Hair loss and hair thinning: a few causes and solutions

Long before I figured out the whole gluten-ruining-my-health thing, I noticed that I felt better the less I ate. This was because like most Americans I ate wheat (gluten) at almost every meal. This revelation eventually led me to such a low caloric intake that I developed a palsy in my hands, stopped sleeping, and lost a third of my hair.

To give you an idea of how much hair: I used to wear it in a half ponytail (like this) and about every three weeks the 1/4-inch, spring-loaded barrette I used would break from being stretched too far. Two years later I could put all of my hair in the same type of barrette and the barrette would slide off onto the floor.

The switch to gluten-free and back to eating like a horse slowed but did not stop the hair loss. It took me a few years to figure out the reason, during which I was on a daily regimen of all the basics: calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, etc. When I read that magnesium deficiency can be involved in hair loss, I took extra but it didn’t help. The same happened with biotin. When I read that the two work together in some ways, I tried them both at the same time and in about a week the hair loss stopped.

It did not grow back much, though, and since nothing else has worked, and since my iron levels have never even remotely high for various reasons, I am assuming that iron deficiency is the cause. An oft-repeated statistic among hair-loss experts is that if low iron is responsible for your hair loss, your iron ferritin level has to be at 70 for three months before it will start growing back.

When I finally learned to look at my medical test results myself, I discovered my ferritin level, which had been 6 for two years, was by European standards so low as to warrant hospitalization and a blood transfusion. In two years not one of the dozens of doctors I consulted even commented on it. Finally an alterna-doc, who had seen me before, mentioned that it should ideally be 50-60.

After that episode I lost another chunk of faith in doctors and in lab ranges. To give you an idea of the widely disparate opinions about lab ranges, my conventional doc said a ferritin level of 12 is fine. In 10 years I haven’t been able to get it past 26.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the thickness/fullness of the hair can change in a matter of days based on my protein and iron intake. Drinking/eating large amounts of peppermint in the form of tea or Peppermint Patties, for example, will lower my iron levels and make my hair wimpy in a few days. Not eating protein for a few days will do the same.

Other things I’ve tried are taking apple cider vinegar and betaine hydrochloride on the theory that I wasn’t producing enough stomach acid to absorb needed nutrients, but no dice. I also tried rinsing my hair in apple cider vinegar to remove whatever buildup our notoriously hard water here might be creating, but I couldn’t take the smell. There’s no point in having great hair if you smell like a pickled egg.

4 thoughts on “Hair loss and hair thinning: a few causes and solutions

  1. Susan

    Your hair loss should go away if you grt on Armor or another dessicated thyroid med but no Synthroid or another synthetic thyroid med. and this is the main key…
    You need to be taking a dose of at least 180 mg’s in order for the hair loss and other thyroid symptoms to go away. TSH test is unreliable and you need to find a dr (endocrinologist) who will prescribe by symptoms over test results. Check out the web site Stop the madness.

    1. Marjorie Post author

      Susan: That is a great website and I’ve referred to it many times over the years. For me, Armour did not address the hair issue, although it solved a lot of other problems. There is no way I could do 180 mgs, which I believe is the equivalent of 3 grains. I couldn’t even tolerate 1/2 grain. My adrenals couldn’t handle it.

  2. James

    My wife suffered from hair loss similar to yours, though since she also has polycystic ovaries, and was growing hair where she didn’t want it as well, it didn’t seem so mysterious. She went with prescription remedies (hormones and anti-androgens) which seemed to arrest it at least. Then when she hit full menopause, she dropped the hormones and the hair loss has increased some.

    My hair is thinning as well, but since I’m a guy without pattern baldness, I consider myself lucky.



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