A well-balanced diet is crucial to healthy hair. A lack of vital nutrients like protein, iron, vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and zinc can lead to hair loss. Poor nutrition from crash diets or excessive weight loss can cause temporary hair loss and nutrient deficiency. Hair loss due to nutritional deficiency is often reversed by changing your diet one meal at a time.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of hair loss. It occurs when your hemoglobin levels fall below the normal range, affecting your hair growth cycle. This can cause temporary telegenic effluvium hair loss, which can happen to any gender or age.
It can be reversed by eating more iron-rich foods, such as red meat, beans, whole grains, dark chocolate, and spinach. You can also take iron supplements if you cannot reach your ideal serum ferritin level through diet alone.
Hemoglobin is a protein in your blood that carries oxygen to cells, including those that stimulate hair growth. If you are losing your hair due to iron deficiency, it’s best to consult your GP, the Bosley telemedicine provider, or a trichology’s, who can conduct a blood test to confirm the cause and recommend treatment to increase your hemoglobin levels.
To increase your iron intake, eat lean proteins, leafy greens, and foods containing vitamin C, such as oranges and strawberries, which help the body absorb iron. You can also find iron-fortified foods in the grocery store.
The protein-rich hair follicles of the scalp require essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals to function normally. When the body is deficient in a vitamin, the condition is known as vitamin deficiency, and it causes changes in skin, hair, and other organs.
For example, scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) causes hair loss, weak nails, and a dry, scaly scalp.
Protein-energy malnutrition, called kwashiorkor or marasmus, produces the same symptoms as scurvy but also results in hair and nail growth retardation.
Although a healthy diet contains enough Vitamin A, some people may need supplements because they have a deficiency or are dealing with specific medical issues. However, if too much Vitamin A is consumed, the condition is referred to as hypervitaminosis A, which can cause hair loss.
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is absorbed by the liver. It is then dispersed into the bloodstream, reaching all tissues, including the hair follicles. Several studies have shown that retinoic acid, the primary form of vitamin A, stimulates hair growth and promotes cell reproduction in humans. Retinoic acid is produced by antigen-presenting cells in the mucosal interfaces of the airways, digestive tract, and urinary tract, forming the first line of defense against infection.
Selenium is an antioxidant that protects the body from oxidative stress. It is found in many foods, including meat, nuts, vegetables, and eggs. The recommended dietary allowance of selenium for adults is 55 mg per day. However, excessive selenium intake can lead to selenium toxicity, and one of the main symptoms of this is hair loss.
There are two types of selenium supplements: sodium selenite and L-selenomethionine. Sodium selenite is often used in multivitamin/multimineral supplements, while L-selenomethionine is usually taken as a stand-alone supplement. Both forms of selenium have benefits, but it is essential to monitor your selenium levels because they can be toxic if you take too much.
It is rare to get a deficiency in selenium, but if you do, it can cause various symptoms, including fatigue, changes in nails and hair, and concentration difficulties. Getting enough selenium through your diet and taking the correct supplement dose should prevent a deficiency. A multivitamin/multimineral supplement is usually enough to provide the appropriate amount of selenium.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats, which are considered “good” or “healthy” fats in contrast to saturated and monounsaturated fats (see the chart below). Humans can’t make omega-3 fatty acids, so we must get them from foods.
They can be found in fish and plant sources, such as flaxseed or walnuts. According to the National Institutes of Health, people who eat a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids have lower blood triglyceride levels and a reduced risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
Scientists have linked omega-3 fatty acids to hair growth. A study published in the journal Hair Loss Prevention found that mice fed a high-fat diet containing omega-3 fatty acids developed less hair loss than those on a high-fat diet containing no omega-3 fatty acids.
The scientists theorized that the omega-3 fatty acids stimulated the development of hair cells by blocking DHT induction of hair follicles in the scalp and promoting the regrowth of existing hair follicles. This is why many hair experts recommend taking a daily fish oil supplement to help promote healthy, lustrous locks.