Support Your Roots: Hair Loss After Illness

Experiencing hair loss after an illness? You are not alone. While seeing your hair fall out in clumps can add to your stress, it is important to try to de-stress. Only when the stress ends will the excessive hair shedding stop. Emotional stress can also force more hairs than normal into the shedding phase. And who isn’t feeling more stressed and anxious with current events of 2022?

Having great healthy hair, skin, and nails is something women strive for. Men too, but women especially.

There are three keys to a healthy integumentary system: eat a diet rich with a colorful array of veggies, drink lots of clean water (not tap), and find daily peace. Stress is one of the most prevalent causes of hair loss, brittle nails, and skin conditions like rashes and blemishes. One of the best things we can do for our integumentary system is to relax, and drink a tall glass of water. Taking a walk daily that gets your heart pumping and skin sweating is helpful too, in order to stimulate your circulatory system and lymphatic system which is needed to help flush toxins from your skin.

When the cause of your hair shedding is due to a fever, illness, or stress, hair tends to return to normal on its own. You just have to give it time. As your hair grows back, you’ll notice short hairs that are all the same length by your hairline. Most people see their hair regain its normal fullness within six to nine months.

This is not hair loss, this is a type of shedding. This is also different from androgenetic alopecia or male pattern baldness. In male pattern baldness, one experiences extreme hair loss that is generally irreversible. The medical name for this type of hair shedding after illness is telogen effluvium. It happens when more hairs than normal enter the shedding (telogen) phase of the hair growth lifecycle at the same time. A fever or illness can force more hairs into the shedding phase.

Most people see noticeable hair shedding two to three months after having a fever or illness. Handfuls of hair can come out when you shower or brush your hair. The top of the scalp is the most affected area. In rare cases, it may cause your hairline to recede. But, it’s also unlikely that you will lose all of your hair.

Some of the common symptoms are:

  • An increased amount of hair shedding
  • Hair thinning
  • The scalp may look less dense than usual

Telogen effluvium is a temporary hair loss condition that is often a result of stress or trauma. Hair may fall out in large clumps, but it can grow back after a certain period. It is normal to lose 50-100 strands in a day. But anything above this is considered abnormal. It can affect both men and women irrespective of age groups. However, it’s more common in women. In women, it is more visible among the ones with thick and long hair. Telogen effluvium, unlike alopecia, is a reversible hair loss condition.

Can You Go Bald From Telogen Effluvium?

An individual will not go completely bald in telogen effluvium. There are only thinning patches in one or more spots on the scalp. Only 30% of hair enters the telogen or resting phase, causing hair fall. The other 70% is still in the growth phase and transitional phase.

Let us take a moment to understand the three phases of the hair cycle.

1. Anagen Or Growth Phase

This is the phase where hair grows out from the roots and lasts upto 3-7 years.

2. Catagen Or Transitional Phase

The hair is in slow growth phase and the follicle shrinks. This is usually only for 2-4 months.

3. Telogen Or Resting Phase

The old hair falls out and gives way for new hair to emerge from the roots. Generally, at any given time, 5-10% of hair is in the telogen or resting phase. But in telogen effluvium, 30% of hair moves into the telogen phase and refuses to shift to the other two phases.

Hair Cycle

Stress, shock or trauma, hormones, pregnancy, menopause, poor diet, certain drugs, surgery, underlying medical conditions, and metal toxicity can also cause telogen effluvium. Once the triggers of telogen effluvium are rectified, hair can grow back. Let us take a look at a few simple ways we can support our body if experiencing hair loss after illness.

Support Your Roots Through Nutrition

1. Correcting Nutritional Deficiencies Through Diet

You might be missing out on a few essential nutrients and vitamins that are essential for healthy hair. The most common supplements to support the largest organ in the body are antioxidants in the form of vitamins A, C, and E, Coenzyme Q10, fatty acids found in fish oils, all the B vitamins, D3, K2, calcium, MSM, magnesium, and small amounts of selenium.

You can always check with your doctor if you are taking enough vitamin D, zinc, or iron.

It is important to also make sure to cut out processed foods and sugars as this will increase inflammation and dehydration in the body, both are bad for stress, making it longer for hair to regrow.

2. Opt For Gentle Hair Care

Switch to gentle hair care that suits your hair. Say no to toxic ingredients!! Hair care products are loaded with chemicals we do not want on our skin; things like sulfates, phthalates, petrochemicals, formaldehyde, and more. Many of these chemicals causes allergic reactions, frizzy hair, and can be hormone disruptors, which increase the risk of certain types of cancers. Shampoo is a common product we all use that is rubbed on your scalp and is absorbed into the blood stream in under a minute, going straight to the brain. With that said…Keep heat styling like straightening, blow drying and curling for special occasions. Visit salons less frequently for your dyeing, perming or bleaching sessions while you are loving your roots during this time.

Mary Beth Janssen explains in her book, “Naturally Healthy Hair; Herbal Treatments and Daily Care for Fabulous Hair”, the root of each hair on our head is buried in the dermis and is in direct contact with the bloodstream via the capillaries. There are at least 100,000 hair fibers on our head, and each one stretches and absorbs moisture. “Any imbalance or toxicity in the body are interpreted and transferred to the hair through the blood supply.” That gives me a lot of incentive to be conscious about what I put on my scalp!

Oils great for the scalp include: Cedarwood, Rosemary and Lavender

Apply serum concentrating on the roots. Lightly apply to shaft and the ends of the hair. A silk nightcap might also be helpful during this time!

3. Stress Management

When we are stressed out, our body makes more cortisol than normal, your adrenals are in overtime. During this time of hair loss we might want to rethink our coffee intake. Coffee and alcohol are both endocrine disruptors. This means they mess with our hormones. Coffee tells your adrenal glands that they can take a break. Even one cup is damaging to your endocrine system. When you go through long periods of heightened stress, your body will produce more cortisol and adrenaline, this will wear out your adrenals and could lead to adrenal fatigue and anxiety, which increase stress and dehydration.

Managing stress is not easy, there are so many factors involved for each person.

Stay positive. Laughter has been found to lower levels of stress hormones, reduce inflammation in the arteries, and increase “good” HDL cholesterol.

Unplug. It’s impossible to escape stress when it follows you everywhere. Cut the cord. Avoid emails and TV news. Take time each day — even if it’s for just 10 or 15 minutes — to escape from the world.

Exercise. Every time you are physically active, whether you take a walk or play tennis, your body releases mood-boosting chemicals called endorphins. Exercising not only helps you destress, it also protects against heart disease by lowering your blood pressure, strengthening your heart muscle, and helping you maintain a healthy weight.

Meditate. This practice of inward-focused thought and deep breathing has been shown to reduce heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure. Meditation’s close relatives, yoga and prayer, can also relax the mind and body.

Use Aromatherapy.  is a nice tool for stress relief because it has few (if any) known side effects, can be used passively (you can fill the room with scent while you attend to other activities, relieving stress in the process), and can be easily combined with other stress relievers (like massage or meditation, for example), for increased stress relief.

Heat: Now there is a lot of science that has come up in the recent years about infrared saunas. They have shown to help with detoxification, lowering of inflammation, relaxation, and even longevity. Its optimal to sit in a sauna at around 150 degrees for 10-20 minutes 2-3 times a week.

Sleep Management. Too little sleep ruins our metabolism and increases C-reactive protein, a blood marker for inflammation. When you are not getting enough sleep, your response stress gets compromised. When you are stressed out, your ability to sleep well gets compromised. It is a terrible cycle. Most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and the average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep. Lack of sleep increases your hunger hormone, lack of sleep also causes your fat storage to get our of whack. This will continue to put stress on your body, so GET SOME SLEEP!

CBD is my recommendation to help both with stress and inflammation. Read here to learn more about which CBD might be the right one for you CBD – Herbal Based Wellness

Ways to sleep better:

  1. Ditch the light from your bedroom and try to build a habit of sleeping in darkness. If you want to go a step further, dimming the lights as the evening goes by, assists your body to sleep well. This includes any electronic devices. Try removing them from the room all together, the clock adds anxiety!
  2. Move all the clutter out. The fewer things in your bedroom, the more peacefully you will sleep. If you almost fall asleep then wake up soon after, the things in the bedroom could be the reason why. The more cluttered your bedroom is, the more thoughts enter your head. 
  3. Do not eat large meals before going to bed. Eating a large meal before bed can lead to indigestion. Drinking a lot of water can cause you to wake up in the middle of the night to pee.
  4. Skip the coffee and cigarettes. Nicotine works as a similar stimulant like caffeine. This causes smokers to have erratic sleep. Besides, smokers might also feel the withdrawal symptoms after a few hours of sleep. These withdrawal symptoms cause smoking pangs causing them to wake up. Sometimes, you might have thought, “I’m tired but I still cannot sleep.” One common reason behind that is some stimulant preventing your tired body from resting. Under alcohol, you fail to complete your REM sleep, keeping you only in the lighter phase of sleep. Also, binge drinking can lead to difficulty in breathing at night. Not maintaining a regular sleep schedule confuses the body.
  5. Your smartphone emits blue light as a part of the display. This light suppresses melatonin, the hormone responsible to signal your body to sleep. Watching TV hampers melatonin generation due to the brightness too. You can install apps on your phone that reduce the blue light based on time. But, nothing works better than not using the phone at all. Keep your phone away and stay away from TV 30 minutes before you go to bed.

Now that we know more about our roots and foundations, we are equipped with the tools necessary to de-stress and re-grow strong healthy hair. Please remember that your body has gone through a trauma, be patient with yourself and the process.

Our lives change out of necessity when we are sick, but we often tell ourselves we have to keep up with everything we could do before, to keep expectations we have for ourselves, or that we think others have of us, can be so difficult to manage. Toxic emotions can creep in, so keep in mind that you’re doing the best you can to understand, manage, and heal. Embrace the process.

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