By Natasha Thomas, MD
Content revised: 01/27/2024

Posted on: May 19, 2021

When treatments don’t address the root cause of hair loss, lasting results aren’t possible. Hair loss is highly individual, and treatment has to go beyond traditional options to effectively tackle the underlying issues. Fortunately, researchers are continually exploring innovative solutions that target the root cause of hair loss, and Dr. Natasha Thomas has experienced firsthand the profound results of these new discoveries.

We may not think much about hair loss when we’re young. But in the words of Joni Mitchell, “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone.” And it’s so true of health—including the health of our hair. 

Our self-esteem can be significantly affected by our hair. Thick, healthy hair can promote feelings of vitality and youthfulness, while hair loss can lead to feelings of insecurity, especially in a culture that prioritizes youth and beauty. 

Although hair loss was a common complaint among my female patients, I recently came face-to-face with it myself. I experienced rapid hair thinning and loss, which I tried everything to reverse. 

I’m excited to share with you what finally (and unexpectedly!) worked for me. But first, let’s discuss the root cause of hair loss and the science of regrowth.

How Hair Growth Works

root cause of hair loss, Up-close photo of a person with light brown skin and silver/gray crop hair who appears to be in their 40s or 50s. They are looking at the camera with a light smile on their face, representing the possibility for hair regrowth at various ages through addressing the root cause of hair loss.

We are born with about five million hair follicles all over the body, except the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and lips. 

The follicle (also called the hair bulb) is where the hair magic happens. New hair grows from the protein cells in the follicles, which push the older hair out. The hair that emerges from the skin is dead, but oil glands in the skin lubricate the hair as it emerges, giving it its sheen. As the follicle keeps producing more growth, the dead hair eventually falls out, or is shed. 

Hair growth goes through three main phases: anagen (active growth), catagen (regression, or transitional phase), and telogen (resting phase, where hair sheds). In the scalp at any point in time, about 85% of the hairs are growing (anagen), 14% are resting (telogen), and 1% are regressing (catagen).

Why Doesn’t My Hair Grow?

Many things can disrupt these phases of hair growth. For example, a high fever, childbirth, hormonal disturbances, toxins, stress, and more can be the root cause of hair loss. These factors can interfere with the delicate balance of hormones and nutrients necessary for healthy hair growth, leading to hair loss and stunted growth. 

Moreover, certain medications and medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, can also halt hair growth by targeting rapidly dividing cells, including those in hair follicles. The triggers behind hair loss are numerous, necessitating a tailored treatment plan that addresses the root cause of hair loss.

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How Current Treatments Are Addressing Hair Loss

The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. The most prevalent type is called androgenic alopecia (AGA), which affects 80 percent of white men and 40 percent of white women below the age of 70.

The idea behind hair growth products on the market is not to address the root cause of hair loss, but to increase blood flow to the hair follicle, simply prolonging the anagen phase and shortening the telogen. 

One such product, a topical drug called minoxidil (aka Rogaine), must be used for six to nine months—just to see if it works—and if it does, it must be continued indefinitely. The potential side effects of this drug include scalp irritation and unwanted adjacent growth on the face and hands.  Oral Minoxidil at a very low dose has been very effective in some of my patients.

A prescription oral medication for men (most effective for those under 60 years of age) is finasteride (aka Propecia). It may take a few months to yield results, and again, if it does, must be taken indefinitely. Potential (although rare) side effects are diminished sex drive, depression, and prostate cancer.  Due to potential side effects it is not a medication I recommend for my male patients.

Consensus is that the benefits of anti-hair loss drugs plateau after one to two years of continuous use. Beyond that, hair transplants have traditionally been the only other option. However, functional medicine research is exploring the root cause of hair loss to reveal new, health-promoting options for regrowing hair naturally.

How Research Is Refocusing on the Root Cause of Hair Loss 

Addressing the individual root cause of hair loss is vital for effective treatment, as hair loss can be a symptom of a wide range of conditions and underlying problems.

root cause of hair loss,Photo, shot from above, of a white plate filled with white tablet pills, sitting on a white table, with large, dark green leaves on either side of it—portraying natural supplementation as a possible way to address the root cause of hair loss.

For example, hair loss is a symptom of extreme Vitamin C deficiency (scurvy), Kwashiorkor (extreme protein deficiency), DNA damage from chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment, lupus erythematosus (an autoimmune disorder), medications, thyroid imbalances, and more. 

Early hair loss research focused almost exclusively on hormonal imbalances as the root cause of hair loss, but we now know that oxidative stress and inflammation also play a major role. 

Two major contributors to oxidative stress include lifestyle stress and smoking, making natural interventions—like reducing toxic input and boosting potent antioxidants, such as melatonin, lycopene, and lutein—an option for addressing the root cause of hair loss. Additionally, some people’s hair growth improves after using antimicrobials, such as topical tea tree oil or pyrithione zinc (commonly used in anti-dandruff products).

One promising study found that applying topical Trifolium pratense (red clover) combined with a peptide could reduce microinflammation in the scalp. Other researchers have focused on addressing this root cause of hair loss by supplementing with:

  • Biotin
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • B complex (including pantothenic acid)
  • Antioxidants
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Safflower
  • Peach leaves
  • Sage
  • Parsley
  • Angelica archangelica (wild celery)

Supplements are beneficial for many, but many other factors may still be at play. In my case, none of these types of interventions slowed my hair loss. I was so discouraged.

Little did I know that a solution would soon reveal itself in the most unexpected way!

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My Story of Dealing with Hair Loss

I am an avid snow skier. I incurred a hip injury, which gradually became more painful, so I opted to have hip surgery. Afterward, my hair started dramatically thinning and falling out in alarming quantities.

root cause of hair loss, Photo of Dr. Natasha Thomas and a friend, standing side by side at the top of a ski hill—both smiling and looking at the camera as they take a selfie—portraying the thing that led Dr. Thomas to discover the root cause of hair loss for herself.

As a physician, I thought I could easily solve it. I tried everything: I balanced my hormones; I tried all the natural therapies; I used all the nutritional protocols. In my case, none of them helped much. Even worse, my hip was becoming more painful, making me more immobile. This was distressing, to say the least, and it did not fit with my healthy self-image.

Thankfully, though, the pain led me to the treatment that solved both my hip and my hair thinning problems.

Peptides for Hair Regrowth

I began injecting myself with a peptide to help my hip repair faster. It worked. And, to my surprise, my hair started growing faster and became noticeably thicker and more luxuriant. 

The naturally occurring peptide I began using was Thymosin beta-4, a substance found abundantly in almost every cell of the body. 

The results I got from my compounded peptide, Thymosin beta-4—a chain consisting of 43 amino acids—amazed me. For me, the root cause of hair loss was a deficiency, and by restoring this essential nutrient, I was able to restore my healthy hair. 

Scientists are researching the potential of peptides to promote not only hair growth, but also tissue regeneration in cases of burns, heart attacks, liver fibrosis, ulcers, wound healing, and more. One promising peptide product for hair loss combines zinc and thymulin. 

Are peptides for hair loss the solution for everyone? It’s too early to say. But it is certainly worth exploring. In some cases (like mine), it works.

Getting to the Root Cause of Hair Loss

root cause of hair loss, Up-close photo of a person’s head resting on a pillow as they sleep, with long, thin, ashen blonde hair tied up in a messy bun—representing insufficient sleep as a potential root cause of hair loss.

Functional medicine doctors are trained to discover the root (no pun intended) cause of health issues—not to just practice “cookbook medicine” with “this symptom requires this drug.” This applies to all aspects of health, including hair loss. 

When it comes to hair loss, a multitude of factors could be at play, including:

However, it’s crucial to recognize that each person’s experience with hair loss is unique, and therefore, the treatment approach should be tailored to address their specific root cause of hair loss.

Even within hormonal imbalances, individual experiences can vary widely. Identifying and addressing these imbalances requires a personalized approach that takes into account the intricacies of each person’s hormonal profile and overall health.

How can I balance my hormones and stop hair loss?

Hormonal imbalance is one potential root cause of hair loss, and addressing it requires a multifaceted approach. The answer lies in a comprehensive strategy that targets the underlying factors contributing to hormonal imbalances. 

This may involve lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, adequate sleep, and stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga. Additionally, dietary changes can play a crucial role, with a focus on nutrient-rich foods that support hormone production and regulation, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

In some cases, targeted supplementation may be recommended to address specific nutrient deficiencies or support hormone balance. However, it’s essential to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before starting any supplementation regimen to ensure safety and efficacy.

For some individuals, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may be considered under the guidance of a healthcare provider specializing in hormone optimization. This personalized approach can help restore hormonal balance and mitigate hair loss while addressing individual health needs and concerns.

Uncovering the Root Cause of Hair Loss with Natasha Thomas, MD

If you or someone you know suffers from hair loss, be encouraged. We know more about solutions now than ever before. And many safe and effective protocols for hair loss, including peptide therapy, offer a promising future. The most important thing is that you uncover the root cause of hair loss for you.

As a functional medicine practitioner, I specialize in identifying and addressing the underlying factors contributing to hair loss, rather than simply treating the symptoms. Each individual’s experience with hair loss is unique, which is why my approach involves a thorough investigation of all potential factors including internal and environmental factors. 

Then, we’ll look at all the options together—exploring lifestyle modifications, targeted supplementation, hormone optimization, or other therapeutic interventions, like the peptide therapy that transformed my own hair loss journey. I know firsthand the vital role that healthy hair plays in personal wellbeing, and I am committed to finding the protocol that guides you, too, towards optimal regrowth and renewed confidence.

Revitalize your life and promote healthy aging through personalized lifestyle medicine with Dr. Natasha Thomas. Schedule a consultation now to take the first step towards a healthier, more vibrant you.

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