It started like a slow drip from the faucet. Drip, drop, drip, drop. Was it a leak or did the faucet need to be shut off? It wasn’t really water though…it was the slow progression of increasingly losing my hair.
At first I noticed it when I’d run my conditioner through my hair. First a few hairs, then several more, then clumps of hair would end up on my wet, pruney fingers as I’d manually comb it through.
Then, after weeks and months, my hair was falling out with every brush stroke…first a couple, then a bunch, then enough to fill a sandwich bag every week. What was happening?!?!
It was embarrassing. My thinning hair making me look sick and aged…and then my eyebrows starting to disappear too. This. had. to. stop. But how? Why was this happening to me?
It was time to take stock. What was happening in my life? What was I doing or not to cause this?
If you took a snapshot of my life at that time, you’d see whirling chaos. I was yet to be diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, although I had every symptom under the sun. I also was in the midst of a 5-year-long legal battle with a semi-truck company after being hit years before. I just wanted my increasing medical bills paid for from the damage their overworked, overtired driver had caused (I wonder if his hair was falling out too?) and this big company with their millions of dollars to pay teams of lawyers just wanted to fight us tooth and nail. I had lost my career and my income due to the accident so we were beyond stretched. Oh and…yeah! I was the mother of a newborn baby.
Can you say stress? Can you say anxiety? Can you FEEL my panic? That’s what was going on.
Flash forward to now! Full head of luscious hair, eyebrows growing at Matt Dillon rates, and life is calm…ish. (As calm as it can be with a 6 year old rascal in my life!)
So what was going on — and how did I reverse my hair loss? Let me tell you all about it.
3 ways anxiety causes hair loss
As if anxiety weren’t bad enough, being seriously stressed out can also be a cause of hair loss in three different ways:
- Telogen effluvium. With this condition, serious stress tells larger-than-usual numbers of your hair follicles to go into the resting phase, and then they fall out. Hair follicles naturally go into a resting phase and fall out even when you’re healthy, but stress can cause large numbers of them to do so all at once.
- Trichotillomania. This condition is an irresistible urge to pull out hair from your scalp, eyebrows or other areas of your body. For some people, hair pulling can be a habit that helps them try to deal with negative feelings including stress, anxiety, tension, etc. In fact, some people may not even totally realize they’re doing it.
- Alopecia areata. With this condition, the body’s immune system attacks hair follicles, causing the hairs to fall out — sound familiar?
Especially if you have an autoimmune thyroid condition, stress, hair loss, and thyroid problems can be kissing cousins.
Constant stress and anxiety affects your adrenal glands, causing them to overproduce the stress hormone cortisol. That overproduction over time can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Beyond the obvious daily stressors in our lives, the adrenal glands pump out more stress hormones when your blood sugar isn’t regulated, your gut is leaky, you have food sensitivities (such as gluten), toxins and infections are present, or you are inflamed and under an autoimmune attack.
Adrenal fatigue also affects how your hormones are used by your cells, reduces the conversion of T4 to T3, weakens immune barriers, causes hormonal imbalances, and promotes the autoimmune response.
When the adrenal glands are weakened, the body is put in a destructive state where it begins to break down. Since the thyroid gland controls the metabolism of the body, the gland will slow itself down in order to hinder this destruction. As a result, a hypothyroid condition will usually manifest in the body. The disheartening part is that it doesn’t take a severe case of adrenal fatigue to wreak havoc on the thyroid gland.
In short, anxiety which produces stress in the body, affects your adrenals → which affects your gut → which affects your thyroid → which can lead to hair loss.
How to reverse hair loss.
- Stress Less. First and foremost, you have GOT to get your stress and anxiety under control. I highly suggest you check out the Your Best Thyroid Life anxiety workshop. In it, we get to the root of your stress and talk about 10 effective methods for stopping stress, anxiety, panic, and overwhelm in their tracks, as well as my number 1 go-to technique for transforming anxiety into peace and health.
- Check your iron. Low iron is one of the biggest culprits for hair loss for women, and can be a big problem for thyroid sufferers. Get your iron levels checked, get more iron-rich foods (like red meats, organ meats, and green leafy vegetables) in your diet, and ask your health practitioner if you need an iron supplement.
- Increase your stomach acid. Low stomach acid can result in malabsorption of iron, so it’s important to light your digestive fire if you’re struggling with low iron and hair loss. Try a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar before meals to help with low stomach acid.
- Check for other nutrient deficiencies. If you’re low in iodine, zinc, vitamin D, B12, or magnesium, that can also contribute to hair loss. A simple blood test can determine if you’re deficient in any of these nutrients, and your health practitioner can help you supplement as necessary.
- Check your meds. A variety of medications can cause hair loss — including thyroid medication. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned that any of your medications might be causing the problem.
- Perimenopause. Yup. “The Change” can cause hair loss, too, usually due to hormone imbalances. Both high and low testosterone can cause hair loss in women, so ask your doctor to test for that as well if you’re anywhere near middle age.
The good news is that, caught early, most forms of hair loss are reversible. The key is to talk to your doctor or health care team as soon as you notice a problem.
The best thing you can do is to take steps on your own to get your stress under control, like those we talk about in Your Best Thyroid Life’s Thyroid Anxiety Workshop. These strategies will not only have a positive impact on your hair, but your thyroid, and your whole life as well.
Click here to join us for the workshop, and you won’t be left pulling your hair out — or watching it fall out!
Whether you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, or other thyroid-related symptoms, I provide a ton of resources on healing your thyroid naturally, including:
- Our totally free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Report and Coaching Sessions
- Right here on my blog, where I talk about what’s worked best for me and my clients, as well as the latest research and resources I come across. You can subscribe to get new blog posts delivered right to your email by signing up on the righthand side of the page.
- My book, Healing Hashimoto’s Naturally — part memoir, part instruction manual for how I personally healed my Hashimoto’s disease.
- My exclusive free 6 Thyroid Myths That Can Keep You From Healing workshop — with info on the comprehensive Thyroid Fix in 6 program, which walks you through, step-by-step, the exact actions you need to take to heal your thyroid and get your life back! We’ve seen hundreds of participants in the Thyroid Fix in 6 avoid, decrease, or even eliminate the need need for thyroid medications.
- The incredible Your Best Thyroid Life Video Bundle, in which I personally invited 27 of the world’s top health experts to share their best tips for living with and healing thyroid disease.
Remember, no matter what diagnosis you’re facing, help is out there. Keep your chin up and take small daily action and you can heal and have a normal life again!
Jen Wittman is a Certified Holistic Health Expert, Chef, Author & Vitality Coach, who teaches women how to reverse thyroid and autoimmune conditions naturally. She’s helped hundreds of women decrease (or even eliminate) their thyroid medications and has helped others stay off thyroid medication entirely.
Through her free Thyroid Healing Type Assessment, Jen teaches easy and simple steps to thyroid healing that can fit into your busy day. She also provides print outs to bring to your next doctor’s appointment so you can get the support and respect you deserve.