11 Tips On Reversing Hair Loss With PCOS
Table Of Content
- 1) Include selenium-rich foods.
- 2) Avoid washing too often.
- 3) Include sulfate-free products and avoid hormone disrupters.
- 4) Try the rice water rinse.
- 5) Include Enough Plant- Proteins.
- 6) Work on maintaining a healthy circadian cycle.
- 7) Avoid low-calorie diets and fad- diets.
- 8) Take a B12 supplement.
- 9) Include biotic-rich foods such as almonds and avocados.
- 10) Avoid direct sunlight exposure to hair.
- 11) Avoid chemical treatments and applying direct heat to the hair.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, commonly known as PCOS, is a hormonal disorder in women with grave side effects. One such symptom is androgenic alopecia, or, male- patterned baldness.
In some cases of PCOS women experience the growth of thicker hair in their face and body, referred to as hirsutism, while in some cases they experience hair thinning and hair loss; also referred to as female pattern hair loss.
With a change in lifestyle and eating habits, however, this condition can very well be managed or even reversed. But to understand what steps to take to reverse hair loss, we must first understand what causes it...
What is PCOS?
PCOS is not a disease but a lifestyle disorder. This means, that your lifestyle and nutritional habits are the driving factor leading to your symptoms. Watch this to understand more:
For some women, this could manifest in terms of
- excess sex- hormones produced in the body, for others,
- it could be an absent of period for months together, while for others,
- this could manifest as small cyst like formations on the ovaries.
There are other hormonal effects of PCOS too like excessive facial hair, male- pattern baldness, excessive mood swings, weight gain etc.
I have written a detailed article about PCOS and a curated meal plan for PCOS management that has helped thousands of women globally. Here is the link for the same:
Common Symptoms of PCOS
PCOS is a poorly understood condition. The causes for PCOS could vary from environmental hormonal disrupters that you come in contact with daily, bad gut health, nutritional choices to even genetic presupposition. However, gene's play a very very small role when it comes to you getting the disease.
The symptoms of PCOS can surely be understood and mitigated, following are some of them:
- Facial Acne
- Weight gain
- Oligomeorrhoea or Amenorrhoea which are irregular or missed periods
- Alopecia or hair loss in the scalp
- Problems with fertility and difficulty in getting pregnant due to failed or delayed ovulation
- Eating disorders
- Fatigue and increased daytime sleeping
- Psychological problems such as anxiety and depression
Fertility and weight gain are some of the most common symptoms of PCOS. Women often tend to gain weight around the hips and thighs as a result of hormonal imbalance.
Further, excessive hair loss and thinning of hair is also a common side- effect. This mostly happens due to the increased production of the male sex hormones in the body.
What Causes Hair Loss for Women with PCOS?
Hair loss in women with PCOS happens because of the increased production of androgens (male sex hormones) in the body.
This condition is called Androgenic Alopecia which occurs in men ( male pattern baldness) as well as in women ( female pattern baldness).
In men, the hair loss is in a well-defined pattern that progresses from the crown leading to partial or complete baldness. In women, the hair becomes thinner all over the head before it leads to complete baldness.
What Causes Androgenic Alopecia?
Men and Women experience androgenic alopecia due to hormonal imbalances. We know that the male sex hormone androgen is produced excessively in the female body as a result of PCOS.
In women, an increase in androgens can lead to the production of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that is known to cause hair loss. DHT shrinks the hair follicles, leading to a gradual thinning of the hair and eventually hair loss.
An increase in the levels of androgens can also affect the hair growth cycle making it shorter and thinner. It also delays the growth of new hair which is essential to replace the hair strands that shred.
Understanding androgenic alopecia (AGA) is the first step in determining the best treatment plan for hair loss.
There is some science to show that a plant- based diet can help with hormonal fluctuations and managing this type of alopecia. One study, showed the importance of adding fresh herbs and salads to the diet as a key factor to delay the onset of alopecia.
Apart from hair loss from AGA, a plant-based diet also promotes a healthy scalp and essential vitamins for hair follicle growth. We will explore how a plant- based diet is beneficial, but first, let's look at some superfoods that help with alopecia management.
Top 5 Superfoods To Include To Prevent Hair Fall.
While overall lifestyle modification should be your main focus, there are certain foods and food group's that can play a pivotal role in managing hair fall.
I have already covered superfoods for overall PCOS management in this video. Do watch the same of you have not already:
Let us now explore superfoods for hair health:
It is very well known that vitamins and minerals play a very integral part in cell regeneration, functioning and growth. A deficiency of these important nutrients affects our hair growth.
Supplementing the same is not the ideal option as these supplements are not FDA regulated and often contain toxins like lead that can damage your liver. Infact, one interesting piece of research by the Mayo Clinic showed that one out of every five cases of liver damage could be due to taking herbal supplements.
Nutrients especially micronutrients are exceptionally present in leafy greens such as rocket leaves, dill leaves, spinach, kale, bok choy, amaranth leaves, mustard greens etc.
The presence of Vitamin A in leafy greens promotes sebum production in the scalp which provides an adequate amount of moisture for healthy hair.
Further green's are an excellent source of vitamin C, iron and folates; which is very important for hair growth and maintaining hair health.
You want to consume at least 80 grams of leafy greens per day, with half of the same in raw form, such as in salads and smoothies. The rest can be in cooked forms like in soups and smoothies.
Pumpkin Seeds Oil
Androgenic alopecia is often linked to poor sleeping habits and the consumption of meat products, junk foods, sugar, etc, however; positive associations with healthy hair growth have been found in people who regularly consume raw vegetables, herbs, and more plant-based diets.
When we look at hair regrowth, people often cite that one ingredient like onion oil or almonds that has worked for them. But when you actually look at scientific studies, most of these are not potent enough. However, there is one superfood that is backed by science, and that is pumpkin seed oil.
The reason pumpkin seed came into the radar of foods being tested for hair growth dates back to 2009 in South Korea. A study had subjects taking the equivalent of 3 pumpkin seeds in oil form per day reported more hair growth.
In another study conducted to research whether this effect would work for hair loss, 78 men with male pattern baldness were randomly given either 400mg of pumpkin seed oil ( equivalent to eating two and a half pumpkin seeds), or placebo capsules.
After 24 weeks, it was observed that in the pumpkin seed oil group, the increase in hair growth was up to 40%. In the placebo group, 90% of hair loss condition either did not change or got worse.
Now you do not have to hunt for pumpkin seed oil, but just eat a spoonful of pumpkin seeds as a mouth fresher after dinner.
Most often, we become over smart when it comes to nutrition and become dietitian ourselves with our body as the experiment lab.
For instance, there is this 'gluten is bad' fad going on nowadays, and somehow has extended to all grains.
People are avoiding eating whole grains, thinking to will make them sick or fat. But whole grains are an important part of your diet. They contain a whole list of micronutrients, including, an important one, zinc.
Zinc helps with hair growth by promoting the activity of hair follicles. This can help to increase the rate of hair growth and improve the overall thickness and quality of hair.
Zinc is also involved in the production of hormones that regulate hair growth, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), which is important for the growth and development of hair follicles.
Additionally, zinc is involved in the synthesis of keratin, the protein that makes up the majority of hair, skin, and nails.
Zinc increases the size of sebaceous glands as well as cell proliferation; both require for healthy hair growth.
Whole grains are one of the richest and easiest addition to your diet for zinc. I do not suggest a supplement for zinc though, as you do run into the risk for toxicity.
Much like every other thing, both the absence and excess of zinc in the body can pose to be harmful. High zinc content in the body can disrupt hormonal balance, disrupt the absorption of iron and magnesium and increase the production of testosterone which eventually leads to hair fall. Hence, food sources must be your go- to option.
Include 3 servings of whole grains per day. Not processed grains like white rice, but whole grains like millets, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat etc.
Berries taste amazing, but did you know that they contain antioxidant properties that can actually stimulate hair follicles?
Let us take blueberries into consideration, these little bombs of nutrition contain antioxidants like proanthocyanidins, vitamin C, E, B complex, and A along with zinc, iron, selenium, and copper.
All fruits are very healthy, but if I were to pick one, it would be berries- any kind!
All of these strengthen the capillaries in the scalp and promotes strong and healthy hair. These antioxidants reduce cell damage by neutralizing free radicals which exist naturally in the body.
Berries are loaded with vitamin C which also helps in the production and absorption of collagen, a protein that strengthens hair and prevents breakage.
Aim to consume 100 grams of berries per day, or 1 gooseberry (amla) a day.
In our quest to find superfoods that control androgenic alopecia, soy products have been found to possess the ability to safely reduce hair loss.
In one population study, it was found that the consumption of soy beverages on a weekly basis was associated with a 62% low to moderate reduction in hair loss.
Soy products contain a very important phytonutrient called isoflavons that help with hair growth.
A random double-blinded placebo study where groups were given 75mg of isoflavones in the form of tempeh or other soy products like soya bean, reported significant promotion in hair growth over time.
Aim to consume two servings of soy per day. This can be in the form of soy beans, soy milk, tempeh, tofu or even edamame seeds. Avoid soy chunks or processed protein powders.
Top 11 tips for reversing hair fall.
Along with eating the superfoods mentioned above, it is wise to make lifestyle changes that specifically help with hormonal balance. I have curated a 6 week program with 12 specific lifestyle changes that can help. Here is more informtaion on the same:
Let us discuss a few tips for hair fall management now:
1) Include selenium-rich foods.
"Selenium is an essential trace element with antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Patricia Gaile Espinosa.
Selenium is an antioxidant that helps the body clean itself from free radicals which are responsible for premature aging and causes hair follicles to weaken.
Human's get their selenium ideally from the plants and vegetables that grow in selenium rich soil. However, with bad agricultural practices today, we do not get enough selenium in your diet.
Hence you should consciously include selenium in your diet. One of the richest sources are brazil nuts. Aim to eat 1 brazil nut per day to meet your selinium needs.
2) Avoid washing too often.
It is advisable to wash your hair only two or three times a week. Frequently washing of your hair can strip away natural oils from the scan leaving it dry, and flaky and causing hair loss.
If you are someone who tends to wash daily, then switch to using a sulphate- free co- wash. Avoid using the same on the scalp too as you want the natural oil's from the scalp to provide moisture and protect your follicles.
3) Include sulfate-free products and avoid hormone disrupters.
A lot of the shampoo's and conditioners in common use contain hormone disrupting chemicals. These are chemicals that interfere with the hormonal balance int he body. I have a detailed article about the same here:
Besides hormone disrupters, sulfates in your shampoo's could also lead to hair loss. Products that contain sulfates are more likely to cause hair thinning because they irritate your scalp and cause inflammation as well as break down your existing hair shafts.
Hence, you should include sulfate-free products for your hair to reduce itchiness, preserve hair color, and reduce frizziness.
4) Try the rice water rinse.
According to Dr. Tiffany St. Bernard, a biomedical engineering Ph.D. and founder of HairDays, using the starchy water of rice helps in:
- Increasing hair volume,
- Repairs cuticle damage,
- Makes hair follicles stronger,
- Prevents dandruff,
- Has anti-inflammatory effects, and
- Gives your hair better shine.
Here is a video to help you use this practice. I personally try this once a month (due to lack to time :(). But a weekly session is suggested.
5) Include Enough Plant- Proteins.
We often rely on protein powders for our protein requirements, but the best source is food! Whole grains, pulses, leafy greens, nuts, seeds and even vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of proteins.
Now, as long as you are consuming enough calories, you are probably getting enough proteins. But if you are on a low- calorie diet or burning more calories per day than you eat, you must be mindful of your protein sources. Aim to consume 1 gram of plant protein for every kilogram of body weight. More is not necessarily healthy when it comes to longevity and kidney health.
6) Work on maintaining a healthy circadian cycle.
A study concluded that sleep deprivation resulted in decreased beard hair growth for men. The cause is linked to lower protein synthesis and reduced growth hormones and DHT release due to sleep deprivation. Therefore, maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm may pose beneficial for the hair’s biological clock.
Maintaining a healthy sleep and wake up time as per the sun's cycle is crucial for multiple functions of the body, including hormonal health for PCOS.
7) Avoid low-calorie diets and fad- diets.
Crash and fad diets should be avoided because they restrict your calorie intake, which means you are also restricting the ingestion of essential nutrients and micro-nutrients like protein, zinc, fatty acids, etc.
The deficiencies of these nutrients if prolonged over a period of time can cause a type of hair loss called telogen effluvium. Most people resort to taking vitamin supplements to compensate for dietary loss, but these can be more toxic than useful. Instead, switch to a nutrient rich diet with unlimited quantities of whole grains, lentils, fruits, vegetables and nuts/ seeds. These are naturally high in nutrition and low in calories.
8) Take a B12 supplement.
A well-balanced diet is key to healthy hair. One such nutrient needed for the same is vitamin B12. B12 helps in healthy hair growth by aiding the production of oxygen carrying RBCs; which are responsible for feeding hair follicles.
B12 is found in the microbes that live in the soil. The best way for humans to get B12 is to spend more time outdoors in activities like gardening and barefoot walking.
However, since we do not do those anymore, the next best source of B12 is a supplement. It is advisable to take B12 supplements in the presence of a deficiency.
9) Include biotic-rich foods such as almonds and avocados.
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that is very important for hair growth and makes your hair strand stronger. Biotin stimulates the production of keratin in the body, which apart from healthy hair, increases energy production.
While a lot of people lean towards biotin supplements, you can also increase your biotin intake with the help of foods like almonds, avocados, legumes, mushrooms, etc
10) Avoid direct sunlight exposure to hair.
Although sunlight is an essential source of vitamin D and helps in fighting fungal infections and other bacteria in the skin, overexposure to hair can result in dry and unmanageable hair.
Sunlight can make the hair strand dry, brittle, and highly prone to breakage. Studies also show that overexposure to sunlight can cause structural damage to the hair shafts.
Make sure to cover the hair with a scarf or hat while going out. Avoid heat protection sprays as they might have chemicals that damage the hair follicles.
11) Avoid chemical treatments and applying direct heat to the hair.
Styling treatments, heat, and chemical-based products can make your hair look manageable and nice but it is only temporary.
Frequent use of styling tools that apply direct heat to hair can cause heat damage to the shafts leading to dryness, thinning, breakage, and hair shedding. Further, chemical products have high concentrations of alcohol which can dehydrate your scalp and weaken hair follicles over time.
Develop techniques to maintain your natural hair texture. For instance, if you have naturally wavy or curly hair, try the Curly Girl Method and use products designed to naturally maintain your texture.
PCOS-related hair loss can be one of the most troubling symptoms. It can not only have a physical impact on an individual but also affect them emotionally.
Androgenetic alopecia can be reversed if the underlying cause which is hormonal imbalance and nutrient deficiency is treated. Managing PCOS and its symptoms take time and effort, the results are not drawn overnight but surely with time.
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