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.

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

  1. Granny6

    In reply to Keith concerning inositol:

    I tiook both kinds of inositol, as there are two types one called myo and the other called D-chiro, for 6 months and it did not stop my hair loss nor regrow any new hair. But it may work for you. I actually used a large dose. I had never read in all my reasearch about it that it could cause hair growth in other places on your body if you use too much. However, I did not have any unwanted hair on other body parts while taking large doses. Large doses can however cause diarrhea in some people. If that happens then just cut back on the dose until you no longer experience any loose stools.

    There are so many different reason that people have hairloss. It’s impossible to know what causes ones particular hairloss in order to get a cure. If one could know the reason then one could narrow down a treatment. You have to try different remedies until you find one that works for your particular hairloss reason. Almost everyone who goes to a dermatologist will be told they have alopecia if they have hairloss. This is vague as alopecia can come/devlope for any reason and can go/reverse for any reason that is unknown. Some of the various reasons for hairloss, either permanent or temporary can be:
    Several different Hormone issues including after childbirth and post-menopause and too much testosterone amoung other hormonal issues
    Thyroid problems
    Many Prescription medications like high blood pressure meds
    Many Illnesses like diabetes
    Anemia/low iron

    The list goes on, so you can see that the cure depends on what is causing your particular hairloss and most people don’t know their cause or it could be more that one cause. All we can do is try a remedy/treatment and if after several months you see no improvement then try another different remedy. Sometimes if you use more than one remedy/treatment at the same time and you see improvement then you won’t know which remedy is the one that is working. In that case, you are spending time and money on some things that aren’t working but which remedy that is working you don’t know. So it’s best to try one or a hand-in-hand set at a time. I would call using both types of inositol a hand-in-hand treatment as they are both inositol and you might need both. I call drinking nettle and using it as a final leave-in rinse a hand-in hand treatment as well.

    Do your reasearch on remedies/treatments and read all you can both good and bad on a treatment. Check into all possible side effects of a treatment as well. Also what doses are best and importantly check if ingested remedies need to be taken on an empty stomach or with fat if they are fat-soluble suplements because this can make the difference in if it can work or not. Some suplements can’t be taken together as they can cancel out the benefits. You will find both good and bad on internet searches on everything. You need to decide which to believe. My personal guidelines have been if I read more good or more bad then I tend to believe which one I read the most about and I also consider the credentials of the source of information. I spend days and sometimes weeks researching a remedy/treatment before trying it. Who wants to spend time and money on products that may never have been able to help?

    I have been dealing with hairloss in different degrees for many years and I’ve tried many, many remedies/treatments, until now, I have not had success for whatever is causing my particular hairloss. Although I still have hairloss, at least I’m finally seeing some hair growth with the Maria Treben treatment. I do have illnesses that could be the cause but then again, I had hairloss before my illness arrived. I’ve taken perscription meds that can cause hairloss but when I long stopped taking those medications I still had hairloss. I had hairloss before as well as after post-menopause. I had hairloss with high ferritin/iron counts and have had hairloss with anemia. I’ve tried every hairloss supplement in the highest recommended doses and still had hairloss. There is no hairloss in my family. Both parents and both sets of grandparents and even great grandparents had full hair till death. I’m hypothyroid but I’ve been on a high dose (180 mgs) of Armour thyroid for several years and still had hairloss. It’s maddening not being able to pinpoint why I’m having hairloss. If I knew the cause I could perhaps stop it. Perhaps using the hand massager on my scalp over the next few months will be the trick. I’ve only been using it for about 2 weeks and sometimes I forget a day or two as it’s not a habit yet. I got a electric scalp massager for about $10 from Amazon and it looks like a claw so it slides through my hair without tangling it. It’s called the ASIN:B01IFCWQL0 Tezam Head Massager Neck Massage Octopus Scalp Stress Relax Spa Therapy Healing, Soft Resin Finger Gripper Claw Electronic Head Spa Vibration Scalp Massage Tool. I was told to massage my scalp for several minuets everyday for stimulation to the scalp and possible end of hairloss.

  2. Granny6

    Here is an update:

    I believe drinking a half gallon nettle tea daily and using a final rinse on my hair of dried nettle leaves and dried nettle root has helped me grow some new hairs. I do not towel dry my hair so that the nettle is not wiped off but either left to air dry or blow dry.

    I’ve since cut down on the amount of nettle tea I drink to about 4 cups as I’ve added other herbs in tea form to help with other illness I have. Drinking herbs in tea form is much better than taking those herbs in capsule form. The key is to sip the tea throughout the day instead of just drinking it down quickly. You can drink it hot or cold. I’ve reciently added more herbs as a final hair rinse listed in the Maria Treben books under hair-loss and hair-growth. Maria Treben was an herbalist who wrote 3 books. I got my books from Amazon. I’m still using the hand massager on my scalp but it’s too early to tell if that is also helping.

    I just started growing out my grey hair and no longer having my hair colored. All the new growth is grey so I know that it’s not broken hair. I’ve only been growing out my grey for 2 months now which is when I started on the nettle tea and rinse. I’m still losing hair but I have new growth. I hope to stop losing hair soon. All the hairloss is the long hair that was the previously dark colored hairs. I’m not losing any of the new grey hairs that have grown out.

    Here is a photo of my new hair growth, I hope the photo shows up on this post.

    1. Marjorie Post author

      That is good to hear. I wonder if it’s due to nettle’s anti-inflammatory properties.

  3. Keith

    One supplement I saw some people at Earthclinic enthusiastically! say it grew hair is Inositol. I’m 140 lbs and I take 1/8 rounded teaspoon a day. If I use it regularly, I start to see some filling in, but nothing drastic. I read if you take too much it can grow hair in places you might not want. Maybe I could up the dose and get better results.

    1. Marjorie Post author

      Thank you for this. I just looked at reviews for it on iherb and quickly found 3 people who used it successfully for the same thing.

  4. Chris

    I am 48 and started to see excessive shedding. I was diagnosed with fibroid and the Dr said low iron is a problem seen with that. I went and got tested around July 2016 and had a hemoglobin of 12.8 and ferratin of 31. I have read that a ferratin of below 40 will cause breakage and loss of hair and by standards you may not appear to be anemic but can be on the low side. Have been taking iron for 2 months now and will soon go get checked. I want to raise my ferratin up to 80. Well I was still shedding and then I started to take a magnesium/calcium supplement along with zinc and hair skin and nails. I notice within a few day the shedding had minimized greatly. I then by forgetting stopped taking the hair skin and nails and stopped the magnesium/ calcium along with zinc and within 1 month my hair loss was worse. I just didn’t put 2 + 2 together. I started back on those supplements and bam within 1 day the shedding stopped again. I do feel like it is the magnesium/calcium is most important with my body. I think I was very mineral deficient. I am trying to eat much healthier with Nuts and greens as they have many minerals in them. I hope this helps someone. I plan on getting my iron levels check again very soon.

  5. Granny6

    I’ve tried many things to stop my hair loss and to start to regrow but nothing has worked so far. All kinds of suplements, iron pills, at a ferritin level of 60 my hair was still falling out. I’m on Armour thyroid 180 mgs and still hair falling out. Might ask to raise my Armour next time I go back to the doctor as I’m still tired and take a nap during the day. Perhaps I need more.

    Next to try is nettle herbal tea as well as the hair rinses made from herbs listed in Maria Treben books. I have just stared using a comb like claw shaped hand massager bought from Amazon for just $10. I section my hair in 4 parts and use the massager on my scalp while hair is wet after a shower. 2 minuets on each section. I was told that this could stop the hair loss but don’t know how long it will take. I’m sure that the hair loss and then any growth back might take at least 3 months to see improvement that it’s working.

  6. db

    Iron supplements and foods high in protein are essential for hair growth among other nutrients such as zinc which I have personally found to strengthen hair strands. B complex is good, but the dosage could create problems that could sabotage your hair growth regimen – too much B12 could result in rosacea. If you develop scalp rosacea and you attempt to relax or perm your hair, your scalp will be too sensitive to withstand the chemical process and you will suffer hair loss.

  7. Alice

    This is extremely helpful information today and I am particularly wanting to find a way to improve my hair strength and thickness with the addition of iron, but don’t know how to do that. Hair is longish and starting to regrow a bit but was all falling out and thinning, don’t know what to do.
    Thanks for your blog/website, etc.
    Best regards for good health and thanks for sharing your info,
    Alice (aged 74, an american living in Portugal) May 2016

    1. Marjorie Post author

      Hi Alice. If you had your ferritin level tested, and want to try iron to try to raise it to what is recommended by hair experts (as opposed to your doctor), you might Google what the best form is. I thought it was biglycinate, but I am not sure of that anymore. There are also two products, lactoferrin and ferritin, that people use to build their iron levels when they are afraid that regular iron will contribute to a fungal/candida infection. I used lactoferrin for a few years and it was helpful for my sinuses and brain fog, but didn’t do anything for my hair. I did not get my ferritin retested during that time, however, so I can’t tell you how it was affected. (I now believe it is possible that my hair loss is due in part to lead poisoning.) Good luck.

  8. Lynne

    I am a 53 pre-menopausal woman. My hair loss became a problem about 4 years ago, when my doctor prescribed Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPI) for extreme acid reflux issues. At first, I thought the increased hair shedding and starting the medication was coincidental. But when I asked my primary physician to order some routine bloodwork, my Vitamin D levels were very low. I started taking D3 supplements, and the hair loss improved pretty dramatically. Fast forward 3 years…. a routine endoscopy about 9 months ago showed that I continue to have mild Barrett’s esophagus (changes to the the “normal” tissues of the esophagus). But this time, there was also mild dsyplasia, which is considered a pre-cancerous condition. So… my gastroenterologist increased my PPI dose, and added another medication that I must take as well. Now, I am taking Lansoprazole and Famotodine on a daily basis. In the past 6-9 months, my hair loss has returned and it is worse than ever. My doctor says he does not think there is a correlation between the hair loss taking the medication. But I’ve been reading that medications designed to inhibit acid production in the stomach can hinder the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals. I have been taking a high level, specially formulated “hair,skin and nails” multi-vitamin supplement that includes a lot of biotin, for the last year. My latest blood work a couple of months ago showed no deficiency in either iron or vitamin D. I was referred to a dermatologist to consult about the hair loss, who said “use Rogaine”. But my hair loss is all over my head, and is not “pattern baldness”. Unfortunately, because of my acid reflux, I have to take my medications. Any thoughts or experiences with this kind of situation?

    1. Marjorie Post author

      Apologies for the delay in response. I neglected to post a reminder sticky note to myself and so completely forgot about this comment until 7 this morning.

      I am sorry to hear about your situation. I do not have any experience with it, although the year my father started PPIs he experienced significant bone loss, which the doctor attributed to his advanced age. There is a camp (Chris Kesser is one) that believes that acid reflux is caused by too little acid, not too much, but I’m not sure those cases are extreme ones like yours, and if you’re worried about cancer, taking that leap of faith might be a bit much.

      All I can offer are suggestions you might have done already:

      — Look up the three drugs in the books Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen, Supplement Your Prescription by Hyla Kass, and The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs by Ross Pelton and James LaValleand, see what nutrients they deplete, and cross-reference those nutrients with hair loss. B12 comes to mind for PPIs. There might also be newer books on this topic.

      — Check the various consumer-generated (not FDA-run) databases that list side effects of various meds. Three are listed here: You might find others who are going the same thing and found some solutions.

      — Look for a support forum for PPI users, or acid reflux, or for users of the other two drugs. You’ll find people who are on the same path and you can share info. The one drawback is that the search engines often suck, so you have to do a lot of scrolling. I did a fast check on Yahoo Groups but didn’t have any luck, but I might not be using the right keywords.

      Good luck to you.

  9. Sam

    Your comments about hair changing within a few days of consuming something is bullshit. The hair is already out of the scalp. It is NOT affected by anything you consume once it’s out. You’re an idiot.

    1. Marjorie Post author

      Thanks so much for your mature expression of disagreement. Sorry you’re handling your hair loss so badly, little commenter.

      Yeah, that’s what the experts say, but I’ve seen this fast change too many times — with thyroid meds, iron supplements, and protein intake — to believe traditional wisdom. All three of those substances can increase blood circulation, and if that strengthens the capillaries around the follicle, that might make the hair shaft stand up more rigidly, making the hair look fuller and bouncier.

      Another reason could be that improved nutrient intake causes more hairs than normal to remain in the growth phase and not fall out, but that would not explain the change in appearance of individual hairs, and I don’t see how it would be noticeable in a few days. With thyroid meds especially, the cuticle of each hair — the tiny scales that encase it — got tighter and shinier in a week.

      (The effect of iron supplements could also be explained in part by the lessening of scalp oil. Low iron levels can cause oily hair. My old habit of drinking tons of iced peppermint tea in the summer — peppermint can inhibit iron absorption — made my hair look terrible in three days.)

      My guess is that the improved nutrition also has some effect on the spongy cells at the center of each hair shaft.

      Good luck with relying on traditional medical knowledge to solve your health problems. Never worked for me.

  10. michael

    this is quite simple to cure and its been hidden from you for a evil reason and i wont dive into it.

    to cure your hairloss you will need emu oil 100 percent pure and molucule distilled.
    then add organic cayenne pepper to the oil and apply.

    typical amount for a 2 month time frame is 4oz bottle of emu
    then add 1 teaspoon of cayenne to the bottle and shake..

    the omega fatty acids will feed your scalp and generate growth.
    it penetrates all layers of the dermis into the actual tissue.
    the cayenne acts the same way as rogaine and opens the pours and stimulates circulation.

    problem solved just dont tell big pharma where i live.. lol

  11. 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.

  12. 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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