What Causes Hair Loss After an Illness?
After a harrowing winter, it’s such a relief to finally step into the season of hazy spring days. However, if you happened to pick up a few nasty February flus, fevers and/or colds (like me!), you may find that your hair is shedding a bit more than usual. Why? Hair loss usually occurs 6-12 weeks after the offending event. From personal experience, I understand how utterly harrowing seeing extra hairs in the drain, comb and on your pillow can be, but this type of hair loss (called telogen effluvium) always stops and has the ability to reverse – provided you take steps to re-balance your body. In this article I’ll share a few useful tips on how to get your hair back on track.
Mindfulness for Improved Hair Health
Stress and emotional upset often present themselves physically: You may feel more tired than usual, achy or even sick. One of the many reasons for this is because stress can affect your hormone levels and how your body metabolises and absorbs nutrients. In the long run, this can lead to nutritional deficiencies and endocrine imbalances…and soon enough, hair loss.
Really, the most important thing to do is to take care of yourself both mentally and physically. Although it may seem glaringly obvious, we often tend to forget to look after ourselves properly!
First, eat three nourishing and balanced meals a day – not processed foods that can lack essential vitamins and minerals – and two healthy snacks in-between. This will help sustain energy levels to your highly prolific hair cells. Secondly, take time out to unwind and reflect. Be it yoga, meditation, an art class, a stroll through Central Park or reading your favourite book on a park bench or a café, if it makes you feel relaxed, go for it.
“Hair Care” Means Scalp Care
Stress and illness can flare up dandruff, which is proven to worsen hair shedding. Avoid this unbecoming double whammy. Use a flaky/itchy scalp shampoo and toner daily, such as PK Flaky Itchy Scalp Shampoo and Scalp Toner, until irritation clears.
Blood Tests: Ferritin Levels and Hair Loss
If hair loss after an illness (or any hair loss for that matter) persists for longer than 6 weeks, I suggest you have blood tests done. You may even want to have them taken sooner if you are really worried. Your doctor will most likely do a full blood profile, but also make sure he/she checks your ferritin levels. This is a stored iron that helps to produce hair cell protein. Be sure to request it specifically, as your doctor may not automatically test for it.
While the reference range for ferritin levels varies between different laboratories, levels need to be at least 80 ug/L (micrograms per litre) for your hair to function optimally. Other figures to look out for are B12, Vitamin D, Serum Iron and thyroid function. Read more about Vitamin D rich foods and hair.
Take Action Early to Avoid Losing Hair
If you have recently been ill, or are currently under the weather, take a nutritional supplement to boost your immune system and help your body (and hair) recover. Look for a good all-round multi-vitamin and increase your protein intake at mealtimes. We suggest you include at least 120g (in weight) of any primary protein at breakfast and lunch. For example, 2 eggs, a 120g fillet of salmon, grilled chicken breast, or serving of steak.