Affecting both men and women, thyroid dysfunction can be a significant factor in severe diffuse Alopecia (hair loss). The thyroid gland is a butterfly-shaped endocrine gland located at the front of the neck. It produces, stores, and distributes hormones, altering and controlling the function of almost all of our other glands and the “speed” at which all our cells function, which we refer to as our rate of metabolism. Those with hyperthyroidism are sensitive to heat, seem hungry all of the time and don’t seem to gain weight. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, creates sensitivity to cold, reduced hunger, and (ironically) weight gain.
Hypothyroidism / Hyperthyroidism
The thyroid can be in any of four states: non-functional, low activity (hypothyroidism), normal (with average production of the two main hormones T3, and T4), and high activity (hyperthyroidism). Its function is affected by certain minerals in our diet, and becomes inefficient when they are in the wrong proportion.
Zinc, Copper and Selenium
Zinc, copper and selenium are particularly important to prevent hair from becoming sparse, thin, and reluctant to grow. One case, of a female, age 28, shows (top images) the thinning hair on top and the receding hairline from the nape of the neck. (Ambooken Betsy, 2013 ) (Gude, 2011)
The bottom portion of each image shows the regrowth accomplished in just one month, and the elimination of the lesions on the neck. (Kumar P, 2012) At first it was unresponsive with thyroid hormone (thyroxine) supplements alone. Once zinc monohydrate was added, aside from the hair regrowth, the facial puffiness, inability to taste food, and chronic depression had such significant improvement that the pre-treatment photographs and post-treatment photographs look like two completely different people.
The thyroid gland creates the hormones which the body needs, when we have enough raw materials such as iodine and zinc. T3 production should generally be 80-200 ng/dl, and T4 should be 4-12 mcg/dl. On a percentage basis T4 comprises 80% and T3 just 20%, but T3 is a much more powerful hormone, so less is needed.
Controlling the thyroid are the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. When thyroid production is too low, the hypothalamus stimulates the pituitary to make TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone) at a level of 0.3-4.5 IU/ml to maintain normal function. When lower levels exist, they have been implicated in Downs Syndrome (Napolitano G, 1990) and numerous other pathologies (Alhaj E, 2007).
While it is not advised to randomly supplement with mineral additives without some sort of biochemical assessment, upping your daily intake may ultimately be the suggested solution. Consult with your caregiver; you are likely getting some zinc in your diet. Zinc has relatively low toxicity in humans but it is noted as toxic when a dose of more than 225 mg is ingested orally. (Fosmire, 1990)
This is why many denture wearers that use several different brands of denture adhesive seldom have a zinc deficiency. Although manufacturers have been finding alternatives, zinc is often a large component of that class of product because it is highly effective.
In addition, excess levels of zinc also interfere with the absorption of copper and iron, two other minerals which are absolutely vital to good health. Iron supplements can be taken at a completely different time of the day to offset the effect, if necessary. (Greenfield, 2014)
If you eat a well-rounded diet, irrespective of any “fad” aspects, and provide your body with what it needs in order to function properly, you’ll probably have a long healthy life (and a full head of hair), as long as you don’t accidentally step out into traffic… Keep the smartphone in your pocket, look where you’re going, and you’ll be buying shampoo for years to come.
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References and further reading
- Alhaj E, A. N. (2007, July/August). Diffuse alopecia in a child due to dietary zinc deficiency. SKINmed Dermatology for the Clinician, pp. 6(4):199–200.
- Ambooken Betsy, B. M. (2013 ). Zinc Deficiency Associated with Hypothyroidism: An Overlooked Cause of Severe Alopecia. Internation Journal of Trichology, (Jan/Mar) 5(1) 40-42.
- Fosmire, G. (1990). Zinc Toxicity. American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 51 (2): 225-7.
- Greenfield, B. (2014, June 20). A GUIDE TO TIMING SUPPLEMENT INTAKE. Retrieved July 28, 2017, from Labdoor Magazine: https://labdoor.com/article/a-guide-to-timing-supplement-intake
Gude, D. (2011). Tracing elements in hair. International Journal Trichology, 3:132–3.
- Kumar P, L. N. (2012, March 15). Zinc and skin: a brief summary. Dermatol Online Journal, p. 18(3):1.
- Napolitano G, P. G. (1990). Is zinc deficiency a cause of subclinical hypothyroidism in Down syndrome? “Ann Genet” [Journal] , pp. 33:9–15.