The most common causes for hair loss are genetic tendencies, postpartum and post-menopausal hair loss, and stress-related hair loss. Nutrient deficiencies can also lead to thinning hair. A deficiency in micronutrients, protein, and amino acids intake can also cause hair loss. Excessive hair loss is also common in women and men that follow restrictive diets, low protein, strict vegan diets, and people after crash diets or weight-loss surgeries.
In one study on 50 people who underwent sleeve weight loss surgery, 56% of people experienced excessive hair loss, most of them were women. The people who lost hair had lower zinc and vitamin B12 before and after surgery.
A balanced diet rich in particular nutrients can promote hair growth and support the scalp and hair follicles in these cases.
What is our hair made of?
Hair comprises two main parts — the hair shaft, which is what you see, and the hair follicle, which is hidden underneath the skin. Hair grows from the hair follicle. Healthy hair grows at a rate of 0.35 mm per day. The scalp sheds about 100 hairs per day.
Healthy hair follicle cells are among the most rapidly dividing cells in your body. To work correctly, they need the right amount of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and proteins (amino acids) to produce the hair shafts that we see. Water comprises 25% of each strand of hair. Good hydration will help maintain its elasticity and strength.
What are the most important micronutrients for healthy hair regrowth?
Iron: Low blood iron levels are a prevalent cause of hair loss in women. When the body's iron level is low, the body will divert the Iron to other body parts, and hair will suffer. Iron deficiency can cause excessive hair shedding (telogen effusion). Once Iron is replenished, hair regrowth is expected to restart.
Vitamin D: Studies have shown that vitamin D levels are lower in people with hair loss, including genetic and androgen-related hair loss and autoimmune-related hair loss (alopecia area).
Zinc: Zinc is a mineral essential for hair regrowth. Adding zinc to your diet was found to help regrowth in many different hair loss conditions, including female and male pattern hair loss telogen effluvium (TE) and alopecia areata.
Other vitamins that may affect hair loss are biotin, vitamin B12, folate, and riboflavin. Copper is another mineral that supports hair loss treatment.
Protein deficiency and hair loss
Our hair shaft, which we can see, is built from keratin (a kind of protein). A poor protein diet will cause the hair follicle to produce thinner, more brittle, lower-quality hair. The same will happen with extreme caloric restriction. The hair follicles are very active and require energy to function correctly. Calorie restriction and extreme diets will result in prolonged hair loss that can continue for many months.
What are the best foods for women with hair loss?
Eggs are one of the best foods for hair growth, and they're easy to include in your breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One of the key factors that make eggs so beneficial for hair is that they are rich in biotin. Biotin is a B vitamin that plays an essential role in producing keratin, a hair protein. Research has shown that biotin is incredibly effective in promoting hair growth. Zinc is another key nutrient found in eggs and is excellent in addressing thinning hair because it promotes tissue growth and repair. Additionally, eggs are a good source of protein, which is vital for hair health since hair follicles are primarily made of protein.
Small Fatty Fish
Small fish like salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids. While research is still in its early stages, studies have shown that these fatty acids may help prevent hair loss and promote thicker hair. Additionally, fatty fish can be a great source of vitamin D. Deficiencies in this vitamin have been linked to alopecia, and early research has indicated that it may help boost growth. Finally, fatty fish contains high levels of protein and selenium, which further support healthy hair. Try to avoid large fish like swordfish and mackerel that contain more mercury and can slow down hair regrowth.
Beans and lentils are excellent sources of plant-based protein. Eating legumes is essential for vegans or vegetarians looking to prevent and combat hair loss. In addition to the protein, lentils and beans contain zinc and biotin, promoting hair health and growth, and folic acid (folate). This B vitamin keeps red blood cells circulating, which helps hair follicles get the oxygen and nutrients they need. Legumes are also packed with Iron. Hair loss has been linked to iron deficiencies, so those who need to boost their iron levels may benefit from consuming more beans and lentils!
Soybeans, in particular, are an excellent choice, as they contain high levels of spermidine, a polyamine compound. Antioxidant-rich spermidine may help stimulate hair growth, as it has been found to extend the growth stage of the hair growth cycle. That said, other beans and lentils are still an excellent choice when looking for hair-supporting ingredients to add to your pantry.
Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts are packed with various nutrients that boost your hair health. In addition to containing protein, they are high in vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been linked to promoting hair growth. Nuts also contain zinc, essential fatty acids, and various B vitamins, all of which contribute to keeping your hair healthy.
Different seeds provide different nutritional health benefits, so it's a good idea to have a few seed varieties on hand to sprinkle into your diet. Sunflower seeds, for example, are high in vitamin E, pumpkin seeds provide a healthy amount of zinc, while flaxseeds and chia seeds contain Omega-3 fatty acids. Seeds are also excellent protein sources, so they're great to enjoy as snacks or as part of your meals to address thinning hair.
You probably already know that Greek yogurt is high in protein which, as discussed, supports hair health. However, that's not the only hair benefit this ingredient has – it also contains zinc and vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid). Add some nuts and seeds to your Greek yogurt for an extra hair health boost!
Sweet potatoes are super high in beta-carotene. The body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A. Vitamin A is excellent for scalp health. It promotes sebum production to keep the scalp moisturized and prevent dry, brittle hair.
One of the most significant benefits of bell peppers is that they're one of the best sources of vitamin C. Red bell peppers contain nearly triple the amount of oranges! Vitamin C is excellent for those dealing with thinning hair because it promotes the production of collagen, which is essential for strengthening hair.
This vitamin is also an antioxidant that can protect hair against oxidative stress. Additionally, it helps with iron absorption, so those who deal with hair loss from an iron deficiency may benefit from consuming more of this health-boosting vitamin. In addition to vitamin C, bell peppers are a good source of vitamin A, which supports a healthy scalp.
Avocados are packed with nutrients that can support the health of your hair. They are likely best known for being a great source of healthy fats. However, they also contain vitamins C and E, which are both linked to supporting healthy hair. Interestingly, avocados also keep your body's absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. This includes vitamins A, D, and E, which are known to help with hair growth.
Berries are great for women looking to promote new hair growth because they are high in vitamin C, supporting collagen production and fighting against oxidative stress. Strawberries are especially high in this vitamin, but you'll also find a healthy dose in blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries.
Finally, we have leafy greens, which we all know are crucial for your overall health. Kale and spinach both contain vitamins A and C and Iron, supporting hair health. Try working leafy greens into your diet daily to support not only your hair but your general wellness.
What are the foods that can cause more hair loss?
Large sea fish
Mercury was associated with hair loss. The bigger the fish, the higher levels of mercury. Try to avoid or reduce the amount of fish like mackerel, swordfish, and tuna. Opt for fish low in mercury like cod and salmon.
Try to reduce the amount of meat and fried food in your diet. Eating high amounts of red meat and fried food was shown to increase inflammation and promote the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This male hormone is related to androgenetic hair loss.
Sugary food and refined carbs:
Eating excess fo sugar and refined carbs can hurt hair regrowth in multiple ways. Sugary food and refined carbs were shown to increase inflammation, further increasing hair loss. The increase of insulin levels caused by eating an excess of sugary food can also damage the blood vessels on the scale, reducing the amounts of oxygen and micronutrients reaching the hair follicles.
Artificial flavors and preservatives:
Foods with preservatives, artificial flavors, and food colors increase free radicals in our scalp, causing damage to hair follicles and reducing hair reduction.
Excessive alcohol consumption is harmful to our hair, skin, and nails. Alcohol converts into sugar and causes scalp inflammation. It was also found to reduce your zinc levels., an essential mineral for hair regrowth.
- A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in
- Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair
- Effect of a nutritional supplement on hair loss in women
- A spermidine-based nutritional supplement prolongs the anagen phase of hair follicles in humans: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study.
- Effects of Tocotrienol Supplementation on Hair Growth in Human Volunteers