Weight Loss Woes: Understanding And Managing Hair Loss

Written by Rali Bozhinova, Superintendent Trichologist, The Belgravia Centre

Have you noticed your hair thinning after shedding those extra pounds? If so, you’re not alone. Many individuals, like yourself, embark on a weight loss journey only to find themselves facing the unexpected challenge of hair loss. We are often asked why the amount of hair loss increases, the scalp becomes visible, and the hair loses its volume. If this relates to you, keep on reading to discover common underlying causes and treatment options for this issue.

The goal of losing weight is often fuelled by good intentions such as enhancing your health, changing your appearance, or boosting your energy levels. However, while you are trying to shed some extra pounds, you may overlook a crucial aspect – the potential impact on your hair health. If not well-planned, trying to lose weight can actually result in dietary deficiencies in vital nutrients and make you more tired. Sudden drastic weight loss and restrictive diets are often associated with increased hair shedding and worsening of pre-existing hair loss conditions.

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We often see patients who follow extreme crash diet regimes, hoping to lose weight quickly. Such patients complain of increased hair shedding and weaker hair shortly after losing a significant amount of weight in a short space of time.  We also see patients with increased hair shedding in just two to three months following a bariatric surgery. This is because they consume fewer nutrients which the body prioritises for more vital bodily functions.

Low Protein

Reducing your daily calorie intake may help you lose weight, especially if you cut down on foods that don’t provide much nutritional value. However, when this is not planned well, and you simply exclude most of your meals, you may end up consuming very little nutrients such as protein.

Protein is a fundamental building block for your hair, as it comprises the structure of the hair follicles and skin. Keratin is the protein that makes up your hair, skin and nails. Insufficient protein intake can disrupt the hair growth cycle and lead to increased hair shedding and brittle hair. Moreover, in a calorie deficit state, the body may prioritise using available protein for vital functions such as maintaining muscle mass and supporting organ function, rather than allocating it for non-essential functions like hair growth. This further exacerbates the risk of inadequate protein availability for hair health.

Low Iron

Iron deficiency is the world’s most common nutritional deficiency. However, this can be exacerbated by restrictive diets.  One commonly overlooked yet significant factor contributing to hair loss during weight loss is the role of iron deficiency.

The exact mechanism through which iron affects the hair cycle remains unclear. However, we know that iron is crucial for producing red blood cells and haemoglobin, which transport oxygen to the body's tissues, including the hair follicles. Iron is also important for energy, DNA synthesis and cell division. Hair loss is a common symptom of low iron, as well as tiredness and difficulty concentrating. Some studies have linked low iron with hair loss conditions such as telogen effluvium and androgenic alopecia (also known as male pattern hair loss in men and female pattern hair loss in women).

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Telogen effluvium happens when many actively growing hair follicles are pushed prematurely to the end of their cycle, losing their hair quickly. If you have telogen effluvium, you may notice excessive hair shedding from all over your scalp, and you may find more of your hair on the floor, in the drain, in your hair brush, and on clothes throughout the day. Although this is often temporary, some individuals experience chronic telogen effluvium resulting in a constant state of thin hair and difficulty growing the hair in length.

Androgenic alopecia, on the other hand, is a condition that only affects specific areas of your scalp – the front hairline may feel like it is receding, you may see more of your scalp through your hair on the top, and your crown may appear with less volume, whilst the hair at the back of your head remains dense. Iron deficiency is not the sole causative factor for male or female pattern hair loss because this is a genetic condition. However, low iron may aggravate it further and many benefit from improving their iron levels whilst also receiving treatment for androgenic alopecia.

Low Zinc

Zinc is an essential micronutrient required for numerous physiological processes. It plays a vital role in supporting growth and development, as well as maintaining the health of the skin, hair, and nails. While the precise mechanism of how zinc influences hair growth remains elusive, it is believed to be linked to its involvement in protein synthesis and cell division. Low zinc is associated not just with increased hair shedding such as that seen in telogen effluvium, but also in autoimmune hair loss conditions like alopecia areata.

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Alopecia areata is a non-scarring type of hair loss which means that even though the hair is lost, the hair follicles are not, and the hair still has the potential to grow back. The most common presentation of alopecia areata is mild to moderate patchy hair loss. It can affect any hair on the body but is most common on the scalp and beard. Sometimes white hair can be seen as it starts growing back which often returns to its normal colour later.

The condition can also affect the entire hairline in a band-like pattern which is called alopecia areata ophiasis. Rarely alopecia areata can affect the entire head or even the entire body, these presentations of the condition are called totalis and universalis. Alopecia areata can sometimes present as diffuse hair loss across the scalp, without any defined patches. It can present with suddenly increased hair shedding and loss of density across the scalp. This is perhaps the most misdiagnosed type of alopecia areata because it resembles other diffuse hair loss conditions such as telogen effluvium.

Low Vitamin D

Vitamin D, an indispensable nutrient, is frequently underestimated and can easily go unnoticed in blood tests. Patients may overlook its significance or disregard low levels, but it is crucial to address and treat if it is deficient. Its receptors are dispersed across various cells, including those within hair follicles. It has a vital role in the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels, maintenance of bone, dental, and muscular health, support for immune system function, involvement in cell growth and division processes, and influence on the growth patterns of skin and hair follicle cells.

As our clinic is based in the United Kingdom, we often see patients with vitamin D deficiency. In the UK there is a limited amount of sunlight and therefore the UK government advises everyone to consider taking vitamin D supplements, especially during the autumn and winter months. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with hair loss conditions such as telogen effluvium, male and female pattern hair loss, alopecia areata and other autoimmune hair loss conditions such as scarring types of hair loss.

Prevention Strategies

While some degree of hair loss may be inevitable during weight loss, there are steps you can take to minimise its impact. For example, try to avoid crash diets or extreme caloric restriction. Instead, aim for gradual and sustainable weight loss through a balanced diet and regular exercise. This approach allows your body to adjust more smoothly and reduces the risk of nutrient deficiencies.

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Ensure your diet is rich in essential nutrients for hair health, including protein, iron, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins A, C, D, and E. Consider incorporating foods such as lean meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables into your meals. In a consultation with a healthcare professional, consider taking supplements to address any identified nutrient deficiencies.

Last but not least, try to practice stress-reducing techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. Managing stress can help mitigate its impact on hormonal balance and reduce the risk of telogen effluvium.

Treatment Options

Fortunately, hair loss resulting from nutritional deficiencies or crash dieting is typically temporary. Conditions like telogen effluvium often resolve spontaneously once the underlying trigger is removed. For instance, if severe iron deficiency is confirmed through a blood test, hair regrowth is likely to occur within 3-6 months after iron levels are restored. However, in some instances, hair loss persists due to various contributing factors such as genetic predisposition, medication usage, other medical conditions, or hormonal fluctuations. Consequently, it is advisable to take proactive measures and address hair loss promptly.

Supplements 

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Addressing any health concerns with your doctor and having varied nutrients in your diet is vital for your wellbeing and hair health. Alongside your healthy balanced diet, taking a daily food supplement, such as Hair Vitalics, can help you obtain important vitamins, minerals, amino acids and botanical extracts that support healthy hair growth. They are available in Hair Vitalics for Men and Hair Vitalics for Women formulations in order to be as highly-targeted as possible.

Contact A Hair Loss Specialist

If you have noticed any signs of hair thinning or hair loss, reach out to an expert as soon as possible. They will examine your hair, discuss your medical history, lifestyle, and hair care routine, and give you treatment recommendations tailored to your specific case. The Belgravia Centre advises that you bring a recent blood test to your consultation. This will help you determine whether there are any nutritional factors that could be contributing to your hair loss.

To help you get a head start, follow these steps:

If you just want to ask a question:

If you would like to book a free consultation at our Central London clinic:                                                                                            

  • Call us on 020 7730 6666 and ask to book an appointment or
  • Request a clinic appointment by contacting us online
  • You can collect your medication on the day of your appointment, or we can post it to you

If you would like to have an online consultation:

  • Complete an online consultation form – this will take you 5-10 minutes
  • We will get in touch with you on the same or next day and help you book a Zoom consultation with a hair loss specialist
  • We can post your medication to most parts of the world

 

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The Belgravia Centre’s pharmacy is dedicated to preparing bespoke treatment formulations tailored to our patients. These include medically proven treatments such as minoxidil specially offered at different strengths, and with various additives to maximise effectiveness, as well as finasteride which can be used orally or topically by those with male pattern hair loss.

Your hair loss specialist will help you choose a treatment plan that suits your type and severity of hair loss, your medical history, and your lifestyle. Additionally, our specialists are available 7 days a week to support you with advice and answer your questions.

Take a look through our hair regrowth photo gallery – which is the largest gallery of its kind in the world and contains over 1,000 sets of hair growth photos and verified reviews from patients of The Belgravia Centre. You can filter the photos by pattern and severity of hair loss so you can find similar cases to your own.

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The Belgravia Centre

The Belgravia Centre is a world-renowned group of a hair loss clinic in Central London, UK. If you are worried about hair loss you can arrange a free consultation with a hair loss expert or complete our Online Consultation from anywhere in the world for home-use treatment.

View our Hair Loss Success Stories, which includes the world's largest gallery of hair growth photos and demonstrates the level of success that so many of Belgravia's patients achieve.