When people sign up for a new diet that promises ‘fast results’, they typically have one of two things in mind: their impending beach holiday, or looking good for a special occasion such as a wedding or party. But what they all-too-frequently sign up for as well is… hair loss.
The reason that hair loss and crash diets often go hand in hand is because of the way their sudden and often severe restrictions can cause such shock and stress to the body. It might sound far-fetched, but it isn’t: going from even a pretty average calorific intake to one in which your body suddenly has to deal without its anticipated fats, sugars or carbs can wreak havoc. And, for adherents of the re-surging Cambridge Diet, the first week can be especially punishing.
This is because during the first stage of the Cambridge Diet – also known as the Cambridge Weight Plan – dieters are only supposed to eat just over 400 calories per day. To put that into perspective, that’s around the same amount of calories as are found in an average blueberry muffin.
Diet requires strong commitment
Though the Cambridge Diet has been around since the 1980s, it is becoming popular again. It is sometimes referred to as a fad diet as it requires strong commitment and its multiple steps can seem gimmicky. Weight loss can certainly happen quickly, but what no one really signs up for is hair loss, even though this is recognised as a possible side effect on the official Cambridge Weight Plan website.
“Hair loss as a generalised thinning of the hair across the head can be associated with weight loss,” they write. “The thinning can occur during and sometimes after the weight loss phase. Weight loss is not the only reason for hair thinning and we would therefore recommend you seek medical advice from your GP if you are concerned.”
Hair loss brought on by a fad diet is likely to happen because, for want of a better explanation, the body runs out of fuel. The body has a rather wonderful way of ensuring that vital services are kept running during times of stress – which is why people’s hearts will keep beating and they’ll keep breathing for weeks without food. But things that the body deems less important can be sidelined. Little wonder, perhaps, that thinning hair is just one of several possible side effects of the Cambridge Diet alongside bad breath, cold feet, insomnia and nausea.
The Cambridge Diet is by no means the only diet that can cause unexpected shedding – anything that dramatically changes what the body is used to is a risk. In most cases, hair loss experts will diagnose the hair loss as a condition called Telogen Effluvium. This general all-over thinning is frequently caused by a lack of nutrients in the body, and whilst the hair should regrow naturally within around six months from the time the shedding began, it can also be eased with a bespoke Telogen Effluvium treatment course.
Although this type of thinning is temporary it is known to be able to spark or worsen genetic hair loss in those with an inherited disposition to either Male Pattern Baldness or Female Pattern Hair Loss. Advice from a professional hair loss specialist is encouraged as they will be able to provide you with a diagnosis of precisely what is causing your shedding and whether it is due to one or multiple concurrent hair loss conditions. Furthermore, they can also then tailor a personalised treatment programme to meet these specific needs.
Less commonly diagnosed after extreme dieting is the autoimmune disorder Alopecia Areata, which causes hair to fall out suddenly, in patches. There are a number of suspected triggers that cause the onset of Alopecia Areata, stress being one of them. What many people are amazed to hear is that stress doesn’t always mean anxiety or having too much to do at work – it can just as easily mean something far more tangible, like a dramatic change in food intake or exercise.
Diet-induced hair loss
Says Leonora Doclis, senior hair loss specialist at Belgravia: “A balanced diet full of the important nutrients needed for healthy hair growth is always encouraged and making changes to improve your diet, such as increasing your intake of fruit and vegetables, decreasing your intake of sugar, salt and unnecessary fats, as well as paying attention to your portion sizes, is generally wise. However, these kinds of changes – whilst sensible and often beneficial in the long term – are often rejected in favour of what appear to be ‘shortcut’ approaches to weight loss such as whichever fad or crash diet is currently popular.
The temptation to commit yourself to one of these ‘quick fix’ diets can be very strong, especially when a number of friends do it together and the promise of rapid weight loss is heavily advertised, but anything that suddenly and dramatically changes the way you eat can easily have a knock-on effect on the whole body. It is also often hard to maintain such a regime and any weight loss that comes as a result is often short-lived.
We would always advise a more measured and gradual approach to dieting if you want to lose some weight and, whilst no substitute for healthy eating, taking highly targeted food supplements, such as Hair Vitalics can help to ensure your hair is getting the nutrition it needs.”
If you do start to notice your hair thinning a few months into a new diet plan, we would recommend you gradually ease your way back into a healthy, balanced and less restrictive way of eating as this is likely to address the underlying cause of your increased shedding. From there, a specialist hair loss clinic will be able to guide you as to the most effective course of treatment and complementary hair growth boosters to help your hair reach its potential again.
The Belgravia Centre
The Belgravia Centre is the leader in hair loss treatment in the UK, with two clinics based in Central London. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation Form from anywhere in the UK or the rest of the world. View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which are the largest collection of such success stories in the world and demonstrate the levels of success that so many of Belgravia’s patients achieve. You can also phone 020 7730 6666 any time for our hair loss helpline or to arrange a free consultation.