How To Address Post Menopausal Hair Loss

Mention the words “hair loss,” and most people immediately picture the signature receding hairline which presents in male-pattern baldness. Still, men are not the only ones plagued by hair loss relating to age. It is actually quite a common complaint among women as well—particularly after menopause.

Just how common is hair loss during and after menopause? This study looked at 564 healthy women. Hair loss was found in 13% of pre-menopausal women in the study and 37% of postmenopausal women. That is more than a third. So your chances of losing hair thanks to the changes in your hormones are more than one in three.

Some doctors think that the percentage may be even higher. Dr. Tabi Leslie, a consultant dermatologist working for the London Clinic, says, “The general thinking is that more than 40% of women suffer hair loss and thinning during the menopause and, within that group, it can range from mild to severe—although it rarely causes bald patches.”

All of this may sound like pretty bad news … but all hope isn’t lost! Read on to learn more about the causes of hair loss during and after menopause—and what you can do about it.

The Role of Hormones

During menopause, there are dramatic changes with your hormones. When your menstrual cycles stop, your estrogen and progesterone levels plummet. Meanwhile, your testosterone levels increase. High testosterone and low estrogen both may be linked to hair loss. Interestingly enough, the link between androgens (such as testosterone) and hair loss is not overly clear in women. It has received far more study (and understanding) in men.

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  • Estrogen: One study states, “It has long been known that estrogens also profoundly alter hair follicle growth … the time has come to pay estrogen-mediated signaling the full attention it deserves.”
  • Testosterone: This study states, “It has not been conclusively established that female pattern hair loss (FPHL) is either due to androgens or responsive to oral antiandrogen therapy.” The study gave women displaying FPHL antiandrogens, and found no significant response to treatment.

Basically, there is still a lot of research that needs to be done in this area to really get to the bottom of the connection between hormones and hair loss in women during menopause. But we can safely hypothesize that the hormonal changes are in large part responsible for the loss of hair. Genetics may play a role as well, just as it does for men who suffer from male pattern baldness (click the link a couple paragraphs up if you are interested in this).

Diet, Lifestyle, and Stress

Dr. Leslie is quick to point out that causes of hair loss in menopause may be more complicated. Many women struggle with their weight as they get older, and may turn to crash dieting to try and solve their problems. “Any form of dieting can cause stress to your body,” she says, “and dieting can reduce iron levels, too. Too little iron will affect the follicle from which the hair grows, with the result that it will become finer. A lot of people don’t know this.”

There are other ways in which stress might also cause hair loss during menopause. It is something of a myth that “stress makes your hair fall out” as interpreted by many people. The voicemail waiting on your phone from your mother-in-law is not going to make you go bald. That being said, certain forms of stress may still cause hair loss—extreme dieting being just one of them.

But that does not mean that chronic stress cannot cause hair loss. And menopause is a very stressful time of life. This is not due only to the menopause itself, but also the fact that this is a time when your body and life are changing in other ways:

  • You may have other health problems developing around this age, some of which could play into hair loss.
  • Menopause can cause you to lose out on a lot sleep, which can gradually compromise your immune system and overall health.
  • The psychological impact of menopause can be very stressful. You may feel anxious or depressed over a long time period.
  • Life priorities may be shifting around. Children may be leaving home or already gone, and you can no longer bear new children.
  • It can become harder to cope with the responsibilities of a job around this time of life. Whether or not you can retire, this can be a major stressor.
  • You may find yourself wanting to do something different with your life. You could be struggling with regrets and searching for new creative outlets. Many people make radical changes in mid-life.

So you can see how chronic stress, health problems, dietary deficiencies, and lifestyle changes could all be playing into your hair loss, directly or indirectly.

How to Restore Hair Growth After Menopause

So what can you do about it? Are you stuck accepting thinning or balding hair? Not necessarily. If you can start pinning down the specific causes of your post-menopausal hair loss, you may be able to treat those underlying causes, restoring at least some of your hair growth.

Here are some suggestions to help you get back on track!

1. Fix your diet

The very first thing you should do is take a look at your diet. How much are you eating? If you are on a crash diet, it is time to stop. Crash diets not only can lead to hair loss, but can also cause a lot of other health problems. During menopause, you need more nutrition, not less. The older you get, the more important it is to make sure you are eating a healthy, balanced diet.

The following nutrients are particularly important for hair growth:

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  • Iron
  • Biotin
  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin C
  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin D
  • Silica

I have written a comprehensive post on diet for hair growth, which you can read here. The post includes suggestions for specific foods you can add to your diet to make sure you are getting these important nutrients!

2. Get more sleep

Getting quality sleep during menopause is a real challenge thanks to hot flashes, mood swings, migraines, and other nasty symptoms. But if you are not sleeping, you are stressing your body and mind even more, which can lead to further health problems.

I have written about how you can get better sleep during menopause as well. However, here is the abbreviated list of suggestions to save you time:

  • Balance your hormones with herbs (more on that in just a moment)
  • Work out more
  • Improve your sleep hygiene
  • Turn off any electronics producing blue light at night
  • Do activities that relax you to soothe yourself before bed
  • Look for ways to work through life problems which are causing anxiety or depression

Try and keep a consistent sleep schedule every night. If you need to, head to bed earlier or wake up later (if you can).

3. Take a supplement to control the symptoms of menopause

There are a number of herbal supplements which you can take to balance your hormones during menopause. This can help to reduce hot flashes and other symptoms. And because some of these supplements stimulate estrogen and progesterone production, they may treat hair loss resulting from declining hormone production directly!

Consider any of the following:

  • Vitex
  • Black cohosh
  • Red clover
  • Dong Quai
  • Kudzu
  • Magnolia bark
  • Soy
  • Hawthorn
  • Sage leaf
  • Motherwort
  • Wild yam
  • Indian ginseng

You can also try a supplement which contains a blend of several of these ingredients. It may take some trial and error to find the right supplement for you. Every woman is different and has a unique hormone profile, even in menopause.

4. Take a supplement to boost hair growth

While I have recommended that you adjust your diet to support hair growth, it can still be a challenge to fill nutritional gaps. For that reason, you may want to consider taking a supplement formulated for hair growth as well. This will give your body the extra vitamins, minerals and herbs that it needs to stimulate healthy, fast growth. Hair growth supplements work best if you take them for at least several months.

5. Try applying peppermint oil to your scalp

Out of all the natural remedies for hair loss which I have discovered over the years, by far the most impressive is peppermint oil.

In a research study, peppermint oil was tested against Minoxidil (Rogaine). Guess which outperformed the other? Minoxidil produced hair growth around 55%. Peppermint oil left Minoxidil in the dust, producing hair growth at a rate of 92%.

How can you apply peppermint oil to your scalp? Learn a bunch of different techniques here. This is a wonderful natural alternative to Rogaine!

6. Make time to relax and de-stress

Finally, one last suggestion is this (and for some of you, it is going to be the hardest one of all)—make time to unwind! Your life may be burgeoning with responsibilities and challenges, but at times when you feel like your plate is overflowing, that is exactly when you need to learn to back off and take a breather. If there is something you love to do where you can lose yourself for a few hours without worrying about your problems, make time to do it regularly.

Losing hair during menopause can be discouraging. Menopause signifies the end of a major phase of your life, and for some women, it can feel like losing something. Seeing that loss reflected in the mirror can be painful.

You cannot get everything back, but you can get some things back—and your hair may be one of them. Do what you can to relax, fill gaps in your diet, and take herbal supplements to gently balance your hormones and nourish your scalp and locks. If you do this, there is a good chance that your hair will start filling out again!

Resources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2008846/My-hair-fell-I-hit-menopause-Maureen-Nolan-distressing-complaint-affects-nearly-half-women.html
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962288701085
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2133.2005.06218.x/full
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4289931/