Hair thinning or loss in PCOS is caused by excessive amounts of male sex hormones called androgens.
If you've been following me for anytime you know I always want to target the source of symptoms and not the symptoms themselves.
Androgens are produced in three areas within the female system;
1) The ovaries - driven by insulin resistance and high insulin levels
2) The adrenals - driven by excessive amounts of cortisol and stress
3) Adipose (fat) tissue - driven by excess body weight
How Androgens Cause Hair Loss
Your hair grows in a cycle with the actual hair growing about 0.3mm to 0.4mm each day, which adds up to around six inches per year. However, not all of the hair follicles are growing new hair at the same time. Hair growth occurs in a cycle. At any given time, each strand is in a different part of the cycle. It’s a good thing that each of our hair’s cycles are not in sync, otherwise we would shed all of our hair at once!
This means throughout the year your hair is in a constant cycle of growing and replacing hair. It’s why when you brush your hair some will fall out and get stuck on your brush but, because you are always growing more you don’t notice hair loss on your head.
Excess androgens negatively impact your hair growth cycle as it shortens the ‘anagen’ growing phase. It also lengthens the time between the shedding of a hair and the start of a new anagen phase.
This means it takes longer for hair to start growing back after it is shed in the course of the normal growth cycle. The hair follicle itself also changes, shrinking and producing a shorter, thinner hair shaft, a process called "follicular miniaturization." As a result, thicker, pigmented, longer-lived terminal hairs are replaced by shorter, thinner, non-pigmented vellus hairs.
Supplements To Manage Androgen Levels
If you want to reduce your hair loss then you must be taking action to reduce the amount of androgens your body is producing. This means first finding out whether your androgens are being produced via your ovaries or adrenals. Secondly, taking the actions needed to resolve the hormonal imbalances of either the ovaries or adrenals.
Zinc is a trace mineral that many women with PCOS are deficient in. It's also an essential micronutrient needed for survival that can positively affect several PCOS related symptoms such as ovulation, acne, androgen excess, insulin sensitivity and the regulation of blood glucose levels.
Hair thinning/loss is a symptom of high androgen levels in women with PCOS. A percentage of your testosterone is converted into a much more potent androgen called DHT (dihydrotestosterone).
It's this DHT that blocks the hair follicle cycle leading to hair thinning and loss, especially on the scalp. Zinc helps to block this conversion, thus, helping to reduce hair loss.
I recommend my PCOS clients to take between 10 - 20mg daily of Zinc.
Saw palmetto is actually a palm tree native to the southeast regions of North America and especially abundant in Florida, Georgia, Cuba, and the Bahamas. Saw palmetto helps to prevent male-like hair loss, also known as androgenic alopecia - a type of hair loss also known as male and female pattern baldness in men and women, respectively.
It’s thought to work by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT) - one of the most potent androgens and is a major proponent in the masculine-presenting symptoms of PCOS. One study found that a high DHT to testosterone ratio is present in those diagnosed with PCOS, so any treatments that are able to normalize that ratio will help ease the condition.
Higher levels of androgen hormones like DHT are thought to shorten the hair growth cycle and lead to the growth of shorter and thinner strands of hair.
Saw palmetto appears to be most effective when taken in daily doses of 160–320 mg. It should not be taken if you're currently pregnant or breastfeeding. Always consult your healthcare provider before taking saw palmetto to ensure your safety and appropriate dosage.