If you are suffering from irregular menstruation, excessive hair growth on your face and limbs, unexplained acne outbursts, unusual weight gain, etc., then it is highly likely that you suffer from Polycystic Overy Syndrome or PCOS. It is the most common reproductive and hormonal disorder seen in women, after somewhere around 6-10% of the population.
The symptoms vary from person to person but the common ones are irregular periods, hirsutism, and cysts in the ovaries. When a person is suffering from PCOS, the ovaries release immature eggs called follicles which then transform into cysts on the outer edge of the ovary. These follicles fail to release eggs regularly and cause irregular periods. However, the most interesting relationship is between PCOS and hair loss.
Does PCOS Cause Hair Loss?
The female body produces a specific amount of androgens or male hormones like testosterone which are responsible for hair growth, triggering puberty and other metabolic functions. The elevated levels of testosterone and its metabolite DHT, cause hair to shrink and become thinner. They also shorten the hair cycle, so hair falls out faster.
According to Dr. Smriti Naswa Singh, Consultant Dermatologist & Cosmetic Dermatologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, androgenetic alopecia or female pattern baldness is commonly associated with PCOS and starts as hair thinning, especially at the frontal and vertex regions of the scalp. The females don’t go bald like men but their middle parting becomes thinner and thinner leading to scalp show. However, PCOS hair loss is reversible if diagnosed early and the underlying condition, which is a hormonal imbalance here, is treated.
PCOS Hair Loss Treatment
- Suppressing Excess Androgen: To suppress the excess androgen production, oral contraceptive pills are recommended, paired with 5-alpha reductase inhibitors for treating hair loss. Other than that, 250 mg of flutamide has also proven to be helpful in this case.
- Antiandrogens: Antiandrogens like Spironolactone (Aldactone) block DTH and prevent hair loss. A 2% Minoxidil solution is also a good way to promote hair growth but shouldn’t be used without consulting a medical professional.
- Biotin Supplements: As per anecdotal evidence, biotin supplements may promote hair growth in those with low serum biotin levels.
- Cosmetic Procedures: Medical procedures like hair transplants, platelet-rich plasma, and microneedling therapy can also be used to deal with female pattern baldness.
- Home Remedies: Certain home remedies including fenugreek seeds, aloe vera gel, and cinnamon-infused water have proved to be effective in treating PCOS hair loss.
PCOS Hair Loss Diet
- Protein-rich Foods: Lean proteins like lentils, chicken, fish, etc. should be incorporated into the diet as insufficient protein levels are directly linked to hair loss. The ratio of whole plant protein and animal proteins should be 90:10, as animal proteins are pro-inflammatory, and lack fiber (which is important for good gut bacterial health). It is also important to check the source of animal foods, as they might be injected with animal growth hormones which further cause hormonal havoc (or endocrine disruption).
- Zinc-rich Foods: Zinc-rich foods like yogurt, oysters, chickpeas, nuts, and beans can be eaten, along with zinc supplements. However, it is advised to consult a medical practitioner before getting on to any such regime.
- Iron-rich Foods: Iron deficiency can be a major factor when it comes to hair loss, hence, it is advised to consume iron-rich foods like spinach, nuts, lentils, kidney beans, peas, etc.
- Antioxidant-rich Foods: Antioxidant-rich foods such as whole grains, eggs, avocado, spinach, citrus fruits, and nuts should be a part of your diet when dealing with issues like PCOS hair loss. Always choose varieties of seasonal, local, hyperlocal, and wild fruits and vegetables, this prevents the chance of excess pesticides in them. Wash them thoroughly in water or soak them in tamarind water for 10 minutes, then dry and eat or store them, as pesticides are also endocrine disruptors. A variety of such antioxidants help to ensure coverage of all kinds of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and trace elements.
- Avoid Processed Foods: Inflammatory foods like excess sugar, refined flour, fried food, etc. should be avoided as they can exacerbate the condition, facilitating symptoms like insulin resistance.