Stop and Reverse Hair Loss in Women Caused by Low Iron Levels vs Underactive Thyroid vs Insulin Resistance and Inflammation

Edited by Donna, Eng, Doug Collins, Inukshuk

Determine the Underlying Cause of Your Hair Loss

See your doctor to determine the physical reason for your hair loss. When a woman experiences hair loss, the cause is usually an underlying medical issue. Once the health issue causing the loss of hair is addressed, the hair often grows back. However, with men, the hair loss is often permanent. That is why it is very important for any female experiencing hair loss to visit with her physician to find out why she is experiencing this distressing symptom and if it can be remedied with hormonal treatments or iron supplementation. These two treatments specifically reverse hair loss in women. Correcting insulin resistance may or may not restore lost hair in women and men.

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Finding numerous strands of hair in your hair brush is the first sign of female hair loss.

Once you visit your physician he will administer blood tests to see if your hair loss is due to any of the following three reasons:

  1. 1
    Low iron levels
    Low levels of iron in the blood cause hair follicles to be malnourished as red blood cells are starved by deficiency.
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  2. 2
    Underactive thyroid
    The thyroid is key to producing the hormones that help all cells in your body renew and repair themselves and if thyroid production is low it can cause hair follicles to shrink and grow less hair.
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  3. 3
    Insulin resistance and inflammation
    If your blood sugar levels become elevated then inflammation occurs everywhere in the body including in the hair follicles on the scalp, causing you to grow less hair.
    A close-up photograph of hair follicles.
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Method 1: Caused by Low Iron Levels

The mineral iron is crucial to growing and maintaining a lush and healthy head of hair. Iron nourishes the red blood cells that carry nutrients to your hair follicles and if you are iron-deficient your hair follicles shrink and produce tinier strands or no strands of hair at all.

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Anemia can be detected with a simple blood test.

Symptoms Accompanying Hair Loss Caused By Low Iron Levels

It is recommended that women consume 18 mg of iron a day, preferably from food sources, in order to stay healthy. Pregnant women require at least 27 milligrams. Normally your body stores iron in the form ferritin. When you are sick or nutritionally deprived of this essential mineral these stores are depleted and you begin to lose your hair and feel unwell.

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Lips with cracked corners can signify anemia.

Aside from the hair loss, symptoms you may experience, in order from mild to severe include:

  • weakness
  • headaches
  • pale skin
  • chronic fatigue
  • insomnia
  • spoon-shaped fingernails
  • inflamed tongue
  • sores at the corners of the mouth
  • shortness of breath
  • severe leg pains

Headaches and fatigue can mean low iron levels.

Causes of Hair Loss Due to Low Iron Levels

If it is confirmed that your hair loss is caused by low iron levels then your doctor may also want to treat you for the most common underlying causes of this condition which include:

  • Overuse of NSAIDS, which causes bleeding in the stomach and intestinal tract
  • Taking Ace inhibitors, which are a type of medication used to treat high blood pressure
  • Acute blood loss, which can occur after major surgery, labor or a massive injury
  • Anorexia or Bulemia, which can cause bleeding in the stomach as well as a lack of iron in the diet
  • Breastfeeding, which can deplete iron levels in the body
  • Chronic blood loss, caused by issues such as gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Dental problems, such a gingivitis that cause chronic bleeding of the gums
  • Type II Diabetics taking medications known as Alpha-glucosidase inhibitors that delay the delivery of glucose into the blood
  • Fungal infections that cause bleeding beneath the skin such as hookworm and ringworm
  • Inflammatory bowel diseases such as celiac disease which cause spontaneous bleeding in the intestines
  • Malignancies of any kind anywhere in the body that often bleed as part of their growth pattern
  • Menstruation, which can cause anemia as the body loses blood on a monthly basis
  • Peptic ulcers, which bleed periodically in the stomach
  • Taking tetracycline antibiotics, prescribed for infections and acne, as they interfere with iron absorption
  • Vegan diets as only meat consumption can supply humans with enough iron to function properly

Treatment for Hair Loss Cause By Low Iron Levels

If your doctor confirms that your hair loss is caused by low iron levels, he or she will usually take a three pronged approach towards correcting them

  1. 1
    Increasing your iron intake through diet
    Steamed Spinach is a great source of iron.
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  2. 2
    Improving iron absorption by eating heme-based (animal) sources of iron
    Steak is a heme-based source of iron.
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  3. 3
    Taking iron supplements but only if necessary [
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Increasing Your Iron Intake Through Diet

The best way to absorb iron is through diet as supplementary iron is not as available to the human body for absorption. It is highly recommended that you take these foods with supplemental Vitamin C or a food source of Vitamin C such as a citrus juice as this enhances the absorption of the mineral Exceptionally rich sources of iron include:

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  • Breakfast cereals fortified with iron (read the labels to make sure you are eating a fortified cereal)
  • Beef
  • Blackstrap molasses (mix it into warm milk to get 3mg of iron
  • Cashews
  • Cherries
  • Chickpeas
  • Kale
  • Kidney beans
  • White beans
  • Lentils of all colors
  • Organ meats such as liver, heart and kidneys
  • Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Baked potatoes
  • Soybeans
  • Spinach (cooked)
  • Tomatoes (stewed)
  • Watermelon
  • Guinness beer (famous for it's high iron content)

Guinness beer is an age old remedy for anemia because it is rich in iron.

Increasing Iron Absorption and Hair Growth Quickly By Eating Heme Iron

Sometimes decreased iron levels are the result of getting the mineral from only plant-based sources. The human body only absorbs up to 12% of the non-heme sources, which are the plant-based foods. If you get your iron from heme sources, which are the animal-base foods then the human body absorbs up to 35% of the iron. The bottom line is that if you want your hair to grow back faster, the most bioavailabe sources are from animal sources.

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Increase your iron levels fast and stop and prevent female hair loss by eating these foods, that are specifically rich in heme:

  1. 1
    Eat beef and chicken livers
    These are two of the riches sources of iron at 25mg per 3 ounce serving.
    Chicken livers are a great source of heme iron
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  2. 2
    Eat lean a lean cut of organic beef as often as possible
    If you eat this daily, you will soon no longer be anemic. Be sure to cut off any fat or strain fat from beef as it is saturated. Beef is not only high in the easily absorbed heme iron, it is also high in the B vitamins that can help encourage hair growth.
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  3. 3
    Eat clams or oysters
    Five oysters contains 3mg of heme iron plus zinc, a mineral that also helps grow hair.
    Oysters are a good source of both iron and zinc. Both minerals encourage healthy hair growth.
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  4. 4
    Eat egg yolks at least three times a week
    Egg yolks contain biotin and omega-3 fatty acids that help lower inflammation in the body.
    Be sure to eat your egg yolks along with your egg whites to get enough biotin.
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  5. 5
    Eat baked chicken
    Chicken is very high in iron and also protein and the B-vitamins needed to nourish hair growth.
    Baked chicken is a good source of iron.
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Avoid Foods That Decrease Iron Absorption

Foods that decrease iron absorption an therefore must be avoid are:

  • Coffee
  • Tea except for green tea
  • Colas both regular an diet
  • Psyllium husk

Avoid drinking coffee because it can prevent iron absorption and slow hair regrowth.

Tips and Tricks

  • Do not take more that 45 milligrams per day of supplemental iron as it can cause nausea and constipation
  • Keep all iron supplements away from small children as just 20 mg can cause death in a small child
  • Taking more than 1000 mg of Vitamin C to help increase your iron absorption may cause diarrhea, but it is recommended to take at least that much to help you absorb iron from food

Method 2: Caused by Underactive Thyroid

The thyroid gland produces the thyroid hormone, which impacts your entire metabolism and all of the organs including your pancreas, liver, kidneys, adrenals, heart and pituitary glands. When your metabolism is slow, also know as hypothyroidism, your body is less able to renew and repair itself.

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An underactive thyroid affects hair growth by:

  • Restricting circulation to hair follicles thus causing them to shrink and become unproductive
  • Causing hormone imbalances with progesterone and testosterone production which in turn causes hair follicles to shrink and the shedding of hair.
  • Affecting the body's ability to fight off fungal and bacterial infections that can affect hair follicles
  • Causing anxiety, mood swings and stress which in turn raises cortisol levels, which then also causes hair loss
  • Provokes insulin resistance, which is an inflammatory immune response that causes hair follicles to shrink and become less productive
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An underactive thyroid makes you more prone from hair loss due to scalp infections such as scalp ringworm.

Symptoms Accompanying Hair Loss Caused By An Underactive Thyroid

For many women with an underactive thyroid, the first symptom that they notice is hair loss. Then more obvious symptoms may occur that might confirm your initial suspicion that you have an underactive thyroid including:

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  • Constipation'
  • Depression
  • Dry skin
  • Feeling cold
  • Fatigue
  • High cholesterol
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Memory problems
  • Mood swings
  • Muscle weakness, aching and tenderness
  • Puffy face, wrists and ankles
  • Swollen joints
  • Weight Gain

Constantly feeling chilled and tired may be a sign of an underactive thyroid.

Causes of Hair Loss Due to Low Thyroid Levels

It is very common for women over the age of 60 to develop hyperthyroidism. Hypothyroidism and it's accompanying hair loss can occur on its own simply as a matter of aging or it can also be provoked by:

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  • Hashihimoto's disease when your immune system produces antibodies that attack your thyroid gland
  • Iodine deficiency, which is rare in the United States but found in some parts of the world where there is no iodized salt
  • Pituitary disorders such as Cushing's Disease or benign pituitary tumors
  • Pregnancy that results in postpartum hypothyroidism, a condition where the mother's antibodies attack her thyroid and cause hair loss
  • Radiation therapy for cancer. The thyroid may be greatly affected by hypothyroidism especially if the cancer treated was in the head or neck
  • Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers tend to develop hypothyroidism
  • Treatment for hyperthyroidism with radioactive iodine. Hyperthyroid conditions, where the thyroid produces too much hormones, may result in a permanent lowering of the thyroid's ability to produce hormones and push the body into a state of hypothyroidism.

Pregnancy can trigger a condition called postpartum hypothyroidism that can cause hair loss in the mother after birth.

There are also hundreds of street drugs, recreations drugs and medications that cause low thyroid levels and consequential hair loss.

Women who smoke are at risk of developing an underactive thyroid and hair loss.

Treatment for An Underactive Thyroid To Minimize Hair Loss

There are usually two approaches to treating an underactive thyroid: medication and lifestyle and diet changes. Medication is recommended for all individuals who suffer from an underactive thyroid. Lifestyle and diet changes can help deal with the weight loss, depression and underproduction of the thyroid hormone as well.

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Treatment of Low Thyroid Production With Medication

  1. 1
    Your doctor will prescribe a blood test for you that checks your THC levels and also your cholesterol levels as high cholesterol signifies hypothyroid issues
    Your doctor will then prescribe synthetic thyroid hormone to reverse the symptoms of hypothyroidism in a dosage that is appropriate for you. If you are seeing a naturopath you may be prescribed desiccated thyroid which is made from the thyroid glands of pigs and considered to be a more natural source of thyroxin.
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  2. 2
    If you experience side effects taking the medication, then you will return to the doctor to have the dosage checked as it may be too high
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  3. 3
    You will avoid supplements that block the absorption of thyroid medication
    This includes iron supplements, antacids and calcium supplements
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  4. 4
    You will avoid foods eating walnuts and soybean flour, both of which can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medication
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  5. 5
    Visit your doctor every three to six months to have your blood thyroid levels checked to make sure that the dosage of thyroid you are on is correct.
    Avoid eating walnuts while on thyroid medications as they can prevent absorption.
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Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations for Women With an Underactive Thyroid

The health of the thyroid gland and therefore the health of your scalp and hair can be very dependent on diet and many of the foods on this list

Foods That Support the Thyroid Gland

Foods that support the optimal performance of a thyroid gland are high in iodine and selenium. Recommended foods for an underactive thyroid that is causing hair loss are:

  • Beef (lean), especially steak
  • Brazil nuts
  • Dairy products
  • Iodized salt
  • Celtic sea salt
  • Clams
  • Crab
  • Garlic
  • Lobster
  • Onions
  • Oysters
  • Salmon
  • Seaweed
  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Tuna
  • Sushi

Sushi contains both seafood and seaweed, both of which are beneficial for the thyroid gland and supporting hair growth.

Foods to Avoid for Hypothyroidism

These foods either aggravate the inflammation of the thyroid gland or they halt the body's ability to absorb iodine:

  • Bamboo shoots
  • Bok Choy
  • Canola oil
  • Cassava
  • Cauliflower
  • Canola oil
  • Coffee
  • Horseradish
  • Kale
  • Mustard Greens
  • Peaches
  • Peanuts
  • Rutabagas
  • Spinach
  • Sweet Potato
  • Tempeh
  • Turnips

Lifestyle Changes That Help With An Underactive Thyroid

There are some general lifestyle changes that you can make to improve the performance of your thyroid and thus help your hair growth:

  • Make a serious effort to lose weight as it can help ward off and reverse the condition of hypothyroidism which in turn helps reverse hair loss
  • Try eating five to six smaller meals a day rather than three big meals as this helps you lose weight and your thyroid is not overwhelmed
  • Cut out all sugars from diet
  • Get regular exercise to help offset the effects of your damaged metabolism

Cutting out sugar supports and underactive thyroid.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you smoke or do recreational drugs no thyroid treatment is going to help you regain your hair and in fact, these hair drugs cause nutritional deficiencies that cause hair loss on their own.
  • Most antidepressants cause weight gain because they affect the thyroid, which in turn causes hair loss
  • If you notice that you have hair loss and thyroid symptoms as described then you really do want to treat the hypothyroidism as fast as possible because if it is left untreated it can lead to goiter, heart problems, depression, nerve damage, infertility and birth defects
  • Thyroid supplements made with pig gland concentrates sold in health food stores are not recommended for self-treatment of a thyroid disorder because the potency and purity of these products are not regulated by the FDA
  • Avoiding foods with gluten may help your thyroid function and avert hair loss

Method 3: Caused by Insulin Resistance and Inflammation

Insulin resistance is a condition where the blood sugar in the body is in a state of chronic elevation which throws all of the hormones in your body out of whack and affects the functioning of the main organs in the endocrine system including the pituitary, thyroid and pancreas. Your pancreas still produces insulin but the body's cells become resistant to its effects so sugar in your body is never processed or used for energy but ends up in the body until it is excreted by the body.

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Insulin resistance causes female pattern balding.

When hair loss is caused by insulin resistance, inflammation occurs everywhere in the body and women experience hair thinning and balding. If your hair is thinning at the crown it is likely caused by insulin resistance and inflammation.

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Hair loss occurs because:

  1. 1
    Insulin resistance causes blood vessels to thin, which in turn causes less blood to reach scalp follicles so they can be nurtured with oxygen and nutrients
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  • 2
    Inflammation swells hair follicles shut and a lowered immune response enables the scalp to become more easily infected with bacteria or viruses
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  • Symptoms Accompanying Hair Loss Caused By High Blood Sugar Levels

    Aside from the symptom of hair loss, sufferers of insulin resistance (high blood sugar levels) may also be experiencing:

    • Bloating
    • High cholesterol
    • Expanded waistline
    • Fatigue
    • Foggy thinking
    • Insomnia
    • Joint pain
    • High blood pressure
    • Mood Swings
    • Nervousness
    • Skin tags
    • Slower healing wounds
    • Swollen painful arms and feet
    • Tingling and Numbness in limbs
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    An apple shaped figure is a predictor of insulin resistance, Type II diabetes and hair thinning.

    Causes of Insulin Resistance

    Insulin Resistance is directly caused by:

    • Alcholism
    • Cirrhossis of the liver caused by alocholism
    • Cushings Disease and pituitary problems
    • Diabetes Type 1 and Type 2
    • Junk food addiction
    • Inactivity and lack of exercise
    • Non alcoholic fatty liver disease where abnormal amounts of fat coagulate in the liver
    • Obesity
    • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
    • Pregnancy
    • Infection or severe illness
    • Heart Disease
    • Recreational drug use
    • Smoking
    • Steroid use
    • Stress
    • Sugar addiction

    Drinking heavily is not recommended for women with insulin resistance as it raises blood sugar levels and encourages hair loss.

    Treatment for Hair Loss Cause By Insulin Resistance

    Take the following steps to combat the insulin resistance and consequential inflammation that might be causing your hair loss.

    1. 1
      Confirm that you are insulin resistant by getting blood tests from your doctor
      Tests use to measure glucose levels and glucose intolerance are the A1C test, the fasting plasma glucose test (FPG) and the oral glucose tesst (OGTT) which requires fasting and drinking a very sweet orange drink to determine how your body handles sugar
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    2. 2
      Obtain and take any medication prescribed by your doctor to lower your blood sugar
      T. If you are in the early stages of insulin resistance, your doctor may not prescribe medication right away to see if you can reverse the issue yourself.
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    3. 3
      If you are peri-menopausal or menopausal ask your doctor if hormonal replacement therapy is right or you
      Prescriptions of progesterone, synthetic thyroid or DHEA may be prescribed to help you lose weight and lower your blood sugar.
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    4. 4
      Ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking are causing inflammation and weight gain
      Many anti-depressants, anti-histamines and NSAIDS cause rebound inflammation and hair loss.
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    5. 5
      Address any health issues that may be causing inflammation in your body
      This is the fastest route to lowering your blood sugar. If you have chronic inflammation because of a health issue then both the condition and the pain killers that you take for it can keep your blood sugars high. An example of conditions that cause inflammation and blood sugar to rise include dental problems, allergies, diseases of the joint, thyroid issues, lymphatic disorders, HIV and Menopause.
      Gum disease, including receding gums are an example of the kind of inflammation that leads to insulin resistance.
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    6. 6
      Quit all addictions that may be causing inflammation and insulin resistance
      This includes addictions to, smoking, comfort foods, alcohol, smoking recreational drugs and an addiction to emotional dramas.
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    7. 7
      Quit eating sugar
      Sugar produces a traumatic response in the blood stream that raises blood sugar and causes inflammation. Be sure to avoid hidden sources of sugar in canned foods, vitamins, fruit juices, yogurt and fat-free foods.
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    8. 8
      Do not consume artificial sweeteners
      Artificial sweeteners such as Splenda, Nutrasweet, Sunett and Equal directly cause insulin resistance. When reading labels avoid Aspartame, Neotame, Saccharin, Sucralose an Acesulfame Potassium, which are all artificial sweeteners. Replace them with stevia-base sweeteners such a Truvia and PureVia.
      Use a stevia-based sweetener like Truvia to avoid inflammation and blood sugar elevation.
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    9. 9
      Avoid eating glycemic foods
      Glycemic foods, are also known as simple carbs or bad carbs and include pasta, potatoes and flour.
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    10. 10
      Cut down on carbs
      In each meal that you eat, there should be no more that 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving so that you keep your blood sugar at more normal levels
      Spaghetti is a high-glycemic, high-carb that should be avoided as it breaks down quickly into a simple sugar and causes insulin resistance.
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    11. 11
      Stop eating refined grains and gluten found in dairy products
      This can cause a chronic inflammation of the gut that provokes insulin resistance.
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    12. 12
      Stop eating transfats and unsaturated fats and replace them with healthy fats
      Transfats are found in hydrogenated oils. These fats, found in junk food, bread and baked goods. Unsaturated fats are found fried foods and especially fried potatoes and meat. Instead cook with coconut oil, olive oil or ghee or avoid these fats altogether and cook with vegetable or chicken stock.
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    13. 13
      Make sure that your diet contains plenty of fiber
      Eating lots of fiber helps slow down the speeding of sugars to your blood stream. Eat lots of fresh vegetables, at least two fruits a day and stick to wild or black rice.
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    14. 14
      Avoid eating too much salt
      Salt causes high blood pressure and this in turn causes issues for hair follicles. Hidden sources of salt include canned soups, cured meats, condiments, olives and soy sauce.
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    15. 15
      Supplement your diet with vitamins that may help reverse your insulin resistance
      These include Biotin, B6 plus B12 with Folic Acid, Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Chromium
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    16. 16
      Supplement your diet with herbs and natural remedies
      Recommended are Alpha-Lipoic Acid, 5Htp, Carni-Sorb, cinnamon, PGX carb blockers, turmeric, Lion's Mane mushroom, Cordyceps mushroom and green tea
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    17. 17
      Get plenty of exercise
      Indulging in thirty minutes of aerobic exercise every day (swimming, biking or walking) and 30 minutes of anaerobic activity (Pilates, yoga or weight lifting) three times a week can help lower your blood sugar as well eliminate lymph from your tissues and increase circulation
      Jogging is recommended for lowering insulin resistance.
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    18. 18
      Schedule a lymphatic massage
      Lymphatic massage drainage helps clear obstructions in the lymph system to assist you with weight loss.
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    19. 19
      Take frequent epsom salt baths or swim in the sea
      Sea salt soaks help the body reduce inflammation.
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    20. 20
      Help reduce inflammation by sitting in a far infrared sauna
      This helps detox your body, relieve stress and increase the blood flow to your scalp to help renew and repair hair follicles
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    21. 21
      Get plenty of rest
      People with insulin resistance can manage it by resting so that there is less damage caused to the parasympathetic nervous system and less damage done to hair follicles.
      Getting enough sleep can help lower blood sugar levels.
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    For additional specific information about this topic please read the VisiHow article How to Reverse Insulin Resistance From Type II Diabetes

    Tips and Tricks

    • If you have the symptoms of insulin resistance, including hair loss and your have only been offered the A1C test, ask to take the oral glucose intolerance test (OGIT) as it may be more accurate about revealing insulin resistance
    • If you are going through menopause, bio-identical hormone treatment can help boost impaired thyroid and pituitary glands that might be causing hair loss
    • Avoid fad diets, high protein and low calorie diets as these can cause blood sugar swings that accelerate rather than prevent insulin resistance as well as starve hair follicles of needed nutrients
    • Check carefully with your doctor before quitting a psychiatric medication that you suspect is causing insulin resistance as going quickly off some drugs can cause severe psychotic reactions
    • It can take three or four months before you see your hair grow back, if any of these treatments are successful for you.
    • It is common to have all three of these conditions at once, and usually eating healthier, exercising and achieving weight loss helps alleviate many of the symptoms of insulin resistance, low thyroid production and low iron levels.

    When your hair does grow back, it may appear as peach fuzz at first.

    What to Expect As Your Hair Grows Back

    It is important to recognize that not everybody has complete success with stopping or reversing hair loss. There are many factors that can affect whether or not your hair follicles will produce hair again, but the most important one is whether or not the stem cells that supply the hair follicle with nutrients and new cells are damaged. If they are not then they will grow new hair. Some people regrow their hair only to have it fall out again and others experience a permanent restoration of the hair.

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    You need to be patient because usually it takes one month to three months for any single hair to grow back depending on where it was in its growth cycle before it fell out. You can also expect:

    • Your hair to initially grow in white and maybe stay white if it does not regain it's initial color
    • Your hair might grow in a different color
    • Your hair could grow back thicker than ever, especially if the hair loss was due to chemotherapy
    • If your hair was not due to chemotherapy it could grow back thinner than it was
    • Your hair could grow back very straight or very curly
    • Your hair could be a different texture, often regrown hair is more porous

    Some women experience a change in hair texture when it grows back, from straight to curly or vice versa.

    Tips and Tricks

    • Wash your hair as little as possible to encourage new hair growth, but when you do be sure to be very gentle
    • Stimulating your scalp with your fingers, by rubbing the skin, can help draw blood to the hair follicles and encourage hair growth.
    • Consider using a hair growth product designed for women such as Women's Rogaine which contains 2% Minoxidol, but be aware that you need to use this product every day for it to be effective
    • As hair grows in you can consider covering a wider part with brush-on powders that disguise lost hair and give existing hairs just a bit more volume. A well known product is Rivers Great Hair Day compact
    • If you have lost a lot of hair, protect the bald areas with a strong sunscreen as ultraviolet rays can damage hair follicles and a sunburn can prevent your hair from growing back at all

    If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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    Article Info

    Categories : Hair Care And Treatment

    Recent edits by: Doug Collins, Eng, Donna

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