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What Causes Hair Loss + How to Stop It

Dr. Jolene BrightenPublished: Last Reviewed: Sex Hormones Leave a Comment

Are you waking up with a pillow covered in hair? Is your bathroom trash filled with hair? Do showers make you anxious? Does the hair brush fill you with fear?

When hair loss strikes, it is definitely a symptom that raises concern. And understandably. After all, it is the hair on your head.

If you're experiencing hair loss, whether it has just begun or has been going on for awhile, do not delay treatment. It is my philosophy that hair loss is a sign of a deeper imbalance and left unchecked, you may develop other symptoms or never see the return of your beautiful hair.

Let's talk through what the potential cause of your hair loss could be, what lab testing should be considered and different approaches to stopping hair loss and restoring growth.

What is the pattern of hair loss?

  • Patchy? You may have a cortisol imbalance, a deficiency in B vitamins or zinc or heavy metal exposure.
  • Thinning? You may have a hormonal imbalance, such as thyroid.
  • Top of the head only? Testosterone, progesterone, cortisol or estrogen may be out of balance.
  • Total body hair loss? DHEA, blood sugar regulation or circulation may be at play.
  • Balding all over? You may be experiencing poor circulation or a deficiency in protein, essential fatty acids, B vitamins, silicon or zinc.

What labs are helpful & what do they tell us?

CBC & Ferritin

Both screen for iron deficiency. When iron dips low, hair loss can occur. If your ferritin is <50, inadequate iron may be the cause of your hair loss.

Read more about iron deficiency anemia and hormones.

TSH, free T3, free T4, anti-TPO, anti-thyroglobulin, RT3

These are all part of a complete thyroid work-up. Your thyroid may be to blame for your hair loss.


Both are makers for autoimmunity. There are many autoimmune conditions that will reveal themselves with hair loss.


Check for inflammation, which is a sign that you may be at risk of developing other symptoms or disease.

Testosterone, free testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT)

Most commonly associated in male pattern baldness, testosterone can also be the cause of a woman's hair loss. Elevated testosterone may be due to hormonal imbalance or a condition known as PCOS.

FSH, LH, Estrogen, Progesterone

Imbalances in these hormones will cause hair loss, along with PMS, irregular or heavy periods.

Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG)

This protein grabs onto excess hormones. If it is low and your free testosterone is high, your hair loss treatment should include both increasing SHBG and lowering testosterone by balancing all hormones.

Cortisol, DHEA-S, 17-hydroxyprogesterone

Think of cortisol as an aging hormone. If these hormones are out of balance you will visibly age quicker, which includes hair loss.


Elevated prolactin will result in higher testosterone and other androgens.


This is a good baseline test to check liver and kidney function, as well as the balance of your electrolytes.

Fasting Insulin, Fasting blood glucose, Hemoglobin A1C

These are screening labs for diabetes. Improper blood sugar regulation can create imbalances in your hormones and impeded circulation to your scalp.

Heavy metal testing

Are you an artist, welder, have a lot of silver fillings, eat a lot of rice or non-organic foods? You may heavy metals which are driving hair loss.

Remember, you are more than just your labs! If your doctor has told you all of your labs are normal, but your hair loss persists, I recommend seeking a second opinion.

How to stop hair loss & regrow your hair:


If you are found to have low ferritin (<50) or have iron deficiency anemia, you may require more iron in your diet or from supplements. Iron in excess will cause you health problems! Do not begin supplementation without having your levels checked and speaking with your medical professional. Ferritin levels generally need to reach 70 before hair growth begins.

B Complex

B vitamins are involved in a ton of metabolic pathways in our body. If you're are feeling stressed it may be a good idea supplement with a quality B complex that contains methylcobalamin (B12) and methyltetrahydrofolate (folate). Do not take supplements with folic acid…that's a blog for another day.

Adaptogenic herbs

These are herbs that help regulate your cortisol (stress hormone) and will help you begin to balance your hormones overall. My favorites are Rhodiola, Ashwagandha and Licorice. Caution with licorice– if you have high blood pressure this is NOT the herb for you.

Check out my Optimal Adrenal Kit if adrenal health is your issue.


Increase your circulation overall, reduce stress and create balanced blood sugar all at once. The type of exercise that is best varies from person to person. If you are stressed you may do better from more yoga and pilates. If you have blood sugar or hormonal imbalances, you may need more strength training. Just step away from the “chronic cardio.” Prolonged cardio can create more hormonal imbalances and exhaust your adrenals.

Apple Cider Vinegar

1-2 teaspoons before meals will help raise your stomach acid, which will allow you to absorb more vitamins and minerals.

Pumpkin Seeds

A great source of zinc and they help prevent testosterone from converting to DHT, which is the form of testosterone that is responsible for male pattern baldness.

Saw Palmetto

This herb also helps prevent the conversion of testosterone to DHT.  We've coupled saw palmetto, along with nettle root, zinc, vitamin B6 and vitamin D to support healthy testosterone levels and support hair growth in my Saw Palmetto Plus formula.

Essential Fatty Acid

Eating salmon or sardines at least once per week is one way to increase your omega-3s. Chia seeds and walnuts are also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Fresh Ground Flax Seed

I recommend 2 tablespoons daily. Yes, it must be fresh ground. The pre-ground flax seed is often rancid before it even hits the grocery store shelf. Ground flax seed increases SHBG, which binds excess hormones.

Don't Delay Treatment

I know how devastating hair loss can feel, which is why I do not delay searching for the underlying cause and treating. If you believe you have a hormonal imbalance, please do not begin treating it yourself without having a thorough understanding of the root cause. If you begin supplementing with exogenous hormones you could make your hair loss worse.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is a women’s hormone expert and prominent leader in women’s medicine. As a licensed naturopathic physician who is board certified in naturopathic endocrinology, she takes an integrative approach in her clinical practice. A fierce patient advocate and completely dedicated to uncovering the root cause of hormonal imbalances, Dr. Brighten empowers women worldwide to take control of their health and their hormones. She is the best selling author of Beyond the Pill and Healing Your Body Naturally After Childbirth. Dr. Brighten is an international speaker, clinical educator, medical advisor within the tech community, and considered a leading authority on women’s health. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and a faculty member for the American Academy of Anti Aging Medicine. Her work has been featured in the New York Post, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, Bustle, The Guardian, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and ABC News. Read more about me here.