The transition into menopause marks a profound change in a woman’s life. It brings not just physical transformations but also emotional responses to these changes. Among these, changes to your hair health can be particularly distressing. As estrogen levels fluctuate, you might observe changes in your hair’s texture and color, which can be an emotional experience. It’s a journey of rediscovery, as your hair might not only change color (and not just to gray!) but also its texture. This period requires patience, kindness, and understanding towards yourself, and a recognition that while some changes are permanent, others can be managed.
You need to approach these changes with curiosity and compassion, as they are a natural part of any woman’s journey. And, it’s crucial to understand the underlying causes so they can get treated as necessary. Let’s delve into the common nutrient deficiencies that occur in women during perimenopause and menopause, exploring how they directly impact hair health and what can be done to address them.
Common nutrient deficiencies during menopause
Before making any changes to your diet and lifestyle, especially during menopause, it’s imperative to consult with a healthcare professional. A comprehensive blood panel can provide essential insights into your individual needs. It would ensure that any adjustments you make are safe and tailored to your health.
Vitamin D deficiency in menopause
Vitamin D is essential for keeping bones healthy and skin in good condition. Many people with different types of hair loss, like alopecia, have low levels of vitamin D, suggesting it plays a part in these conditions. Some research suggests big role that vitamin D plays in keratinocyte proliferation during anagen (growth stage) of the hair follicle.
Another important finding is that 73% of women with female pattern baldness have a lack of vitamin D. This connection between not having enough vitamin D and hair loss highlights the need to focus on vitamin D levels for better hair health. Oestrogen plays a crucial role in manufacturing vitamin D, but during menopause oestrogen decreases leading to deficiency in vitamin D. To compensate, it means you need to pay more attention to diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes to increase vitamin D.
Sufficient levels of vitamin D help maintain healthier metabolism, lower fat levels in the blood, and better sugar control, reducing the risk of metabolic problems. So it is not only your hair that will benefit from ensuring you have adequate levels of this vitamin.
Calcium in hair follicle formation
Estrogen, a hormone that decreases during menopause, is crucial for calcium absorption. A decrease in estrogen can lead to a reduction in bone density, making calcium essential for maintaining bone health. Oestrogen helps manufacture calcium in your body through the conversion of vitamin D into calcitriol – most active form of vitamin D. Oestrogen also impacts absorption of calcium in your intestines and, in cases of lower oestrogen, less calcium is produced and absorbed by the body.
Calcium’s role in hair growth links to its involvement in cell division and maintaining normal follicle function. By supporting the keratinization process, where cells mature and harden to form the hair strand, calcium plays a foundational role in the structure and growth of hair. Conversely, a deficiency in calcium can lead to hair thinning or loss by impairing cell division and disrupting normal hair follicle function.
Magnesium participates in production of certain proteins and cellular growth, essential for hair follicle development and strength. In addition magnesium’s anti-inflammatory properties can help to prevent scalp inflammation, a known cause of hair loss.
Magnesium also helps in the production of the antioxidant glutathione, which can protect the scalp and hair from oxidative stress and damage. Deficiency in magnesium, therefore, can contribute to hair loss by exacerbating inflammatory conditions and reducing the effectiveness of other key nutrients involved in hair growth.
During menopause lower levels of oestrogen impacts your body ability to absorb magnesium in your intestines, leading to lower amounts of magnesium being absorbed from your diet. But also, oestrogen also impacts the kidneys’ ability to retain magnesium. When estrogen levels drop, the kidneys may excrete more magnesium through urine, reducing the overall magnesium levels in the body.
Magnesium’s role in managing stress during menopause
Magnesium participates in regulating neurotransmitter release, which is crucial for nerve function and stress response management. Acting as a natural calcium antagonist, it helps maintain nerve cell function and prevent overexcitation that can lead to nervous tension and stress. During menopause, you’re prone to experience heightened levels of stress due to hormonal fluctuations, making magnesium’s role even more critical. Note that high levels of stress produce cortisol linked to telogen effluvium – stress-related hair loss.
Given magnesium’s double role in hair health, you need to ensur eadequate levels of this mineral and, if necessary, take supplements to maintain them after consulting with your physician.
Vitamin B12 plays a significant role in hair health by contributing to the formation of red blood cells. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to the scalp and hair follicles, promoting healthy hair growth. Vitamin B12 also participates in DNA synthesis and replication of hair cells, including the cells that make up hair strands. Therefore, a deficiency in Vitamin B12 can lead to hair loss and reduced hair growth as a result of impaired oxygen and nutrient delivery to hair follicles.
It is not uncommon for women in menopause to have lower Vitamin B12 levels. Though not solely related to menopause itself, there are common factors in the age group experiencing menopause. Note that if you already have low iron levels, deficiency in vitamin B12 is more likely. Here are several reasons why postmenopausal women might have lower B12 levels:
- Dietary Changes: With aging, there might be changes in dietary habits, with a possible decrease in the intake of B12-rich foods such as meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
- Decreased Stomach Acid: Aging can lead to a reduction in stomach acid production, a condition known as atrophic gastritis. Since stomach acid is necessary to release B12 from food, its reduction can lead to decreased absorption of Vitamin B12.
- Use of Certain Medications: Postmenopausal women are more likely to take medications such as proton pump inhibitors (for acid reflux) or metformin (for type 2 diabetes), both of which can interfere with B12 absorption.
- Intrinsic Factor Reduction: The ability to produce intrinsic factor, a protein essential for the absorption of Vitamin B12, can decrease with age. This reduction can lead to Vitamin B12 deficiency, as intrinsic factor is necessary for the vitamin’s absorption in the intestine.
In addition, if you are a vegetarian or vegan – you are more likely to have B12 deficiency. Therefore doing a blood panel to track is recommended.
Much like magnesium, Omega-3 fatty acid is not exclusively linked to the menopausal transition itself. Nevertheless, its deficiency can be common during menopause. Factors contributing to omega-3 deficiency in menopausal women include dietary habits lacking sufficient intake of omega-3 rich foods such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts. Changes in metabolic processes during menopause can also affect how the body utilizes fatty acids.
Given the beneficial role of omega-3s in cardiovascular health, mood stabilization, and potentially alleviating menopause-related symptoms like hot flashes, ensuring adequate omega-3 intake is particularly important for women during this stage of life.
Omega-3 benefits for hair during menopause
You can counteract some of the negative impact of lower oestrogen and nutrient deficiencies on your hair by adequate omega-3.
- Promotes Hair Growth. Omega-3 fatty acids can promote hair growth by enhancing the proliferation of dermal papilla cells (DPC) in the scalp. DPCs play a crucial role in hair growth by regulating the hair growth cycle and follicle size. During menopause hair follicle proliferation slows down, due to natural ageing process and higher androgens in scalp. A study on mackerel-derived fermented fish oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, demonstrated increased hair fiber length and stimulation of the anagen (growth) phase in hair follicles. This suggests omega-3 fatty acids can promote hair growth through pathways that stimulate DPCs.
- Helps Fights Scalp Inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties that can help improve scalp health. Inflammation in scalp is often associated with hair thinning and androgenic alopecia common in menopause.
- Enhances Hair Density and Diameter. Regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids can enhance hair density and increase the diameter of the hair shaft. This effect is partly due to the nutrients’ ability to prolong the anagen phase, resulting in thicker and fuller hair.
- Increases Hair Strength and Prevents Hair Loss. Omega-3 fatty acids contribute to the lubrication of the hair follicle enhancing hair strength and reducing breakage. Dry and brittle hair is common during menopause, so adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help you tackle this common hair health issue.
An easy way to introduce omega-3 fatty acids into your diet is two tablespoons of linseed daily mixed in smoothies or sprinkled over salads. Linseed could also help your body produce more oestrogen due to high amount of lignans in linseed.
Menopause and iron
Iron is vital to hair health due to its fundamental role in oxygen transport and cellular metabolism. Iron helps in the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to various tissues, including hair follicles. Oxygen is crucial for the growth and repair of hair cells, supporting the hair growth cycle. An iron deficiency can lead to anemia, characterized by reduced oxygen flow to the scalp and hair follicles. This can disrupt the hair growth cycle, leading to hair loss or thinning.
While the logical thing to happen for women in menopause is to become less iron deficient – due to cessation of period and less blood loss, there are other factors and health conditions that make iron deficiency common.
- Nutritional Deficiencies. Changes in dietary patterns or absorption issues can lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients, including iron, vitamin B12 contributing to anemia. Example of such changes are stress-based eating of high calorie but low nutrient food, overconsumption of alcohol and disturbance of sleep patterns.
- Chronic Diseases. The prevalence of chronic conditions such as renal insufficiency (poor functioning of kidneys due to adrenal fatigue – stress), diabetes, or autoimmune diseases tends to increase with age. These conditions can contribute to anemia of chronic disease, where there is a decreased production of red blood cells.
- Gastrointestinal Changes. Post-menopausal women may experience changes in their gastrointestinal tract, such as atrophic gastritis, peptic ulcers or the use of medications that reduce gastric acid secretion and damage the lining of the stomach, such as use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This can affect the absorption of iron and vitamin B12, leading to anemia.
Shortage of iron in your blood can be easily identified through a simple blood test. Generally it can be addressed by introducing an iron supplement into your diet.
The relationship between dietary fiber intake and hair health, particularly for women in perimenopause and menopause, is nuanced. Benefits largely stem from fiber’s role in overall health.
- Supports Hormonal Balance. For women in perimenopause and menopause, hormonal fluctuations can impact hair health, leading to thinning or hair loss. A high-fiber diet can help modulate oestrogen levels through its effect on bile acid excretion and the circulation of estrogens. This can potentially alleviate some of the hormonal imbalances that affect hair health during these stages.
- Enhances Nutrient Absorption. Fiber aids in maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, crucial for the optimal absorption of nutrients, including those vital for hair health. Improved nutrient absorption can help ensure that hair follicles receive the nourishment necessary for growth. It becomes increasingly important as digestive efficiency may decrease with age.
- Regulates Blood Sugar Levels. Stabilizing blood sugar through a high-fiber diet is essential for women in menopause: insulin resistance can increase during these periods. Stable insulin levels help in maintaining a healthy endocrine environment, reducing the risk of conditions like PCOS, linked to hair thinning and loss.
- Reduces Inflammation. Chronic inflammation can exacerbate hair loss. A diet rich in fiber can lower systemic inflammation, supporting a healthier scalp and mitigating hair loss associated with inflammatory conditions, which becomes increasingly important as the risk of chronic diseases rises with age.
- Aids in Weight Management. Fiber’s role in satiety and weight management is crucial, as weight gain during menopause can lead to hormonal changes that negatively impact hair health. By helping to manage weight, a high-fiber diet supports hormonal balance and reduces the risk of hair loss linked to obesity.
Vitamin E and scalp health in menopause
This vitamin plays a significant role in supporting your scalp health due to its antioxidant properties and treatment of dry scalp – common in menopause.
Vitamin E is renowned for its potent antioxidant properties, which help combat oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress increases during menopause due to hormonal changes and can contribute to aging signs, including skin and hair issues. Vitamin E’s antioxidant action can protect hair follicles from damage caused by free radicals, supporting healthier hair growth and potentially improving scalp health. It may also enhance skin health, providing benefits to the scalp by improving blood circulation and, in turn, nutrient delivery to hair follicles. Read more about Vitamin E’s role in hair health here >>
Vitamin E can help maintain the hair’s natural moisture balance, a key factor in preventing dryness and brittleness, conditions often exacerbated during menopause. It can improve scalp health by supporting the skin’s barrier function, reducing dryness and promoting a healthier environment for hair growth. Adequate intake of vitamin E, either through diet or supplementation, can contribute to maintaining lustrous and strong hair during menopause.
Awareness about Rural Women Regarding Health Benefit of Calcium and Risk of Osteoporosis (1)
Age of menopause and fracture risk in postmenopausal women randomized to calcium + vitamin D, hormone therapy, or the combination: results from the Women’s Health Initiative Clinical Trials (2)
Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause. (3)
The Transient Role for Calcium and Vitamin D during the Developmental Hair Follicle Cycle. (4)
The hair cycle and Vitamin D receptor, (5)
Mackerel-Derived Fermented Fish Oil Promotes Hair Growth by Anagen-Stimulating Pathways (6)