Body hair is a natural occurrence, growing from head to toe. Some people experience little more than a light fuzz over most of their bodies. Still, others have thicker growths on their torso and limbs. Some people shave or wax their body hair, while some people let them grow free.
Regardless of your natural body hair and how you tend to it, pay attention to your growths of hair. This vigilance is necessary because your body hair reveals much about your overall state of health. Here are four things you can learn about your health through your body hair.
1. Body Hair Reveals Hormonal Problems
Our hormones are responsible for the vast majority of how our body functions. They’re also responsible for the growth of many things, including our hair. So when our hormones become unbalanced, our hair ends up being affected as well. Here are a few potential causes of reduced or unusual hair growth:
· Thyroid Problems
Located in the front of your neck is a small gland responsible for the production of thyroid hormones in your body. The hormones secreted by this butterfly-shaped organ helps control your body’s energy usage. Without it, most of your body’s functions start to slow down – including the growth of your hair.
This condition is called hypothyroidism, and it has been proven by studies to cause a particular kind of hair loss. If you notice you’re losing a third of your eyebrow hairs (especially on the outer edges), you might want to consider getting a blood test to check your thyroid hormone levels.
· Male Hormone Imbalance
It is perfectly normal and healthy for everyone to have both male and female hormones at any given point. The problem comes when the natural balance is upset somehow – in this particular case, when there’s a sudden boost in testosterone or androgens. Both hormones are responsible for causing unwanted male-pattern hair growth, which is a condition also known as hirsutism.
To self diagnose, all you have to do is look out for hair growth on the upper chest, upper back, or above the belly button. If you have more than eight hairs growing around a single nipple, then you can safely consider it as abnormal hair growth.
That said, this is something that should be expected during and after menopause, as research has shown falling estrogen levels caused by menopause links with increased testosterone. So if you find the occasional hair on your chin, stay positive – there’s nothing to worry about.
· Female Hormone Imbalance
Estrogen levels are also responsible for affecting your hair growth. Research has shown that low estrogen levels often cause hair loss, and inversely high estrogen levels create hair that’s thicker than usual.
Your estrogen levels can also change suddenly after stopping birth control or after pregnancy, which often results in hair shedding as well – though at least that is temporary.
· Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Often shortened to just PCOS, it is a common condition that affects only about 1 in every ten ovulating persons. Studies have proven that the root cause of this condition is an imbalance of one’s reproductive hormones – usually an increased amount of testosterone – which results in issues with one’s ovaries.
Eggs that would typically be produced and released every month either suffer developmental problems or are not released at all. This disruption, in turn, ends up creating a whole host of symptoms like adult acne, irregular period, thinning hair, and unwanted hair growth in other parts of the body.
2. Body Hair and Nutritional Issues
You are what you eat – and our body hair is no exception to the rule. Our hair is a reflection of what we put inside our bodies, and its growth is based entirely on the nutrition we are receiving. As a result, if there is an excess or deficiency in our diet, our hair growth is often one of the first things to be affected by it. Here are a few possible reasons why your hair isn’t growing as well as it should:
· Excess Vitamin A
Positive thinking dictates that vitamins are the be-all and end-all solution to all your nutritional woes, but this isn’t the case. While vitamin A is essential for healthy hair growth and other bodily functions, too much of it can also cause vitamin A toxicity. This condition causes various health issues like dry eyes, dry skin, and hair loss.
· You Don’t Eat Enough Protein
Protein is essential for proper body functioning and is a critical component in hair growth. Research then shows that a protein deficiency will negatively affect your hair growth, as your body diverts the precious resource to more critical bodily processes. To avoid this, make sure your daily diet includes 46 to 56 grams of protein – the exact amount will depend on your body’s needs.
· Iron Deficiency
While it is not the only potential cause of iron deficiency, heavy menstruation is a common reason for the condition – and people who suffer heavy menstruation will undoubtedly be familiar with its symptoms. After all, it’s hard to stay positive when you’re suffering from breathing difficulties and a lack of energy. Iron deficiency will also exacerbate any hair loss predispositions you may have – so it’s best to have your iron levels tested as soon as possible. Thankfully, it can be quickly resolved with iron supplements.
· You Need A Change In Diet, Overall
The health of your hair is entirely reliant on your diet and the nutrition you are obtaining from it. If you are unable to give your body the essential vitamins and minerals it needs, it will be forced to divert what little it gets to essential body functions – often at the expense of your hair. So if you notice your hair isn’t as shiny as usual, or it has become thin and weak, you might want to consider playing around with your diet first. Sometimes, all you need is just more veggies, fruits, and protein.
3. Specific Disorders
When the health and growth of your hair are related to the health of your own body, it’s only natural that illnesses will negatively affect your hair as well. This means that changes with one’s hair often ends up being an early indicator of illness. Here are a few possible syndromes and disorders that may be the cause of poor hair growth and health:
· Cushing’s Syndrome
Staying positive is important for a reason. Cortisol is an important hormone that we produce when we feel stressed, and less commonly in response to steroids. Too much of it, however, causes all sorts of health problems. This is exemplified in Cushing’s syndrome – a condition where the adrenal glands produce an excess of cortisol. Common symptoms of the disease include purple stretch marks, weight fluctuation, increased acne, and hair loss from the scalp.
· Autoimmune Disorders
Autoimmune conditions often cause your immune system to attack your own body. Research has shown that a rare result of such diseases in cases where the immune system attacks the patient’s hair follicles. This attack can cause:
- Alopecia Totalis (a total loss of hair on one’s scalp)
- Alopecia Areata (hair loss in odd, circular patches)
- Finally, Alopecia Universalis, which is complete hair loss on one’s body – including one’s eyebrows and eyelashes.
Hair growth can, fortunately, be reattained with systemic steroids, though it isn’t a permanent solution.
If you notice the development of hirsutism or the increase in levels of DHEAS and testosterone happened relatively quickly (for example, within six months), you might have a tumor on your hands. It’s not a very common situation, but research confirms that tumors can potentially release hormones that disrupt your hormone balance – which in turn causes all sorts of problems, such as hair loss.
4. Other Possible Disorders
Hair loss or changes in hair thickness can be easily caused by a wide number of conditions and disorders. This means paying close attention to the health of your hair may help quickly alert you to a situation. At the very least, give you an insight into the state of your emotional and physical health. Here are some possible reasons behind the status of your hair:
Fungal infections like ringworm can cause hair loss in patches – often usually at the infection site. This disease can result in a spot of hair loss, should it successfully develop on the scalp. Other infections like folliculitis can cause inflamed follicles, which in turn affects hair loss. It’s best to identify and treat these infections as soon as possible to prevent further hair loss.
· Mental Health Disorders
There’s a reason positive thinking is good for you. The appearance of your hair and your interactions with it often relates to the state of your mental health. In turn, your mental health directly links to your physical health. For example, anxiety often puts the sufferer in a constant high-stress state. That stress could ultimately contribute to temporary hair loss or premature graying. Other mental disorders, like obsessive-compulsive disorder, can cause one to pull their hair out as well. Consider talking to a professional if you’ve noticed a change in the state of your hair, and suspect that it may be linked to your mental health.
· Skin Disorders
You probably don’t need a study to tell you this. Common skin disorders like dandruff and psoriasis can occur on the scalp, causing all sorts of problems. The former is just embarrassing and often easily treated, while the latter is usually considered a chronic disease. Either way, because of how they affect the scalp, it’s possible that such skin disorders may ultimately affect your hair growth as a resulting side effect.
Irregular hair growth isn’t necessarily a sign of bad health, especially if it’s rare or non-constant. You don’t have to panic about a little extra armpit hair or a single random strand of hair poking out from your stomach, so take it easy. Awareness, not anxiety, is critical.
Do you have a concern related to your body hair? Then don’t be afraid to speak to a doctor or relevant medical professional! It can feel embarrassing to discuss your body hair with others. But a doctor is non-judgmental and will help alleviate your fears and treat any issues you may have.