Any type of noticeable hair loss can be alarming. And while sometimes the cause of excess hair fall is temporary and will resolve on its own, other times, it's the result of something more serious, like Hashimoto's disease.

But what is Hashimoto's disease? And how can it cause your hair to fall out? Here's a closer look at the link between this common thyroid disorder and hair loss, plus what you need to do to combat thinning hair.

What Is Hashimoto's Disease?

Named after the Japanese doctor who first discovered the condition in 1912, Hashimoto's disease is an autoimmune disorder. It's sometimes referred to as Hashimoto's thyroiditis, or autoimmune thyroid disease, and is characterized by long-term thyroid inflammation. According to the American Thyroid Association, Hashimoto's Disease is one of the most common causes of hypothyroidism in the U.S. and is most common in women approaching middle age.

"A slowed thyroid gland is known as hypothyroidism, the condition in which your thyroid does not make enough thyroid hormones," said board-certified endocrinologist Dr. Yasmin Akhunji. "This is most commonly caused by Hashimoto's disease, an autoimmune attack of the thyroid."

The hypothyroidism caused by Hashimoto's leads to artificially spiked thyroid hormone levels throughout the body for a prolonged period of time. As the disease progresses, the exhausted thyroid gland begins to struggle to produce hormones, leading to a chronically slow or underactive thyroid gland and a host of other symptoms associated with sluggish hormone production.

Also: How to Handle a Mature Hairline

What Are the Symptoms of Hashimoto's Disease?

Because it's an autoimmune disorder, Hashimoto's Disease causes your immune system to go into hyperdrive, needlessly attacking healthy cells. As dramatic as this sounds, Hashimoto's often progresses slowly, meaning that the symptoms are not particularly obvious.

An early warning signal of Hashimoto's is vague exhaustion. "You might experience symptoms that feel like the body is slowing down," explained Dr. Akhunji.

This general feeling of sluggishness is hard for patients to articulate to their doctors, which is one of the reasons Hashimoto's can be difficult to diagnose for medical professionals unfamiliar with the disease. Even patients experiencing these sensations may not understand what they indicate. Unfortunately, the symptoms of thyroid disorders can be subtle and often go undetected for years.

Here are some things to look out for if you suspect you have Hashimoto's:

  • Dramatic weight gain
  • Memory lapses or forgetfulness
  • Heightened sensitivity to cold
  • Breaking or brittle nails
  • Thinning hair
It's also important to note that thyroid-related hair loss results in thinning hair, rather than dramatic bald spots or bare patches across the scalp. This specific condition of hair loss caused by thyroid dysfunction is often described by experts as "diffuse hair loss." Those suffering from Hashimoto's may notice they have thinning, brittle hair or observe a lack of new hair growth, rather than the abrupt hair shedding associated with conditions like alopecia areata.

Dr. Akhunji says it's critical to pay attention to the appearance of these symptoms, however minor they may appear. "If you're worried about eyebrow hair loss or other symptoms, consider testing your thyroid," she said. "Untreated thyroid disease can put patients at risk for even more troubling problems like cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis or infertility."

Related: What Causes Hair Loss? Every Trigger Explained

How Hashimoto's May Cause Hair Loss

If you've just been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and are worried that all your hair is about to fall out, don't panic. The good news is that thyroid patients generally only experience pronounced hair loss if they have a severe autoimmune response that has been left untreated over a long period of time. But how does this hair loss happen, and what's the connection between the endocrine system and your hair?

Understanding this connection means taking a closer look at how thyroid function is connected to hair growth. The hair on your scalp doesn't grow as a continuous unit. Instead, each follicle goes through the stages of growth one at a time, starting with growth at the root, cell by cell. This process is regulated by thyroid hormones.

"Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating cellular metabolism, meaning the set of chemical reactions that occur in our cells to maintain normal functions," said Dr. Akhunji. "This includes our hair and skin cells. When the thyroid gland is functioning correctly, hair follicles can regenerate themselves, going through the phases of growth, regression, shedding, then growth again."

Once your hair has reached its peak, hair follicles begin the resting and shedding stage, known as telogen. This kind of shedding is totally normal! However, for Hashimoto's patients and those suffering from other thyroid conditions, this hair loss period may express itself as telogen effluvium, a more dramatic form of hair loss that can be caused by many things, including stress, an imbalanced diet or an overactive thyroid.

"Your hair follicles may not be stimulated as much as they need to be when the thyroid doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones," explains Dr. Akhunji. "This thyroid hormone imbalance can result in hair loss, including body hair or eyebrows." For those suffering from thyroid dysfunction, this normal stage of hair loss may not be followed by new growth, resulting in thinning patches across the scalp and even the eyebrows and eyelashes.

See: 5 Ways Hormones Impact Your Hair

What to Do If You Want Thicker, Fuller Hair

To combat thinning hair, consider GRO Hair Serum, which has been clinically shown in some subjects to reduce shedding by up to 76% and increase the appearance of hair density by up to 52% in as little as four months. Just check out this amazing before and after photo from a customer who used the serum.

"I just want to say thank you so much," Rheonna said. "My wedding is in July and I was so stressed I started losing my hair. I ordered your product in April and started on the 1st I took a one-month update photo and I can’t believe my eyes."VEGAMOUR Before and After

What to Do If You Think You Have Hashimoto's

Discovering you might have a thyroid condition like Hashimoto's and the resulting hair loss can be an overwhelming prospect. Here are the steps to take to make sure you receive the care you need.

Talk to Your Doctor

First and foremost, the most important thing you can do if you think you may be experiencing thyroid dysfunction is to talk to your doctor. Your general practitioner can order blood tests to diagnose your thyroid symptoms and also refer you to a specialist who can recommend a course of thyroid medication, including thyroid hormone replacement drugs and other treatments.

Also: Anemia and Hair Loss Explained

Change Your Diet

Second to talking to a professional, changing your diet can be a critical step in your battle against thyroid disorder. People suffering from thyroid disease sometimes attempt to lose weight by skipping meals — a practice that causes blood sugar to get too low, causing autoimmune flare-ups. In addition, it's essential that you make sure you're getting adequate amounts of essential minerals like iron, which help support hair growth. Plus, a recent study shows that low levels of animal products in your diet may help lower oxidative stress. So load up on those fruits and veggies!

Reduce Your Stress Levels

While the evidence between stress levels and Hashimoto's flare-ups remains inconclusive, some studies suggest that maintaining a meditation practice may help improve the quality of life of those suffering from a thyroid disorder. There's an established link between stress and hair loss, so reducing your stress levels by going on daily walks, meditating or doing any activity that helps you clear your mind is a great step in addressing your Hashimoto's symptoms.

Also: Why Exercise Should Be Part of Your Hair Routine

How to Help Reverse Hashimoto's Hair Loss

Even with the best medical help, you might still find yourself in need of a little extra assistance. For all the good they can do, thyroid medications don't specifically target the hair and scalp or promote hair growth. Instead, they focus on general hormonal conditions throughout the body. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to help address hair loss caused by Hashimoto's disease.

Add Supplements to Your Routine

In addition to treating an iron deficiency, supplements can also help your hair. Support your dietary balance with supplements containing essential vitamins and minerals, like GRO+ Advanced Hair Care Gummies. The gummies include biotin, folic acid, zinc and other beneficial vitamins and minerals, plus the power of broad-spectrum hemp to promote thicker, fuller hair.

GRO+ Advanced Hair Care Gummies

Be Proactive About Hair Wellness

In general, the best thing you can do for hair wellness is to take good preventative care of your hair and scalp. Mindfully adding bioactive touches to your daily routine, like styling with GRO+ Advanced Hair Foam or applying lash and brow serums before putting on makeup, are great ways to be proactive. And if you're feeling insecure while you wait for your hair to grow back, consult with your hairstylist about possible options like hair extensions.

Whether you suffer from Hashimoto's or any other thyroid disorder, hair wellness starts from within. Support your hair's health with a multi-pronged approach, including consulting with your doctor, reducing stress, eating a balanced diet and following a targeted hair care routine that uses proven hair wellness products.

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Photo credit: Rachel Claire/Pexels

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