When people have concerns about thinning hair, they are sometimes stunned to hear that their diet may be the heart of their hair loss problem.
While human hairs are essentially made up of dead cells, the follicles that create them are very much a biological marvel – and they are greatly affected by a person’s overall health. A poor diet can place severe stress upon the body, which in some instances can lead to havoc being wreaked upon the scalp.
In pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, some people choose a gluten-free diet, though coeliacs who have a negative autoimmune reaction to wheat proteins don’t really have a choice. Now a new study has found that those looking to free-from substitutes, as opposed to making naturally free-from food choices, could have a far unhealthier diet than they realise.
1,700 foods compared
Researchers at the UK’s University of Hertfordshire compared the nutritional information of more than 1,700 sweet and savoury items and found that gluten-free foods had higher levels of fat, salt and sugar than regular products. The worst offenders were processed gluten-free foods such as biscuits and crackers, which contained comparatively larger quantities of potentially unhealthy ingredients to improve their taste.
There are plenty of foods that are naturally gluten-free such as quinoa, rice and corn as well as meat, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables. These are not part of the problem – a gluten-free diet has even been suggested as a good way for people with Alopecia Areata (another autoimmune disorder which causes patchy hair loss) to help manage their condition. It is the pre-packaged, processed ‘freefrom’ foods that are in the firing line.
Whilst some gluten-free variants can contain similar levels of sugar and calories to their regular counterparts – milk chocolate Hob Nobs biscuits being a good example – these can also differ wildly, so it is always best to check the labels for nutritional content information.
Refined sugar is often included in these convenience foods and studies have previously linked this to both thinning hair and the presence of ‘hidden sugars‘ in the diet to a potential worldwide health crisis. Artificial sweeteners, sometimes used in place of refined sugars, are also on the naughty list, with links to obesity and diabetes. Underlying illnesses – whether diagnosed or not – as well as certain prescription medications can also lead to periods of excessive hair fall.
It could be, therefore, that people on this type of exclusion diet are unwittingly packing ingredients into their body that could raise their risk of hair loss. Though this is not the sole hair-related concern; Dandruff is sometimes thought to be caused by poor diets, too.
Diet-related hair thinning
Though this temporary condition has a number of triggers, they mostly revolve around stress – either physical or emotional; nutritional issues fall under this category as they can place a strain on the body. This in turn can disrupt its normal functioning, including that of the hair growth cycle. As the body diverts its resources away from non-critical functions such as this, the cycle can fall abruptly into its resting period – known as the ‘telogen’ phase.
Normally only 10 per cent of the hairs on our head are in the resting phase at any one time; Telogen Effluvium can cause up to a further 50 per cent of follicles – or more in extreme cases – to fall dormant. This leads to intense hair fall which, whilst often seeming sudden in its onset, tends to only become noticeable around three months after the condition is sparked.
In most cases, Telogen Effluvium will clear up naturally within six months, once the original problem has been dealt with. However, if someone were to, for example, have a largely unhealthy diet and/or any additional health issues – whether as a direct result or not – then the condition could progress. It would then be reclassified as Chronic Telogen Effluvium, also known as Diffuse Hair Loss, which follows the same pattern of shedding but lasts for a minimum of six months.
Treatment for Telogen Effluvium to help speed up the recovery period in both regular and chronic forms, is possible. At Belgravia this is based around appropriate formulations of high-strength minoxidil from those available at the in-clinic pharmacies. This topical solution is applied directly to the scalp and, though its precise mechanisms in relation to hair regrowth remain fairly mysterious, it is widely understood to open up potassium channels and increase localised blood flow. This, in turn, encourages new hair growth.
Belgravia treatment programmes tend to pair this medication with complementary non-pharmaceutical products known as hair growth boosters. These range from FDA-cleared low level laser therapy devices such as the LaserComb and LaserBands – which can be used at home to stimulate follicles – to highly-targeted food supplements. Hair Vitalics is a premium hair growth supplement developed by Belgravia’s hair experts, which blends key beneficial vitamins, minerals, amino acids and botanicals in optimal doses, including components known to lower DHT levels. Importantly, both of these one-a-day formulations – Hair Vitalics for Men and Hair Vitalics for Women – are gluten-free. They are also free from lactose, yeast, salt and sugar, as well as being suitable for vegetarians. They are also suitable for people following a dairy-free, plant-based diet though strict vegans may wish to avoid them as one of the vitamins is sourced from the wool of live, healthy sheep.
As for those with regular nutritional requirements, as long as people follow a mindful gluten-free diet that is balanced, their should be minimal negative related effects. Of course this does not exempt them from developing hair loss conditions – particularly androgenetic alopecia, often more commonly referred to as male pattern baldness and female pattern hair loss – it is simply less likely to be as a result of poor dietics.
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.