Whether you're a man or a woman, if you notice that your hair is thinning or find clumps of hair in your comb, do not assume that it's an inevitable part of aging While most of us have changes in hair-growth patterns usually beginning in our 50s and 60s, hair loss (alopecia) also can be a red flag for several treatable conditions such as hormone imbalances, thyroid disorders and nutritional deficiencies. Hair loss also can follow an illness that is accompanied by a prolonged high fever, radiation therapy for cancer—or even severe stress.

To determine the underlying cause of your hair loss, see your primary care physician. By examining your pattern of hair loss, he/she will gain clues to the type of alopecia you may have. For example, with alopecia areata, hair loss usually occurs in a sharply defined patch (which can appear anywhere on the scalp). With my patients, I usually also order blood tests for hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone and testosterone) and thyroid function. If hair loss is due to a hormone imbalance-including a thyroid deficiency-hair growth will generally occur within three months with the proper hormone replacement therapy. But remember that while you can improve hair growth with hormone supplementation, it's very unlikely that you'll restore your hair to the volume you had when you were in your 20s or 30s.

For people who experience any type of hair loss, it's especially important that they get adequate levels of B vitamins, zinc and fatty acids.

The daily regimen I recommend, taken until hair health improves: A B-complex vitamin that contains at least 75 milligrams (mg) each of vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5 and B-6, as well as 800 micrograms each of vitamin B12 and folic acid.. along with 2,000 mg of fish oil...and 45 mg of zinc.

The herb gotu kola also promotes normal hair growth and calms the nervous system. Take the herb in tincture form (one-quarter teaspoon in two ounces water) 15 minutes before or after eating, once daily. Gotu kola, taken until hair health is restored, is generally safe for adults (except for those with liver disease). Pregnant women should not take gotu kola. Check with your doctor if you want to take the herb for more than six weeks.

I also recommend using a shampoo that contains oil of rosemary to soothe the scalp and promote hair growth in people with hair loss. Rosemary is an herb that has a long history of use for hair and scalp health. (Such shampoos can be found online and in health food stores.) Also use a scalp rinse, which nourishes the scalp and hair follicles. My favorite is a rinse made of strong chamomile tea. Use six tea bags per quart of boiling water...steep, covered, for 10 minutes.. then strain. The rinse can be stored in the refrigerator. Pour one cup (at room temperature) on your head, then massage it thoroughly throughout the scalp at the roots of your hair Leave the rinse on for at least five minutes, then rinse off. Do this daily until your hair and scalp health is restored (usually within a month if the supplements described above are also used).

High-Fiber Diet Warning

When 13 people with diabetes followed a high-fiber diet (50 grams [g] of fiber daily), they had significantly lower levels of urinary calcium—a possible risk factor for osteoporosis-than when following a moderate fiber diet (24 g daily).

Theory: Dietary fiber binds to calcium, reducing absorption.

Good rule of thumb: Eat a high-fiber diet but include foods that are rich in both fiber and calcium, such as broccoli and figs.

Want to Keep Reading?

Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.

Sign up now Already have an account? Sign in