Weight loss is what many people want. But, what some don’t realize is that unwanted hair loss can be a side effect of extreme weight loss. While dieting and exercising to lose weight is important for overall health, it’s also important to be aware of the potential consequences of these activities on your hair. In this article, we’ll explore the connection between weight loss and hair thinning. We’ll also provide some tips on how to protect your hair while you’re trying to lose weight.
What Is The Connection Between Weight Loss And Hair Thinning?
There are a few ways in which weight loss can lead to hair thinning.
Your hair needs specific nutrients to grow and stay healthy. Some of the essential nutrients for hair health are protein, iron, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E (3).
Some fad diets are low in these essential nutrients, which can lead to hair thinning. For example, if you’re not getting enough protein, your body may start to break down the protein in your hair shafts. This can lead to hair loss and thinning (3).
Your body will prioritize more essential functions like tissue repair, digestion, pH and water balance regulation, and hormone production over keeping your hair healthy. So, if you’re not getting enough of the essential nutrients for hair health, you may start to see signs of hair thinning (3).
When you lose weight, your body’s hormone balance changes. This can lead to a condition called telogen effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a type of hair loss that occurs when too many hairs enter the resting phase at the same time (3).
This can lead to thinning hair and bald patches. The good news is that telogen effluvium is reversible, and your hair will grow back once your hormone balance is restored (3).
Androgenic alopecia is a type of hair loss that is caused by an overproduction of androgens. Androgens are male hormones, and androgenic alopecia is more common in men than in women (3).
High levels of androgens can lead to hair thinning and baldness in both men and women. While losing weight can’t directly cause androgenic alopecia, it can increase the levels of androgens in your body, which can lead to hair loss (3).
Weight Loss Surgery
Weight loss surgery such as sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass can also lead to hair thinning. This is because the surgery can cause a deficiency in certain nutrients, including protein and vitamins A, C, and E (4).
Additionally, weight loss surgery can cause changes in your hormone balance. This can lead to telogen effluvium and other types of hair loss (4).
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Restrictive dieting and excessive exercise in an attempt to lose weight can be very stressful. Stress can cause hair loss in a number of ways. It can lead to the condition called telogen effluvium, in which hair follicles prematurely enter the resting stage, leading to hair loss (5).
Stress can also cause a person to produce more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol can interfere with the normal growth and shedding of hair cells, leading to hair thinning. In addition, stress can lead to changes in the hair’s texture, making it more brittle and prone to breakage (5).
Are There Foods That Cause Hair Loss?
The effect of diet on hair loss is controversial. A handful of studies have suggested that certain foods can contribute to hair loss, but there is no conclusive evidence.
A study suggests that diets rich in simple carbohydrates may be associated with hair loss (6). Simple carbohydrates are foods like white bread, pasta, and rice that are high in sugar and low in fiber.
These foods can cause your blood sugar to spike, which can lead to the release of the hormone insulin. Insulin can interfere with the blood vessels in the scalp, preventing them from delivering the essential nutrients needed for hair growth (6).
Simple carbohydrates are also linked to an increase in sebum production. Sebum is an oily substance that can clog the hair follicles, leading to hair loss (6).
Preliminary research suggests that diets high in saturated fat may be linked to hair loss. Saturated fat is a type of fat that is found mainly in animal products, such as meat and dairy products (2).
It is thought that diets high in saturated fat can lead to overactivity of sebum and oil glands, which can clog the hair follicles and lead to hair loss (2).
Fish With High Levels Of Mercury
Some fish, such as swordfish and shark, have high levels of mercury. Mercury is a toxic metal that can damage the cells in the body, including the cells in the scalp. Exposure to mercury can lead to hair loss, as well as other health problems (7).
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Will Hair Lost During Weight Loss Grow Back?
Most cases of hair loss caused by weight loss is temporary and reversible. Your hair will grow back once your hormone balance is restored. However, some cases of androgenic alopecia can be permanent.
If you are losing hair and are concerned that it may be due to your weight loss, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the cause of your hair loss and recommend the appropriate treatment.
How Can I Prevent My Hair From Falling Out During Weight Loss?
There are several things you can do to help prevent hair loss during weight loss.
Eat More Hair-Friendly Foods
Your hair needs specific nutrients to stay healthy, and a diet rich in these nutrients can help keep your hair healthy during weight loss (6):
Protein is essential for hair growth and health. Make sure you are getting enough protein in your diet by eating plenty of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Biotin is a B vitamin that is essential for healthy hair. You can get biotin from food sources such as eggs, nuts, and liver.
Zinc is another mineral that is essential for hair health. You can get zinc from food sources such as meat, shellfish, and nuts.
Iron is also important for hair health. You can get iron from food sources such as red meat, poultry, and leafy green vegetables.
Vitamin C is important for the absorption of iron. Make sure you are getting enough vitamin C by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
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Avoid Crash Diets
Crash diets can wreak havoc on your hair. They are often low in the essential nutrients that your hair needs to stay healthy.
Furthermore, they are overly restrictive and hardly sustainable in the long term, which means you are likely to regain the weight you lost once you go back to your regular eating habits.
Instead, try to lose weight gradually and steadily by making small changes to your diet and lifestyle. This will help ensure that you maintain your hair health during weight loss.
Just like other organs in your body, your hair needs water to stay healthy. Make sure you are drinking plenty of fluids each day to keep your hair hydrated.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress can also cause hair loss. Make sure you are taking steps to manage your stress levels, such as practicing yoga or meditation (3).
Consider Taking Supplements
If you are not getting enough of the essential nutrients from your diet, you may want to consider taking a hair-specific supplement.
There are several supplements on the market that contain all of the essential nutrients for hair health. Talk to your doctor or a nutritionist to find out if a hair-specific supplement is right for you.
It’s worth noting that a healthy, balanced diet is the best way to ensure that you are getting all of the essential nutrients your hair needs. If you are not sure what foods to eat to support hair health, consult a nutritionist or dietitian.
Limit Hair-Stressing Activities
Hair-stressing activities such as coloring, bleaching, and styling can take a toll on your hair. Try to limit these activities while you are trying to lose weight.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for good health, including hair health. Make sure you are getting at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, try to establish a regular bedtime routine (1).
You may also benefit from avoiding stimulating activities before bed, such as watching TV or working on the computer (1).
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The Bottom Line
When it comes to weight loss, many people are concerned about the potential for hair loss. While it is true that weight loss can cause hair thinning in some people, there are several things you can do to help prevent this from happening.
It’s advisable to take a gradual approach to weight loss, eat a healthy diet rich in hair-friendly nutrients, and drink plenty of fluids. By following these tips, you can help ensure that your hair stays healthy during weight loss.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Can Lack of Sleep Cause Hair Loss? (2018, alaskasleep.com)
- Controversy: Is There a Role for Adjuvants in Management of Male Pattern Hair Loss? (2010, nih.gov)
- Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use (2017, nih.gov)
- Hair Loss After Laparoscopic Sleeve Gastrectomy (2018, pubmed.gov)
- How stress causes hair loss (2021, nih.gov)
- Nutrition of women with hair loss problem during the period of menopause (2016, nih.gov)
- Reversible alopecia associated with high blood mercury levels and early menopause: a report of two cases (2019, pubmed.gov)