Hair Health (and Hair Loss) Explained
Some of you have mentioned hair loss as a concern for eating an all plant-based diet, or following the Beauty Detox way of eating. There are so many individual factors that could be at play here, it’s not easy to diagnose the exact issue for any one person.
And it’s further complicated by the fact that — as you have heard me mention — countless clients, readers and yours truly have experienced far BETTER hair from eating Beauty Detox and cleansing the body.
That includes yours truly! People always comment on how thick and healthy my hair is, but what they don’t realize is that they’re seeing the end result of a dramatic Beauty Detox transformation. My hair used to be a coarse, frizzy debacle of tresses that I had to constantly pull back into a bun. It wasn’t healthy in any sense. But now that I’ve been eating the Beauty Detox way, it’s gotten thicker, softer and much more manageable.
This post will outline the factors I’ve learned to have an impact on hair loss and overall hair health — including nutrition, hydration and more.
There’s also a Youtube video I put out on overall haircare tips, which you can also check out besides this post.
Starting With Digestion
The hair follicle has to absorb nutrients – and if your body is clogged it is going to hinder that. If you are eating cleansing foods but not releasing enough, it’s not going to help. The Glowing Green Smoothie is a hair-nourishing food, as are whole vegetables, chia seeds, nutritional yeast, almond milk, Probiotic & Enzyme Salad and more — which all supply amino acids, B vitamins and vital minerals to strengthen hair. (More about those foods in a moment.)
However, those foods alone are generally not enough to repair weak or compromised digestion. The best substance I’ve found for improving digestion is a good probiotics supplement, of which I’m partial to Probiotics+.
This is not a thoughtless sales plug; I wholeheartedly believe that the right kind of probiotics can help your body produce B vitamins and also ensures you are optimally absorbing nutrients— both key for great hair. And I love them and live by them myself.
And I’ve personally noticed further improvement in my hair health after I began consuming them on a regular basis. The SBO’s in the product not only help eliminate unfriendly bacteria, but actually pave the way for beneficial bacteria to thrive. You can learn more about the science here.
This has a deep impact on both your digestion and your nutrient absorption. After all, if you aren’t absorbing what you are eating how is your body going to use those nutrients? It won’t. Malabsorption can occur from mucus and toxicity buildup from years of eating mucus/acid-forming foods, which are still in the body. Just as important as getting those toxins out is rebuilding with the right probiotics and nutrients.
Restoring Hair Health Takes Time
When you start to eat the Beauty Detox way, you have to keep continuously cleansing, it doesn’t all just leave overnight.
Some of my teachers have said it can take up to 2 years to really turn the body around completely. It’s not to say that you won’t see great results right away, because you often do with your skin, weight and more. But think of how long you ate a certain way in the past. Rebuilding new elements of your body — such as your hair — can take time!
Everyone is different, and some detox more than others — especially in the beginning. It’s important that you trust your body’s process, giving it plenty of nutrition as it goes through the detoxification and rebuilding process.
Yes, it is a process, but if you stick with Beauty Detox you are going to have great hair and you won’t be protein deficient or mineral-deficient, because you’re eating a wide variety of plant foods and you are actually absorbing nutrients. Probiotics & Enzyme Salad and taking probiotics are very much part of that rebuilding and maintenance process.
Could There Be a Deficiency at Play?
In this world where we’re constantly bombarded with this notion that we “lack” or “need” something — it’s common to focus on a possible nutritional deficiency. Sometimes that is indeed the case, but if you’re eating a balanced Beauty Detox Diet and experiencing hair loss, chances are it’s detoxification or digestion or a more specific issue that can’t be generalized. Still, I want to cover potential nutritional weak points so that you have an abundance of goodness to feed and rebuild your hair.
Some of this I’ve covered before, either in my books The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods, or even on the blog previously. So forgive any repetition, my goal is for this post to be comprehensive and have everything you need for healthy hair right here in this post.
If you aren’t eating enough protein, you could notice that your hair is thinning. Your hair is mostly made of protein. Please note that a protein deficiency is indeed a VERY rare thing — the only places you typically ever see it is in countries where there aren’t enough calories in the diet. I did see some of that in Africa. So if you are concerned about protein, please know that you absolutely and easily can get enough protein on the Beauty Detox diet (no animal products required!).
Still, 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 more to give your hair health a friendly boost.
Here are some plant-based protein foods I recommend: Nutritional yeast (it has 18 amino acids and nine grams of protein in three tablespoons), kale, broccoli, mushrooms, chia or hemp seeds, 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 (I haven’t eaten any in years). There’s plenty of protein in the plant world.
One of the things that helped my hair transformation in a very noticeable was the combination of kale salad made with nutritional yeast. One example of this is my Dharma’s Kale Salad, which is a substantial dish made of lots of easily assimilated amino acids to create protein in your body. Kale salad along with nutritional yeast is a combo I’ve had almost daily throughout my hair transformation, and something I continue to eat, to this day.
Essential fatty acids, omega 3 and omega 6 foods, nourish the scalp, and a healthy scalp is necessary for thick, luxurious hair. Also, quality fats in general help keep your scalp oil levels balanced and prevent dryness and brittle hair. So in addition to omega-3 and omega-6, I also recommend small amounts of avocado and coconut oil on a regular basis.
Here are some ways to get more fats into 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.
Also, be sure you cook with coconut oil and not olive oil or worse, vegetable oil. Because trans fatty acids — which is what vegetable oils become at high heat, actually compete with good fats in your system and can damage your hair health at a deep level. You can also supplement with vegan DHA/EPA for further insurance your body is converting these good fats into your system, if you are concerned.
It’s especially important to get enough 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.
Nutritional yeast is a winner in this category, too (a few tablespoons 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 mentioned earlier, helps to balance your gut, where B vitamins can be synthesized internally.
B vitamins also help greatly with stress, which I’ll discuss in just a moment.
As I mention many times in The Beauty Detox Solution and The Beauty Detox Foods, 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!). So it’s really important that you get plenty of this nutrient.
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. In general, you’re not going to have vitamin A issues if you’re eating a wide variety of vegetables in accordance with Beauty Detox principles, but please do pay attention to this nutrient.
While the jury is still out on whether an iron deficiency could directly cause hair loss, there is some 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, such as lemon juice. This aids in the absorption of non-heme iron (iron that isn’t from animal products).
Women seem to be more at risk for iron deficiency, and its impact on hair loss, and that’s regardless of whether you eat meat or not. One French study examined the connection between iron deficiency and hair loss in non-menopausal women. Here is a direct quote from the study:
"Multivariate analysis allowed us to identify three categories: “absence of hair loss” (43%), “moderate hair loss” (48%) and “excessive hair loss” (9%). Among the women affected by excessive hair loss, a larger proportion of women (59%) had low iron stores (<; 40 µg/L) compared to the remainder of the population (48%)."
That shouldn’t be cause for stress or alarm, but definitely something for us women to pay attention to. That’s one reason why I personally add plenty of iron-rich plant foods to my diet — although I mostly eat them because those foods taste really great to me!
Here are some ways I get my iron: 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.
Also, there has been some controversy over whether iron is toxic as supplement, and my perspective is that ANY synthesized, inorganic vitamin/mineral supplement will be hard on your body and potentially damaging. It doesn’t surprise me people have had adverse effects from taking inorganic iron supplements.
That doesn’t mean they are all bad, however. If you want/need an iron supplement after speaking with your doctor or health professional, I would recommend Garden of Life’s Raw Iron, which is both vegetarian and food-based. Because it’s food-based, it is in the necessary form, with all the necessary co-factors, for proper utilization by the body.
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. Zinc is vital for hair cell growth and reproduction — and lack of zinc in your diet can cause your hair to become thin or dull, or even grey before its time!
What are some good plant sources of zinc? One most often recommended for vegetarians is tofu, of which I’m not a big fan.
Instead, I recommend 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). This includes garbanzo beans and lentils (which I’ve been having a lot lately in my Mediterranean travels!) — and nuts and seeds we mentioned earlier, like almonds, walnuts and pumpkin. In fact, pumpkin seeds are one of nature’s very best sources.
Get Plenty of Water!
If you’re dehydrated, the way your hair looks will be your body’s last concern! Water is so vital to every single cell in your body and every organ, if you lack water your hair will be the last part of your body to receive it.
Thus, you need plenty of 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. In fact, chronic dehydration may be a major reason for thinning hair.
Care to guess what the suggested remedy here is? You got it right — drink more water!
This is a big advantage to starting your day with the warm/hot water + lemon — it’s an instant infusion in hydration after many hours without any liquids. And with your stomach completely empty, your body just sucks the water right up and quickly makes it to all your body’s cells.
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.
Remember, lots of people think they are hydrated but they drink coffee and other beverages, natural or otherwise, that are ultimately dehydrating. Couple that with working in enclosed, dehydrating office spaces and you’ve got a recipe for dryness and dehydration. So be sure you not only get enough water but avoid dehydrators like coffee, soda, bottled juice and so on.
Watch Out for Stress
Stress (physical or emotional) can also 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.
This is a big reason why I often recommend a gentle transition to the Beauty Detox lifestyle — faster is not always better. If you’re stressing yourself out with the feeling that you need to be “perfect” (there is no such thing, only progress!) — that could be impacting your hair health. Not to mention, depending on the diet you ate previously, your body might be a bit shocked by such an abrupt transition and perceive the change as stress.
Thus a gentle, loving, smooth transition to this way of eating and living is always preferable. There is no rush, no end destination to arrive at that you might somehow miss if you don’t progress rapidly enough.
Hormonal Changes or Issues
Hormonal changes from menopause, childbirth, and even birth control pills can also contribute to 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.
If this is a concern for you, you may want to get a test with an endocrinologist and have your hormone levels checked. For instance, those with thyroid issues can experience hair loss — not to mention weight gain, brain fog, fatigue and more. It would be impossible for me or anyone to know whether that’s an issue for you or anyone you know — but if you read up on it and have all the symptoms, you may want to consider getting it checked.
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.
Natural Hair Care
Last but not least, you may want to improve your natural hair care regimen as well. Many people transition to Beauty Detox but then forget that common shampoos contain a cornucopia of chemicals that add toxins to the body and damage your scalp and hair, long-term.
I’ve heard that two very popular hair care brands (one is sold through an infomercial) that are purported to help your hair become more shiny actually build up coating on your hair shaft and can lead to breakage and loss over time. So look into what you are using! I switch the ones I use around; right now I use a sulfate-free brand called Acure.
If your hair is feeling really weighed down, I highly recommend a Lemon Rinse. Simply dampen your hair, then pour lemon juice onto your scalp and massage in. Leave in for 5-10 minutes. Rinse out. For this you don’t have to squeeze fresh lemon juice, you can use the pre-bottled stuff. Save the fresh lemons for your salads and smoothies!! It’s a really great and natural way to cleanse out any old debris from your hair and scalp.
I’m also a big believer in oiling the hair on occasion — and coconut oil is an amazing hair moisturizer and way to replenish the natural luster and shine of your hair. One stylist I met actually swears by avocado oil. I applied it to my hair and I was impressed when I tried it as well.
Overall, the combination of giving up chemical products, finding a natural shampoo that works for you, cleansing with lemon and then adding oils on a regular basis — are all great topical strategies for healthy hair.
Just remember that great hair is built from the inside out, which is why I focused on digestion, detoxification and nutrition first — before covering the topical aspect.
I hope this post has been helpful. I really wanted to address this again because I still get the occasional question about hair loss and hair health, and I wanted to make sure it was all covered here.
To recap, I recommend focusing on digestion and elimination first: which means, take the probiotics, get a good enema kit (we have one on the Glow Bio online store, which is a basic but good kit that I like and travel with), gravity colonics, magnesium-oxygen to ensure you are eliminating enough (which has been really helpful to me in all my recent travels!).
Of course, be sure you’re staying hydrated and getting plenty of the nutrients that I’ve cited throughout this post.
Last but not least, be gentle and don’t stress your mind or body out with aggressive changes that you may not be ready for. Be gentle, trusting that this is a process and you don’t have to do everything or be perfect — especially not in the beginning.
Finally, if you find that none of the above works — which would be rare — then I suggest you consult with a medical professional to see if there are any nutritional or hormonal issues that are affecting your hair and not being addressed.
It shouldn’t come to that, in general these changes are enough to transform your hair — as has happened for me, my clients and so many in the community. But I wanted this post to cover different possible avenue so that if you or anyone you know is experiencing hair loss challenges — there would be information for you here.
Have a wonderful day and see you back here shortly!