Outward appearance might not tell the whole picture of a person’s health, but it can offer some critical insights. In particular, your hair can provide you with noteworthy information concerning your overall health. While you might be concerned with the overall look of your hair—how it’s styled, if it’s frayed, some graying hairs, and more—you might be overlooking clues that could tell you more about yourself, and what is to come. Changes in your hair—texture, thickness, appearance—can inform you of an underlying medical issue before you learn about it otherwise. Consider taking a closer look at your hair to see if you notice any of these probable health characteristics.
Going Gray from Stress or Genetics
Found several gray hairs popping up across your scalp? Are you a man who’s begun to notice gray hairs poking out through your beard? Some scientists believe that chronic stress can lead to graying hair. Furthermore, high levels of stress can even lead to periodic hair loss. Researchers believe that a form of stress known as oxidative stress—when free radicals affect the body’s immune system—is another cause for hair to gray. In other cases, familial genetics can be another cause. Graying happens as we age, but the age at which we begin aging depends mostly on when your parents first started going gray.
Hair Loss Caused by Protein Insufficiency
We often think of it only being useful to put on muscle mass, but protein is essential for maintaining the health of your hair. If you haven’t been eating enough protein, or if your body has a difficult time digesting it, you might be at risk of protein insufficiency, which can lead to both weight loss and thinning hair. Recommendations state that non-active people should aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (.36 grams per pound of body weight). If you’re unsure of healthy sources, stay away from red meats and heavily processed foods instead of relying on wild seafood, beans, grains, and chicken.
Thinning Hair and Thyroid Disease
A thyroid issue can be challenging to determine, as many associated symptoms come with it, from consistent fatigue to weight fluctuation. Still, consistent thyroid issues can lead to hair thinning and loss. The thyroid, the little gland within your neck that controls your body’s metabolism and hormone output, is often to be disrupted by hormone imbalances, leading to thyroid disease. People affected by thyroid disease might feel a great deal of concern, but there is a benefit in knowing that it can be easily identified and treated nowadays.
A simple blood test can tell your physician the current state of your thyroid and whether it needs treatment. Whether your thyroid needs to be removed or can be treated with medication is to be determined by your physician, but your hair loss issues can be treated when adequately identified. Even if your thyroid isn’t acting up, a common hormonal imbalance can lead to your hair being negatively affected, so getting blood tests done to understand treatment options is essential.
Patterned Hair Loss Caused by Genetics
Androgenetic alopecia—commonly known as male- and female-pattern hair loss—is a form of patterned balding and thinning that is caused by genetics. In men, hair loss tends to take shape through progressive balding, beginning in the temples and gradually reducing the hairline over time; in women, genetic hair loss often starts at the crown, although balding is infrequent and overall thinning is more common. This is a common affliction among both men and women, with millions of people dealing with genetic hair loss each year. Thankfully, there are trusted treatment options available to people dealing with androgenetic alopecia, which can be used to slow and possibly reverse hair loss.
Brittle Hair and Cushing’s Syndrome
Cushing’s syndrome, a rare condition in which the body produces too much cortisol, often leads to fragile hair. Symptoms of Cushing’s include high blood pressure, weight fluctuations, recurrent acne, fatigue, and more. If you’re concerned about any of these signs, consider reaching out to your doctor to be tested. Thankfully, treatments for Cushing’s syndrome are available, from changing medications that have increased the production of cortisol within your body, to surgical intervention to correct the process of your body’s adrenal glands.
Anemia and Hair Loss
One cause of hair loss, anemia—a deficiency of iron—can lead to progressive hair loss, as the body requires iron to produce hemoglobin. This helps follicles effectively continue hair growth. The unfortunate side of hair loss due to anemia is that you won’t likely be finding large clusters of your hair falling out at random. Instead, the hair loss will be gradual, taking place over time as the anemia continues.
However, the winning side of hair loss under anemia is that it is likely not permanent, in that your body should begin reproducing hair normally again once you start consuming a sufficient amount of iron. Symptoms of anemia, along with hair loss, include the following: dizziness, pale skin, cramping, headaches, and rapid fatigue. If you feel as if you have anemia, you can meet with your doctor to undergo blood tests to determine if that is the case. If you happen to be anemic, supplementing your diet with more iron-rich foods or with a dietary supplement can help remediate the issue over time, taking care of any hair loss issues that come with it.
Weak Hair Caused by Poor Diet
As mentioned above, a poor diet can lead to issues not only throughout your body but also with your hair. If you’ve found that your hair is looking duller than before—lacking shine, looking weak, appearing thinner than before—it might be due to your diet. Diets high in processed foods tend to lead to health issues, whether those are related to cardiovascular health, weight, or skin or hair quality. Remember that food is fuel. You wouldn’t consistently put cheap gasoline in your car, so why would you do the same to your body? To strengthen the quality of your hair and give it that beautiful, natural shine, consider moving toward a diet that is rich in whole foods—fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, white meats, and more unprocessed foods.
With some consideration, you can learn more about your body by taking a closer look at your hair. Consider taking the time to check the state of your hair and determine if anything has changed over time. You might be able to prevent something more serious by finding it early on.