People who suffer hypothyroidism have an underactive thyroid. Problems often come about slowly, over a period of many years. It is most common in women older than 50. The condition can cause a myriad of symptoms, from weight gain to muscle weakness to fatigue or sluggishness to dry brittle hair or hair loss. The two main hormones the thyroid gland produces regulate protein production, and help control body temperature as well as the rate the body uses fats and carbs.
Hypothyroidism can be caused by an autoimmune disorder, radiation therapy, thyroid surgery or medications. It is sometimes brought on by congenital disease, pituitary disorder, pregnancy or iodine deficiency. Hypothyroidism can be treated with a doctor-prescribed synthetic thyroid hormone called levothyroxine, which is taken daily. It normalizes body functions related to the thyroid, alleviating symptoms like poor hair health. The trick is to be patient as hormone levels normalize, which can take a few months.
Thyroid medication can harm hair health. Levothyroxine can help normalize your thyroid function and aid your body in regrowing hair, but in some people it has the opposite effect, as hair loss can be a side effect of the drug. Some women need check to see if their drug levels are adequate, or whether they need complementary drugs. A 1999 study published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" concluded that some had better quality of life with a combination of thyroid treatment drugs.
Evening primrose oil supplements sometimes help with hair regrowth. Such essential fatty acids are vital to hair health, and symptoms of hypothyroidism and lack of essential fatty acids are similar, according to "Solved: The Riddle of Illness," by Stephen Langer, M.D. Langer says if a woman has male pattern hair loss, the issue may be excessive conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone. Primrose oil inhibits that conversion at the level of the hair follicle.
Nutrients that boost hair health are often recommended as women regrow hair. Protein-rich foods are important. Not getting enough protein can cause the hair growth cycle to go into its resting phase. Foods with vitamins A, C and E, such as yellow vegetables, citrus fruits and green leafy vegetables can help. Whole grains have biotin, inositol and B vitamins. This will help the body produce keratin, the protein hair is made of. Some minerals boost hair health. They are found in foods such as green peppers for boron, dairy items for calcium and iodine, chickpeas for magnesium, green vegetables for manganese, whole grains for silica, bran for selenium, legumes for sulfur and red meats for zinc.
Some women need to boost lysine and iron intakes. A study by Dr. Hugh Rushton of Portsmouth University revealed that some 90 percent of women suffering thinning hair were deficient in the amino acid lysine as well as iron, according to the "Journal of Investigative Dermatology." When the body does not have enough iron and lysine, it can turn some hair follicles “off.” Women need to eat fish, meat and eggs to gain lysine. Lean red meats are a good source of iron.
It can help to eliminate eating habits that harm hair health. These include consuming high-sugar carbohydrates, saturated fat and trans fats. Such foods stress the body and can lead to dry hair. Caffeine, carbonated beverages and alcohol also harm hair health.
- "Super Nutrition for Women;" Ann Louise Gittleman; 2004
- "Living Well With Graves' Disease and Hyperthyroidism: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You;" Mary J.Shomon; 2000