If you’re losing hair at a clip that could easily clog your shower, you’re probably distressed about your hair loss. Shedding 50 to 100 hairs per day is to be expected, but if you’re losing more, you’ll want to explore exactly why.
Some recent research has suggested that obesity and hair loss could be linked. This study, done in animals, concludes that obesity-induced stress can trigger hair thinning by affecting the function of hair follicle stem cells, which are tasked with growing hair. What’s important to keep in mind about animal research is just that---it’s done on animals, and animals are not people. It’s a great jumping-off point for future research, but we need human research to make a definite conclusion.
What is clear is that weight gain and hair loss can be two related symptoms.
Here’s where they may show up together
When the body turns against itself and attacks its own tissues and organs, it’s called an autoimmune condition. There are more than 100 of these diseases that affect nearly 24 million Americans, the majority of whom are women.
Take lupus, a disease that affects areas like the skin, joints, and heart. A hallmark symptom of lupus is the butterfly rash that spreads over the cheeks and bridge of the nose, but hair loss is also common, according to the Cleveland Clinic. In addition, you may have joint pain from arthritis, which can make it tough to get out and be active, possibly contributing to weight gain.
Another autoimmune disease to keep in mind: Alopecia areata, where the body attacks hair follicles, leading to bald patches on the scalp and body. One study found that people who have the condition are more likely to have higher BMIs compared to healthy control groups. Researchers speculate that excess weight may be involved in the development of the condition.
Have you started on a new medication recently? Every med comes with the risk of side effects, some of which can cause hair loss or weight gain.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal imbalance seen where a woman has high levels of “male” hormones called androgens, as well as insulin. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility. Along with irregular periods, you may also notice that you grow unwanted hair on your face or chin and lose hair on the top of your head, as well as gain weight, especially around your midsection.
There are dozens of symptoms of menopause and perimenopause, triggered by the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone hormones. You may notice hair thinning, as well as increased weight in your middle. The North American Menopause Society also points out that as your metabolism and muscle mass decrease, you may also naturally gain weight, though that’s not due to menopause itself.
When something happens that stresses you out to the max, be it an illness, surgery, divorce, or death in the family (or even good stuff, like a move), you may start losing hair, says the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). It can be so alarming, that you may feel as if hair is coming out in clumps. Thing is, this will happen three months after the stressor, so sometimes it’s tough to connect the dots. When it comes to your weight, everyone reacts to stress differently, and some people find that their appetite increases and they eat more, while others find that it’s nonexistent and they lose weight.
Is your thyroid causing weight gain and hair loss?
Your thyroid is the small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits right above your collarbone. It’s responsible for a ton of functions in your body---including your metabolism. If your thyroid gets all sluggish, a condition called hypothyroidism, things start to slow down in your body. With a slower metabolism, you may find that you gain weight without otherwise changing your habits. You won’t see a huge difference on the scale though---just about five to 10 pounds, notes the American Thyroid Association(ATA). Any more than that is likely unrelated to a thyroid prob.
Another hallmark symptom of an underactive thyroid? You guessed it: hair loss. You may notice that you’re losing way more hair than usual when you’re running the brush through or sudsing up in the shower. Eyebrows can also thin out, particularly on the outside edge, notes the AAD.
Thyroid problems come with a long list of symptoms, from cold intolerance to fatigue and irritability, and patients often suffer a cluster of them. If weight gain is your only complaint, it’s unlikely due to your thyroid, says the ATA.
The best ways to address hair loss
Here’s how to get to the root of the issue:
Make an appointment with your doctor: If hair loss is just one of a bunch of different symptoms you’re dealing with, get in to see your healthcare provider. They will explore or rule out underlying health conditions to help you get back on track to feeling good again. It’s also possible that two totally different factors are causing weight gain and a thinning scalp.
Test yourself: Base’s Energy Testing Plan can hone in on specific thyroid hormones TSH, T3, and T4 for a comprehensive look at your thyroid. Likewise, Base’s Diet Testing Plan can also look for nutritional deficiencies in your diet, which can identify if a lack of certain nutrients behind your hair loss.
Look at your meds: It’s always a good idea to chat with your doctor or pharmacist about your concerns. They can talk to you about if any of your medications are associated with weight gain or hair loss.
Consider medications for thinning hair: While these can’t address an underlying problem that’s triggering thinning, there are a variety of treatments aimed to help regrow hair and promote thickness and fullness. These include minoxidil (Rogaine), a topical that’s applied to your scalp, prescription medications, and hair growth supplements. A dermatologist can help you figure out what option is best for you.
In many ways, your hair can be a proxy for your health. While hair loss can throw you for a loop, there is help. With the guidance of your doctor and through possible medical testing, you may be able to identify the underlying cause and take action through lifestyle changes or topical products.