Hair loss is a big issue in both men and women and emotional stress may be linked to at least one type of hair loss called Telogen Effluvium.
There are approximately 100,000 hair follicles on the adult scalp and each cycle has a growth and rest stage. The majority of hair follicles are in the growth phase (anagen) at any given time. When the hair follicle transitions to telogen, or the resting phase, the hair is shed. During an episode of telogen effluvium, a trigger causes a sudden, abnormal shift of hairs into the telogen phase all at once. There are so many factors that can cause this, but emotional trauma and stress is right up there as the number one trigger.
When I talk about significant emotional stress, think major, negative life events such as the loss of a loved one or divorce. While a single bad day at work shouldn’t meet this threshold, severe and prolonged stress can have a massive impact on the body.
Stress does actually disrupt the normal cycle of the hair follicle and can lead to hair loss. Hair loss associated with telogen effluvium can happen quickly and may not be permanent and should return to its natural density eventually. Sometimes this process can be slow and can take months (but generally less than 6) before the shedding stops, and then months to years for lost hair to grow back at a rate of ~½ inch per month.
There are however some things that may help to support overall hair health. Eating a balanced diet, and in particular, consuming an adequate amount of protein (0.8 grams/kilogram/day), but preferably plant-based proteins. Hair is made up of primarily protein (keratin), so it’s no surprise that sufficient protein is vital to maintain and grow hair.
Also, be sure to avoid very tight hairstyles, excessive heat styling, or chemical-based treatments, as these can contribute to hair loss or cause hair breakage.
Some of the best foods to help hair growth are Chia seeds, because they contain high amounts of phosphorous, which is a building block of protein. Nuts, are also good as they are full of protein and Vitamin E. Lentils, contain the third highest amount of protein and lots or iron which is essential to help the red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Spinach is also great due to its high Vitamin A, C and iron content. Berries are a great addition to anyone’s diet due to their high antioxidant content, but when it comes to hair loss this is essential.
Protein powders such as pea and hemp are also extremely helpful. Pea protein is rich in protein and fibre, and hemp powder contains all 20 amino acids, plus is packed with essential fats and vitamins.
Making sure you are really tending to your emotional health in times of stress is paramount, and practicing coping strategies, such as meditation, EFT (Emotional freedom technique) and having treatments such as Reiki, reflexology and acupuncture may be just what you need to keep your body in harmony.
If your hair loss is chronic, patchy, or associated with redness, itching or pain a visit to a dermatologist is advisable.