mhn news & blog

February 02, 2012

Stress and Hair Loss

Cortisol is the primary human stress hormone. It causes blood sugar to raise, the brain to consume more glucose (sugar), and the body’s repair team is put on guard duty, ready to fix any damaged tissue. The adrenaline elevates heart rate and blood pressure, and gives us a boost of energy.

During the body's “fight or flight” response, nonessential body systems are suppressed, such as our reproductive, digestive, and immune systems. Our emotions and mood are also altered. Once the threat is gone, cortisol and adrenaline levels drop and the body resumes normal functioning; but what if the perceived threat never leaves?

Our body is designed to utilize high levels of adrenaline and cortisol on a temporary basis. Continued over time, the alarm response is toxic to our body. It triggers mood and memory problems, circulatory, skin and digestive impairments; it disturbs sleep, and contributes to hair loss.

Stress and Hair Loss

Generally, anything that messes with our follicles or the growth cycle of our hair can trigger hair loss. Even when stress is not a primary factor, it can cause other troubles in the body which in turn weaken or damage the hair.

Alopecia Areata
The circulatory and immune systems, when affected by constant stress, cause, or contribute (depends which doctor you ask) to the condition called alopecia areata. Stress alters our immune system, and inflammation in the body kicks that system into high gear. When this occurs, white blood cells may “see” hair follicles as an enemy and attack them. Eventually, the attacked hairs stop growing and begin to fall out.

Telogen Effluvium
Another type of hair loss, Telogen Effluvium (TE), can usually be traced back to a single stressful event, often another illness, or surgery. TE may also result from a high level of sustained daily stress. Because many nonessential systems dial down during stressful times, too many hair follicles may enter the resting stage before their growing stage is complete. Within two or three months of the cycle being disrupted, hair starts to shed.

Relieve Stress: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

We cannot always change our stressful situation, but we can learn different ways to counter stress. Below is a simple relaxation technique that can be done sitting in the office chair, when stuck in traffic, or laying in bed.

The Muscle Groups
A. hands and arms

B. head, neck, shoulders

C. stomach, torso/chest, back

D. feet, legs, buns, thighs

How to Do It
1. sit or lay down, get comfortable

2. tense (squeeze) muscle group A (see above)

3. hold the tension 5 to 7 seconds

4. release the tension, relax for 20 to 30 seconds

5. Repeat steps 2 through 4 with muscle groups B, C, and D.

Just Remember: Tense for 5 - Relax for 30

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day [or on the couch on a winter’s day], listening to the murmur of the water [or sleet on the windowpane], or watching the clouds float across the sky [or listening to heavenly music], is by no means a waste of time.” ~ Mostly J. Lubbock ~