Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Reduce the reductase...

and save your hair. If you're wondering just what is sending your former glorious locks into the bathroom drain, it's 5-alpha reductase. This enzyme turns testosterone into the more potent dihydrotestosterone form in your hair follicles, causing them to jump off your scalp and onto the floor.

Progesterone is an excellent inhibitor of this enzyme which is why prescription strength progesterone cream to scalp can save the mane.


Hi Kooky said...

You are just a fount of interesting information! Thanks for sharing all this good stuff. And good luck with your back - I hope the therapy continues to work for you.

Femail doc said...

Thanks HK, Back feels good, hair staying on the head, one step ahead of the clock here always.

Dee said...

Judy, about 5 years ago I was researching the hair loss issue and came across some information about saw palmetto (usually given to men to help prevent prostate cancer, right?), but from what I understand, it could slow down the facial hair on women because of the same interaction you mentioned in your post (also on my message board). Of course I'm not clear on this but I'm going to try to find where I read this and why it made me think it could help.

Dee said...

I found it!! Here's what made me start thinking that saw palmetto might help with female hair issues:

Saw palmetto has been thought of as an herb that could potentially influence hair growth. Let me explain. One of the causes of prostate enlargement is testosterone being converted into DHT (dihydrotestosterone). Excess DHT in prostate tissue is thought to lead to prostate growth, and excess DHT in hair tissue leads to hair thinning in men and women. Could we kill two birds with one stone by the use of saw palmetto? In recent years scientists have found that saw palmetto inhibits the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase in prostate tissue. This enzyme converts testosterone to DHT. Interestingly, there are two major forms of this enzyme, called types I and II. In humans, Type I 5 alpha-reductase is predominant in the sebaceous glands of most regions of skin, including scalp. The Type II 5 alpha-reductase isozyme is primarily found in prostate, seminal vesicles, epididymides and less so in hair follicles. At this time we don't have much research as to whether saw palmetto blocks the conversion of testosterone to DHT in hair tissue to a degree adequate enough to prevent or restore hair loss. My personal opinion, based on the early research, is that I suspect even if saw palmetto has a mild effect, it is not nearly as potent as the drug finasteride - an alpha reductase blocker - used for prostate enlargement (as Proscar) and hair regrowth (as Propecia). I do not know if there is an additive effect to finasteride if saw palmetto is taken along with it. There was a small study a few years ago that showed a potential benefit for hair growth in male pattern baldness when saw palmetto was combined with beta sitosterol. More research is certainly needed before we can come to any conclusions.
Bottom line, the jury is still out regarding the role of herbs and nutrients in hair growth, and we have little idea, even if they work, what dosages would be appropriate for long term use.

Dee said...

This is more of what I was looking for:
One of the most troubling symptoms of women with PCOS is hirsutism (too much hair, in the wrong places). Hirsutism is thought to be mostly due to excessive levels of androgenic hormones. Examples of androgens are testosterone, androstenedione, and DHEA.

Testosterone is the main androgen we’re concerned about. It’s normal for men to have a lot of testosterone and for women to have some. In both men and women, testosterone is converted into a more potent hormone called DHT (dihydrotestosterone). DHT is the hormone in your skin that stimulates hirsutism, which is male pattern hair growth. If you can reduce DHT, you may be able to reduce hirsutism (hair growing where you don't want it) or male pattern hair loss (restoring hair where you do want it).

Saw palmetto appears to reduce DHT in three different ways:

Inhibits DHT production;
Inhibits the binding of DHT to its cell receptors;
Promotes the breakdown of DHT.
Testosterone is converted into DHT by an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. 5-alpha-reductase is inhibited by saw palmetto, and thus less DHT is produced and hirsutism may be reduced.

Saw palmetto may be helpful in another way. A high level of estrogen may inhibit the elimination of DHT. Some women with PCOS have estrogen levels that are too high. It is reported to have an anti-estrogenic effect, thus helping with the removal of DHT.

There have been many studies of men with testosterone disorders that demonstrate the effectiveness and safety of saw palmetto. There aren’t yet any studies of hirsute PCOS women. However, naturopathic physicians using these herbs for PCOS are seeing consistently favorable results.

Saw palmetto may help with the following PCOS symptoms:

Hirsutism (too much hair in the wrong places)
Male pattern baldness or hair loss.

Femail doc said...

Hi Dee,

I too have wondered about saw palmetto for women losing their hair for just those reasons.

Unfortunately, I've not seen any evidence that it works for women, nor have I had any success in patients for whom I've recommended it. When I tried it myself (can't suggest anything I wouldn't down myself), I found that it made me feel like I had swallowed a tennis ball. I assume this was some sort of reflux-related symptom. I've had one other person--a male patient--complain of the same symptom with saw palmetto.

I still stand by my progesterone recipe as the best thing I've tried to keep old hair on aging head.


pat said...

My gyno put me on the estrogen patch and prometrium 100mg basically because I was having such a hard time with menopause symptoms I feel much better but I noticed my hair continues to thin on top of may head. I'm alittle concerned that I may be on too much estrogen after reading what you said about too much estrogen and the elemination of DHT. I was under the impression estrogen was necessary for healthy hair and may prevent hair loss....any suggestions.