Common Causes of Hair Loss

hair lossBackground: Hair’s Natural Growth Cycle

Hair grows in three different cycles: anagen, catagen, and telogen. About 90% of the hair on the head is in the anagen, or growth phase, which lasts anywhere from 2 to 8 years. The catagen, or transition phase, typically lasts 2 to 3 weeks, during which the hair follicle shrinks. During the telogen cycle, which lasts around 2 to 4 months, the hair rests.

Most people normally shed 50 to 100 hairs a day. This usually doesn’t cause noticeable thinning of scalp hair because new hair is growing in at the same time. Hair loss occurs when this cycle of hair growth and shedding is disrupted or when the hair follicle is destroyed and replaced with scar tissue.

The exact cause of hair loss may not be fully understood, but it is usually related to one or more of the following factors:

  • Genetics (e.g. family history)
  • Hormonal changes or imbalances (e.g. pregnancy, menopause, birth control pills)
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Stress (including after surgery)
  • Improper nutrition (vitamin and/or mineral deficiency)

Although hair loss may seem like a more prominent problem in men, women are nearly as likely to lose or have thinning hair.

Common Causes of Hair Loss in Women

1. High Cortisol:

Hair loss is often caused by an imbalance in hormone levels. One of the hormones closely connected with hair loss is cortisol.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is normally released in response to events and circumstances such as waking up in the morning, exercising, and acute stress. In its normal function, cortisol regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body including metabolism and immune response. It also has an important role in helping the body respond to stress (i.e. the body’s fight-or-flight response).

However, at sustained high levels, cortisol can be damaging over time. Extended stress leads to extended periods of high cortisol levels. While the adrenal glands are busy making extra cortisol, they make less of the hormones that support healthy hair growth.

2. Low Protein Intake:

Hair loss may occasionally be caused by lack of protein in the diet. When this happens, the body will help save protein by shifting growing hairs into the resting phase. Increased hair shedding can occur two to three months later.

3Elevated Male Hormones:

  • Testosterone: High levels of testosterone has been commonly associated with hair loss. Although women have much lower levels of testosterone than men do, there is enough to potentially cause hair loss, particularly during periods of hormonal change.  However, researchers now believe that it is not only amount of circulating testosterone that leads to hair loss, but more significantly the level of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) binding to receptors in scalp follicles.
  • Dihydrotestosterone (DHT): Testosterone converts to DHT with the aid of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase, which is held in a hair follicle’s oil glands. In high levels, DHT shrinks hair follicles, decreasing hair’s natural growth cycle and ability to replace itself.

4. Thyroid Issues:

Hair loss may be a sign that thyroid hormones are out of balance. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism can cause hair to shed. Because hair growth depends on the proper functioning of the thyroid gland, abnormal levels of thyroid hormones can result in hair changes if left untreated. When the thyroid gland is overactive (hyperthyroidism), the hair on your head can become fine, with thinning hair all over the scalp. When the thyroid gland is underactive (hypothyroidism), there can be hair loss, not just on the scalp, but also anywhere on the body. In most cases, the hair will grow back once the thyroid disorder is treated.

5. Low Progesterone:

From the time menses begins until menopause, levels of estrogen and progesterone in women ebb and flow to promote reproduction. At about age 35 to 40, women reach the time of perimenopause. This is when their levels of progesterone and estrogen begin to reduce. Progesterone helps to counterbalance the negative effects of estrogen. When there is not enough progesterone to counterbalance estrogen, one may begin to have symptoms of estrogen dominance, such as hair loss.

6. Iron Deficiency:

Iron deficiency hair loss is caused when the body lacks enough iron to produce hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin carries oxygen for the growth and repair of all body cells including the cells that make up hair follicles.

Temporary hair loss such as iron deficiency hair loss is called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is an abnormality of the hair growth cycle that causes hair that would normally be in the anagen (growth) phase of the hair growth cycle to be prematurely pushed into the telogen (rest) phase, causing hair to shed. Because hair is non-essential, hair growth is one of the first processes to be affected when iron or other nutrient deficiencies occur.

7. Zinc Deficiency:

Zinc is a trace mineral that is needed for many important bodily functions in the body such as building healthy cells, regulating hormones, and aiding in the absorption of other nutrients.

Zinc is available through foods such as beef, pork, shellfish, peanuts, and legumes. Zinc deficiency (or hypozincemia) is a nutrient deficiency precipitated by malnutrition or malabsorption of the element. Deficiency may cause weak, brittle nails, diarrhea, slow healing, and hair loss.

Resources:

  • Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hair-loss/basics/definition/con-20027666
  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/zinc/background/hrb-20060638
  • You & Your Hormones: http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Cortisol.aspx
  • Today’s Dietician: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/111609p38.shtml
  • WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/hair-loss-causes-women

Getting to Know Your Thyroid

Written by: Sarah Vadeboncoeur & Anita Kushwaha

What is your thyroid?

Your thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland situated at the base of the front of your neck, just below your Adam’s apple.

thyroidgland

What does your thyroid do?

The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods you eat to make two main hormones:

  • Triiodothyronine (T3)
  • Thyroxine (T4)

These hormones produced by the thyroid gland — T3 and T4 — have a great impact on your health, affecting all aspects of your metabolism.

The thyroid’s hormones regulate vital body functions. For instance, they maintain the rate at which your body uses fats and carbohydrates, help control your body temperature, influence your heart rate, and help regulate the production of proteins.

If your thyroid isn’t functioning optimally, it may affect:

  • Heart rate
  • Nervous system
  • Body weight and metabolism
  • Muscle strength
  • Menstrual cycles
  • Body temperature
  • Cholesterol levels

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism (i.e. underactive thyroid) is a condition in which your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the above mentioned hormones. When this occurs, bodily functions slow down.

Hypothyroidism may either be genetic or develop in the course of life. There can be many different causes for an underactive thyroid. For example, one reason might be a lack of iodine. Getting enough iodine through your diet is therefore important for normal thyroid function. Similarly, a condition called Hashimoto’s thyroiditis –  an auto-immune condition that causes chronic inflammation of the thyroid – can also lead to underactivity.

What are the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue, tiredness
  • Slowed heart rate and metabolism
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle weakness, aches, tenderness and stiffness
  • Constipation, digestive upset
  • Elevated blood cholesterol level
  • Heavy or irregular menstruation
  • Cold sensitivity
  • Hair loss or dry/brittle hair
  • Dry skin
  • Joint pain, stiffness or swelling
  • Depression
  • Impaired memory and concentration
  • Loss of sexual desire

Concerned about your thyroid function? Contact Dr. Sarah to inquire about getting your thyroid levels tested.

 References:

  1. Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hypothyroidism/home/ovc-20155291
  2. PubMed Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072572/
  3. EndocrineWeb: https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/hypothyroidism-too-little-thyroid-hormone

Bio-identical hormones & Natural Dessicated Thyroid (NDT)

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  • Hot flashes
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Cold intolerance
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss

I am pleased the announce that I now offer my patients both bio-identical hormones and natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) treatments for hormone balancing.

Bio-identical hormones

Bio-identical hormones (estrogen and progesterone) are extracted from a plant source (yams) whereas traditional hormone replacement therapies (HRT) are made with synthetic compounds (such as horse urine!). The advantage of using bio-identical hormones is that they are exactly the same as the hormones your body naturally makes therefore improving clinical results and minimizing risks and side-effects.

Bio-identical hormones can be used to treat the symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, insomnia, anxiety etc), infertility, and hormonal imbalances in younger women.

Natural Desiccated Thyroid (NDT)

Natural desiccated thyroid (NDT) is a safe and effective alternative to pharmaceutical thyroid medications such as Synthroid and levothyroxine. It can be helpful for patients who continue to have symptoms of thyroid imbalance while taking medications or patients with milder thyroid imbalances that don’t require medication.

To learn if these therapies are right for you,
please schedule a consultation with Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur ND.

5 Foods to Supercharge your Memory

nutrition

  1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: include oily fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel or anchovies 2-3 times per week to boost your omega-3 intake.
  2. Blueberries: these little super-charged berries are full of antioxidants that help boost memory and brain function. Have them in your morning smoothie, on top of plain yogurt or as a snack with raw nuts.
  3. Green Tea: a great alternative to coffee especially if you need a mid-afternoon pick me up. Don’t like the taste of green tea? Add another tea bag such as mint or a fruit herbal tea to change the taste or try adding 1 tsp of matcha (green tea powder) to your morning smoothie.
  4. Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in red wine. Limit your intake to 1 glass per day.
  5. B vitamins such as vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid as especially important for our memory and brain function. Load up on these foods rich in B vitamins:
B6: Tuna, beef, chicken ,turkey, venison, cod, sunflower seeds, halibut, bell peppers, summer squash, turnip greens, shiitake mushrooms, and spinach
B12: sardines, salmon, venison, shrimp, halibut, scallops, nutritional yeast
Folic acid: lentils, beans, asparagus, spinach

My Top 10 Weight Loss Tips

  1. Stay hydrated: fill up on water to control your appetite and reduce cravings.

  2. Eat a protein-rich (20+ grams) breakfast within 1 hour of waking up.

  3. Eat every 3-4 hours to help keep blood sugar levels steady and prevent cravings and overeating.

  4. Include some protein and fat with every meal.???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  5. Cover at least half your plate with vegetables.

  6. Get at least 7 hours of good quality sleep every night.

  7. Track everything you eat and drink to stay accountable.

  8. Practice relaxation on a daily basis.

  9. Eat the healthiest diet that you can maintain forever & enjoy!

  10. Stop aiming for perfection: aim to eat healthy 80-90% of the time.

5 Factors That Increase Your Risk for Thyroid Problems

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1. Being Female: I know, I know…we have it so much harder than men! But the reality is that the complexity of our hormones increases the risk of developing thyroid problems.

2. Being 40 +: aging isn’t for the faint of heart! The older we get, the more at-risk we are for thyroid problems.

3. Family History of Thyroid Disease: another trait you can thank mom and dad for :)

4. Past use of the Birth Control Pill: the birth control pill contains synthetic estrogen which can negatively affect your thyroid.

5. History of low-calorie dieting: eating too few calories can slow down your metabolism and stress your thyroid.

Want to learn how to prevent thyroid problems and
help your thyroid work optimally?

Join me on May 12th for my Thyroid Bootcamp Workhop

How-To: Drink More Water

I hear all kinds of reasons why people don’t drink enough water….from not wanting to spend their day running to the washroom to not liking the taste. We all know there are countless benefits to drinking more water so here are my TOP TIPS for How-To Drink More Water:

  1. First thing in the morning (yes that means before you have coffee) have a large glass of water. If you’re feeling fancy, add some fresh lemon for an added boost for your liver and digestive system.
  2. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. I never leave home without my Life Factor glass bottle and therefore I never go thirsty.
  3. If water isn’t your thing, dress it up with fresh or frozen fruit, fresh herbs (I love lemon and mint together) or have herbal tea instead.
  4. If you’re forgetful, set a timer that goes off every hour and have a full glass of water when the timer rings.

What are your top tips for drinking more water?

The Super Secret Weapon to Surviving Menopause? Your adrenal glands!

Women are all too familiar with the symptoms that signal the impending doom of menopause- hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue and mood changes! These symptoms occur because the ovaries start producing less estrogen as they prepare for retirement. Rapidly declining estrogen levels can cause intense and severe symptoms that can really affect a woman’s quality of life. But menopause need not be a dreaded time in a woman’s life- for our bodies have a secret weapon that can help make the transition through menopause much smoother….our ADRENAL GLANDS!

What are Adrenal Glands?
The adrenals are two small glands that sit above the kidney (hence their name!). These glands are well known for making stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, but what most of us don’t know is that our adrenal glands also produce sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone!

Why are they important?
During the menopausal years, as our ovaries start producing less female hormones, our adrenals are called into action to be our main producers of these hormones. The problem is that most of us enter menopause with adrenal glands that are already tired and overworked due to years of living in our stress-filled modern world. When the adrenal glands are already exhausted when a woman enters menopause, they have a harder time producing these much needed female hormones.

It is therefore imperative that all women support their adrenal glands during the menopausal years (and ideally before!) so that they can produce estrogen and progesterone which will help to make the transition much smoother.

Here are my top 5 tips for supporting your adrenal glands:

1. Make sleep a priority

Our adrenal glands need a good night’s sleep in order to regenerate and recover from daily stresses. Aim to get 8-10 hours of quality sleep each night and be in bed no later than 11 pm.

2. Increase your intake of foods rich in magnesium and vitamins B5 and C.

Magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B5 are most concentrated in the adrenal glands where they provide the nutrient needed for healthy adrenal function.  Increase foods that are rich in these nutrients.

Magnesium: pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds

Vitamin C: Papaya, Bell Peppers, Strawberries, Broccoli, Pineapple, Brussel Sprouts, Kiwifruit, Oranges, Cantaloupe, Kale

Vitamin B5: Cremini and shiitake mushrooms, avocado, yogurt, corn sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, grapefruit, bell peppers, and asparagus.

3. Indulge in a cup of licorice tea

Licorice is one of my favorite herbs for supporting the adrenal glands. It helps to nourish and relax the body…and it’s caffeine-free so you can have it anytime! Caution: do not use if you have high blood pressure.

4. Relax….you deserve it!

Our adrenal glands get fired up every time we perceive stress. Did you know that on average, we experience 50 brief stress response episodes per day? This means that for many of us, our adrenal glands are constantly being drawn on to help us adapt and resist life’s daily stresses. Counteract these effects by making relaxation a priority every day…whether it’s a yoga class, a hot bath, or 5 minutes of deep breathing.

5. Limit your caffeine intake

Caffeine not only gives your mind a jolt – but your adrenals too. Limit this daily assault by eliminating caffeine if possible or limiting your intake of caffeinated beverages to no more than 2 per day. In fact, caffeine itself can trigger hot flashes.

I hope you find these tips helpful and they can make your menopausal years more enjoyable. If you are interested in receiving additional support for your menopausal symptoms, book your free consultation to learn how I can help create a personalized plan for you including salivary hormone testing, nutrition guidelines, herbal support, and acupuncture.

 

 

Nutrient Profile: Zinc

36% of men and 40% of women are zinc deficient

What is zinc?

  • It’s the 2nd most abundant essential trace element in the body
  • It’s involved in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, reproduction, behaviour and learning, and thyroid function
  • It’s essential for the production of stomach acid (HCL)
  • It’s required for a proper sense of taste and smell

What are the signs of zinc deficiency?

  • Learning and behaviour issues (hyperactivity, ADHD)
  • Mental health issues (depression, anxiety, mood swings, fatigue)
  • Hormonal imbalances: PMS, decreased thyroid function, low insulin levels
  • Skin concerns (acne, eczema, psoriasis), poor wound healing, white spots under fingernails
  • Low immune system
  • Low sperm count

 How do I know if I have low zinc?

Your Naturopathic Doctor can run 2 simple tests to assess your zinc levels:

  1. Oral Zinc Tally Test
  2. Serum zinc (blood test)

What foods are high in zinc?

  • Oysters
  • Venison
  • Beef
  • Spelt
  • Scallops
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds

 

Natural Medicine for Public Servants

Are you a public servant?

Did you know that your health insurance plan covers Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Doctors are experts in natural and complementary medicine. We offer natural solutions to common health concerns such as fatigue, insomnia, hypothyroid, digestive issues like IBS, and many more!  By using safe and effective natural therapies such as nutrition, nutritional supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbal medicines), acupuncture, and lifestyle counselling, Naturopathic Doctors help you feel better and optimize your health.  

To learn more about how Naturopathic Medicine can help you
book your FREE 15-minute  Meet & Greet consultation with Dr. Sarah Vadeboncoeur