Your hair needs certain nutrients to maintain its luscious look.
So often, healthy eating is associated with weight management or disease prevention. However, the food you eat can affect so many aspects of your life, from your fingernails to your sexual health to your hair. Your diet provides your body with crucial nutrients that support your body’s functions, and yes, that includes the growth of your tresses.
To understand how nutrition affects hair growth, you have to know the hair growth cycle. Each cycle includes three crucial phases:
- The anagen phase, when hair grows
- The catagen phase, when hair stops growing and separates from the follicle
- And the telogen phase, when the follicle rests for two to three months.
At the end of the telogen phase, the hair strand falls out, and the follicle begins starting a new cycle. At least, that’s how it’s *supposed* to work.
There are a number of factors that can disrupt this hair growth cycle, including genetics, medications, and diseases. Some types of hair loss are more chronic and even permanent, while others are temporary.
The type of hair loss caused by poor diet is temporary, and it’s called telogen effluvium. It means the growth cycle has halted during the telogen phase, so the follicle is resting and a new strand of hair isn’t growing. The hair becomes thinner, and you may notice an increase in hair shedding from the scalp. Once the nutrition mistake is corrected, the hair growth cycle should resume.
Here are the nutrition mistakes associated with temporary hair loss, according to the American Academy of Dermatology:
1. Excess vitamin A intake (known as hypervitaminosis A) has several health consequences and is usually the result of taking vitamin A supplements in excessive amounts.
2. Protein deficiency can cause hair loss because the body uses this macronutrient to build and repair new cells. When supply of protein is low, the body starts rationing it.
3. Iron deficiency can deprive the body of an essential mineral that makes up a part of all your cells. This is a common cause of telogen effluvium in women. (Here are 10 top food sources of iron to improve hair growth.)
4. Rapid weight loss, such as more than 15 pounds in a short period, can lead to a temporary hormone imbalance. Since hormones help regulate hair growth, this weight loss may result in temporary hair loss. Usually, once the body adjusts, hair growth resumes on its own.
5. Eating disorders can cause hair loss for a number of reasons. Eating disorders are often associated with nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, and hormone imbalances—all of which can impact hair growth on their own.
To be clear, it’s normal to shed up to 100 strands of hair daily. However, if you’re noticing more hair loss than usual, it might be a good idea to consult your dermatologist to figure out what’s causing your thinning hair (and what can be done about it).
Hair loss: who gets and causes. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology. (Accessed on November 11, 2021 at https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-and-scalp-problems/hair-loss#causes.)
Iron in diet Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on November 11, 2021 at. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002422.htm.)
Protein in diet. Washington, DC: MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (Accessed on November 11, 2021 at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002467.htm.)
Types of hair loss. New York, NY: NYU Langone Health. (Accessed on November 11, 2021 at https://nyulangone.org/conditions/hair-loss/types.)Vitamin A: fact sheet for health professionals. Bethesda, MD: National Institutes of Health, Office on Dietary Supplements. (Accessed on November 11, 2021 at https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/#h8.)