Whether you’re male or female, hair loss can be a horrifying thing to deal with. Your body is trying to tell you it needs something or that something’s wrong, but what on earth is it? In some cases, a deficiency in your diet could be causing it, and a couple of simple tweaks can help alleviate the issue.
Sometimes the hair loss isn’t related to the diet, but a result of illness or something else in your life that’s changed. Sometimes, if you have really thick, long hair like mine, and you don’t get regular trims, the hair gets so heavy that it can pull on the hair, causing more to fall out. While it’s normal to lose up to 100 hairs per day, or even 250 on the days you wash your hair, if you’re watching more and more strands fall to the floor as you brush your hair, or you notice excessive amounts on the shower floor, take a look at your diet and lifestyle to see if you can get to the root of the problem (no pun intended!).
Deficiencies That Could Cause Hair Loss
Protein: If you aren’t eating enough protein, you could notice that your hair is thinning. Your hair is mostly made of protein. You can get enough protein on the Beauty Detox diet (no animal products required!), but if you just aren’t eating enough food in general or you tend to shy away from some of the plant protein sources because you don’t like them, you could try adding a deliberate boost. In general, if you are not deficient in calories it is virtually impossible to be truly deficient in protein. However, those on severely calorie-restricted diets or anorexics could have this problem.
What to add to your diet: Nutritional yeast (it has 18 amino acids and nine grams of protein in three tablespoons), broccoli, mushrooms, romaine lettuce, raw nuts (like almonds, Brazil nuts, pecans, hazelnuts, and pine nuts), legumes, beans, and hemp or sprouted raw protein powder. There’s no need to panic and start eating animal protein again if you’ve decided to stop. There’s plenty of protein in the plant world. Eat up! I’ve had a major hair transformation myself, which I often talk about. The combination of kale salad made with nutritional yeast is a substantial dish made of lots of easily assimilated amino acids to create protein in your body, and it is what I’ve had almost daily throughout my hair transformation, and to this day.
Fatty acids: Essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 foods, nourish the scalp, and a healthy scalp is necessary for thick, luxurious hair.
What to add to your diet: If you drink the Glowing Green Smoothie, you are getting a daily dosage of omega-3 fatty acids from spinach, kale and other salad greens, which are blended and concentrated in large amounts, to make the smoothie. Brussel sprouts are also a great source. Pumpkin seeds (which also contain zinc, B vitamins including biotin, and other vitamins and minerals for hair health), chia seeds, avocados, flaxseeds, acai berries, and walnuts.
B vitamins (especially biotin, which is B8, and B12): Along with thinning hair, you may also experience loss of hair color if you’re deficient in biotin. If you’re vegan, consider a B12 supplement since it’s difficult to get that vitamin on a plant-based diet. It, along with vitamins B6, E, and A, helps nourish the hair follicles.
What to add: Nutritional yeast is a winner in this category, too (a few Tbs has well over 100% of the recommended daily intake). You can also add more sprouts, dulse, pumpkin seeds, and spirulina to bump up your B vitamin intake. Taking daily probiotics, which I wholeheartedly recommend, helps to balance your gut, where B vitamins can be synthesized internally.
Vitamin A: Antioxidant vitamin A (and beta-carotene) helps cleanse and detoxify the liver and the blood, which means nutrients can more easily get to your scalp and hair. In addition, it works with vitamin C to create sebum, which keeps the hair from becoming dry and brittle (and breaking off!).
What to add to your diet: Carrots, of course! Spinach and other leafy greens like collards and kale, sweet potatoes, red peppers, sea vegetables, and squash also contain vitamin A. And do not give into the hype of the rasberry diet or any other “natural solution” widely commercialized.
Iron: While the jury is still out on whether an iron deficiency could directly cause hair loss, there is evidence to suggest that it could. Iron is one of the most common deficiencies in the world. If you do suspect that you have an iron deficiency, consult with your doctor to discuss how much iron you need and how to get more in your diet. It is possible to get too much iron, which can come with dangerous consequences. When you’re eating plant foods to increase your iron intake, always be sure to eat something with vitamin C, as well. This aids in the absorption of non-heme iron (iron that isn’t from animal products).
What to add to your diet: Sea vegetables (kelp, nori, dulse, spiruina, chlorella, etc), lentils, beans, almonds, squash, pinenuts, quinoa and pears. Dark leafy green vegetables like spinach contain iron, and the vitamin C your body needs to use it. If you eat cooked spinach, the vitamin C would be denatured though so be sure to add fresh lemon juice for vitamin C.
Zinc: Zinc deficiency is uncommon in North America, but if you’re a vegetarian, you do need to be careful about getting it into your diet.
What to add: Beans, grains, and seeds, soaked as instructed in The Beauty Detox Solution in order to increase the bioavailability of zinc in your food (unsoaked beans, grains, and seeds can inhibit zinc absorption).
Water: If you’re dehydrated, the way your hair looks will be your body’s last concern! You need water to keep the hair you have healthy and to grow more. If your scalp is dry and dehydrated, it’s not exactly a welcoming place for new hair to grow.
What to add to your diet: First of all, drink more water! Guess what else is very hydrating? The Glowing Green Smoothie of course! You can also increase your water intake substantially by munching on watery fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery—really anything with a high water content that you love. Every little bit helps.
Foods to Avoid for Healthy Hair
In addition to adding nourishing, nutritious foods to your diet for healthy hair and scalp, be sure you’re cutting out the things that can add waste to your blood, making it more difficult for the blood to get to the hair follicles (the capillaries get clogged). These clogging foods include dairy, soy, wheat, animal fat, sugar, and cooked vegetable oils (this includes vegan products like vegan butters and mayonnaise). Stay as far away as possible from those!
Other Lifestyle and Illness Causes
Stress (physical or emotional) can cause hair loss. It can happen after child birth, serious illness, surgery, or after taking certain medications. Once the stress is under control again, the hair may return without any adjustments to your diet. Unfortunately, this can sometimes take six months to two years.
Hormonal changes from menopause, childbirth (as I mentioned above), and even birth control pills can also cause hair loss. It’s totally normal and will generally correct itself with time. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear and you can try adding more nutrition into your diet to minimize the loss, but ultimately, in cases like this, the body sometimes just needs to shed the hair and then stabilize once again.
Sometimes hair loss stems from underlying causes that aren’t as simple as fixing a vitamin deficiency, de-stressing, or waiting out the hormonal changes after a significant event. Hair loss is tied to PCOS and thyroid disease, for example. If you’ve taken all the steps with your diet and lifestyle to promote beautiful hair and you’re still not seeing any changes, schedule an appointment with your health care provider to find out if there’s some other cause.
Suggested Meals for Healthy Hair
Some of my favorite recipes that include foods to promote thick, healthy hair include: