When women talk about hormonal hair loss, they are generally referring to something called androgenic alopecia; essentially, this is just a fancy way to talk about hair loss caused by high levels of androgens (especially one hormone, a metabolite of testosterone, called dihydrotestosterone or DHT).
When women have imbalanced levels of androgenic hormones (like DHT), they can bind to the hormone receptors of our hair follicles and put them in their “rest-phase”. Essentially, hormonal hair loss is the result of our hair follicles being told to stop growing and to go to sleep instead.
How Do You Fix Hormonal Hair Loss?
Maybe you’ve recently been told that you have high levels of androgenic hormones like testosterone or DHT. Maybe your doctor has even diagnosed you with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). The first questions that often pop into our heads at this point are typically, “Why is this happening to me?” or maybe even, “What can I do to lower my androgens, like yesterday?”
If you follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my newsletter, then you’ve likely heard me say this many times before: To fix something we need to know how it broke in the first place. It’s sort of my version of the “the only way out is through” quote and I say it because I want you to understand the importance of uncovering and resolving the unique root-cause(s) that may have led you to this current point in your health.
Once you’ve worked with your doctor to get an accurate diagnosis, the next step is to ask “What are the root-causes behind my symptoms?” and “How did I get here?”. Often my clients will find that there has been some sort of disconnect between either their nutrition, detoxification, exercise or activity levels, stress, sleep, or any combination of those factors that has contributed to their health unraveling. I like to call these five things the foundations of hormonal health because we really need all of them to be inline before we can achieve our long-term health and wellness goals.
My Favorite Root-Cause Test For Hormonal Hair Loss
Nope, it’s not serum testosterone. It’s not DHT. It’s not an androgenic hormone at all. My favorite root-cause test for hormonal hair loss is fasting insulin. Let me tell you why.
Insulin is a hormone that our body uses to carry glucose to our cells so that they can use it for energy.
What we want to be is insulin-sensitive – meaning that the insulin our body produces will be able to take care of the glucose we ingest, no problem.
But we can become ‘insulin resistant’ and that means that what used to be enough insulin to carry the glucose is now not enough. This is what is happening when we get fasting insulin levels checked at our doctor’s office and see that it is high.
Over time, it’s possible that our body won’t be able to maintain that high level of insulin output to take care of our glucose. This is what is happening when we get our fasting glucose levels or HbA1c checked and see that they’re high.
The Connection Between Insulin + Hormonal Hair Loss
The connection between insulin and hormonal hair loss is clear: When our insulin levels are high, it can push hormones down the androgen pathway. To help give you a visual of what I’m talking about, check out the graphic below. This is how your body produces hormones and I’ve highlighted the different steps that are increased when women have high insulin levels (those are the pink arrows). Think of insulin as sort of stepping on the accelerator and speeding up the conversion of hormones down this androgen pathway.
Managing our blood glucose levels and maintaining a healthy insulin response is foundational to our hormone health. If you feel that your hormones are “crazy” it’s probably worth talking to your doctor about having your fasting insulin (and fasting glucose) levels tested.
One Last Take Away on Hormonal Hair Loss and Insulin
Remember, one of the most important questions you can ask yourself is, “What are the root-causes behind my symptoms?”. As devastating as hormonal hair loss can feel, it’s important to remember that this is just a symptom of imbalance and inflammation. Symptoms are our body’s messengers – they’re meant to be used as clues leading you to the root-case issues powerful enough to change your life. In that way symptoms (like hair loss) are actually a huge blessing.
Insulin resistance and hormone imbalances don’t happen in a vacuum. Often, it’s when we start looking into those foundational pieces of hormone health (nutrition, detoxification, exercise, stress, and sleep) that we see that at least one area isn’t optimal and that’s where we need to focus our attention.
Ready to explore working one-on-one with me? Schedule our first online one-to-one session today!
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