However, this is a highly inaccurate statement. First off, while our genes may give us a certain predisposition to a condition, it is not the cause of it, nor is it fate. Genetics expressions can be altered by our lifestyle choices and even our stress levels. Secondly, androgens are far from the cause of hair loss, and this theory has been disproven on many counts.
When you look at the actual hormone situation of those with lots of hair on their head compared to people losing their hair (both men and women), what you see is an excess of two stress hormones, prolactin, and cortisol.
And looking at the effect that androgens like testosterone have on the growth of the hair, given its anabolic nature, we find that the higher testosterone the faster and thicker the hair tends to grow. However, cortisol and prolactin, being catabolic in nature, tend to cause hair to fall out.
How Cortisol & Prolactin Cause Hair Loss
In chickens prolactin is known as the "molting" hormone, which rises under stress and causes feathers to fall out almost immediately In humans, prolactin is known as the lactation hormone, which robs the bones of calcium to make milk and has an analogous function of terminating the growth cycle of the hair shaft.
Prolactin also increases parathyroid, which assists it in mobilizing nutrients under stress. Parathyroid inhibits oxygen from getting into the cell, inducing stress that can stimulate the growth of stem cells, in a destructive mannerism. Because thyroid hormone has the major job of ensuring oxygen is utilized, parathyroid opposes thyroid, as the name suggests.
In this way, prolactin "suffocates" your hair follicle from receiving oxygen, the basic thing it needs to grow next to glucose, which brings us to cortisol.
Cortisol impairs the cellular utilization of glucose. This is bad news for your hair follicle because as mentioned, next to oxygen, the most important thing your hair follicles need to grow is glucose. In fact, the hair follicle has a very sensitive, and inefficient metabolism. Meaning it doesn't oxidize glucose very well, increasing its demand from the rest of the body. So, when we are stressed and cortisol rises, it blocks the already ineffieicnety hair follicle from getting glucose, which is probably why stress can cause hair loss almost immediately.
Correcting Hair Loss at the Root
To recap, what is normally occurring in the body that causes hair loss is mostly an excess of both prolactin and cortisol, which suffocates the uptake of thyroid hormone, oxygen, and glucose into the follicles, essentially starving the hair.
Therefore, our major goal in correcting hair loss is to address the underlying causes of elevated prolactin and cortisol. Here are some things to consider:
Elevated Prolactin: There are few things that increase prolactin, it is known to increase under emotional stress (like cortisol), and from a dopamine deficiency. However, active thyroid hormone usually keeps prolactin in check. So, hypothyroidism is to be expected when prolactin levels are high. Fortunately, there are simple things you can do to increase thyroid function and decrease prolactin. Get daily sunlight, use herbs like Ashwagandha, consume more calcium to balance calcium: phosphate and get in more dietary zinc (best sources are liver, oysters and Black Ant.)
Lowering Cortisol: Hyperadrenalism or overactive adrenals are a known factor in hair loss, causing the excess of cortisol. The adrenals become hyperactive under hypothyroidism too. Normally, when the thyroid is working, we use thyroid hormone and progesterone to create energy and cope with stress. When these are low, there is an increased reliance on cortisol, putting major stress on the adrenals. Also, any sort of chronic stress would cause this; especially unchecked mental/emotional stress. In addition to managing psychological stress, you can lower cortisol by keeping blood sugar normal (consume healthy sugar, which suppresses cortisol), gelatin (glycine), l-theanine and herbs like Ashwagandha, Ginkgo Biloba, and Cordyceps are all clinically proven to lower cortisol.
- Anti-Aromatase: Aromatase is the enzyme that converts androgens like testosterone into estrogen. In fact, increased aromatase activity and elevated estrogen are both involved in hair loss. Since estrogen stimulates prolactin, it is no surprise that increased aromatase activity is correlated significantly with elevated prolactin. 1 Consume more mushrooms and drink orange juice, while supplementing with anti-aromatase herbs like Nettle Root, Pine Pollen, and Agaricus Mushroom to inhibit aromatase activity and lower prolactin and estrogen.