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Natural Treatments May Help Hair Loss Related to Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Oct 25, 2012 at 9:45am MST by Dr. Heather DeLuca ND

Did you know that hair loss in women is common? In North America, women make up 40 percent of the population that endures hair loss. 1 If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), you're even more likely to join this group of women: 40 to 70 percent of women with PCOS experience hair loss. 2

Hormonal Imbalance is at the Root of PCOS Hair Loss

Androgens or male hormones affect the whole process of hair growth and loss. Androgenic alopecia is the medical term for the type of hair loss that women with polycystic ovarian syndrome encounter. In androgenic alopecia, testosterone becomes converted to the more powerful androgen: DHT. DHT builds up within the hair follicle, clogging and shrinking the hair follicles so that new hair cannot grow, or if it does--it can't survive. 1

If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome, you probably realize that you have hormonal imbalances, that you have higher levels of androgens in your system. You may have also heard about insulin resistance, a common condition in women with PCOS. Insulin resistance leads to high levels of insulin (which can cause unstable and/or low blood sugar in early stages, high blood sugar after progression to later stages). This increases androgen production and weight gain. Added belly fat further worsens insulin resistance and androgen production. This vicious cycle can lead to PCOS hair loss.

The Role of Diet in Hair Loss

Whether a woman has polycystic ovariansSyndrome or not, diet plays a large role in hair loss. Common causes of hair loss in women include deficiencies of biotin, iron, manganese, vitamin B6, and zinc. 1 A lack of healthy fatty acids or protein can also trigger hair loss. 1 Women with PCOS often have trouble maintaining weight loss and fad dieting or yo-yo dieting can also result in PCOS hair loss. 1 If you are on a low-calorie diet, you may need added supplements. If you are vegetarian, you may not be getting your zinc requirement. 2

Women with PCOS must make long-lasting lifestyle changes rather than attempting diets that aren't sustainable. There is no substitute for diet and exercise changes in terms of helping reduce symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome and preventing PCOS hair loss.

Dietary Guidelines to Prevent PCOS Hair Loss

Eating well is a natural treatment for polycystic ovarian syndrome. You can decrease insulin resistance and lose weight, thereby reducing androgen excess and reducing PCOS symptoms like hair loss.

  • Don't give up carbs altogether. It isn't healthy or realistic to eliminate all carbs from your diet. A diet too heavy in fatty meat can create more problems than it solves and for the long term, you must learn how to satisfy your carbohydrate cravings in healthier ways. All plant foods are carbohydrates so you have more than 8,000 choices. Just avoid processed and refined carbs like white bread, white rice, crackers, most pastas and chips: these instantly spike your blood sugar levels. Go for whole grain foods and vegetables in their natural form.
  • Choose nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables for snacking. A small portion of low-fat dairy can bust most cravings.
  • Avoid alcohol and sweets.
  • Eat more fish and less red meat.

Supplements that Can Help You Lose Weight and Reduce PCOS Hair Loss

Other natural treatments for PCOS hair loss and PCOS weight loss include supplements. Always check with your doctor to determine the safety of supplements for you, especially concerning how they may interact with other medications you may be taking.

  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can help reduce insulin resistance.
  • Saw palmetto helps inhibit the action of testosterone.
  • Indoplex can help balance estrogen levels.
  • Spearmint tea can reduce testosterone levels and balance ovulatory hormones.

Citations

1. Nancy Dunne, ND, "Natural Solutions for PCOS and Hair Loss," Naturopathic Medical Care, Missoula, September 13, 2010, http://www.drnandunne.com/?p=1053

2. Walter Futterweit, MD, "A Patientís Guide: Management of Hair Loss in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome," Obgyn.net, October 11, 2011, Retrieved July 21, 2012, http://hcp.obgyn.net/infertility/content/article/1760982/1968476

Author

Dr. Heather DeLuca» Dr. Heather DeLuca
I am passionate about Naturopathic Medicine. A healthy life begins with caring for your body and is something everyone deserves.