Good nutrition is a staple in many things: your health, your weight, your mood—and even your hair! What you eat fuels your body, inside and out, and diet can play a huge role in the look, feel and strength of your hair.
But nutrition’s connection to hair health leaves many people wondering—if it can affect how my hair looks, can it affect how my hair grows, too?
As it turns out, diet can play a role in hair loss, although perhaps not to as extreme an extent as you may think.
Nutrition plays a role in hair health
Hair loss can come in many forms. Your hair naturally falls out at the end of its life cycle, at which point it begins to regrow. We lose up to 100 hairs every single day, but we rarely notice because our hair begins to grow right away. However, this cycle of growth can be interrupted or stalled for numerous reasons, causing us to notice the loss.
Some hair loss is caused by stress, while other forms are caused by hormonal imbalances, genetics or underlying health conditions. These types of hair loss can cause large bald patches or wide-spread baldness.
Other hair loss is less intense, such as thinning hair caused by natural decreases in hormones.
Diet-related hair loss is typically less severe. It often causes hair to fall out prematurely and grow slower or not at all, causing thinner hair rather than bald spots.
Common nutritional causes of hair loss
There are numerous ways your diet could be affecting your hair. In many cases, nutritional deficiencies are to blame, starving your hair follicles of the nutrients they need to grow properly.
One of the most common causes of nutrition-related hair loss is insufficient calorie intake. If you are not getting the appropriate amount of calories each day, such as if you are on a crash diet or if you suffer from an eating disorder, your body will send the nutrients you are getting to your vital organs first.
This means your hair might suffer the consequences and be starved of the nutrients it needs to grow. Increasing your caloric intake to an appropriate level may help hair growth increase.
Hair is largely composed of a protein material called keratin. This is what gives hair strands their strength and resilience so they don’t break easily. Protein also allows the scalp to build new hair follicles. Unfortunately, if protein is lacking in your diet, you may suffer from hair loss or hair thinning.
To resolve this, eat more meat, eggs, nuts or fish for increased protein.
A particular type of B vitamin called biotin is extremely important in hair growth and hair health because it helps the cells carry oxygen to your scalp and aids in the production of keratin. Biotin deficiencies have been shown to stall hair growth and result in hair loss.
Biotin deficiencies can be rectified by eating more animal proteins, eggs or dairy or taking supplements. Supplements may be necessary for vegetarians and vegans, in particular.
Iron deficiency is very common in women, and one of its side effects can be hair loss. Iron is very important for many health reasons, but it also facilitates the growth of new hair by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the hair follicles. Without enough iron, your hair may grow slower or not at all.
Vitamin A overload
Instead of a deficiency, getting too much of a particular vitamin can also cause problems for your hair! Overloading on vitamin A could cause hair loss, because the vitamin can be toxic to your hair follicles.
This type of hair loss is most common in people who take a lot of vitamin supplements and are unaware of how much of a particular vitamin they are actually ingesting.
Pay attention to your overall diet
Fortunately, with most diet-related hair thinning or hair loss, the problem typically resolves itself once your diet is changed to include the missing nutrients or calories. Generally, the follicles on your hair will not have been affected or damaged, so growth can begin anew.
As you can see, a balanced diet with all the necessary macronutrients, vitamins and minerals is essential to not only health, but hair, as well. Because the nutritional deficiencies that most often cause hair loss are rooted in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and proteins, it’s important to make sure you’re eating well-rounded meals and getting all the nutrients you should.
If you know you don’t get enough of a particular nutrient or follow a lifestyle that makes it difficult to, speak with your doctor about taking supplements.