A New Way To Measure Stress… Your Hair

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We all know someone’s who’s hair has literally seemed to turn grey overnight from stress…

…it’s a very real thing.

 

I know during the time when, years ago, my kids and I were unexpectedly abandoned by my then-husband who disappeared one night (and the stressful subsequent divorce that ensued) I got my fair share of grays that seemed to pop up daily and have remained in place right now, even 5+ years later.

We also know during times of chronic stress, hair can become markedly thinner, falling out strand by strand or in clumps, even clogging your shower drain night after night.

This is because your body has hormone imbalance during prolonged stress… a very real result of elevated cortisol, hypothyroid, intestinal malabsorption, leaky gut, and other situations that stem from body’s response in trying to protect you from all the stress in your system.  During this response, hair can literally fall out and leave you wondering if you are going permanently bald.  Luckily, usually after a stressful crisis has passed, hair usually grows back thicker than ever.

But now we have an explanation for why our hair mirrors the amount of stress we are going through.

Hair, it turns out, keeps a very accurate “stress diary” for us, and analyzing hair strands is actually a wonderful, measurable, non-subjective way to quantify cortisol release in the body — much more quantifiable than the typical subjective stress diary that counsellors often recommend patients keep as they move through trauma.

 

The Study (published in Neuropsychoendocrinology in March 2018):

  • Hair samples were collected from over 700 Syrian refugee and Jordanian non-refugee adolescents (12 – 18 years old) living in northern Jordan near the Syrian border.
  • Hair samples were collected at baseline, after a 8 week support program offered by the Mercy Corps, and 11 weeks after the support program ended.
  • Hair was analyzed for cortisol concentrations at each collection.
  • Lifetime trauma events were assessed with a Trauma Event Checklist, a screening tool based on Harvard’s Trauma Questionnaire.
  • In addition, multiple questionnaires were used to assess impact of event, resilience, fear, and perceived stress.
  • Subjective measurements of stress and trauma were analyzed alongside hair cortisol concentrations for each participant both before and after the therapeutic intervention.

 

The Results:

  • Hair cortisol concentrations decreased by one-third after the support intervention, which mirrored the subjective assessments from the participants gave on stress levels and symptoms of trauma.
  • The therapeutic intervention helped patients to recovery healthy cortisol levels no matter which way the cortisol levels needed to go in order to reach healthy ranges again.
  • When participants had abnormally high cortisol levels at baseline (common in the initial phases of trauma and stress) the therapy decreased cortisol levels (towards normal, healthy levels) by about 43%.
  • When participants had abnormally low cortisol levels (coming in later stages of prolonged trauma and adrenal fatigue) the therapy increased cortisol levels (towards normal, health levels) by about 57%!   All from a 8 weeks of a supportive intervention.

 

The Bottom Line:

 

This tells us two things:

1) hair samples are a fantastic way to follow cortisol levels and help explain why our hair mirrors the stress that is going on internally in the body, since it collects cortisol in a *hair diary* for us…

and

2) therapeutic interventions during and after times of trauma actually help heal the physical body, normalizing cortisol… even short term therapy helps significantly!

 

Therapy during stressful events is not just a relief for the mind or for emotional support.

Therapy during and after trauma literally makes a difference on how your body functions and returns to healthy function after stress.

Meaning therapy builds resiliency after trauma, and protects the future health of the body.

 

 

 

Want more ways to understand the impact of stress and trauma on the human body, and ways that we can resiliently rebound from these experiences?

 

I am teaching a brand new trauma healing class in just a few weeks, and I would love to have you join in.

As a holistic physician, not only have I scoured the medical literature for positive, actionable ways to help our bodies and minds heal from stressful, unavoidable trauma, but I share detailed ways to guide you through your own healing (along with both personal and patient examples from my past 20 years of medical practice.)

Because of the very intimate and personal nature of this course, I am keeping it very small so I can offer one-on-one email consultations for each student throughout the entire two weeks of the class.

Let’s connect directly.  Privately.  You and me.

I’m here to boost your innate recovery.  You’ve got this ability already within you.  Let’s unleash it.

No matter what you have gone through, you absolutely do have the ability to rebound from from it and create a new normal and a new health set point.  Every body does.  Your body naturally want’s to trend back to full and complete wellness… mind, body and spirit.  I’ll give you the tools to get there.

Save your spot in this by-reservation-only course by clicking right here today.

xoxoxo, Laura