The truth is that levothyroxine itself can cause hair loss independent of whatever dose you are taking. It may be the case that you are taking the exact amount of levothyroxine that your body needs to function but you can STILL experience hair loss. That’s because one of the side effects of levothyroxine is hair loss.
If you aren’t seeing improvement in your hair growth after changing your thyroid medication to an naturally desiccated medication, then look to these nutrients:
Yes! Diagnosing your thyroid condition and making lifestyle changes such as optimizing your diet, reducing your stress, and taking supplements for added nutrition can help reverse your thyroid hair loss.
Thyroid hair loss is a gradual thinning across the entire scalp rather than sudden, localized bald spots or patches. If you’re brushing through your hair and notice chunks of hair leaving with each stroke, it might be time to get tested for a thyroid condition.
Symptoms such as thyroid hair loss is an early sign of an underlying thyroid condition. You may also experience fatigue, weight loss or gain, brain fog, depression, or constipation.
When we first meet with thyroid patients, they are oftentimes struggling with thyroid hair loss even while being treated for their thyroid dysfunction.
As with many health issues, this is often because conventional medicine doctors fail to identify and address the root cause of thyroid symptoms.
Growing hair is more complex than you think. Your blood vessels, skin cells, and oil glands are all responsible for strong and healthy hair. However, when your hormone production is disrupted, specifically the output of hormones T3 and T4 (the primary and secondary hormones produced by your thyroid), it affects the life cycle of each strand of hair. This includes the development of hair at the root, how long it grows before falling out, and its replacement by new growth.
Thyroid hair loss often looks like a general thinning across your scalp or eyebrows. Thyroid hair loss might develop slowly; patients with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism notice a gradual thinning of their hair rather than localized bald spots or missing patches. If you’re brushing through your hair and notice chunks of hair leaving with each stroke, it might be time to get tested for a thyroid condition.
The good news is that thyroid hair loss can be treated. Regaining a strong and healthy head of hair starts with addressing your thyroid condition and taking the necessary steps to reverse it.
My first recommendation if you are dealing with thyroid hair loss is to have your doctor run a full thyroid panel to make sure your TSH, Free T4 (FT4), Free T3 (FT3), and Reverse T3 (RT3) levels are all optimal1. It’s important to understand that you can still have thyroid dysfunction and symptoms, including thyroid hair loss, even if your TSH and T4 are “normal,” and the first step in optimizing all of your levels is to have them tested.
Once you know all of your thyroid levels, you can work with your doctor to make sure that you’re on the right type and dose of supplemental thyroid hormone. Free T3, the active form of thyroid hormone, plays a big role in the health of your hair, yet the most commonly prescribed supplemental thyroid hormone is a T4-only hormone, such as Synthroid® or Levoxyl®. Many thyroid patients have difficulty converting T4, the storage form of the hormone, to Free T32, and do better on natural desiccated thyroid hormone, such as Armour® or Naturethroid®, which includes both T4 and T3. Determining which supplemental hormone is right for you is a crucial step in reversing thyroid hair loss.
The next step in reversing your thyroid hair loss is making sure your diet has been optimized for thyroid health, which includes ditching toxic and inflammatory foods and adding in plenty of the nutrients needed for essential thyroid function. So many of my patients have seen an improvement in their thyroid test results after going gluten-free; Dairy is another big culprit for thyroid patients suffering from thyroid hair loss because of its chemical similarities to gluten and because it is so inflammatory for many people. Other inflammatory foods I recommend eliminating while you work to resolve thyroid hair loss include corn, soy, nightshades, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Instead, you’ll want to focus on eating real, whole foods rich in the nutrients needed for thyroid health, including iodine, selenium, zinc, iron, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin A. If you are low in these nutrients, your thyroid can’t adequately produce its hormones, convert T4 to T3, or get T3 into your cells to attach to thyroid receptors, which can cause hypothyroidism symptoms, such as thyroid hair loss. I recommend a diet with plenty of grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, leafy greens, starchy vegetables, organic fruits, and healthy fats to combat thyroid hair loss.
While eating a diet rich in these nutrients is an important step in maintaining your levels of each, the unfortunate fact is that our soil has been depleted of nutrients and our food is less nutrient-dense than our parents’ and grandparents’. That’s why I recommend everyone take a high-quality multivitamin each day.
Although all of the nutrients I’ve listed above are key for thyroid health, iron deficiency, in particular, is a common cause of thyroid hair loss in premenopausal women. I find that most of the women I treat for thyroid hair loss in my clinic are deficient in iron, specifically ferritin, the protein that stores your iron, since they are menstruating monthly3. It is particularly common among women following a vegetarian or vegan diet, but I see it frequently in those following a Paleo diet as well. If you are a menstruating female or your iron levels are low, I recommend taking a daily iron supplement to help reverse your thyroid hair loss.
Collagen is a protein that is packed with amino acids, including glutamine. It gives your hair its strength, your skin its elasticity, supports healthy bones and joints, and helps maintain gut health. Your body produces collagen on its own, however, your production of it decreases as you age and if you are chronically ill or stressed your ability to produce it is reduced.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying “you are what you eat.” However, I prefer to say, “you are what you digest and absorb!” If you have a chronic illness such as thyroid dysfunction or an autoimmune condition, you may not be fully digesting and absorbing all of the nutrients that are vital for thyroid function and healthy hair. A primary reason for this is low stomach acid, which breaks down your food once it reaches your gut.
Some telltale signs of low stomach acid include acid reflux, gas, and bloating, particularly after heavy meals high in protein. There is a simple test you can do to find out if you are low in stomach acid. You can take one capsule of HCL (the primary stomach acid) with water before a meal, and then see how you feel after about 30 minutes. If you feel a burning sensation, your HCL levels are fine. But, if you feel nothing, you probably need to add an HCL supplement. For more information on how to test your stomach acid levels and how to figure out how much HCL to take, see this video.
Many women develop or see a flare in thyroid dysfunction during pregnancy or menopause when our bodies are going through major hormonal shifts. If your estrogen levels are too high, due to either hormonal changes or chronic stress, the excess estrogen increases your levels of TBG, thyroid-binding globulin. This is the protein that allows your thyroid hormones to travel through your bloodstream. When thyroid hormones are attached to TBG they remain inactive, so T4 can’t be stored in your tissues or converted to Free T3, causing hypothyroid symptoms such as thyroid hair loss.
Eating lots of carbohydrates and not enough quality proteins and healthy fats can send your blood sugar on a rollercoaster. These dramatic swings in blood sugar encourage your body to convert more T4 to Reverse T3, an inactive form of thyroid hormone. This slows down all of your metabolic processes and can cause thyroid hair loss.
To avoid this, I recommend starting off your day with a high-protein breakfast, whether that’s a protein-packed smoothie or a dish such as Beef and Veggie Breakfast Scramble, and pairing your starchy vegetables throughout the day with grass-fed, pasture-raised meat and high-quality fats, such as avocados and coconut oil.
You probably know your adrenal glands for producing adrenaline and managing your fight or flight response, but did you know that, as part of your endocrine system, they also produce hormones that impact your major metabolic processes, just like your thyroid4? These hormones help to regulate blood pressure, electrolyte balance, blood sugar, immune response, digestion, and more.
Chronic stress, which many of us face on a daily basis, puts your adrenals on overdrive for extended periods of time, leaving you in a state of adrenal fatigue. The flooding and eventual plummeting of stress hormones has many negative impacts on the thyroid. It slows thyroid production, reduces your ability to convert thyroid hormones to their active form, and increases thyroid hormone resistance, causing hypothyroid symptoms, including thyroid hair loss.
While stress may be an unavoidable part of our modern lifestyles, there is much we can do to manage our stress levels and their impact on thyroid health, whether that’s taking a walk outside, practicing meditation, or taking a nice relaxing bath.