Hair Loss in the post-menopausal woman
Menopause is often termed ‘the getting of wisdom’ – a time when a woman has fulfilled her childbearing years, and begins the journey toward a deeper level of self-discovery and spiritual awareness. Unfortunately this journey is occasionally beset with some decline in health or physical ability despite her degree of mental acuity.
In all primates, a gradual decline in scalp (and body) hair is a recognised part of biological ageing. Because scalp hair is a non-essential skin appendage* in terms of nutrient-metabolic-hormonal priority, the human hair follicle receives increasingly diminished supply as metabolic function and gut absorption capacity decrease.
Dawber & Van Neste (2004) assert that on average women will have 50% less scalp hair in the growing (anagen) phase at age 80 than they had at age 14-15.
- Hormonal Changes: As menopause approaches a woman’s oestrogen may decline by as much as 40-60%, and alters from the previously predominant Oestradiol – produced in the ovaries – to Estrone, a weaker form of oestrogen made in the fatty tissues of the skin. That’s one reason why women gain some weight as they age – ‘stick-thin’ women tend to experience oestrogen deficiency in greater numbers than their more ‘curvaceous’ sisters!
Progesterone – the other significant female hormone – can decline to near zero levels however, and this is frequently one cause for hormonal-metabolic turmoil at this time of life. Progesterone enhances & balances the beneficial actions of oestrogen, and curtails its more toxic effects.
Progesterone also heightens thyroid functioning; conversely Progesterone deficiency ‘mimics’ low thyroid function (Baratosy: 2005).
Conventional medical thinking in past decades was ‘menopause or hysterectomy = oestrogen hormone replacement – HRT’ (Taylor: 2003).
HRT was often prescribed even though the reason for hysterectomy was due to the effects of oestrogen dominance – such as fibroids or excessive bleeding. Worryingly it’s still not uncommon to find women on unopposed oestrogen therapy who had been prescribed one or two decades earlier.
A downward shift in metabolic (thyroid) activity also commonly manifests around this time. In their excellent text ‘Thyroid Power’ – Shames & Shames assert 1:4 menopausal females will exhibit symptoms of an under-functioning thyroid gland.
Because Oestrogen & Testosterone (TT) oppose each other, TT may rise at Oestrogen’s expense – but also as a ‘compensatory’ mechanism to help “drive” an under-functioning thyroid gland. But it’s also quite common for post-menopausal women to reveal TT deficiency with its comparable symptoms: thinning scalp hair, loss of motivation & ‘joy for life’, diminished libido or mood disturbance
- Being female’: Women are the wondrous ‘incubators’ of life that continues our species – but this can come at a cost to her own body during her child-bearing years.
Although childbirth is (overwhelmingly) a time for sublime celebration, pregnancy and multiple pregnancies do exact a toll on a woman’s own nutrient reserves; potentially inducing profound hormonal changes and even activating disease states such as thyroid dysfunction and diabetes.
Adult females are at increased risk of becoming deficient in vital nutrients such as iron, Vitamin D and Iodine. They also have an increased potential to develop autoimmune disorders and other health conditions – some of these known to be associated with nutrient deficiency**.
- Common causes of hair loss in older Women:
- Nutritional deficiency – often due to poor or inadequate diet common to the elderly ‘live-alone’ (the Tea & Toast regime).
- Metabolic disorders such as thyroid gland dysfunction, Insulin Resistance (a pre-diabetic state), Diabetes Melitis in its various forms***.
- Hormonal insufficiency.
- Prescription medication which are known to interfere with scalp hair growth – particularly synthetic hormone ‘replacement’ therapy (HRT).
- Drug interaction of prescribed medication or changes in medication.
- Disturbance of Gut function (termed dysbiosis) – this may result from numerous causes but most commonly from the over-prescribing of Protein Pump Inhibitor (PPI) medication for ‘reflux’. Inhibiting hydrochloric (gastric) acid secretion to the stomach hinders a vital stage of digestion which then has adverse flow-on effects through-out the gastrointestinal tract.
- Mood disturbance or impaired mental state: loneliness leading to depressed mood; slow-onset dementia which is often difficult to recognise until formally assessed. Nutrient and/or hormonal deficiency is a persistent factor in impaired cognition in the elderly.
In post-menopausal women with no obvious health issues, a slow-thinning out of their scalp hair density may be just age related, whereas a noticeably excessive or rapid-onset hair shedding is not.
After so many years ‘know that you know your body best’! If you intuitively feel that a decreasing scalp hair density is not normal for you, take steps to have it properly and thoroughly investigated by an experienced practitioner or qualified hair loss specialist.
Scalp hair loss in adult females of any age is almost always an indicator of internal body disturbance or nutrient-hormonal deficiency.
- Hair follicle, sweat & sebaceous (oil) glands and nails are skin appendages
- Long-term significant deficiency of both Vitamin D and Iodine increase a woman’s potential risk of breast disease. Vitamin D deficiency is related to numerous health disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, prostate cancer in men; breast cancer in women. Please refer to my article: Vitamin D – the re-discovered key to illness prevention.
- Non-insulin dependent and Insulin-dependent Diabetes
Copyright Anthony Pearce 2018