Posted on Sep 14, 2020, 5 p.m.
Are you trying the popular fad keto diet and noticing your hair is falling out? It may be due to insufficient calories, rapid weight loss, and micronutrient shortfalls that are impacting your hair growth and health.
You may have been aware of some of the downfalls to being on a keto diet such as fatigue, nausea and constipation, but others are probably surprises such as potential hair loss. This is not a joke, for some people loss of hair is a very real ramification of the keto diet.
“The ketogenic diet, which is an extremely low-carb but high-fat diet, is a really restrictive diet,” says Rachel Lustgarten, RD, of the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City. Keto is not just a different version of a standard low-carb diet, you must also stick to moderate protein intake (higher protein consumption can kick you out of the state of ketosis, which is when the body burns fat for energy), and it also cuts out many healthy foods, too, like grains, beans, most fruit, and many vegetables, she says.
It is the restrictive nature of this diet that is leading to hair loss, and this is also what makes this meal plan an unhealthy and potentially dangerous choice for some people. If you are not following keto carefully it is very possible that you will miss out on some very important nutrients, and these nutrients are also the ones that fuel hair growth.
Keto allows for high-fat foods such as butter and cheese, but because of the high fat intake most people are typically not as hungry and end up cutting calories. This is one of the reasons that experts say keto leads to weight loss. One of the downsides is that going too low will essentially send a shock to the body which can lead to a shutdown in less critical functions such as hair growth.
To keep the body in a state of ketosis on the standard keto diet one must limit protein intake. It is possible that being so focused on fat intake you may not be getting adequate protein. There are typically 100,000 hair follicles on the human head of this 90% are in the growth phase that requires an adequate supply of protein, vitamins, and minerals to maintain a healthy head of locks, without these nutrients your mane may suffer according to a report published in the journal Dermatology and Therapy.
Some people on this diet experience rapid, temporary weight loss. The combined stress of losing weight quickly and reduced protein intake can contribute to telogen effluvium. This is when the hair shifts from the growing phase to the resting phase, ultimately leading to temporary hair loss that can appear worrisome according to a report in Dermatology Practical & Conceptual. TE can also happen during periods of extreme stress as well as good surprises and stressors, the catch is that there is a delay of several months between the stressor and shedding making it hard to pinpoint exactly what caused the hair loss.
You are likely missing out on key nutrients that contribute to healthy hair. You can try a supplement, there are many that suggest that they promote hair growth, they all have one thing in common, the B vitamin biotin which promotes healthy hair. While biotin is abundant in many animal-based foods, the International Food Information Council Foundation says that there is evidence that following a strict keto diet may lead to a biotin deficiency. The study published in the journal Nutrition is not conclusive, but you may want to get more biotin-rich foods in your diet if you are on keto and losing hair.
To help prevent hair loss, taking a multivitamin may help to prevent potential deficiencies. Protein should come from high-quality sources like poultry and eggs, and biotin can be found in almonds, onions, walnuts, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and tomatoes.
If you are already experiencing hair loss and are struggling despite following a carefully planned diet, keto may not be for you. You may want to lighten up those strict and limiting restrictions to your diet or work with a dietician who can help to personalize an eating plan for you based on your goals. If you want to drop some unwanted weight and are experiencing some of the side effects from a keto diet there are other meal plans that you can follow to lose weight and feel much better while doing it that are sustainable in a healthy way for the long term.
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.