While we are all aware that some types of stress are necessary and beneficial for us, motivating us to achieve certain successes in life. However, prolonged and excessive stress is responsible for an incredible amount of harmful effects, disrupting nearly every system in the body.
Chronic stress can shut down the immune system, making you more susceptible to sickness. It can upset the digestive system, causing indigestion and other complications, and even lead to hardening of the arteries which brings about increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Oh, and both depression and anxiety can rear their ugly heads with stress as well.
Well, new research says that it’s time to add another side effect of stress to this already long list. Research shows that stress can also cause hair loss. This is true in both males and females.
The way that stress can cause hair loss, or slow down hair growth, is via the endocrine (hormonal) system.
The endocrine system is a set of glands that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, skin and hair health, and mood.
A very important part of the endocrine system is the adrenal gland. Located at the upper area of the kidneys, the adrenal gland is the main mechanism responsible for regulating stress in the body, producing several hormones in moments of stress in order to support your body.
This type of function is valuable, aiding us in our fight or flight response and boosting our senses during times of duress. However, prolonged production of adrenal hormones in response to excessive stress quickly becomes a problem, even in your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Correcting your response to stress can impact your health in positive ways
Another hormone produced during stressful situations is cortisol. Cortisol regulates your body’s response to stress hormones, including blood sugar levels and other natural reactions.
If we consider these hormones, and the chain of events that causes their production, then we begin to understand how prolonged stress can cause hair loss, or slow hair growth down.
Prolonged stress causes the overproduction of adrenal hormones and the under production of other important hormones in the body including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. This cascade can all lead to changes in insulin, which then leads to the sustained overproduction of cortisol. Prolonged overproduction of cortisol can wreak havoc on your body in many ways.
All of this prolonged production of hormones leads to what’s known as adrenal fatigue.
A negative side effect of adrenal fatigue is an increased concentration of the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is a derivative of testosterone, again, in both males and females.
While we think of testosterone as a macho hormone, causing men to have more body hair and bigger muscles, though with high concentrations it can actually have a counterintuitive effect on the body, shrinking hair follicles, slowing down hair growth, and in severe cases damaging hair follicles so badly that hair growth is impossible.
Leading a balanced, healthy lifestyle is the key to reducing stress and its numerous harmful effects on your body. Getting adequate sleep, eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, drinking plenty of water, and practicing stress relieving techniques are all great ways to reduce stress, reduce the workload on your endocrine system, and prevent stress from causing abnormal hair loss. Please consider initiating adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola, Schisandra, Eleutherococcus, and Ginseng to support your adrenal hormones. Herbs which curb to negative effects of DHT on hair loss include Saw Palmetto, Pygeum, Pumpkin seed oil extract, Rosemary, White mulberry, and the amino acid L-Carnitine. Take action now to decrease inflammation in your body, better control stress, and nourish those hair follicles.
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We post each and every week to help with your health and wellness. I’m Dr. Ryan Shelton.