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    Does diet affect hair loss?

    On this page
    1. What is alopecia areata? 
    2. What causes hair loss? 
    3. Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?
    4. Which nutrient deficiencies cause hair loss?
    5. Weight loss and hair loss
    6. Will hair loss due to diet grow back?
    7. Treatment for hair loss

    Reviewed by our clinical team

    Does Diet Affect Hair Loss?

    Eating a healthy balanced diet is important to help our body function properly. Getting the vitamins and nutrients your body needs can also help keep hair strong and healthy. Not getting enough of the nutrients we need can lead to tiredness, getting ill more often and hair loss. 

    In this article we’ll look at how your diet can influence hair loss, which vitamin deficiencies may lead to hair loss and whether dieting has an effect.

    What is alopecia areata? 

    There are many different types of hair loss, alopecia areata is one of the more common types. It’s thought to be an autoimmune condition. This is when your immune system, the body’s natural defence, mistakenly attacks the cells within the body, in this case your hair follicles.

    Alopecia areata causes your hair to fall out and the patches of hair loss are usually round or oval. The hair on your head and face can fall out, this includes beard hair, eyebrows and eyelashes. 

    What causes hair loss? 

    A common condition, hair loss usually affects men over 50, however it can affect younger people and women too. Hair loss can be caused by a lot of different factors including: 

    Hair loss can also occur as the result of your diet, especially if you’re lacking in nutrients or certain vitamins. This can happen if you’re following a restrictive diet or not getting enough calories. Which is why your doctor may ask you about your diet during your consultation for hair loss treatments. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will ensure your body gets everything you need and you avoid any deficiencies. 

    Which vitamin deficiency causes hair loss?

    There are vitamins we need to keep our bodies and our hair healthy. Eating a healthier diet can ensure you get all the vitamins you need, however sometimes vitamin deficiencies can occur. These deficiencies can lead to hair loss, impacting hair growth and structure.

    If you’re experiencing hair loss it’s always best to speak to your GP first before taking vitamin supplements or self medicating. They may be able to check if you’re experiencing a vitamin deficiency with blood tests. 

    Vitamin D and hair loss

    Vitamin D is thought to play a part in the cycle and growth of hair follicles. When the body doesn’t have enough vitamin D this cycle could be affected. Although more research needs to be undertaken in this area, there is some evidence that low vitamin D levels can lead to hair loss such as alopecia areata. 

    If you think you could have low levels of vitamin D you should contact your GP for a blood test. You can also check your levels at home with a general health blood test

    In the UK, it’s difficult to get the amount of vitamin D we need from sunlight in the winter months especially if you’re indoors a lot. You might want to take a daily vitamin D supplement and eat foods enriched with vitamin D. 

    Which nutrient deficiencies cause hair loss?

    Nutrients play an important role in our body and most of the time we can get what we need from a healthy balanced diet. This includes the right amounts of macro and micronutrients such as protein or vitamins. There are certain nutrients that are essential to hair health, if you have deficiencies in these you may experience hair loss and other symptoms. 

    Iron and hair loss

    The most common nutritional deficiency in the world is iron deficiency. Certain people are more at risk of iron deficiencies; these include pregnant people and those who experience heavy periods. Low levels of iron can cause fatigue, weakness and in some cases hair loss.

    Women who experience hair loss are commonly deficient in iron, however it’s not clear if low iron is the cause of their hair loss or how they’re connected. It’s thought that incredibly low levels of iron in the blood can impact hair follicles, leading to hair loss. 

    Making sure you get the recommended amount of iron is beneficial for your overall health. Eating a healthy balanced diet should include iron rich foods. 

    Foods high in iron: 

    • Red meat
    • Nuts
    • Beans 
    • Chickpeas
    • Fortified breakfast cereal
    • Dried fruits
    • Liver (should be avoided during pregnancy) 

    Zinc and hair loss

    Zinc is a mineral which creates new cells and helps our bodies process the nutrients in our food. The symptoms of a zinc deficiency include loss of appetite, weight loss, hair loss and tiredness. A study has shown there is a link between hair loss and low levels of zinc, however more research needs to be done in the area to be conclusive. 

    By eating a healthy balanced diet and incorporating the below foods you should be able to get all the zinc you need. 

    Foods containing zinc:

    • Meat
    • Shellfish
    • Cheese and other dairy products
    • Bread 
    • Fortified cereals 

    Weight loss and hair loss

    When it comes to our hair, our diet can be really important. If you’re looking to lose weight following a healthy balanced diet and regularly exercising can help. Diets that are restrictive or follow fads can be detrimental to your body, for example if you lose weight too quickly, you can also lose muscle mass. 

    Restrictive diets

    Restrictive diets such as vegan or vegetarian or ones where you’re only ‘allowed’ to eat certain foods, can mean you miss out on essential vitamins. For example zinc is found in meat and cheese if you’re watching your weight or don’t eat dairy for other reasons you may find it hard to get the amount of zinc you need. A lack of protein can also cause hair to become brittle. 

    Eating disorders, such as anorexia can also result in hair loss. If you or someone you know has an eating disorder, you can contact Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity for help and support.

    Crash diets

    Limiting the number of calories or foods you eat can mean you’re not getting enough of the macronutrients and vitamins your body needs to function properly. Crash diets which follow trends, or result in very low calorie consumption can affect the nutrients you’re getting. Hair loss has been seen in people who partake in rigorous weight reduction programmes

    Weight loss surgery

    Although few studies have looked at nutrient deficiencies and hair loss after weight loss surgery; hair loss is a commonly reported side effect of weight loss surgery. It’s thought to be linked to levels of zinc, iron, folic acid and vitamin B12. If you’re having this type of surgery you should follow the nutrient and supplement advice given to you by your healthcare team. 

    Will hair loss due to diet grow back?

    Hair loss caused by a poor diet is usually temporary. However this depends on how much hair you have lost and for how long it’s been happening. That’s why it’s a good idea to speak to your GP as soon as you notice abnormal hair loss. They’ll be able to identify the causes and offer treatments to help your hair grow back.

    In the meantime you should ensure you’re eating a varied, balanced diet rich in essential nutrients to support your hair health. You could also consider taking a biotin supplement.  

    Thinking about hair loss treatment?

    Treatment for hair loss

    The treatments available to you depend on the type of hair loss you’re experiencing. If you have male pattern baldness you might be able to take prescription treatments, after a short, confidential consultation with an Online Doctor. There are also treatments which can be bought over-the-counter, these bundles can help to support hair health and growth. 

    You should speak to a doctor if you’re worried about your hair loss and it is sudden or falling out in clumps. 


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