Do you lose strands of hair in the shower and in your hairbrush? Have you noticed your hair becoming thinner? A receding hairline?
These are all common and unwanted symptoms of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is already draining and emotionally exhausting as it is. Hair loss is an additional traumatic symptom.
One of the most common questions I get as a Registered Halifax Nutritionist from my patients is, “how do I stop my hair from thinning with PCOS?”.
Many of my clients have achieved PCOS hair loss regrowth success and I am here to share our secrets, tips, and tricks. This article will outline how to stop PCOS hair loss naturally through simple diet and lifestyle tweaks.
Does PCOS Cause Hair Loss?
Hair loss in PCOS occurs due to high levels of male hormones (androgens). The PCOS hair loss pattern that occurs because of high levels of male hormones is called androgenic alopecia or female-pattern hair loss.
Studies have shown that hair loss is common in PCOS for this reason.
Symptoms of PCOS-Related Hair Loss
PCOS-related hair loss can present in a lot of ways. Some common signs that indicate hair loss related to PCOS include:
- Noticeable shedding: You may notice an increased amount of hair shedding on a daily basis. This can be particularly evident when brushing or shampooing.
- Hair breakage: Your hair strands may become fragile and prone to breakage with PCOS-related hair loss. Do you have trouble growing out your hair? Is it shorter and uneven in length?
- Clumps of hair falling out: You may experience hair falling out in large clumps, especially during shampooing or showering.
- Receding hairline: PCOS hair loss can result in a receding hairline, with thinning hair along the front of the scalp and above the temples. Compare your hairline now to photos of yourself before your PCOS diagnosis to check for this.
- Thinning hair at the crown: PCOS hair loss can also lead to noticeable thinning of hair at the very top of the head. Your scalp may be visible and your hair parting might be sparse.
- Dry and itchy scalp: Has your scalp become dry and itchy? Do you have dandruff?
Nutrients for Healthy Hair
Nutrition plays a crucial role in managing hair loss in PCOS.
PCOS hair loss nutrition mainly revolves around reducing inflammation, balancing hormones, and managing insulin resistance. If you can balance your hormones and reduce the male hormones in your body, you will be able to achieve PCOS hair loss regrowth success.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory which promote hair growth. They also improve insulin sensitivity. By reducing insulin resistance, omega-3 fatty acids may have a positive impact on hormonal imbalances that can lead to hair loss.
A 2018 study found that fish oil (rich in omega-3 fatty acids) promoted hair growth in rodents. In a 2015 study in humans, scientists found that a group taking omega-3 supplements had more hair in the active-growth phase than a control group.
In addition to its benefits on your hair, omega-3 is amazing for heart health, lowering your cholesterol, treating anxiety/depression, and glowing skin.
To incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your diet, try the following:
- Eat fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or sardines once or twice per week.
- Eat plant-based sources of omega-3 like walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds daily.
- If it’s challenging to get enough omega-3 from your diet, take a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid or fish oil supplement. Omega-3 is one of the most powerful PCOS hair loss nutrition supplements.
Iron deficiency is among the main causes of hair loss. If you have PCOS, you are particularly susceptible to iron deficiency anemia (especially if you have heavy or long periods).
Iron supports the production of red blood cells and carries oxygen and nutrients to hair follicles. Iron also contributes to the synthesis of keratin, a protein that forms the structure of hair strands.
Getting enough iron is a key component of PCOS hair loss nutrition principles. To incorporate more iron into your diet, do the following:
- Eat iron-rich animal products: beef liver, mussels, oysters, beef, sardines, chicken, turkey, ham, and haddock.
- Avoid drinking coffee, tea, or milk with your iron-rich meals to maximize its absorption.
- Eat plant-based sources of iron: enriched cereals, beans, tofu, chickpeas, apricots, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. To improve your absorption of plant-based iron, eat it along with a good source of vitamin C (such as orange juice).
- Take a heme iron supplement.
Zinc deficiency is common in women with PCOS. We need zinc for the growth and repair of hair follicles and for regulating androgen levels.
Zinc supplementation can improve hair thickness and growth if you have PCOS. A study found that women with PCOS who took 220 mg zinc sulfate supplements had significantly improved hair growth and decreased hair shedding compared to those in the control group. The scientists concluded that zinc might be a powerful treatment for PCOS hair loss.
Zinc-rich foods include oysters, shellfish, beef, pork, chicken, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Vegetarians or vegans are at a higher risk for zinc deficiency and should consider supplementing with zinc.
Biotin, or vitamin B7, is effective for hair health, increasing shine, thickness and increasing growth if you struggle with loss or thinning. It’s also important for eye, hair, skin, and brain function.
Most people get enough biotin from a balanced diet alone. Egg yolks, legumes, nuts, seeds, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, bananas, broccoli, yeast, and avocados are examples of foods rich in biotin.
Biotin alone may not be sufficient to reverse PCOS hair loss but it’s worth a shot! If you don’t regularly eat any of the foods listed, take biotin supplements.
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, which is needed for maintaining healthy hair follicles. It’s also hypothesized that vitamin D might play a role in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation, both of which can be contributing factors to hair loss in PCOS.
You can get vitamin D from sun exposure, food (egg yolks, fatty fish, milk, fortified plant-based milks), and supplements. You should include vitamin D from foods or a supplement every day.
The Government of Canada recommends that you take a supplement containing at least 400 IU (10 µg) of vitamin D every day.
If not doing so already, get your hands on a Vitamin D supplement!
What Foods Help With PCOS Hair Loss?
I wish there was a “magic” food that could completely reverse hair loss caused by PCOS!
But, maintaining a balanced and healthy diet can play a huge role in managing your hair thinning. Here are the best foods to eat to stop PCOS hair loss naturally:
- Complex carbs: Choose hearty whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat) over refined carbohydrates (white breads, pastries, sugars). These can help regulate insulin levels, which plays a big role in hormonal balance.
- High quality proteins: Eat poultry, fish, beans, lentils, eggs, and tofu. Protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels and support hair growth. Many lean proteins also contain omega-3 fatty acids, biotin, iron, zinc, and vitamin D which are key for growing thick, luscious hair.
- Healthy fats: Incorporate sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) every day.
- Fruits and veg: Consume at least five colorful fruits and vegetables every day to ensure a range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants fight inflammation that harms hair follicles.
- Iron-Rich Foods: Lean red meats, poultry, fish, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals.
- Biotin-Rich Foods: Eggs, nuts, seeds, and sweet potatoes.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts
- Water: Drink plenty of water to keep your body and scalp hydrated. Dehydration can negatively affect hair health.
Treatment for PCOS Hair Loss
Your doctor may prescribe minoxidil (Rogaine) 5% which is a commonly used drug used to treat female pattern baldness and hair loss. This is a topical treatment you apply to your scalp daily to help regrow hair. Many experts agree that topical minoxidil should be used first before other therapies.
In addition, a birth control pill is an effective treatment to reduce androgen levels. The pill can help you manage hair loss, acne, weight gain, and irregular periods.