The endocrine system, the series of hormone-producing glands in our bodies, govern so much about us, including hair loss. We ask, just how do hormones affect hair?
Hormones are chemical substances, produced by the body to manage so much of what makes us, us. The endocrine system is made up of a series of glands; Pituitary; thyroid; parathyroid; adrenal; pancreas; plus ovaries (in women) and testicles (in men). These glands, along with a few others, all take materials from the blood, then process them to become new chemicals to be used somewhere in the body. Through this process, the endocrine system affects nearly everything about the body. Think of just about any process in the body and it will be controlled by hormones, from brain and heart function to sleep and mood. If a gland is producing too much, or too little, of any given hormone there will be a physical symptom, often an unwelcome one.
Probably the most common, certainly the most high profile, among these imbalances would be diabetes. Any disorder of the endocrine system needs to be treated on a case by case basis. The manipulation of any hormone level can impact on another, creating a new, sometimes more complex, problem. In among this incredibly sophisticated matrix of biological engineering, there are five hormones that can provoke hair loss. We take a closer look at each.
Testosterone is the best known of this type of hormone. Predominantly male they are present in women though in much smaller quantities. The most common type of balding, pattern balding, is known to doctors as androgenetic alopecia. This is because a product of testosterone, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), is believed to be the main actor in male and female pattern hair loss. Work on achieving a better understanding of this process, and how we might adjust it, is at the heart of hair loss research.
Oestrogen and Progesterone
Abundant in women, not so much in men, these hormones help with hair growth. During pregnancy, heightened levels and a reduction of DHT see women grow thick, full hair. Post-pregnancy the dip in levels lead to the condition we call postpartum hair loss, a temporary state while the body returns to a non-pregnant condition. As women reach menopausal age, a point where the levels naturally dip, they can begin to experience hair thinning.
Insulin and IGF-1
A resistance to insulin, of the sort that can lead to diabetes, can also affect the quality of the hair. A fact that will be recognised by sufferers of PCOD, for whom insulin resistance is a feature.
HIS Hair Clinic
The endocrine system was discovered in the first years of the twentieth century. Since then it has gone on to radically alter our appreciation of how our body manages itself. We still have some way to go, more recently it was discovered that organs like the kidneys and guts are also part of that endocrine system. So the question of how do hormones affect our hair looks set to challenge us for a while yet. If you want to learn more about the endocrine system click here for an excellent overview provided by British charity Thyroid UK.
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