I ran my hands through my hair, washing the shampoo out of my hair. I looked down at my hand and saw a clump of hair in my hand, along with more stands covering the drain. It’s every postpartum woman’s nightmare.
Many women experience a similar situation and are left with questions and wondering what’s normal. Let’s tackle the causes, what’s considered normal, and some of the nutritional links and practical tips to support hair growth.
What causes it?
An increase of estrogen and progesterone level during pregnancy causes an ongoing state of growth. After delivery and the hormones taper, it takes about three months of a “resting phase” before the hair will start to shed. This shedding period is followed by new growth, but leaves many women experiencing hair loss, especially around their hairline.
What is considered normal?
While amount of hair lost postpartum will vary, losing about 80 hairs a day is normal standard for women, but new moms may shed about 400 hairs a day according to David Salinger, a certified trichologist. (source) Any patchy or localized thinning, or hair loss persisting beyond 8-9 months postpartum may be a sign of something else going on.
If you feel that what you’re experiencing is beyond “normal,” it’s best to speak with your medical team. It’s worth digging in to the following “root causes” with them to determine what may be the underlying reason for your excessive hair loss. Be sure to take note of any other symptoms that you’ve been experiencing including extreme exhaustion, low mood, anxiety, cold hands and feet, which may point to thyroid dysfunction (read more below).
Nutritional Links & Tips
Now let’s shift gears and discuss some of the nutritional “root causes” of hair loss and how you may be able to support your body. This is not a complete list, but covers some of the most common I’ve seen in my practice. Each of these points could be a blog post of their own, so we’ll just look at these from a bird’s eye view.
Nutritional deficiency: If you’re lacking the raw nutrients that your body needs to function optimally, your body will compensate. Unfortunately, having hair on the top of our head is not considered a need for survival, so the body will prioritize other processes within the body that are needed for you to live.
What can we do?
– Eat a nutrient-dense varied diet.
– Drink water! Your body needs plenty of water to deliver these vitamins and minerals throughout your body.
– Consider a micronutrient testing to determine which supplements your body specifically needs.
– Support digestion… which leads me to the next point…
Sluggish Digestion: For some reason what came to mind as I typed that was, “is your refrigerator running? You’d better go catch it.” But in this case, the question should be, “is your digestion working? If not, you better fix it!” Bloating, cramping, belching, acid reflux, diarrhea, constipation are all signs that your digestion is off. You can eat the most nutrient-dense diet possible, but if you aren’t digesting it well – quite frankly, it’s just going down the toilet. This could be related to nutritional deficiencies (for instance, you need plenty of zinc, vitamin C, and B vitamins to produce stomach acid), or could be because you’re eating in a stressed state, which compromises your body’s ability to digest. Protein supports hair growth, but you will need adequate digestion to ensure proper digestion of that protein.
What can we do?
– Eat in a relaxed state. Practice deep breathing exercises and give a moment of gratitude or prayer before eating to allow your body to switch out of a stressed state to better focus on digestion.
– Chew your food. We do so much multi-tasking while eating that we forget the very basic step of digestion – chewing our foods!
– Include nourishing foods such as bone broth, collagen, and fermented foods that all support digestion, leading to a happy and healthy gut.
Stress & Sleep: Simply put, stress can wreck our adrenals. Keep in mind that stress comes in many forms – and taking care of a newborn is stressful! But whether it be physical stress (over exercising, lack of rest), emotional stress, dietary stress (nutritional deficiency, imbalanced blood sugar) or a perceived stress (we think something is going to happen… anxious thoughts and tendencies), our body reacts the same way. When this happens, it puts our body into a reactionary state that is concerned about survival. As previously mentioned, this shuttles our valuable nutrients to our adrenals and other primary functions to keep us alive, resulting in nutritional deficiencies and disrupted digestion. Are you starting to see how this is all connected? Sleep is when the body regenerates and heals. Adequate sleep is necessary for proper detoxification as well.
What can we do?
– Schedule in time for self-care. Whether it’s a warm Epson salt bath, reading, or journaling, doing whatever you enjoy will help decrease stress
– Prioritize sleep.
– Balance blood sugar to support circadian rhythm and hormone balance.
Thyroid Issues: Excessive hair loss can be a sign of underlying hypothyroidism. Exhaustion, low mood, anxiety, cold hands and feet may point to larger issues including thyroid, adrenal fatigue, anemia, or an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune thyroid, or postpartum thyroiditis is one of the most common thyroid conditions to affect new mothers, and often goes undiagnosed.
What can we do?
– Seek out care from your medical team for a full thyroid panel.
– Consider cutting out gluten, which can often be mistakenly attacked by the immune system through a processed referred to as “molecular mimicry,” which means your body is reacting to gluten but mistakenly attacks the thyroid.
– Avoid chemicals and toxins that disrupt the thyroid, including BPA, fluoride, and heavy metals.
There are other potential root causes, including heavy metal toxicity, high copper, and imbalanced hormones. Let’s face it – new mothers often find that at the bottom of their priority list in those “survival” days is self-care, practicing mindful eating habits (to support digestion) and eating a nutrient-dense diet. By focusing on these three things, you can do wonders to support overall nutrition.
I’ll emphasis once again, if you feel that something is “off” be sure to talk to your medical team. If you’re looking for personalized nutritional support, check out my services found here.