Excessive hair fall is not just bothersome but also an indication that it's time to dig deeper and see if a medical problem is at the root of the matter. Multiple ailments can trigger hair fall over and above the expected few strands during the daily wash and brush. Figuring out the real reason will help you arrest the fall and improve overall health.
Healthy hair is the sign of a healthy body. This bit of mom’s wisdom (as she tried to get more green vegetables off your plate and into your mouth!) does have some truth to it. Human hair is much more complex than we imagine and serves important functions such as transmitting sensory information and can even help identify gender. While hair fall to an extent is a normal part of the hair growth cycle, when should you worry?
Root Of The Story
A newborn baby has over five million hair follicles all over its body, with about one million just on the head and a significant portion of that just on the scalp. The body does not generate any more follicles through its lifetime, so as the scalp enlarges the density of the hair follicles tends to reduce. We also lose hair daily. It’s not as seasonal as in animals, but there are three stages of growth and shedding and strands of human hair could be at any stage at any point of time. In the anagen phase, scalp hair grows at about 1 cm a month. In the catagen phase, growth stops and hair is strengthening its hold. And in the telogen or resting phase, hair is at complete rest and we lose about 25 to 100 hairs a day. This is regular hair fall. Each phase has its own cycle time, with 2–6 yrs for anagen, about 45 days for catagen and 20 days for telogen. So at any point of time, some hair is growing, some resting, and some falling.1
What Can Trigger Excess Hair Fall?
Over a period, each of us has a sense of our own pattern of regular hair fall. When it gets excessive, that is, starts falling in lumps or in bunches of long, full strands, it’s natural to worry. Here are some of the culprits you may want to consider as you try to arrest the hair fall.
This condition occurs typically after a major event, especially a stressful event like pregnancy, major surgery, significant changes in health condition (high fever or debilitating illness), etc. Hair growth cycle undergoes a fast-forward, so to speak, and rushes through the growth phase and resting phase and hits the shedding phase. You just have to give the body time to recover after the major event. This could also be a side effect of some medication. In that case, reducing the dosage of the medication can help. If stress is the cause, steps must be taken to reduce the anxiety.2
From controlling our basal metabolic rate to helping grow hair, skin, and nails, the thyroid hormone is a very powerful player in the body. A common problem for many, especially women, is either too much or too little thyroid hormone, leading to multiple noticeable issues. Hair fall is one of them. Thyroid condition is prevalent in over 12% of the US population and five to eight times more so in women than in men.3 Hypothyroidism (too little thyroid hormone) may cause hair and nails to become more brittle and break or fall easily. Hyperthyroidism also causes increased body activity and can trigger a faster hair growth cycle, leading to more hair fall. Blood tests and medication are required to monitor and control the thyroid hormone in such cases.4
Iron deficiency anemia is also known to trigger hair fall. This is indicated in both men and women but is especially common among premenopausal women. Women who have heavy periods and hence heavy blood loss or those who don’t get enough iron in their diet are also prone to hair loss. Doctors will typically test for iron deficiency anemia and prescribe a healthier diet comprising iron-rich foods like fish and leafy greens, and maybe an iron supplement.5
Healthy hair needs a healthy scalp. If the scalp is prone to excessive dryness, dandruff, inflammations, or psoriasis, hair growth is inhibited and hair fall increases. These conditions could be a result of hormonal issues, excess oil secretion, or an autoimmune illness. To detect these, your doctor will examine your scalp and prescribe medicated shampoos to locally treat the scalp or medication to correct the issue.
If you’ve been experiencing hair fall, avoid excessive hair treatments such as coloring, styling, and perming. The repeated use of chemicals to color hair and then high heat to crimp, perm, or dry it can wreak havoc on the scalp.
Apart from these, other factors like heredity or temporary effects of an illness like jaundice or malaria or a strong treatment like chemotherapy need to be taken into account. Remember, body stress levels can also play a contributing role.
Can Ayurveda And Yoga Help?
Ayurveda always seeks to look at the root of an ailment, and hair loss is no different. Treatments are available for many of the underlying causes of hair loss in the form of herbal shampoos, oils, and tablets. Commonly used remedies include extracts from the leaves and petals of the hibiscus plant, stem of the amarbel, ocimum leaves, aloe vera leaves, etc.6
Yoga and pranayama, a breathing technique, can be very effective in fighting the stress that accompanies or triggers hair fall. Yoga asanas and pranayama work to increase blood circulation and oxygen flow to the scalp, rejuvenating the follicles. Headstand yoga poses like camel pose, cobra pose, cow pose, and downward dog pose help to relieve tension and promote hair health.7
Arrest the Fall!
Excessive hair fall is typically a symptom and not an isolated event. Too much hair fall is a sign that you need to probe and find the underlying health condition that needs attention. Multiple issues could lead to hair fall, so while an occasional bout of above-normal hair fall may not be a cause for concern, it’s always a good idea to get it checked by a doctor.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||Saitoh, Masaji, Makoto Uzuka, and Masao Sakamoto. “Human hair cycle.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology 54, no. 1 (1970): 65-81.|
|2.||↑||Torres, Fernanda, and Antonella Tosti. “Female pattern alopecia and telogen effluvium: figuring out diffuse alopecia.” In Seminars in cutaneous medicine and surgery, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 67-71. Frontline Medical Communications, 2015.|
|3.||↑||General Information/Press Room, American Thyroid Association. 2016.|
|4.||↑||van Beek, Nina, Eniko Bodo, Arno Kromminga, Erzsébet Gáspár, Katja Meyer, Michal A. Zmijewski, Andrzej Slominski, Bjorn E. Wenzel, and Ralf Paus. “Thyroid hormones directly alter human hair follicle functions: anagen prolongation and stimulation of both hair matrix keratinocyte proliferation and hair pigmentation.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 93, no. 11 (2008): 4381-4388.|
|5.||↑||BENJAMIN, Leonid, Wilma Fowler BERGFELD, Ellen CALOGERAS, and Elise A. OLSEN. “The diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency and its potential relationship to hair loss.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 54, no. 5 (2006).|
|6.||↑||Jadhav, V. M., R. M. Thorat, V. J. Kadam, and S. B. Gholve. “Kesharaja: Hair vitalizing herbs.” International Journal of PharmTech Research 1, no. 3 (2009): 454-467.|
|7.||↑||Russel, Kristin. Yoga for Hair Growth. INNER LIGHT PUBLISHERS, 2012.|