Hair loss in females can be part of the natural cascade of ageing. It is thought that as many as 70% of women over the age of 70 experience some extent of hair loss. While genetics are thought to be the main player in this, hair changes during the menopause transition are a real phenomenon (1).
Understanding Hair Loss in Menopause
Fluctuating hormone levels likely cause hair loss during menopause – i.e., your body produces less oestrogen and progesterone. These two hormones keep your luscious locks growing healthily and strong. So when these hormones begin to become depleted in our bodies, it is no wonder that hair growth slows and can become much thinner.
Exploring Causes of Hair Loss in Menopausal Women
However, it is important to acknowledge other causes of hair loss in women, such as:
- Genetics – the female pattern of baldness in which women can experience is entirely part of the natural process of ageing for some women.
- Other hormonal changes – pregnancy and childbirth may also cause significant hair changes in women, but thyroid-related hormonal changes may also cause hair to weaken, resulting in subsequent hair thinning.
- Stress – people going through stressful periods in their life can sometimes experience hair loss.
- Hairstyles – unfortunately, that slick back high ponytail may be pulling on your hair follicles, causing a type of hair loss known as traction alopecia, so ditch the hairpins for looser locks instead.
Effective Strategies for Managing Menopausal Hair Loss
If you are experiencing any kind of hair loss, speak about it with your GP. They will be able to advise you best on what you can do, but as with any medical treatment, a healthy diet and lifestyle is definitely something to consider.
While exercise isn’t proven to treat menopause symptoms, many doctors report that if they could prescribe regular exercise, they would! It has been well-researched that regular exercise, i.e. participating in at least 150 minutes of moderate-vigorous exercise in the week, can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress (2). Certainly, keeping yourself as relaxed and healthy as possible can’t hurt your hair!
Following a Balanced Diet
Diet plays an important role in many functions of our body. As nutrition experts here at Inside Out Nutrition, we can certainly vouch for eating a well-balanced diet to help get the essential vitamins and minerals you need in your diet to help maintain the growth and repair of cells, i.e. your hair follicles. Some key healthy eating guidelines for nutrition during menopause include:
Key Nutrients for Menopausal Hair Health
Hair is made from a protein called keratin – so you’ve guessed it our number one nutrient we need for healthy hair growth is protein. Aiming for at least 2-3 servings of protein-rich foods every day is key. Find some key protein foods below that you can incorporate into your nutrition during menopause.
- Omega-3 fatty acids
They help keep the hair elastic and give it its shine, which everyone seeks out in expensive shampoos and conditioners. Well, let us tell you, the critical ingredient in your diet for giving your luscious locks some lustre is, in fact, Omega-3 fatty acids. Including oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout at least 2 times per week will help give you health benefits beyond just hair growth.
Have a look on our website for some delicious salmon recipes if you’re struggling to include oily fish in your diet. For those of you following a plant-based diet, Omega-3s are also found in plant foods, but these foods need to be included daily as they are not absorbed as well within the body as the animal sources of Omega-3.
Sources of plant Omega-3’s include:
- 8 walnuts per day
- 1 tbsp of chia seeds or flaxseeds (linseeds(
- ⅓ avocado
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- A less common source is also seaweed
Iron deficiency has been linked with hair loss (3). Iron is an essential component in DNA structure and also supplies energy to cells for hair production. It has been shown that women who have low iron stores or ferritin levels <40 ng/ml have more coarse and brittle hair, which is more likely to fall out.
The best sources of iron are from animal products, including red meat such as beef, lamb and offal, but iron is also found in eggs, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals and green leafy vegetables. It is always recommended to check your iron levels before taking an iron supplement; however, including 2-3 iron-rich foods per week is a good starting point if you want to optimise your nutrition during menopause.
There are various B-group vitamins which have vital roles in building hair. These include folate, biotin, niacin and vitamin B12. While there are different dietary sources for each of these specific nutrients, if you follow the healthy eating guidelines, these B vitamins will be abundant in your diet. Sources of each nutrient include:
- Folate: green vegetables such as kale, asparagus and spinach.
- Biotin: milk, meat, offal, eggs, wholegrain cereals
- Niacin: green leafy vegetables, fish, peanuts, shellfish
- Vitamin B12: meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yoghurt
A Menopause Dietitian’s Top Tip
If you struggle with consistency in your diet, starting small and building sustainable habits towards improving your nutrition and overall health and well-being can be a superb start. Our top tip for improving your protein intake, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and iron is to set aside one week a day where you will aim to eat a portion of oily fish alongside some green leafy veg every week. This way, the whole family can be involved in creating healthy habits.
Seeking Professional Guidance to Address Menopause Symptoms?
Connect with our Registered Dietitians for guidance through the ups and downs of menopause. Inside Out Nutrition‘s CEO, Gillian McConnell crafted a fantastic 12-week online course for perimenopause and menopause. It’s designed to empower you and provide support during this significant life phase.
Sources of Information
- Menopause and Hair Loss Patient Information. Available on: https://patient.info/news-and-features/does-the-menopause-cause-hair-loss
- Health Service Executive (HSE). Physical Activity Guidelines. Available on: https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/healthwellbeing/our-priority-programmes/heal/physical-activity-guidelines/
- Nutrition for Women with Hair Loss. Available on: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4828511/