Five Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women, Part 3: Hypothyroid
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on February 10, 2013 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Hypothyroid-related Hair Loss
A common cause of hair loss in women, especially as we get older, is hypothyroid (underactive thyroid). Oftentimes, however, this condition may not be detected if relying only upon standard TSH testing.
The thyroid gland, a small, butterfly-shaped gland situation in our throat, is vitally important to overall health, as it regulates our body’s entire metabolism. When the thyroid is underactive, all cellular activity, body-wide, is decreased. This includes the rate of cell division within an area of the hair follicle called the matrix, one of the most actively dividing cell regions in the body.
The matrix generates the cells that make up the hair shaft. When cells in the matrix are not dividing as vigorously as they should be, such as with hypothyroid, this results in slower hair growth, as well as a thinner hair that is brittle and breaks easily.
If you suspect hypothyroid, but your TSH test always comes back apparently ‘normal,’ consider asking your doctor to also do a free-T3 and free-T4 for you.
Herbs that can help support thyroid function include Ashwagandha, Eleuthero, Schizandra berry, Bacopa, Gotu Kola, and other adaptogens or ‘longevity’ supporting herbs, such as Fo-ti root. Adaptogens strengthen communication (feedback loops) between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and the thyroid, all of which are involved in regulating the thyroid gland’s production of thyroid hormones. They are not, however, intended to replace appropriate medical treatment for hypothyroid. If you are using medication for hypothyroid, consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbs alongside your thyroid medication.
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Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan