Sudden weight loss due to dieting comes at a price – hair loss. Clinically and anecdotally, it has been observed that extreme or rapid weight loss has unintentional side effects, and hair loss is one of them. But giving up on your weight loss and fitness goals is non-negotiable. Neither is sacrificing your gorgeous tresses. Keep reading to learn the connection between weight loss and hair loss and what you can do to prevent this.
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Why Do You Lose Hair When You Lose Weight After A Diet?
The sudden changes in diet and calorie restriction can cause stress and nutritional deficiencies, leading to hair loss. The physiological and emotional stress and hormone imbalance due to dieting may cause Telogen Effluvium (TE), a form of temporary hair loss (1).
Telogen effluvium may also be triggered by bariatric surgery (for obesity and weight loss), iron deficiency, anemia, and the side effects of certain drugs (2). Scroll down to learn more about it in detail.
What Causes Hair Loss After Weight Loss: Explained
While striving for the ideal weight and staying fit is good, the immense pressure to lose weight may cause stress. This is further aggravated when it is accompanied by unfavorable consequences of weight loss, such as hair loss, dull skin, and fatigue.
|Types Of Stress||How To Prevent It|
Fluctuating Body Mass Index (BMI) causes physical stress. This signals the hair follicles to move into an inactive stage, causing sudden hair loss.
|Ensure that the weight loss is gradual. Try to lose weight steadily, so your body can adapt to the changes in diet.|
Low self-esteem and depression triggered by dissatisfaction over physical aspects like body weight and hair may cause hair loss (2).
|Your body weight and hair are only a part of your identity. Embrace yourself the way you are.|
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa (lack of appetite) can cause hair loss. This psychiatric disorder causes rapid weight loss and nutrient deficiency, triggering hair loss (3).
|Consult a psychiatrist, undergo therapy, and follow the prescribed medication to overcome this disorder.|
- Nutritional Deficiency
Nutritional deficiency may impact both hair structure and hair growth. Sudden weight loss or reduced protein intake may cause acute telogen effluvium (TE) (4).
|Factors Causing Nutritional Deficiency||How To Prevent It|
|Starvation /Malnutrition /Crash Diets|
Extreme diets with very low-calorie intake and possibly low protein intake will result in hair loss .
Crash diets cause mild to severe depletion of essential nutrients needed for sustaining proper body function. Loss of nutrients like protein, iron, biotin, zinc, essential fatty acids, and vitamin B12 triggers hair loss (4).
|Your body needs adequate calories for proper hair growth. Work with a nutritionist or dietitian to lose weight in a healthy way.|
|Protein Deficiency |
Protein helps maintain the hair follicle structure. Inadequate protein intake may weaken the hair follicles, causing hair loss.
|Consume a protein-rich diet to maintain hair health. You need 0.8 g protein per kg body weight per day, depending on your gender, age, and health status (5).|
|Iron Deficiency And Anemia|
Iron deficiency causes anemia and is linked to hair loss. Reduced iron levels in the body are measured by serum ferritin levels. The ferritin level should be above 50 μg/l or 70μg/l on a case to case basis (4).
|Consume foods rich in iron, like white beans, nuts, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, peas, lean meat, seafood, and poultry (6).|
|Acquired Zinc Deficiency |
Zinc is an important factor in the growth and development of healthy hair (4).
|Consume zinc-rich foods like chickpea, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, cashews, oatmeal, oysters, chicken, beef, and crab (7).|
|Micronutrient Deficiency |
Deficiency of biotin, folate, vitamin B6, and essential fatty acids may cause hair loss (4).
|Follow a well-balanced diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Consume whole grains, eggs, healthy fats from nuts and avocados, spinach, citrus fruits, and carrots.|
- Drugs And Hormones
Weight loss medications and hormone supplements may also trigger hair loss. Drugs that may cause telogen effluvium include (2):
- Anti-thyroid agents
- Hormones, such as androgens (testosterone)
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
If your hair loss is caused due to underlying conditions and medications, talk to your doctor. However, if it is triggered by weight loss, it is a temporary phase.
How Long Does Hair Fall Out After Weight Loss?
You may experience hair loss for 3-6 months after weight loss. This is a temporary phase, and once you resume a healthy and balanced diet, your hair will start to grow.
If you are experiencing hair loss during weight loss, here is how you can prevent it.
Tips To Prevent Hair Loss When Losing Weight
- Avoid crash diets.
- Avoid diets that demand severe calorie
- Get adequate sleep for 7 to 8 hours.
- Consult a doctor and take high-quality multivitamins (100% RDV).
- Get regular scalp massages to improve circulation.
If you are concerned about whether the hair will grow back or not, scroll down for the answer.
Will The Hair Grow Back After Weight Loss?
Yes, the hair you lost during your weight loss journey will grow back once the body adjusts to the diet and the underlying stressors are gone (2). Hair loss mainly happens when your body does not get an adequate supply of nutrients. Once you start following a balanced, healthy diet, your hair should grow back within six months.
While losing 50-100 strands every day is normal, consult a doctor immediately in case of excess hair fall. Here is how excess hair loss is diagnosed.
Excess Hair Fall: Diagnosis And Treatment
You may try the hair pull test (2). Grasp around 50 hair strands between your thumb and forefinger and pull gently along. It is normal if a few strands (less than 10%) come off. However, if most of the hair strands come off, consult a doctor immediately.
The doctor may perform tests for further diagnosis. They include:
- Blood test
- Tests to check serum ferritin levels
- Thyroid test
- Tests to check vitamin D levels
The doctor may also suggest treatment options like:
- Minoxidil: Studies show that 2% topical minoxidil can stimulate hair regrowth (8).
- Spironolactone: Spironolactone therapy also encourages hair regrowth (9). It slows down androgens (testosterone) to promote hair growth.
Hair loss during and after extreme weight loss is caused by stress and nutritional deficiencies. It is temporary and can be reversed by healthy lifestyle modifications. However, extreme and continuous hair loss needs medical attention. Avoid self-medication or starting fad diets in such cases. Consult a doctor and follow the prescribed medications and diet chart to prevent hair loss.
- Telogen effluvium: a review
- Diagnosing and treating hair loss
- Psychological aspects of eating disorders
- Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use
- Dietary Protein Intake and Human Health.
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Iron
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Zinc.
- Androgenetic alopecia in the female. Treatment with 2% topical minoxidil solution
- Demographics of women with female pattern hair loss and the effectiveness of spironolactone therapy.
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