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Can You Lose Hair by Eating Badly?

Yes, you can. You can suffer distressing hair loss if you do not maintain a healthy diet rich in the essential nutrients that your hair needs. The good news is that, if you do happen to suffer hair loss because of poor nutrition, most of it may re-grow if you make the switch to a sensible, balanced diet.

The average adult has 135,000 hairs on the scalp at any given time. Hairs naturally fall off (shed) at the rate of about 75 per day, only to be replaced by new hairs. However, if your body does not receive enough protein and essential vitamins and minerals by way of a nutritious diet, the balance will be upset and you will shed many more hairs than are replaced on a daily basis.

Hair, like toe and finger-nails, is made from protein fibres. Your body makes these protein fibres by converting the protein you consume in food through a complex chemical process. The process requires iron, zinc, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, copper, selenium, magnesium and other trace minerals which are often absent from highly-processed carbohydrate and sugar-rich foods.

There is no doubt that poor nutrition and hectic lifestyles can contribute to hair loss. Some modern diets are characterised by a number of nutritional deficiencies that are thought to contribute to hair loss:

  • The refining of whole grains reduces the B vitamin content. Unprocessed whole grains contain Biotin, which is the key B vitamin used to strengthen hair and reduce breakage and hair loss.
  • Over-cooking vegetables destroys B vitamins, so it is not a great idea to re-heat and re-cook vegetables in the microwave or stove-top.
  • Raw leafy greens such as spinach are a good source of vitamins and iron, but they are absent from many diets of convenience.
  • When vitamins and minerals are ingested, the body prioritises them to be used to facilitate the digestion of pure carbohydrates like sugar and white flour. This means that you should take in an abundance of them to ensure that there are enough for all of your body’s needs. One lettuce leaf on a double cheeseburger will not usually contain enough vitamins to meet the average person’s daily vitamin needs.
  • Stimulants and depressants like caffeine, nicotine and alcohol strip the body of vital nutrients.
  • Excessive salt intake can encourage hair loss because of its tendency to accumulate in tissue.
  • Low fibre intake inhibits digestion thus reducing the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the blood stream.

If you do happen to notice hair loss, how can you tell it is being caused by poor nutrition? Of course the best approach is to seek professional advice from a doctor, but here is a list of signals which might indicate that your diet is to blame:

  • Dry skin
  • Constant tiredness, fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Slow recovery from injuries
  • Brittle hair

Clearly, poor nutrition can cause hair loss because the body will ration nutrients in a hierarchy of vital organs first and hair last. If you decide to go on one of those rapid weight-loss diets which severely restrict food intake (hardly ever a good idea!) and want to maintain your hair health, make sure that you supplement it with a multi-vitamin/mineral and do not skimp on your protein.