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This is a tough one to write but I’m giving you some realness today. Of all the PCOS and hashimotos symptoms I have dealt with, the hair thinning has been the hardest for me by far. It was the canary in the coal mine showing up in my early 20s as the very first indicator that something was out of balance in my body.
I grew up hiding behind a long, thick, wavy mane of shiny auburn locks. My hair became such an integral part of my identity that losing it felt like losing a dear friend. I grieved my hair. I denied it. I wore strange hairstyles and ugly bandanas. And no matter how good the rest of me felt, it was there in the background softly hissing in my ear that I was ugly, worthless and damaged.
I had naively thought that doctors would be able to quickly identify the cause and send me on my way with a simple solution. But my blind faith in doctors turned to despair after years of hopping from doc to doc that led to no conclusion and very little hair on my head.
It may sound so shallow to someone with good hair, but those with hair problems understand, hair loss can put you on a psychological roller coaster and make you rethink your entire life. Hair loss sparked my interest in nutrition, and it eventually led to both my pcos and hashimotos diagnoses, albeit a decade later.
Perhaps the most frustrating part has been my unique situation as a hairstylist. Seeing and touching beautiful, normal manes every day and knowing I’m still so far from that has sent me reeling into episodes of deep depression and crushing anxiety on multiple occasions. But being a hairstylist has also given me a unique advantage, as I’ve learned a handful of tips and tricks for rocking thinning hair that I use on myself and my clients daily. Most of my clients don’t believe me when I tell them I have experienced excessive hair loss “your hair looks super full?” they always say with a puzzled look. And it’s true, I’ve found a combination of dietary adjustments and styling tricks to help me rock the hair I do have, stop shedding excessively and even wake up sleeping follicles for some fresh fuzzy regrowth.
So please, don’t lose hope. Thanks to my new healthy lifestyle and a few hair tweaks I can actually say I am in a much better place hair wise and am ready to dish my tips in order to help anyone else who needs a boost in the follicular department.
As I write this I am sitting at a pool with my hair down. Not slicked back into a teeny weeny ponytail thinner than a sharpie. Nope. My hair is down and looking cute. No one is giving me the side eye or staring awkwardly at my scalp during conversation. And while I’m not going to be cast in a Pantene commercial anytime soon, I can honestly say this is one of the few times in over a decade that my hair is not an all consuming issue in my life. I also have lots of fine frizzy regrowth, that most people would find irritating but is a very welcome addition to my particular head.
As a student of holistic nutrition one of my favorite quotes is ‘what we eat can either be the safest most powerful medicine, or the slowest poison.’ This speaks volumes about the state of modern health and how important a healthy diet is to stave off disease and reverse existing health issues. Heathy eating should be a combination of adding the right things into our diets while simultaneously removing the wrong things. Finding a diet that works for you and your own health objectives can be a long process and I highly recommend working with a health professional such as a holistic nutritionist, health coach, or naturopath on your journey. Foods that are harming your body may be perfectly healthy for other individuals.
I have spent years of trial and error trying to fix my hair probs and know how confusing all the conflicting information out there can be so I’ve complied my very best advice anyone can apply to get combat their hair issues asap.
Take it slow, celebrate even the small victories and remember, we are all so much more than our hair.
- Limit your intake of foods that cause inflammation. If you are dealing with unexplained hair loss, gluten and dairy should be the first things to go. This is so hard for so many people, it’ like asking them to quit TV or break up with their boyfriend. People get offended, but it must be done. Inflammation is the enemy of your hair and some foods cause inflammation. Period. Sometimes even healthy foods can cause inflammation in people with intolerances, so it is wise to be tested for allergies. You can do your own testing by completing an elimination diet, and carefully observing your reaction to foods during the reintroduction phase. I completed a whole 30 diet to identify some of my intolerances. I have ditched all gluten, most dairy, and greatly reduced my grain consumption. I know giving up these three ingredients may seem super limiting, but trust me, it’s not. That’s why I’m here writing this blog. Cooking without these things has opened a whole new realm of food possibilities and my food horizons are expanding everyday.
- Heal your gut. So much modern disease starts in the gut and healing your gut lining is a super important step when it comes to healing chronic inflammation. A healthy gut is better able to absorb nutrients form your food. You can eat all the salad in the world but if your gut is compromised you are probably only absorbing a fraction of the nutrients. Heal and seal that gut lining! Make BONE BROTH, PROBIOTICS, and FERMENTED FOODS a part of your daily diet. I almost always have a slow cooker simmering away with some grass fed bones and fragrant veggies. I straight up ladle it into my mug and sip it throughout the day like tea. I also consume kraut and kombucha on a regular basis. Take a good quality probiotic, I love this one from renew life, yes it’s pricey, but you will feel a difference within a few weeks.
- Improve your bodies acid alkaline balance. Your blood maintains it’s own PH of between 7.35 and 7.45 but this doesn’t mean eating all the acid forming foods will have no effect on your body. An overly acidic body can leach vitamins and minerals from organs and bones as well as lead to all kinds of issues including unhealthy hair. One of the easiest ways to obtain PH balance is to squeeze lemon into hot water and drink it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning and throughout the day. This also increases stomach acid which will help you better absorb the nutrients in foods. Be sure to sip it through a straw so you don’t destroy your tooth enamel.
- Get lots of protein. Our hair is made of protein so if we aren’t consuming enough in our diet, our hair will suffer. To better assimilate protein, avoid eating foods that require different digestive juices at the same time. Focus on eating simply and look into food combining. One easy way to get readily usable aminos into your body is by drinking collagen peptides daily. I rotate between marine collagen and grass fed bovine collagen. I mix it into my coffee or tea every morning and stir it into my bone broth or tea throughout the day. It tastes a bit weird but not terrible and I notice a difference in not just my hair but also nails and skin when I am consistent with it. It is super important to eat only organic, pastured proteins when consuming animal products.
- Take the proper supplements. It is important to get most of our nutrition from the foods we eat, but people experiencing unexplained hair loss likely need a bit of help. Modern agriculture has depleted the nutrients in our foods while genetic modification, pesticides and herbicide use has wreaked havoc on our guts so we struggle to absorb the limited nutrients we are ingesting. Being overweight and simultaneously malnourished is becoming more and more common in developed nations and this can lead to a wide range of ailments, including hair loss. Some of the most important vitamins and minerals for women experiencing hair loss are; Iron, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, B vitamins (especially biotin) Iodine, Silica, Selenium and Zinc. It is wise to get tested for deficiencies prior to supplementation but when in doubt, adding a high quality, organic multivitamin is a great place to start. In my case I have been chronically deficient in Iron for years. With over a year of consistent daily supplement my shedding has slowed tremendously but my functional doctor recommends I aim for a ferratin of at least 70 for optimal regrowth (I still have a way to go). I have found it helpful to remove my copper IUD to lessen my monthly menstrual flow as Iron is lost with blood. Addressing deficiencies can take time so the sooner you identify them the better. Supplements are not regulated, and you could be doing yourself no favors or even harm by choosing the lowest priced option. Make sure your supplements are of a high quality, choose organic whenever possible and pay attention any fillers and additives. My personal supplement routine includes a natural multivitamin, a hair vitamin, a thyroid support vitamin, liquid iron floradix and biosil.
- Work up a sweat. Not all exercise will be beneficial for all people, (kind of like diet) But that is not a free pass to forgo consistent exercise. Try a few different things and listen to your body’s cues. If you feel like absolute garbage after a HIIT class maybe give yoga a try. A good exercise routine should make you feel energized rather than depleted. It should also be something that you genuinely enjoy so that you keep up with it. I love soccer, hot yoga biking and weight lifting so that’s what I stick with.
- Get your mind right. Spend some time every day in meditation and visualize the hair you want. When you see a beautiful head of hair, do not feel jealousy or resentment (been there) instead give them a mental, or verbal compliment and be grateful for the hair you do have. The things we focus on are the things we attract to us. As Mother Theresa said, people should be pro peace rather than anti- war. I know it’s hard but try to stop fixating on how thin your hair is. Learn to rock the hair you do have, have fun with it, try out extensions, wigs, and color. Allow yourself to learn from the hair loss and embrace the chance you’ve been given to transform yourself both internally and externally.
- Get the right shampoo and styling products. No, those drugstore shampoos are not just as good as the salon quality ones. Trust me, I look up close at peoples scalps all day. You want something free of harmful sulfates and chemicals but also effective and nourishing. Both Neuma and Kevin murphy are high quality salon grade products that wont tax your body with added toxins. I personally use the Kevin Murphy plumping line and LOVE it!
- Try hair fibers. Truly this is a game changer. I have had some hair fiber disasters in my day, and have settled comfortably into dermatch and toppik. Dermatch is applied wet and blow dried into hair. I find it looks really natural and is also water resistant so I can surf or swim without having my scalp on display. Toppik fills things in as needed for day two touch ups. Make sure you apply fibres so you still have a parting, otherwise it just looks like you’re using hair in a can. Yes, it’s a bit embarrassing buying product intended for middle aged men, but they work and have given me back my confidence in a major way. So worth it.
- Wear some hair. Just do it. I was so afraid to wear hair for so long and honestly wasted so much time feeling insecure and ashamed that I could have spent rocking killer hair. I thought everyone would notice but it turns out most people are too caught up in their own problems to really pay much attention to us at all. I love tape in extensions to add volume and a bit of length. They are virtually undetectable and don’t cause traction by pulling on my delicate bio hair. Fusion is also an excellent light weight option for fine thin hair. Toppers and wigs can be fun to play around with and are the easiest way to change up your style and color with zero commitment or damage. Silk tops give you an a completely natural looking scalp and are perfect if you will be wearing bangs with your unit. Lace fronts are a must if you are not opting for bangs. If you are going for a topper be sure to get a large base, it will lay much flatter and look more natural even if you don’t need all that coverage. Wearing hair is a fun adventure. You can have wavy blonde balayage one day and be a brunette with curtain bangs the next. I recommend checking out uniwigs for some great entry level units that won’t break the bank and I plan to post some hair review videos here in the near future…so stay tuned.
It has been over a year since I have implemented all of the above in my own life and I have seen obvious improvements. That being said, my hair is still not what it used to be in my teens (my hair started falling out at 20!) Hair grows in cycles and it can take a long time to see tangible changes, so I am treating it as a journey rather than a destination and am enjoying all the many health benefits along the way.
If you have been using anything not listed for your hair loss and seeing results, please share in the comments and feel free to reach out to me if you have any direct questions about your own hair struggles.
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