We start by understanding an average hair strand's life cycle:
- We have about 1,50,000 hair follicles on our head and we lose about 80 -100 strands per day (which is normal).
- Each hair grows (Anagen phase) for 3-6 years and then enters into a rest phase (Catatgen phase) before eventually falling out (Telogen phase.) A new hair strand should start to grow soon after the old one has fallen out.
- At any given time, 85% of our hair is in a growth phase whilst 15%is in the resting phase.
The problem with hair loss is that the hair follicle enters the resting phase but doesn’t re-enter a growth phase, leading to hair thinning and baldness.
POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS) AND HAIR LOSS
PCOS can cause hyperandrogens – where body produces too many androgens (male hormones). Androgensare naturally found in all women. They affect the degree and frequency of bleeding during menstrual cycle and can also cause acne and oily skin. However, if hair follicles are sensitive to androgens they can also decrease the growth of hair on the scalp and increase the growth of hair on body. This is especially true if females have excessive amounts of androgens.
Follicle sensitivity is genetically inherited and presents itself from birth. .
Research has shown that 67% of all women who suffer from alopecia or hair loss also have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome that shows a significant link between PCOS and hair loss. There can also be other causes like stress, acute illness like malaria, typhoid, chronic illness like diabetes, thyroid etc.
There are several hormones which comprise what we collectively call androgens: testosterone, androsteinedione, and the very potent form dihydrotestosterone (DHT) all of which are made in men’s bodies in large amounts. They are also present in women’s bodies but normally in quite small amounts.
In those who are genetically susceptible, when testosterone comes in contact with enzymes residing in the hair cell, it can be converted into DHT, the more potent androgen, which then binds with receptors deep within the hair follicle, making them go into their resting phase sooner than they should. This means that with each growth phase of the hair, the hair becomes thinner and thinner.
Over time, an excess build-up of this very potent form of testosterone in the follicle causes it to start shrinking, which then alters the natural resting and growth phases of the hair, resulting in some of the follicles dying off and some becoming incapable of growing or maintaining a healthy level of hair growth.
The good news though, is that the follicle itself will still be alive so it can be reactivated to produce more hair.
The Symptoms Associated with PCOS
· Hair Loss (Androgenic Alopecia)
· Weight Gain, especially around the abdomen
· Increased Facial & Body Hair
· Amenorrhoea (no menstrual periods)
· Oligo menorrhoea (infrequent menstrual periods)
· Lack of Energy
It has been found that the best treatment for hair loss and hirsutism in women with PCOS is diet, exercise and lifestyle factors. Eating proper food, eating lots of green vegetables, and balancing carbohydrates and proteins are the backbone of PCOS nutrition.
Sleep is regulated by two hormones, melatonin and serotonin. When they are disrupted by lack of sleep, your other hormones are also affected. Eating regularly will keep your insulin levels balanced and keep your hormones from being affected by drops and highs.
Phytooestrogens are good for hair loss in PCOS.
Risk of weight gain, high risk of blood pressure fluctuation, acne, blood clots, breast and ovarian cancer.