You might not give your hair much though each day, beyond blow drying it in the morning or scheduling your next hair appointment. You probably haven’t spent much time thinking about its condition either, unless you’re struggling with a bad hair day or experiencing dandruff, but your hair actually says a lot about you and your health. Your hair actually gives a lot more information about your lifestyle and health than you might expect – scientists can determine everything from what you ate that day, to how much time you’ve spent in the sun based on your hair. Your genetics, environment, diet, stress levels and medications can all have an impact on the condition of your hair. If you’ve noticed that there has been a change to the texture, thickness or colour of your hair than it could be a clue that there is something going on with your health and could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Read on below for some of the common culprits for hair problems or changes.
Your stress and genetics can make you go gray
If you’ve ever heard the old myth about stress turning your hair gray overnight then you’ll know that stress and gray hair are linked – whilst you aren’t at risk of going gray all in one day, chronic stress certainly does have an impact on the pigment of your hair and can turn you gray over time. You only need to look at comparison pictures of Obama before and after his presidency to know that, that’s the case! Studies suggest that the reason stress can send you gray is because stress on the body can contribute to DNA damage which in turn damages and reduces the supply of pigment-producing cells in the hair follicle. High stress levels can also cause your hair to fall out, as it encourages your body to go into its shedding phase, this type of hair loss is usually temporary.
Another kind of stress on the body, known as oxidative stress can also cause gray hair as free radicals can destroy your bodies repair processes and pigment producing cells.
Going gray is a normal part of getting older and everyone is likely to experience it at some point. Your genetic play a big role on when you experience gray hair, in most cases, people will begin to see gray hair around the same time as their parents did.
Brittle hair can indicate Cushing’s disease
Cushing’s disease is a relatively rare condition that is caused by high levels of cortisol in the body. Cortisol is the bodies main stress hormone. When the adrenal glands are overworked and producing too much of the hormone, you’re likely to experience a number of ill effects. Cushing’s disease comes with a number of highly notable symptoms including fatigue, back pain and high blood pressure. Brittle hair is also a sign of Cushing’s disease. If you’ve noticed your hair is feeling dry and brittle and you’re experiencing other symptoms than speak to your doctor. The treatment for Cushing’s disease using involves some combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or medications.
Thyroid disease can cause your hair to thin
People who suffer from thyroid conditions like hypothyroidism may sometimes notice a change in the texture and thickness of their hair and might also experience increased shedding. Thyroid disorders come with a number of other symptoms including tiredness, cold intolerance, joint aches and pains, muscle soreness, weight gain and a puffy face.
Auto-immune diseases can also put you at risk of hair loss and a condition known as alopecia areata. If you’re suffering from a health condition like an autoimmune disorder or thyroid issue then thinning hair will likely be only one of the symptoms you’ll notice, speak to your doctor if you suspect that you have an underlying health condition which might be causing your hair loss.
Anemia can cause hair loss
If you’re iron levels are low then you’re likely to discover a lot of hair in your hairbrush and in the shower drain. Iron deficiency anemia can cause your hair to shed, although this hair loss is usually temporary. It’s more common than you might think, although women are more likely to suffer from anemia than men. Your menstrual cycle and even your diet can impact on whether or not you are iron deficient. If you’re a vegetarian than you could be at risk of suffering from iron deficiency. It’s easy to test for anemia, a simple blood test will usually be able to show if you’re iron levels are low. It’s not completely understood why low iron causes hair loss, but iron is very important to all body functions and a number of important reactions so it’s likely that some of the important reactions that cause hair growth cannot properly take place without iron. Iron deficiency puts your body under stress and can cause a number of other symptoms in addition to hair loss such as fatigue, headaches, cold intolerance, dizziness and weakness. The solution for low iron levels is usually to take iron supplements or eat foods high in iron; once the iron deficiency has been addressed any hair loss will usually correct itself.
A protein deficiency could be causing your hair loss
Protein is very important for the health of your hair, and a requirement for hair to grow. Protein deficiencies have been linked to hair loss and thinning. Protein deficiencies are rarely an issue in countries like Australia, where meat and protein heavy foods like greek yoghurt, chickpeas, chicken breasts and steak are easy to come by. The average adult needs around 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day to remain healthy. When protein deficiencies occur it is usually as a result of certain health conditions or gastric bypass surgery, which can cause complications for people in digesting protein. If you have had surgery recently then that in itself can cause hair shedding, but it may also be due to a protein deficiency.
Dandruff could be the culprit for white flakes
If you’ve noticed the back of your shirt or your shoulders look like they’re covered in snow at the end of the day then it might be because you’re suffering from dandruff. Dandruff is a condition that can yellow or white flakes to come off of your scalp. Dandruff is a chronic scalp condition and it isn’t usually indicative of a serious health problem. Most dandruff can be treated with a number of over-the-counter dandruff products and treatments. There are a number of specialty and prescription shampoo products that are known for being great at solving the issue.
Dandruff is sometimes caused by a condition called seborrheic dermatitis which can cause red, greasy skin. Dermatitis can be quite itchy and painful. Another common cause is also a yeast-like fungus known as malassezia which irritates the scalp and causes flakes. You may be at risk of dandruff if you don’t shampoo often, if you have scalp sensitivity or if you have dry skin. You’ll likely notice that your dandruff gets worse in the winter months.
Damaged hair can hide other hair problems
Damaged hair can be a very visible indicator of a number of health conditions and can signal that you have a nutritional deficiency or something important its missing from your diet or hair routine, but hair damage can also hide a number of other health problems. Hair damage can be caused by colouring, heat styling, bleaching and styling the hair. Too much heat in the form of straightening irons, blow drying or curling the hair can cause lasting damage – making hair brittle and dry. Too many chemical changes in the form of bleaching and dyeing the hair can also leave the hair frizzy and damaged. Limiting your use of heat styling tools and getting your colour done professionally is likely to reduce the damage that can occur to your hair. If you do colour-treat your hair then you can reduce the damage on your hair by using high quality moisturising products and colour-preserving shampoos. If you’ve damaged your hair with hair dye and heat styling tools then it might be masking other underlying hair damage, it’s hard to tell the difference between damage, dryness and brittleness due to damage caused by styling instead of health problems. Highly treated hair can hide other problems and make it difficult to see what’s happening with your health. If you’re noticing other symptoms then you should go and speak to your doctor.
You have an infection
There are a number of infections that can cause hair loss such as ringworm which is a common fungal infection that can spread to your head or scalp. Ringworm can cause hair loss by making its way into the follicles of your hair forcing it to fall out. There are some bacterial infections that can all cause hair loss, such as folliculitis, a condition which inflames the follicles of your hair which can cause hair loss. This infection can commonly be contracted from places like the hot tub, as the bacteria can be found in poorly chlorinated water.
You’re having too much Vitamin A
Too much vitamin A can cause your hair to fall out. It’s hard to overdo the vitamin A but if you’re on a health kick then it might happen. Some popular healthy foods containing vitamin A include spinach, kale, sweet potatoes, fish, carrots and collard greens. Vitamin A is very good for your body and is linked to a number of health benefits including improving the health of your eyes, bones and skin. Too much vitamin A can lead to health issues and lead to hair loss.
You’re on a dangerous diet
Highly restrictive diets can cause hair to thin and fall out. Those with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia will notice that their hair begins to dull and fall out. Healthy hair requires a healthy balanced diet and good hydrated to grow strong and healthy. Those who lose a lot of weight in a short period of time might notice that their hair begins to shed. Due to the nature of the hair growth cycle this can happen up to a few months following the weight loss.
If you’re notice that your hair is shedding and falling out then it’s probably a good indication that there’s something going on health-wise. Your hair is a great indicator of your health and can tell you a lot about how healthy you are. At MAX3, we know that healthy hair requires a good balanced diet; if your hair is long, luscious and shiny then you’re probably in good health. If your hair is dull and falling out then there is probably some kind of underlying health problem that needs to be addressed. If you’re concerned about hair loss then you should speak to your doctor.