Vegetarianism and veganism are becoming increasingly popular dietary choices for people. A balanced plant-based diet offers an array of health benefits, from improving heart health to reducing blood pressure and even reducing your risk of cancer.
But a change in diet can also result in other problems, especially if you don’t get the right balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Consequently, some vegetarians and vegans may experience hair loss in rare cases.
In this article, we look at how diet affects hair loss, what deficiencies you might face and how to reverse hair loss. Read on to learn more.
How does diet affect hair loss?
What you eat can have an impact on your hair’s health, including hair loss.
Hair is made up of two main elements: the hair shaft and the hair follicle. The hair shaft is the visible hair above the skin, while the hair follicle is the part beneath the skin.
The hair follicle is very sensitive to dietary changes. Hair follicle cells are some of the fastest-dividing cells in the human body, meaning that they grow and die off rapidly. As such, your diet can easily affect these sensitive cells.
Your hair needs a variety of vitamins for healthy growth, including (but not limited to) iron, vitamin D and zinc. These all contribute to healthy hair growth and development — and if your diet is lacking in these important vitamins, your hair may suffer as a result.
Hair loss in vegetarians and vegans
Following a vegetarian or vegan diet does not directly cause hair loss. However, it can put you at a higher risk of hair loss if your diet does not include the vitamins you need for healthy hair growth.
- Iron: is one such vitamin. As it is often found in types of meat, followers of plant-based diets may need to take extra care to find other sources of iron, such as nuts, spinach and whole grains.
- Protein: is another essential vitamin for healthy hair growth. Most of your hair is made up of keratin, a type of protein. As protein is commonly found in meat, vegetarians or vegans may need to find alternatives, such as eggs, legumes (beans and lentils), seeds, nuts, soy products or seitan.
- Zinc: is vital for promoting healthy hair, as well as repairing damaged hair. But those on a vegetarian or vegan diet will need to be more conscious of their intake, as some plant-based foods (such as whole grains, seeds, legumes and some nuts) contain phytic acid — an ‘anti-nutrient’ that prevents absorption of zinc.
Vegetarians and vegans will need to consume more zinc to ensure they receive the optimum levels of zinc. Seeds and whole grains are rich in zinc, but you may wish to use an additional zinc supplement to reach your recommended daily intake.
Hair loss and nutritional deficiency
Just as putting the right fuel into your car ensures it drives well, what you put into your body ensures it stays healthy, from your energy levels to your skin — and your hair is no exception.
While we often take our hair for granted, it relies on a variety of essential nutrients and vitamins to promote healthy growth and optimum repair, as well as preventing hair loss. These include everything from zinc and vitamin D to protein and iron, and deficiencies in any of these can impact hair loss.
Let’s look at a few of these deficiencies here.
There are several vitamins that play a vital role in your hair growth and development, including:
- Vitamin A: vitamin A plays a key role in your cell health, and when your cells are healthy, your hair is healthy too. It also helps with the production of sebum, a hydrating oil that keeps your hair looking and feeling healthy. However, too much vitamin A can actually result in hair loss, so be cautious.
- Vitamin B12: essential for the production of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the hair shaft, vitamin B12 plays a pivotal part in preventing hair loss.
- Vitamin C: a strong antioxidant, vitamin C helps the body absorb zinc, another vital mineral for hair growth. Vitamin C helps us produce collagen — essential for longer, thicker hair.
- Vitamin D: known for boosting our immune systems and promoting healthy skin and bones, vitamin D also helps create new hair follicles. As such, a lack of vitamin D can result in hair loss as new follicles aren’t created.
- Vitamin E: an antioxidant that’s known for its hydrating powers for the skin, vitamin E plays a vital role in your hair — helping to build a protective layer on your scalp that ensures your hair stays healthy and hydrated.
Meat is a great source of protein, found in everything from turkey to tuna. As such, those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet run the risk of lacking protein if they don’t find plant-based protein sources instead.
Naturally, this can sometimes result in a protein deficiency. Hair is primarily built of keratin, a type of protein, and so it relies on regular top-ups to keep it at its best. As such, protein deficiency can result in patchy or thinner hair, or more noticeable hair loss overall.
Iron and zinc are essential minerals that provide important benefits for your hair, and both are often linked to certain types of illnesses that cause hair loss, like alopecia.
Zinc deficiencies can result in shedding and broken hair, while iron deficiencies can lead to excessive hair shedding. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you will need to be particularly conscious, as the iron found in plant-based foods is often harder to absorb.
How to prevent hair loss while dieting
Whether you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet permanently or temporarily, there are a number of ways you can prevent hair loss while dieting.
The use of vitamin and nutrient supplements may be beneficial. As vegetarian and vegan diets may sometimes be low in key vitamins and minerals that aid hair growth, supplements are a great way to easily increase your uptake.
It’s also possible to simply find alternative foods that are rich in essential vitamins and minerals and find ways to incorporate them more into your diet. Spinach, for instance, is rich in iron, while quinoa contains high levels of protein. Both are vegan and will fit easily into any vegan or vegetarian diet.
Can you regain hair loss?
If you have experienced hair loss, whether as a result of a mineral or nutrient deficiency due to a vegetarian or vegan diet or for another reason, there are a variety of surgical and non-surgical hair loss treatments.
One option for treatment is medication. Finasteride is a common medication often used to treat hair loss, although it isn’t effective for everyone and is only recommended for male patients.
In cases where medication doesn’t effectively treat your hair loss, it might be worth considering an FUE hair transplant. This is a safe, trusted process that gives you choice and flexibility over your hair and hairline.
Ultimately, the option you choose will depend on the reason for your hair loss and your personal circumstances. If you think an FUE hair transplant is for you, book a consultation with The Treatment Rooms London today to discuss the treatment options with our qualified and respected surgeons.
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