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. It was also the canary in the coal mine, showing up in my early 20s as my very first indicator that something in my body was imbalanced.
I grew up hiding behind a 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 working 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 super excessive hair loss “your hair looks super full?” they always say with a puzzled look on their faces. And it’s true, I’ve found a combination of lifestyle adjustments and styling tricks to help me rock the hair I do have, stop shedding excessively and even wake up a few sleeping follicles.
So please, don’t lose hope. Thanks to a healthier 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 that has come to be my default for years. Nope. My hair is down, and 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 looks normal. I also have lots of fine frizzy regrowth, that most people would find irritating but is a very welcome addition to my particular head.
This is a two part blog post, but today I’ll be talking more about the diet/lifestyle side of things, because there is no sense trying to cover hair loss while still thinning excessively. It’s like shovelling your walks in a snowstorm and ain’t nobody got time for that.
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 staving off disease and even reversing 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 a holistic nutritionist, health coach, or naturopath on your journey. Foods that are harming your particular body may be perfectly healthy for other individuals so don’t just go crazy eliminating everything in the world, but also don’t assume that you can continue eating the way you always have because you don’t have any major symptoms. Spoiler alert, hair loss is a symptom, especially when it manifests at a young age in a person with no genetic predisposition.
I have spent years of trial and error trying to fix my own hair probs and know how confusing all the conflicting information out there can be so I’ve complied my very best advice to start restoring your hair and your health today.
Take it slow, celebrate even the small victories and remember, we are all so much more than our hair.
1. Limit your intake of foods that cause inflammation
If you are dealing with unexplained hair loss, gluten dairy and grains should be the first things you think about removing from your diet. 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 for free 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 also ditched ALL GLUTEN and almost all DAIRY and GRAINS with the exception of grass fed butter and some occasional rice. 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.
2. 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 kale and broccoli 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 will literally ladle it into my mug and sip it throughout the day like tea. I also make my own kraut, kimchi, and kombucha. Take a good quality probiotic, no, it won’t be cheap but you should feel a difference within a few weeks.
3. 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. It sounds strange because lemons are acidic, but they actually help increase your bodies PH. You also want to aim for about 50% of your diet to be alkaline (mineral rich fresh veggies and fruit) Invest in a water filter that puts important minerals back into your water and aim to drink at least 8 glasses daily but push yourself to get a full 3 litres.
4. Get all of your aminos acids
Aminos are the building blocks of protein and thus the building blocks of our hair, our hair is literally made of protein after all. To better assimilate protein, avoid eating foods that require different digestive juices at the same time. Focus on eating simply. This way your body can optimally digest each ingredient you are taking in. This may seem strange and go completely against the way you grew up eating but try to avoid eating protein and excess carbs at the same meal, try to eat only one animal protein at a time and don’t consume protein with excess fat. One easy way to get readily usable aminos into your body is by drinking COLLAGEN PEPTIDES daily. I rotate between marine collagen and organic grass fed bovine collagen. I mix it into my coffee or tea every morning and stir it into my bone broth throughout the day. It tastes a bit weird, but not terrible, and I definitely 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 including collagen peptides.
5. Take the proper supplements
In a perfect world we would obtain the majority 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. 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 (in particular biotin) Iodine, 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 particular case, I have been chronically deficient in Iron for years. Apparently this is fairly common in young women with diffuse hairloss! 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 ways to go). I also 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.
6. Give your digestive system a little boost
Bottom line, you can do all of the above but if your body is not able to properly break down and utilize the nutrition you give it, you will feel like you’re getting nowhere. Taking digestive enzymes, probiotics, sipping on water with apple cider vinegar, and drinking ginger tea are all useful ways to increase your stomach acid and better utilize your foods nutrition. This kind of ties back in to healing your gut lining but I feel it also deserves to be highlighted. Something I never used to do and now am very conscious of, is slowing down to eat. I used to be a gross eater, inhaling the next bite before even swallowing the last. Now I chew my food well, and always try to say a quick prayer of gratitude and blessing before each meal. Gobbling down food at lightning speed stresses our digestive system and slows down its ability to absorb vitamins and minerals. Don’t go too long between meals, practice gratitude and mindful eating.
7. Work up a sweat
Not all exercise will be beneficial for all people. (It’s kind of like diet) But that is not a free pass to forgo consistent exercise. Try a few different things and listen to your bodies cues. If you feel like absolute rubbish after a HIIT class maybe give yoga a go. A good exercise routine should make you feel energised rather than depleted. It should also be something that you truly enjoy so that you keep up with it. I love soccer, Pilates and solo gym workouts so that’s what I stick with. And don’t forget to sweat. The process of sweating itself can be profoundly therapeutic and help your body shed toxins as it sheds fat. I love infrared saunas and also go in the steam room at my gym at least twice a week. Preface your sweat sessions with dry brushing and you are way ahead of the game.
8. Get your mind right
Spend some time every day in meditation and visualise the hair you want. When you see a beautiful head of hair, don’t 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.
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. I’ll be back soon with some killer styling tips and more hair healthy grain free recipes.