There are many conditions that can trigger hair loss, and some of them are more common than others. The most common causes of hair loss include Androgenetic Alopecia (AGA) and telogen effluvium. But what if your hair loss is actually caused by a hormone imbalance?
Adrenal fatigue is a relatively rare condition that’s hotly debated in the medical community. While many doctors are unsure of its cause, or even its existence, there are many people who experience the very real symptoms of the condition. One such symptom is hair loss.
In this article, we’ll delve into the causes of adrenal gland disorders. We’ll then look at the symptoms, including hair loss. Finally, we’ll discuss ways you can combat adrenal fatigue hair loss and reverse the effects of thinning and shedding hair.
An Introduction to the Adrenal Glands
The endocrine system is a network of glands that release hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones control mood, growth, metabolism, reproduction, and so much more.
This system is made up of various glands throughout the body, including:
- pineal body
- the ovaries
- the testes
The adrenal glands are located just above the kidneys. They have an outer cortex which is responsible for hormone production, and an inner medulla which is responsible for producing neurotransmitters like noradrenaline and adrenaline (1).
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
As mentioned, the adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones, including adrenaline, cortisol, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).
Adrenal fatigue occurs when the glands are unable to produce the right level of hormones.
As the hormones produced by the adrenal glands play various roles in the body, the symptoms of adrenal fatigue can be varied and numerous. The more common symptoms include (2):
- Body aches
- Low blood pressure
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of body hair
The cause of adrenal fatigue is still debated in the medical community. One theory is that adrenal fatigue is a milder form of adrenal insufficiency and that it’s caused by chronic stress.
How Does Adrenal Fatigue Cause Hair Loss?
One of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue is loss of body hair. Why is this the case?
The adrenal glands are responsible for the release of various androgen hormones into the body. These include DHEA and testosterone.
When adrenal fatigue occurs, the glands aren’t able to produce enough of these androgen hormones to keep up with the body’s natural processes. This includes hair growth.
The decreased levels of DHEA and testosterone can be particularly devastating in men, though the effects may be present in women, too.
As DHEA and testosterone are available in lower quantities, they will be diverted to more important bodily functions. This means that hair growth will often slow, and hair loss can even occur.
How can you distinguish between pattern hair loss and hair loss caused by adrenal fatigue?
Pattern hair loss, as the name suggests, has a distinct pattern.
In men, thinning and hair loss will be most noticeable at the temples and hairline. The hairline will begin to form an M-shaped pattern that deepens as the condition progresses.
In women, the thinning and hair loss will be most noticeable at the crown.
Hair loss that’s caused by adrenal fatigue will occur throughout the scalp, also known as diffuse. You may first notice an increase in general shedding, and this will progress until you notice thinner hair throughout the scalp.
How is Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosed?
Adrenal fatigue is not an official medical diagnosis. Your doctor may be unfamiliar with the condition, or not believe it to be real. So how can you get adrenal fatigue diagnosed?
If you’re suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to speak with your doctor about your concerns. They will likely perform a physical exam, as well as take blood samples.
If your hormone levels are low, this may be a sign of adrenal fatigue. It can also indicate other underlying medical conditions, however, which is why it’s important to work closely with your doctor for a diagnosis.
How to Treat Hair Loss Caused by Adrenal Fatigue
If you suspect adrenal fatigue hair loss, you may be wondering how to combat it. Take a look at the tips and tricks below to get started.
Treat the Underlying Condition
The symptoms of adrenal fatigue, especially hair loss, can be devastating. You may be scrambling to treat the symptoms, but only by treating the underlying conditions can you resolve the problem.
With blood tests, your doctor can determine if you suffer from a deficiency in any of the hormones that play a role in hair growth. This includes the androgen hormones DHEA and testosterone.
The deficiency is likely to be caused by an underlying condition, though.
These conditions include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, pituitary gland dysfunction, obesity, diabetes, etc. A hormonal deficiency can also be caused by certain medications, including chemotherapy.
Your doctor will very likely want to rule these conditions and causes out first.
If you have unexplained hormonal deficiencies, then adrenal fatigue or insufficiency may be to blame. If that’s the case, then you’ll likely be referred to an endocrinologist.
Eat a Balanced Diet
If you suspect you suffer from adrenal fatigue, then you’ve likely come across various dietary recommendations in your research.
There are diet plans, such as the Adrenal Fatigue Diet, which claim to treat adrenal insufficiency and restore proper adrenal function. While these may be true, there is very little in the way of scientific evidence to support them.
So, what can you do?
The best thing for your body, whether suffering from adrenal fatigue or not, is a balanced diet.
A balanced diet is one that includes lean meats, leafy greens, fruits, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and healthy fats.
When eating a mixture of these foods, your body will receive the nutrients and minerals it needs to thrive. If you have underlying conditions, like obesity or diabetes, a balanced diet can also help to manage them.
Reduce Stress Levels
Even if chronic stress isn’t the cause of adrenal fatigue (remember, this is hotly debated in the medical community), reducing stress levels can still have a positive effect on the body.
Chronic stress can be caused by many factors.
The symptoms of chronic stress include (5):
- Muscle tension or pain
- Irritability or anger
- Digestive upset
By decreasing stress, you can naturally lower your body’s cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol have been linked to hair growth disruption, so this step alone can have a significant impact on reversing stress-related hair loss (6).
The easiest way to lower cortisol is to remove obvious stressors from your life. These can be toxic relationships, unhealthy work environments, etc.
If you don’t have any obvious stressors, or if your stress is just caused by the day-to-day grind, then there are techniques you might try.
Deep breathing and meditation, for example, are great ways to ground yourself. They can be practiced just about anywhere. You may also consider yoga or pilates as a way to release physical tension.
Physical exercise is another great way to lower stress levels (7).
If you are unable to get your stress levels under control at home, you should consult with your doctor. It may be that depression or anxiety are the cause.
If you suspect adrenal fatigue is the cause of your hair loss, I’d first recommend you address the issue with your doctor. While adrenal fatigue is not recognized in the medical community at large, your doctor can help to uncover any hormone imbalances.
Once you’ve addressed the hormone imbalances medically, you can then work to reduce the symptoms they’ve caused, including hair shedding and loss.
The most effective way to do this will be to lead a healthier lifestyle, which includes eating a balanced diet and reducing stress levels. This, in conjunction with treating the underlying condition that caused the hormone imbalance, will create a healthy environment for your hair to thrive.