When half my hair fell out after giving birth to each daughter, I was alarmed. I went to my doctor, and a curious thing occurred: I was roundly dismissed.
I'm a doctor who takes care of women, so this was a confusing experience. There's a strange bias that doctors have around women and hair loss -- that we're being vain. It turns out that it's not vanity, it's sanity. Hair loss is a major sign that something is awry.
To add insult to injury, my doctor next told me to use Rogaine. "Put it on every day. It won't fix the problem but it will slow down loss. But there's a catch -- as soon as you stop it, the hair loss will take off again."
Huh? Let me get this straight. I'm supposed to slime every hair follicle with Rogaine, a chemical that may or may not be good for me, and it just delays the inevitable? How is that a palatable solution?
It's not. And for the 40 percent of my clients (1) who experience hair loss, I've developed strategies (no Rogaine required) that help regain not just your stressed tresses, but balanced hormonal health throughout your entire body.
The Ideal Hormonal Specimen (With Perfect Hair)
Picture the ideal hormonal specimen. Her hormones are perfectly balanced, and she has high energy throughout the day, stable moods, and no food cravings. Her full head of hair is glossy, and her skin is clear. She easily maintains her weight and her sexual energy.
So what's wrong with the rest of us?
We're human. Whether it's a crazy schedule, an extra 10 pounds, or a diet deficiency, there are lots of reasons your lifestyle could be masking a hormonal imbalance and causing your hair loss. And ladies: There are plenty ways to address this problem without a future of buying Rogaine in bulk.
That's why I've designed a system I call The Gottfried Protocol, a step-by-step, integrative approach to natural hormone healing that emphasizes lifestyle design first and foremost. It's based on decades of research, my education at Harvard Medical School, my own experiences with hormonal imbalances, my belief in peer-reviewed, well-performed randomized trials to support my recommendations, and what I've learned from patients over the past 20-plus years of practicing medicine. The Gottfried Protocol engages only the top hierarchy of scientific evidence and has been proven in scores of women in my practice.
You've heard of thyroid issues -- even Oprah has been diagnosed with one! (2) It's estimated that about 60 million Americans, both men and women, struggle with thyroid problems. (3) Most don't even know it. A low thyroid is one of the most common causes of hair loss in women.
Too Much Estrogen
Estrogen is a hormone that likes to dominate (and we're not just talking about in the bedroom). Too much estrogen in your system, often a result of perimenopause or excess weight, can lead to depression, weight gain, fatigue and, you guessed it: hair loss.
Since we metabolize estrogen, your body should break it down -- use it then lose it! -- before estrogen builds up in your blood. But when we produce too much and can't metabolize it fast enough, we run into problems, often evidenced in thinning hair.
Another possible reason for hair loss? Too much testosterone. That's right: Women also produce the hormone testosterone. In fact, testosterone is what gets us in the mood, gives us self-confidence, and keeps us vital and sassy.
But if testosterone levels are too high in women -- whether because of menopause, excess weight, or other causes -- we see symptoms of male-pattern baldness and rogue hair growth on the face. The hairs on your head are falling out, but you're finding new ones on your chin? Totally unfair!
Low Iron and Amino Acid Lysine
In one study, 90 percent of women with thinning hair were deficient in iron and the amino acid lysine. (4) Whether the result of an insufficient diet or another imbalance, we've also go a fix for this!
Ready to fill out those ponytails? Preventing thinning hair and bringing shine back to your 'do means balancing, bringing harmony to your hormones, your lifestyle, and your diet. No gymnastics required.
The following solutions are general rules for hair-health. For a more customized approach to hormonal health, please refer to The Hormone Cure. There, you can take quizzes, read case studies and get tailored advice for the specific needs of your body. Let's go!
Get your thyroid tested. Luckily, once diagnosed and treated and thyroid levels stabilize, hair loss will usually slow and eventually cease.
Eat fiber. Fiber lowers estrogen levels in the body -- basically, you'll poop and pee more estrogen out of your system. (5) Make sure your diet includes complete proteins like meat, poultry, fish or legumes, which are excellent sources of lysine.
Lose a few pounds. If you are obese or overweight, weight loss will reduce your excess estrogen levels and lower your risk of breast cancer and other conditions. (6)
Get your sweat on. Exercise decreases estrogen levels and lowers risk of breast cancer and helps you make more of the good estrogens. (7)
Don't accept thinning, brittle, or coarse hair as your lot in life or "just another part of getting older." These are simple, natural, hormone-balancing solutions are an integral part of The Gottfried Protocol. And the best part? Most of these strategies won't just make you look better -- you'll feel healthier, more vibrant, and sexier too!
1. Gottfried, MD, Sara. The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, And Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol. Scribner, 2013.
2. "How Did I Let This Happen Again?" http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Oprahs-Battle-with-Weight-Gain-O-January-2009-Cover. www.oprah.com, 31, January 2013. Web.
3. Canaris GJ, Manowitz NR; Mayor G; Ridgway EC. "The Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study." Archives of Internal Medicine 160 (2000): 526-534; Empson M, Flood V, Ma G, Eastman CJ, Mitchell P. "Prevalence of thyroid disease in an older Australian population." International Medical Journal 37 (7) (2007): 448-55.
4. Rushton DH. Dover R, Sainsbury AW, Norris MJ, Gilkes JJ, Ramsay ID. "Iron deficiency is neglected in women's health." British Medical Journal 325 (7373) (2002): 1176.
5. Gottfried, MD, Sara. The Hormone Cure: Reclaim Balance, Sleep, Sex Drive, And Vitality Naturally with the Gottfried Protocol. Scribner, 2013.
6. Cummings SR, Tice JA, Bauer S, Browner WS, Cuzick J, Ziv E, Vogel V, Shepherd J, Vachon C, Smith-Bindman R, Kerlikowske K. "Prevention of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: approaches to estimating and reducing risk." Journal of the National Cancer Institute 101 (6) (2009): 384-98.
7. Cummings SR, Tice JA, Bauer S, Browner WS, Cuzick J, Ziv E, Vogel V, Shepherd J, Vachon C, Smith-Bindman R, Kerlikowske K. "Prevention of breast cancer in postmenopausal women: approaches to estimating and reducing risk." Journal of the National Cancer Institute 101 (6) (2009): 384-98.
Sara Gottfried, M.D., is a practicing integrative physician and author of the forthcoming book, The Hormone Cure (Scribner/Simon &Schuster, 2013). You can follow Dr. Sara on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, watch her videos on Youtube, and subscribe to her newsletter.
For more by Sara Gottfried, M.D., click here.
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