in the body. DHT is responsible for shrinking hair follicles, leading to hair loss. Blocking DHT should help slow hair loss by keeping hair follicles larger.
  • Ginseng: A 2011 study from the Korea University College of Medicine showed that red ginseng was effective at reducing hair loss in AA (Alopecia areata) patients.
  • Horsetail: According to Web MD, horsetail extract is used as a treatment for balding. The supplement reduced inflammation, which can lead to forms of AA hair loss.
  • Green tea: According to the University of Maryland, green tea is anti-inflammatory. This could help with the reduction in AA-style hair loss, due to reduced levels of inflammation throughout the entire body.

Eat for Healthy Hair

A variety of vitamins are important for healthy, strong hair. If you have enough of these vitamins in your body, you should see a reduction in hair loss, even during times of stress. Try to ensure you get these vitamins in your diet each day (through foods or supplements).

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C helps prevent hair from breaking. It keeps hair soft and supple and helps prevent oxidative damage to the hair follicles.
  • Vitamin D: According to some studies, low levels of vitamin D in the body can lead to hair loss. Mutated vitamin D receptors caused both humans and mice to see greater hair loss.
  • Vitamin E: Vitamin E helps the hair by stimulating the circulatory system to ensure that there is enough blood flow to the scalp to improve hair production. It can also boost the immune system, which can help prevent AA hair loss.
  • B vitamins: B vitamins may be the most important of all in the role of reducing hair loss from stress. Vitamin B12 is responsible for carrying other nutrients throughout the body. As discussed above, a lack of B12 can cause hair follicles to fall behind on production because hair is a non-essential function of the body. Vitamin B7, biotin, is also directly linked to hair health. Vitamin B6 blocks DHT production which can lead to hair loss.

Reduce Inflammation

You can also eat for healthy hair by reducing the amount of inflammation in your body. Inflammation can lead to autoimmune disorders, including AA. An inflamed body also does not respond to stress as well.

Inflammatory Foods
  •  Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • Vegetable oils
  • High levels of gluten
  • Processed grains

Try Aromatherapy

The Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in Scotland conducted a study in 1998 on the effects of aromatherapy in hair loss. The study showed that aromatherapy decreased hair loss in 44 percent of patients. In the study, AA patients massaged cedarwood, lavender, thyme, and rosemary essential oils into the scalp along with carrier oils of jojoba and grapeseed oils daily. A similar routine may also help fight stress-related hair loss.

Keep Your Hair During Times of Stress

Stress can be a trigger for hair loss, although all of the precise triggers are unknown. If you find yourself under intense stress that lasts longer than a week or two, you may find that you have increased hair loss. To protect your hair from stress-related hair loss, all you have to do is try to reduce stress and take supplements that promote healthy hair. When you do this, you should see your hair loss slow and stop within a few weeks to a few months.

Sources


http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/812858

http://www.americanhairloss.org/types_of_hair_loss/alopecia_areata.asp

http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/alopecia-areata/overview.html?

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