HOW DOES DIET & HAIR LOSS INTERRELATE ?

Our hair is a non-essential tissue, meaning it is one of the last to receive its nutrient supply to grow and repair after vital organs tissues have been accommodated. Therefore, your diet can be a factor to your hair loss and is worth further investigation.

The first factor to consider is: ‘am I eating enough to provide nutrients to all my tissues…?’ If you’re insure on the answer, it’s possible you aren’t consuming sufficient calories for your body’s essential tissues – resulting in inadequate nutrient supply for your hair.

It is also common among those who have experienced extreme weight loss (such as those recovering from bariatric surgery) to experience noticeable scalp hair thinning. This is due to an extremely restricted/ low calorie diet where nutrients are initially not met through diet alone due to an inadequate calorie intake.

If your energy needs are being met, then the next factor to consider is do you have any nutrient deficiencies?

This is where nutrient supplementation can be considered. Generally, after nutrient and calorie intake has been replenished, your hair should start to improve after a few months.

Main nutrients to consider:

  • Protein: as hair is predominately made from protein, it is important to meet your protein requirements. Try to aim for 20-30g of protein at each main meal and 10-15g of protein in your snacks.

Protein Sources:

  • Lean red meat, chicken, turkey
  • Seafood: fish, prawns
  • Dairy products: natural yoghurt, cheese, milk
  • Legumes, beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Tofu, edamame, tempeh
  • Iodine: is important for thyroid hormone production which has a significant influence on metabolic activity and hair growth. In Australia, fortification of baked commercial breads with iodised salt became mandatory, in response to iodine deficiency in the general pop[ualtion (1). Iodine deficiency can result in growth and development problems as a child or thyroid disease such as hypothyroidism or goitre (2).

Iodine Sources:

  • Seafood, especially seaweed
  • Baked commercial bread- fortified with iodised salt
  • Iodised salt
  • Eggs
  • Selenium: is important for the absorption of iodine as well as contributing to conversion of inactive thyroid hormone to the active form (2). With an inadequate selenium intake, you may not be absorbing adequate amounts of iodine for your thyroid to produce thyroid hormones or convert it to its active form.

Selenium Sources:

  • Brazil nuts- richest source
  • Oysters
  • Tuna
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Zinc: is an essential nutrient for cell growth and repair, and a fundamental factor of the hair cycle. It also contributes to thyroid homeostasis, meaning it is involved in regulating/converting your thyroid hormones (3). Therefore, zinc deficiency may result in decrease thyroid hormone levels (3) and further hair loss.

Zinc Sources:

  • Lean red meat
  • Oysters
  • Shellfish- crab
  • Nuts- cashews, pine nuts
  • Seeds- hemp, pumpkin
  • Tofu
  • Lentils
  • Iron: is essential to produce haemoglobin which is found in our red blood cells. Its role in the hair cycle has not been well researched (4). However, as haemoglobin travels around the body it carries oxygen for the growth and repair of cells, including cells associated with hair growth. Iron deficiency is one of the common causes of hair loss in younger women (4), as iron is regularly lost in menstruation; consequently, iron requirements are higher, and a woman’s iron intake is an important factor to consider.

Iron Sources:

Animal based: haem iron = better absorbed

  • Lean red meat
  • Chicken
  • Fish
  • Eggs

Plant based: non-haem iron = not as well absorbed – consume with vitamin C (lemon juice, capsicum, tomato) to increase absorption and avoid caffeine (coffee, tea), calcium (milk, yoghurt, cheese), and alcohol 30 minutes before and after your iron rich meal.

  • Tofu
  • Cooked dark leafy greens
  • Legumes- red kidney beans, black beans, lentils, chickpeas,
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Oats
  • Wholemeal pasta, bread
  • Nuts- almonds, cashews
  • Dried apricots
  • Seeds- hemp, chia, flax, pumpkin

If you have a sufficient calorie intake and no demonstrated nutritional deficiencies, the final consideration is impaired nutrient absorption. This may be due to potential gut disturbances such as a parasite, and/or inflammatory diseases such as coeliac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and diverticulitis. These can contribute to poor absorption of certain nutrients always valuable to assess (based off gut symptoms of bloating & bowel movements) to eliminate these potential causes.

Copyright: Lyndal Schnabel Dietician 2022

References:

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 2013. Iodine. [online]
    Available at: https://www.abs.gov.au/articles/iodine
  • Ventura M, Melo M, & Carrilho F. 2017. Selenium and Thyroid Disease: From Pathophysiology to Treatment. Int J Endocrinol. 2017; 2017: 1297658.
    doi: 10.1155/2017/1297658
  • Maxwell C, Volpe S.L. 2007. Effect of zinc supplementation on thyroid hormone function. A case study of two college females. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(2):188-94.
    doi: 10.1159/000103324
  • Almohanna H.M, Ahmed A.A, Tsatalis J.P, & Tosti A. 2018. The role of vitamins and minerals in hair loss: A review. Dermatol Ther. 2019 Mar;9(1):51-70.
    doi: 10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6

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