Hair Loss on The Keto Diet
Have you noticed bits of hair falling out in the shower, sink and other areas of your everyday life since starting a low-carb lifestyle like keto? Don’t worry; you aren’t crazy. Hair loss is a fairly common occurrence with extreme dietary changes because of the stress it causes your body. The good news is that there is information surrounding hair growth, low carb hair loss and what you can do to prevent further hair loss from happening.
Science Behind Hair Growth
Understanding hair growth is the first step to fully understanding hair loss from keto and what to do about it. Each piece of hair is made up of two structures: the follicle and the shaft. The follicle is that part that resides in your skin while the shaft is the part that is visible outside the skin. The inner and outer shaft surround the follicle and protect your hair, making it also responsible for hair growth.
Hair growth at a glimpse can be broken up into three main phases. The first phase, the anagen phase, lasts two to six years and is the phase of active growth. The catagen phase is when growth stops. It is a short, 2-3 week transitional phase that leads into the final phase, the telogen phase. This is when growth has completely stopped and lasts around 100 days.
Though as a whole your hair seems to be constantly growing, up to 20% of an individual’s hair is in the telogen phase at any given time. The rest is still growing. The hair growth cycle can be sped up by stressful environmental factors, however, which leads to how keto can cause hair loss.
Why Hair Loss On the Keto Diet?
Since a variety of intense diets have shown to cause hair loss in many participants, it is no wonder that such a low-carb diet like keto is no exception. It is firstly important to note that keto is not what directly causes the hair loss. The main cause of this hair loss can be found in many of the initial side effects that ketosis causes the body.
The main result of keto that can induce hair loss is the large calorie deficit and intense weight loss. Some participates even lose up to 25% of their initial body weight. To lose a great deal of weight in a fairly short period of time causes the body a considerable amount of stress. Since the body is concerned with the significant weight drop, it tends to spend less energy on non-vital body functions like hair growth.
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can also be a result of diets like keto. Zinc, biotin, magnesium, and potassium are examples of vitamins and minerals that are critical to healthy hair, and a keto diet can flush these out within the first few days of starting. Additionally, your body will produce less insulin when you limit your carb intake. This causes glycogen stores to get depleted and flush out water and electrolytes that keep your hair healthy and growing.
Gut health is another critical factor to healthy and strong hair. Hypothyroidism, an autoimmune disease, can contribute to issues with hair loss and can come from things like leaky gut syndrome which is caused by an unhealthy gut microbiome. Bad gut bacteria can prevent proper biotin production, so it is important to make sure you have your thyroid checked and take probiotics to make sure that this isn’t the actual root cause of your hair loss.
Additionally, other stress in your environment can worsen these side effects. Since your body is already undergoing significant changes and trying its best to adapt, introducing other stress such as poor sleeping habits, a high-stress lifestyle or irregular eating patterns will obviously only make it more difficult. As a matter of fact, stress can lead to additional hair loss problems that aren’t even directly related to keto at all, such as alopecia areata (sudden loss of hair clumps around the scalp), telogen effluvium (more hairs than usual are falling out simultaneously) and trichotillomania (habitually pulling your hair out without noticing). All in all, having other stresses in your life during the keto diet will likely exacerbate the issues of hair loss no matter how you may try to remedy it.
Lastly, a lack of protein can be a significant contributor to hair loss. As mentioned earlier, it is important to replace your calorie intake from carbs with other nutrients like protein and healthy fats. A lack of protein causes a nutrient deficiency which is another big contributor to the stress that your body undergoes during intense dieting. Insufficient protein is a common problem for many dieters, so you are not alone if this is something you struggle with in particular. It is rumored that too much protein will knock you out of ketosis, but this is far from being a common issue. People have even been able to successfully remain in ketosis during high protein diets like the carnivore diet, so avoiding foods that are high in protein and iron will often do more harm than good to dieters.
What You Can Do to prevent hair loss on the Keto Diet
The quick good news is that this is a temporary body reaction to a diet like keto. Only a small percentage of your hair should fall out, and it typically is restricted to the first three to six months before your body readjusts. Additionally, there are many other factors in your life that could be causing or at the very least contributing to hair loss that aren’t necessarily connected to keto, as we have discussed. This doesn’t mean there isn’t more you can do to help avoid the process, however.
Addressing the issue with a calorie deficit and the stress caused by this, it is critical to remember to replace the calories that normally come from carbs with healthy fats and proteins. Many people forget this step and end up with the drastic deficit that makes their body panic. A proper meal plan can help prevent hair loss caused by this specific effect of keto.
Keep stress out of your life as much as you are able. It is important to realize how much of a toll ketosis takes on your body, and by failing to keep up with sleep and other healthy habits, you will only make it much harder for your body to adjust. To the best of your ability, try to keep up regular and sufficient sleep cycles, find ways to de-stress from your busy lifestyle and avoid things that cause unnecessary tension. Your body will thank you, and it will help with your emotional and mental health as well.
You also have to make sure that you replenish your lost vitamins and minerals to the best of your ability. This can often be done through supplements or finding enjoyable foods that naturally contain the nutrients you may be struggling to get. Biotin, for instance, is important in both hair and nail growth and can be found in supplements or a variety of foods such as:
- Dairy products
Other important supplements to consider are collagen, zinc (which can also be found naturally in foods like lamb, chicken, cashews and pumpkin seeds) and iron.
There are also a number of natural hair treatments you can consider that will help your hair stay naturally healthy and strong. Coconut oil is a popular choice both topically and orally because it strengthens your hair and helps to prevent further loss, even if it isn’t known to stimulate additional growth directly. Peppermint oil can help with actual growth as well as thickness and durability. Caffeine, which can be found in many daily drinks like coffee or tea, has also been shown to help hair grow faster and remain stronger. There are also many caffeine shampoo options to directly and topically apply this fix. Lastly, essential oils can be good hair treatments, particularly as additions to coconut oil treatments. Some go-to options for oils that will help with your hair are:
- Almond oil
- Rosemary oil
- Castor oil
- Argan oil
- Lavender oil
- Cedarwood oil
Lastly, if all else fails, a derma roller can help with keto hair loss. This can be used with oils or alone, but it is often recommended to use oils with it for added help. Derma rollers use microneedling to stimulate stem cells and promote hair growth directly. Using this strategy on a weekly basis for 12 weeks has shown drastic improvements in hair growth and retention, leaving users satisfied and confident. It is not necessary as there are the many other ways to help improve growth and prevent loss, but for people feeling particularly frustrated, it could be a good addition to their hair care routine.
Ultimately, stories of hair loss on the keto diet should not immediately deter you from participating. It is a generally temporary side effect, and you can do a number of things to help prevent it. Just make sure you stay healthy and diet responsibly and you shouldn’t run into any long-lasting issues.