Menopause: Why is My Hair Changing?

Article published at: Agora London Mar 22, 2024
Menopause: Why is My Hair Changing?
All Stages of Menopause

Have you noticed any changes in your hair thickness or hair loss since starting your menopause? 

Understanding female pattern hair loss (FPHL), also known as androgenetic alopecia, is essential as it is a common condition that affects many women during menopause and is the primary cause of hair thinning among women.

Understanding Female Pattern Hair Loss during Menopause.

While we have a good grasp of how hormones and genetics contribute to male pattern hair loss, we still have much to learn about how they affect FPHL. This lack of understanding is compounded by the fact that mainstream media largely ignores the issue. It's worth noting that many women with FPHL sometimes don't show typical signs of hormonal imbalances.

Female pattern hair loss (FPHL), is a type of hair loss that doesn't cause scarring and usually starts with gradual thinning of hair at the top of the scalp, while the hairline at the front remains unaffected. This condition can start any time after puberty but is most common around menopause. The impact extends beyond physical appearance, causing significant emotional distress. Individuals affected often experience symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and diminished self-esteem. In some cases, the psychological toll may lead to obsessive behaviours as individuals try to cope with the changes in their appearance. Losing 70-100 hairs per day is normal, but it becomes concerning  when hair loss exceeds this range, surpassing 100 hairs daily for several weeks. Between 20% and 60% of women before reaching the age of 60 suffer from this condition. 

The Importance of Nutritional Support for Hair Health.

Menopause often triggers hair loss in women due to hormonal changes. Nutrition plays a vital role during this period, as the components of our diet serve as precursors for hormone production and directly influence hair health and growth.

During perimenopause, women experience a decrease in oestrogen levels and a natural increase in androgens, potentially leading to androgenic hair loss. Skin and hair issues during this period can stem from illnesses related to excessive androgen production by the adrenal glands or ovaries. Factors, whether internal or external, that elevate androgen levels can contribute to hair loss. Let's explore what types of nutrients can help combat this issue.

Protein: Essential for Strong Hair.

Proteins, particularly those containing sulphur amino acids like cysteine and methionine, are crucial for synthesising keratin, the main protein in hair. They should constitute 10-15% of the daily energy intake (0.9 g/kg of body weight per day), ideally consumed during breakfast, lunch, and as smaller portions for snacks and dinner. Good sources of these amino acids include cottage cheese, yoghurt, fish, meat (beef, veal), poultry (chicken, turkey), legumes (soybeans, lentils, beans, peas), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), nuts (pistachios, peanuts), and whole grain products (buckwheat, barley, brown rice, wholemeal bread). Eggs are also recommended, with a suggested intake of 2-3 per week. A deficiency in these amino acids can lead to weakened, brittle hair and hair loss.

Also when there's a lack of lysine in your diet, it can result in brittle, thin, and limp hair. This amino acid plays a crucial role in the absorption of zinc and iron, which are essential nutrients for healthy hair growth and strength. Amino acids like lysine are the building blocks of protein. High-lysine foods include poultry, fish, shrimp, shellfish, pork, beef, soy, nuts, seeds, eggs, beans, and lentils

Essential Fatty Acids in Hair Health.

Both omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (like EPA and DHA) found in fish, flax seeds, walnuts, and wheat sprouts, as well as omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids from plant oils, play vital roles in maintaining the health of hair.

Carbohydrates and Their Impact on Hair Growth.

Carbohydrates play a role in hair health. Research indicates that consuming highly processed foods rich in sugars indirectly contributes to excessive hair loss. Therefore, women's diets should prioritise complex carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index and load, containing fibre to regulate the body's carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Carbohydrates should make up 50-70% of the daily energy intake, with no more than 10% coming from sucrose. Optimal sources include whole grain breads, cereals, rice, whole wheat pasta, vegetables, and fruits with a low glycaemic load.

Vital Vitamins.

Vitamins also play a significant role in hair health, particularly vitamin A, C and B-group vitamins. Inadequate intake of vitamin C can affect the formation of the hair shaft. Foods rich in vitamin C include various vegetables (such as parsley, kale, peppers, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach) and fruits (like black currants, strawberries, kiwi, citrus fruits, and wild strawberries). However, when exposure to sunlight and UV rays is limited, it becomes crucial for women to obtain this vitamin from their diet.

For vitamin D3, the primary sources in a woman's diet should be fatty fish (such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines), tuna liver oil, and other foods like meat, poultry, eggs, and full-fat dairy, albeit in smaller amounts. Additionally, consuming mushrooms and yeast can provide the body with vitamin D2.

Folate is the natural form of vitamin B9, water-soluble and naturally found in many foods. Women can obtain folate from foods such as kale, Brussels sprouts, green peas, dry peas, white beans, asparagus, beets, kohlrabi (German turnip) , halibut, and cod, with smaller amounts found in eggs and poultry liver. Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, prevents premature greying of hair and restores its natural colour. Additionally, it supports proper hair growth by aiding in cell division in hair follicles, providing moisture, possessing anti-inflammatory properties, protecting the hair, regulating sebum gland function, and promoting melanin production.

Minerals: Key Players.

Minerals play a vital role in influencing hair growth, including zinc (Zn), iron (Fe), copper (Cu), selenium (Se), silicon (Si), magnesium (Mg), and calcium (Ca).

Iron is best sourced from animal products containing heme iron, such as beef, pork, poultry, liver, and fish. Food has two types of iron, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is the form of iron that is most readily absorbed by your body. However, valuable plant-based options include soy, white beans, pistachio nuts, parsley leaves, dried apricots, and figs.

Copper is essential for the strength of keratin fibres. Oysters and other shellfish , whole grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, and organ meats (kidneys, liver) as well as dark leafy greens and dried fruits are good sources of copper. 

Magnesium can be obtained from foods like cocoa, cereals, whole grain breads, nuts, and legumes.

Calcium levels in hair are notably higher than those found in blood serum and red blood cells, surpassing them by 200 times. Research suggests a significant decline in hair calcium levels in women starting around the age of 49.

Managing Calcium Intake for Optimal Hair Health

Experts recommend a daily intake of 520 mg of calcium for adults in Western environments following a Western diet. During the postmenopausal period, there's an additional urinary calcium loss of 30 mg per day. Given that calcium absorption decreases with age, an extra intake of 260 mg per day is required to counterbalance this loss, raising the recommended daily intake from 1000 mg to 1300 mg for older adults. Excellent sources of calcium include milk and dairy products, green leafy vegetables, beans and lentils, almonds, seeds (such as poppy, sesame, and chia), as well as sardines and salmon.

In conclusion, menopause can present various challenges to women's hair health, including the onset of female pattern hair loss and changes in hormone levels. However, by understanding the factors contributing to hair loss during this period and implementing appropriate dietary and lifestyle changes, women can effectively manage these challenges. Ensuring adequate intake of essential nutrients like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals can play a crucial role in supporting healthy hair growth and minimising hair loss. Additionally, maintaining a balanced diet, managing stress levels, and seeking professional guidance when needed can further contribute to maintaining optimal hair health during menopause. By adopting a holistic approach, women can navigate through menopause with confidence and preserve the health and vitality of their hair.



Sources:

Hair loss is an important symptom of the menopause: Amr Salam, dermatology registrar,  Christos Tziotzios, dermatology registrar,  David A Fenton, consultant dermatologist

Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause : Zuzanna Sabina Goluch-Koniuszy

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