The way your thyroid gland functions has an effect on nearly every part of your body.
This includes your hair. While some uncertainty did exist in the past about whether thyroid function influenced hair follicle health, definitive evidence was found in a major study in 2008. The results were published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in that year. The findings in the study point to a deep relationship between hair biology and the ability of the body to retain healthy levels of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.
How deep a relationship is it?
It's important to adequately understand the range of influence that thyroid health has on hair health. Hypothyroidism can come to affect hair health both directly, and through its effect on a number of other functions within the body.
Ferritin deficiency: Hypothyroidism causes a drop in the body's level of ferritin or stored iron, a nutrient essential for health. In some cases, doctors will order an iron test, but neglect specifically test for ferritin. If you are experiencing hair loss, you need to specifically ask the doctor for a test that includes ferritin detection. Even if you do test within the normal range, it's possible that your body has a specific need for high ferritin levels. It can help to talk to your doctor about taking iron supplements to see what happens.
Low stomach acid: Poor thyroid function can disable the lower esophageal sphincter and cause acid reflux and poor stomach acid function. When your digestive system is deficient in stomach acid, food isn't adequately digested, protein isn't adequately extracted, and the nails and hair suffer. Hypothyroidism also makes it hard for the digestive system to absorb magnesium, iodine, vitamin D and zinc, all important nutrients for hair health. Adequate supplement supplies are important.
Thyroid medications can affect hair health, as well
It is a particularly difficult problem, but levothyroxine can directly interfere with hair growth in certain people. It's common enough an incidental effect to find a prominent place on pill package inserts. A talk with the doctor for a possible alternative prescription, can help.
It may not help to simply get a standard prescription
Most people who test positive for hypothyroidism receive a garden-variety prescription, and go home expecting to see everything get back to normal. What they don't realize is that in many people, drugs such as levothyroxine only address one kind of thyroid complication -- namely, T4 deficiency. Since the body is usually able to convert T4 hormone to T3 when it needs to, they don't directly prescribe medication for T3 deficiencies.
If you are already on levothyroxin and you still notice a great deal of shedding, it's possible that your doctor has failed to consider a common problem -- the frequent inability of the body to perform the conversion needed. If they did apply the right tests, you could find out that you need not just the T4 replacement levothyroxine, but a combination of T3 and T4 replacement drugs.
The answer would be to make sure that the doctor does put you through comprehensive thyroid testing for every kind of thyroid malfunction -- tests for thyroid antibodies, free T-3, reverse T-3, free T4 and TSH. Talk to your doctor about a possible autoimmune affliction Nine out of ten people who suffer from hypothyroidism also suffer from Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition in which the immune system interferes with the function of the thyroid gland. Unfortunately, doctors usually fail to test for this condition. If your doctor hasn't ordered such a test, you should ask for the TPOAb and TgAb tests. Finding a way out of your hypothyroidism can help correct the hair loss that you experience.
Try natural supplements
While it's important to directly address the hypothyroidism that affects the health of your scalp, it also makes sense to attack the problem in other ways. Natural supplements can help. From supplements of omega-3 fatty acids to Evening Primrose oil, biotin and choline, a number of choices exist, that can make for immediate and visible improvements.