Why does Stress Cause Hair to Fall Out?
Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on January 5, 2011 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Our lovely fan, Becky, wrote in wondering why hair fall outs when we’re under stress. Regular, everyday types of stress, like being late for work, usually aren’t severe enough to cause hair loss. But when we’re under major or ongoing stress, be that physical or emotional, significant hormonal changes can occur.
Hair loss often occurs after pregnancy because of the major hormonal changes associated with it, and with subsequent breastfeeding. It can also occur with the use of oral contraceptives, and some medications.
Menopause & perimenopause is also a time of possible hair loss. When estrogen and progesterone are in decline, there can be a resulting imbalance of testosterone. Even though testosterone is declining, too, it may now be in relative excess (unopposed) to our female hormones, with more of it available to get converted to dihydrotestorone (DHT).
DHT affects our hair follicles, causing them to shrink. When the follicles shrink, the hair shaft receives fewer nutrients and hair becomes weaker, thinner, falls out, and can even stop growing.
Thyroid: Emotional stress, such as loss of a loved one, divorce, or other traumatic experiences, can have a suppressive effect on the thyroid. Low thyroid function (hypothyroid) is a very common cause of hair loss, as all of our metabolic functions, including hair growth, are slowed down.
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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