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Losing Weight? Don’t Lose Your Hair Too

If you are on a strict diet, or have recently undergone surgery for weight loss, your hair might be at risk. The sudden stress of weight loss combined with nutritional deficiencies can rapidly lead to hair loss. Make sure your hair stays healthy while dieting with the tips outlined below.
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Hair loss is something that affects about 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women. Hair loss is natural to some extent, and can be the result of changing hormone levels, simple aging of hair follicles, and genetic reasons.

Most hair loss is temporary, and can be reversed. However, there are a few types of hair loss that are permanent. However, these kinds of permanent hair loss typically do not show noticeable side effects until age 50 or later. In some cases, it may even be possible to slow and stop this form of hair loss as well, with DHT blockers and other hair loss-prevention supplements.

However, if you are losing your hair before the age of 50 and have recently lost weight, undergone weight loss surgery, or are on a restricted diet, another factor could be in play-vitamin deficiency. A sudden drop in weight and vitamins could be contributing to your sudden lack of hair.

Although your hair is not alive, it does require vitamins and minerals to grow. Your hair is an indicator of the current state of the health of the rest of your body. Extreme changes in diet, weight, vitamin intake, and even stress, can all contribute to hair loss.

A 2013 study conducted by University Hospital Sharjah found that individuals who underwent gastric bypass surgery showed thinning hair, breaking nails, and deteriorating skin. When the hospital conducted further research, it was found that vitamin deficiencies were the reason behind the hair loss. A sudden change in weight or an overly restricted diet can lead to sudden hair loss. This hair loss is temporary, and with the right diet and supplement changes, can completely be reversed.

Weight Loss and Hair Loss

A sudden drop in weight can have an adverse effect on a wide variety of your body’s systems. Although your body is not designed to become as heavy as many obese individuals today, your body sees rapid weight loss as a sign of danger. One of the reasons that many diets do not stick is because of the body’s reaction to weight loss.

When you lose a lot of weight quickly, your body starts to panic. It believes that you are starving, so it shuts down all but the most essential systems and tries to hold on to as much weight as possible. This increases the stress levels in your body, causing a huge range of problems from improper thyroid function to hair loss.

Most scientists and health researchers believe that although the stress of losing weight may be one reason why men and women lose their hair, one of the main causes is lack of vitamin absorption. On a strict diet, like one that results after having gastric bypass surgery, your body does not get the nutrients it needs to make healthy skin, nails, and hair. Consequently, one of the main known side effects for gastric bypass surgery is hair loss.

University Hospital Sharjah Study Details

The researchers at University Hospital Sharjah looked at bypass patients for several months during follow-up appointments. The researchers found that in the majority of patients, they were fine for the first 2-3 weeks after surgery. Then, suddenly, many of them began to show adverse side effects like thinning hair, splitting nails, and sallow skin. Even though patients who had undergone surgery showed the greatest hair loss, any sudden drop in weight could damage the hair of an individual.

The researchers blamed the loss of vitamins on the hair loss. Any sudden restriction in diet will result in vitamin deficiencies. Vitamins particularly necessary for effective hair growth are vitamin D, vitamin B12, Iron, zinc, and protein.

Similar Studies

A 1993 study conducted by the Kingsley Clinic looked at women suffering from hair loss. The researchers found that if women had blood serum vitamin B12 levels between 300 and 1000 ng/L, they were able to see hair re-growth much faster. In 2002, Dr. DH Rushton, leading hair loss expert in the UK wrote a paper about vitamin deficiency caused by changes in diet and hair loss. According to his writings, hair loss can be attributed to a lack in omega fatty acids, biotin, iron, and L-lysine.

One study from the University of Portsmouth in 2002 showed that in women with iron levels below 40 mcg had reduced hair density.

A 2010 study from Duke University Medical Center indicated that iron levels had no bearing on hair density, so iron deficiency may not lead to hair loss in all people. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Texas looked at the role of vitamin D in hair loss. According to the study, the vitamin is a necessary part of healthy hair. Without exposure to sunlight (or enough vitamin D in the diet), the hair remains in the non-growth phase longer. The researchers were unable to see clearly the role of vitamin D in hair loss, only that a lack of the vitamin led to increased loss. However, getting enough vitamin D is essential for seeing health, strong hair.

The Weight Loss Takeaway 

If you are on a weight loss journey, you may feel like you are being as healthy as you can be by dropping weight. However, if you do not take steps to ensure you get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet, you could actually be causing more harm than good, including temporary or permanent hair loss.

Your hair is connected to the entire health of your body. If your body is healthy, your hair will look healthy. If you do not get enough nutrients in your diet, then your hair will thin. In some cases, your hair may not be able to grow back after it falls out, depending on the type of hair loss you are facing (usually Androgenic alopecia).

However, if your hair is shedding due to improper nutritional intake, you will be able to regrow it by adding the necessary nutrients back into your diet.

Nutrients for Healthy Hair

According to a 2002 study by the University of Portsmouth, proper nutrition is essential to the health of your hair. Without nutrients like vitamin D, B12, iron, protein, and l-lysine, your hair will continue to fall out and will not regrow until you have added these nutrients back into your diet.

The researchers also found that supplementing with the wrong type of nutrient actually had a detrimental effect on hair loss. If you want to ensure you are supplementing with the right vitamins, consult your doctor and get tested to see if you lack any nutrients. However, eating a diet rich in these nutrients has not been shown to have adverse effects on hair loss.

Protein

According to bariatric surgeon Dorothy McFadden, RD, LDN, protein is an essential nutrient after surgery to prevent hair loss. She recommends getting at least 60 to 75 grams of protein per day. Most meats have between 7 and 8 grams per ounce, so to get the recommended amount you would need to eat about 8 ounces of protein a day, which is easily achieved.

Iron

Iron is an essential nutrient for many functions of the body, but as the study outlined above, it can be extremely important for maintaining healthy hair after weight loss. After surgery, about 40 percent of individuals who undergo bariatric surgery show a deficiency in iron levels. In the above study, iron levels below 40 gm/dl were associated with hair loss. Dieters should aim for getting around 50 to 100 mg of iron per day.

Biotin

While there are no hard-and-fast studies on whether biotin is helpful for hair loss, Dr. McFadden recommends patients take biotin supplements, because some anecdotal evidence suggests that it works, and the water-solubility of the supplement means that it will not hurt anyone to take it. The recommended dose after weight loss is between 2000 to 3000 mcg per day.

Vitamin B12

A study published in the 1993 issue of Dermatologic Clinics looked at the vitamin B12 levels of individuals with hair loss. Individuals who had vitamin B12 levels between 300 and 1,000 nanograms per liter showed the most hair growth over the period of study. Vitamin B12 can also help in a variety of other ways after weight loss, including adding extra energy, encouraging cell production, and improving mental focus.

L-Lysine

The 2002 study from the University of Portsmouth showed that when women supplemented with a combination of l-lysine and iron, their hair loss slowed or stopped. L-lysine is an amino acid that helps the absorption of iron into the bloodstream. It can help absorb a variety of nutrients on a suddenly restricted diet and can help prevent further hair loss.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids are found naturally in foods. Many years ago, before the prevalence of vegetable oils, most people had enough omega-3s in their body. However, according to the University of Maryland, today’s modern American has about 25 times the necessary number of Omega 6 fatty acids in the body (coming from vegetable oils). The best way to reverse this problem is by supplementing with Omega-3s. Omega-3s fight against the inflammation caused by omega-6 acids, and also promotes healthy hair, skin, and nails. The University of Arizona suggests taking 500 milligrams of omega-3 supplements (fish oil or flax seed oil) per day for two months to prevent and stop hair loss.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D will help your hair naturally filter through its hair cycles even after undergoing the stress of extreme dieting or surgery. Try to get out in the sun at least 10 minutes per day. You can also supplement with vitamin D drops. 800 IUD per day should be enough to support healthy hair functioning.

Foods for Healthy Hair

Your best bet while dieting is to get as many missing nutrients as possible from your foods. Supplements will help fill in any gaps, but they should not be considered your main source of nutrition. If you are on a strict diet, or have recently had weight loss surgery, try to add many of the following foods to your diet in addition to your daily supplement intake. This will help slow, stop, and reverse any hair loss seen due to weight loss faster than anything else.

Within a few months of taking supplements and eating the following hair-healthy foods, you should see your thinning hair fill back in again.

Hair-Healthy Foods
  • Iron: Red meat, egg yolks, leafy greens, raisins, prunes, beans and lentils, liver, mollusks
  • Protein: Turkey, chicken, tuna, cheese pork, beef, soybeans, dairy products, eggs
  • L-Lysine: Hazelnuts, orange juice, grapes, pine nuts, walnuts, hickory nuts, sesame seeds, almonds
  • Biotin: Carrots, nuts, milk, berries, fruit, eggs, vegetables, halibut
  • Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Flaxseed, fatty fish, walnuts, basil, cloves, oregano, marjoram
  • Vitamin D: Eggs, fatty fish, leafy greens, beans, soy beans, beef liver, cheese, dairy products
  • Vitamin B12: Eggs, milk, dairy products, fish, shellfish, beef

Supplementing for Hair Health

During Weight Loss When you are losing weight or facing a diet restriction of any kind, supplements can help maintain efficient body functions. Without necessary nutrients, you will find that your hair quickly falls out, loses shine, and falls limp after weight loss or weight loss surgery.

When dieting, it is extremely important to protect your health to prevent your body from stressing and going into starvation mode. Luckily, your body can spring back after dieting even if you have had significant hair loss. As long as you provide the right nutrients for your body, your hair will come back and you can live a long, happy, healthy life with a full head of hair.

These hair-helping supplements and diet changes can also reduce your chances of seeing permanent hair loss later on in life. This has an equal chance for helping both men and women. In fact, one 2009 study from the Hospital Universitario Virgen Macarena showed that losing weight actually helped men and women suffering from hair loss see an improvement in hair quality. 

Sources


http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?section=health&xfile=/data/health/2013/November/health_November25.xml

http://www.slhn.org/docs/pdf/bariatric_surgery_and_hair_loss.designed.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12190640 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19341939

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