The adrenal glands, located on the top of each kidney, are responsible for releasing different classes of hormones. These hormones include cortisol, aldosterone, adrenaline, and noradrenaline. The adrenal glands play a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes in the body.
The changing hormonal milieu that occurs during menopause is a frequent cause of scalp hair thinning in women. One of the contributing factors to this hair loss is the decline in testosterone levels. Testosterone plays a significant role in maintaining healthy hair growth, and when its levels decrease, it can lead to thinning hair.
Interestingly, testosterone levels are strongly associated with the levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Low testosterone is often accompanied by low DHEA levels. Therefore, it becomes crucial to prioritise the maintenance of optimal adrenal function as we age. Despite their small size, the adrenal glands have a significant impact on overall health, mood, and well-being.
Recent research conducted at Harvard University in the United States has shed light on the impact of persistent physiological stress on hair growth. The study found that chronic stress can induce inactivity in follicle stem cells, which prolongs the resting phase of the hair growth cycle and prevents the initiation of new hair growth.
The researchers discovered that elevated levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, have an indirect adverse effect on the activity of follicle stem cells. Even baseline levels of circulating cortisol are believed to be a key regulator in keeping stem cells in a dormant state. When stress hormone levels surge, stem cell activity is further suppressed, and the regeneration of hair during the anagen phase does not occur.
The influence of cortisol extends to the cells of the dermal papilla, which are located beneath the hair follicle. Cortisol inhibits the secretion of a stem cell-activating molecule called Gas-6 by these cells. However, when the hair follicle stem cells were exposed to Gas-6 in the research study, it triggered a rapid transition out of the resting phase and initiated regrowth.
These findings provide valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying the impact of stress on hair growth and highlight the role of cortisol in regulating stem cell activity and hair regeneration. However, it is important to note that further research is needed to fully understand the complex interactions between stress, hormones, and hair growth to develop effective interventions for hair loss associated with chronic stress.
Considering the interconnectedness of hormone levels, adrenal function, and overall health, it is crucial to recognise the importance of maintaining optimal adrenal function as we age. The decline in testosterone levels at menopause, which can contribute to hair thinning, is strongly associated with low DHEA levels. Therefore, addressing adrenal health should be at the forefront of any medical evaluation, even though the adrenal glands may sometimes be overlooked due to their small size. These little glands exert an influence on health, mood, and well-being far beyond their size. By prioritising adrenal health, healthcare practitioners can address potential underlying factors contributing to hair loss, promote hormonal balance, and support overall well-being.