Does Keto Cause Hair Loss?

Have you noticed your hair falling in bulk after going on keto? Are there more strands of hair on your hairbrush than there were before? Panicking? No, don’t. Hair loss is a side effect associated with the keto diet and fortunately, it’s temporary. Let’s delve in the connection among hair fall and keto diet. We will move along step by step.

What is Keto Diet?

Keto diet is a high-fat diet that tricks your body and sends signals to your brain that you are in a starvation mode. Due to the fact that you now consume lesser amounts of carbohydrates, your body starts functioning on fat and fat reserves. Your body uses ketones for energy purposes. Ketones are chemicals that your liver makes. Ketones are produced when you have a shortage of insulin in your body to turn sugar or glucose into energy. You need another source in order to produce energy, and therefore, it uses fat in the body. Your liver converts this fat into ketones, a kind of acid, and sends them into your bloodstream. Ultimately, the people who observe these kinds of eating habits experience rapid weight loss.

Does Keto Cause Hair Fall?

Well, coming to the main question, does going on a keto diet actually cause hair to fall out? Does it have that strong an effect? Well, it’s a saddening fact but yes, it does cause hair loss. But this is temporary and it happens due to the reason that the body is adjusting to the new changes and it takes time. This is one of the many side effects associated with keto diet. As we say that all good things that provide us with benefits also entail side effects. To understand this more, let’s first understand the process of hair growth, that is, how does hair actually grow, what is hair made of, how is it structured and why does this problem of hair loss occur amidst observing a keto diet.

Understanding the Hair Growth Process:

Fundamentally, hair is designed in a way to keep your head warm and safe from harmful elements, for instance, the weather, sunlight etc. To keep your hair coat unharmed and intact, your scalp requires constant growth of new hair throughout your entire life. For the new hair to grow, the already present hair must undergo three cycles; (1)

  1. Growth (Anagen)
  2. Regression (Catagen)
  3. Rest (Telogen)

When going through the first phase, that is anagen, an entire hair shaft has to be created by the hair follicles, which stretch from the root to tip. During the second and third phase, catagen and telogen, the hair follicles reboot themselves to and prepare their stem cells to wait up for the signal to initiate the next growth phase. Stem cells are special human cells that develop and split into various different cell types. In some cases, they can also repair damaged tissues. This is what constructs a new hair shaft. This process is repeated over and over again throughout your life.

If we talk about the structure of the hair itself, two parts are there. The first one is the follicle and the second one is the shaft. The follicle is located in the skin and the shaft is part which can be seen from the scalp and above it. Each hair follicle comprises of a tunnel-like segment. It runs from one area of your skin, the epidermis, to another, the dermis. Furthermore, hair follicle structures consist of different layers. Each layer has a different role to play.

Papilla is a structure present at the base of the hair follicle. It consists of tiny blood vessels which provide nourishment to the hair termed as capillaries. The part of the hair which is alive is the bottom part that surrounds the papilla, known as the bulb. There are two sheaths surrounding each hair follicle. One is the inner sheath and the other one is the outer sheath. The function of the sheaths is to protect the hair follicle and help in forming a new hair shaft. The inner sheath extends down towards the hair shaft and ends just before the opening of the hair’s oil gland, also known as the sebaceous gland. The outer sheath extends upwards from the base of the hair follicle to the gland.

Lastly, the hair shaft consists of a hard protein known as keratin. Keratin is made up of three layers. However, keratin is actually dead. This means that the hair visible on the top of your head is not alive. The first layer of the hair shaft is referred to as the medulla, the second layer is the cortex and the third one is called the cuticle. Most part of the hair shaft is made up of the cortex. The colour of your hair is located in both the cortex and the medulla.

Understanding Reasons that Can Cause Hair Loss:

Now, that we’ve fully understood the science behind hair growth and the hair follicle, we can now understand some reasons that can cause hair loss.

People generally associate hair loss with aging. However, the truth is that hair loss can result at any age and at any point of time in your life. Many other factors can also result in hair loss. They include a poor diet, stress, any emotional trauma, nutrient deficiencies, protein deprivation, hormonal changes, harsh hair treatments such as bleaching or using overly tight ponytails, certain medications and treatment (such as chemotherapy), certain diseases, such as thyroid disease or iron deficiency, fungal infections, bad habits such as pulling on hair or biting it, autoimmune diseases.

Keto Diet’s Impact on Hair:

Although, keto or ketogenic diet can be an effective way of reducing weight, it has some potential side effects. One of those side effects is hair fall and change in the condition of your hair. Generally, your hair uses carbohydrates from the food you eat for energy formation purposes. So, if you are on a low carb, high fat keto diet, you can end up landing in a state of ketosis. Ketosis is a metabolic state characterized by raised levels of ketone bodies in the body tissues. This may be the consequence of a diet that is very low in carbohydrates.

Several aspects can trigger hair loss when you are following a keto diet. There are two most common reasons for this:

a) Lesser nutrients in the body: By reducing the intake of carbohydrates, you reduce numerous nutrients in your body. These nutrients play a vital role in the growth of healthy hair on your scalp. This can result in loss of more hair or can cause growth of hair to slow down.

b) Your body’s response to the cut in calories: When your calorie intake is reduced, your body ensures that energy available is used for the most important functions first. This includes functions like cell growth and functioning of your heart, lungs and other organs. This means that there might be less energy left for hair growth.

Nutrients that are Important for Your Hair:

For proper and healthy functioning of your body, you need vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Similar is the procedure for your hair. There are specific nutrients required for healthy hair growth and to prevent hair fall. Therefore, to protect the health of your hair, you need to add specific nutrients and vitamins to your diet. Now, let’s talk a little bit about the nutrients needed by the body. You can add them as supplements to your diet.

Biotin: An animal study conducted in 2013 showed that biotin deficiency was strongly associated with a keto diet (2). The foods rich in biotin are consumed in reduced amounts or generally avoided when you are on a keto diet. Foods that are a good source of biotin and can be easily adjusted in your keto diet are:

  • egg yolks
  • organ meats, like liver and kidneys
  • nuts, including almonds, walnuts, and peanuts
  • cauliflower
  • mushrooms

Vitamin C: It is a thoroughly researched fact that vitamin C is immensely important for a robust immune system and overall good health. Another benefit of vitamin C is that it produces collagen. This protein is needed for healthy hair and skin. Even though, berries and citrus fruits are known for having vitamin C, there are some other foods which are an excellent source of obtaining vitamin C. These foods are:

  • yellow pepper
  • kale
  • mustard spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • parsley
  • thyme

Vitamin C can also be found in supplements and multivitamins.

Vitamin A: Vitamin A is an important nutrient required for hair growth, healthy skin, vision and a strong immune system. The foods which are rich in vitamin A are popularly consumed in a keto diet, for instance, meat, eggs, fish and dairy products. However, vitamin A should not be taken in large quantities because it can cause vitamin A toxicity. Some of the symptoms of vitamin A toxicity are:

  • hair loss
  • visual disturbances
  • bone and joint pain
  • nausea and vomiting
  • poor appetite
  • headaches

Avoid taking multivitamins that have vitamin A in them because your intake of vitamin A through foods is enough for your body.

Vitamin D: We get vitamin D from the food we eat. Our bodies also make it from the sunlight we get. Vitamin D is vital for healthy hair and calcium absorption. Low levels of vitamin D can result in a disease called alopecia. Alopecia is an autoimmune disease that can cause hair loss all over the body. Foods rich in vitamin D which can be consumed in a keto diet include:

  • fatty fish, like salmon, herring, and sardines
  • tuna
  • oysters
  • egg yolk
  • mushrooms

Vitamin E: Vitamin E is another nutrient extremely important for hair growth and healthy growth of cells. The following foods can be included in your keto diet:

  • sunflower seeds
  • almonds
  • hazelnuts
  • peanuts
  • avocados
  • spinach
  • tomatoes

Protein: If you are on keto, you are already consuming protein rich foods such as meat, dairy products etc. However, if you are on keto and are vegan, then there’s a need for you to add some proteins to your diet otherwise there might be protein deficiency or other serious complications, for instance, loss of muscle mass and an impaired immune system. Foods rich in protein suitable for keto dieting are:

  • seitan
  • soybean products like tofu, edamame, and tempeh
  • nuts and nut butters
  • chia seeds
  • vegetables like broccoli, spinach, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts
  • green peas

Iron: Iron is very important for the body. Low levels of iron cause health problems and damaged hair. Foods rich in iron include:

  • shellfish
  • spinach
  • red meat
  • dark turkey meat
  • pumpkin seeds

Time span for hair loss during keto:

Hair loss from ketogenic diet is temporary and reversible due to the fact that is acquired by going on a keto diet. Hair loss usually ends a little time after you have finished your ketogenic dieting. Other than that, hair loss does not occur instantaneously. You will notice significant changes in your hair health almost after three to six months since you were on a keto diet. The time it takes for your hair health to normalize after stopping keto may range from a few weeks to a few months’ time.

How to handle hair loss in keto:

You can add the nutrients mentioned above as supplements to your keto diet and make hair loss considerably lesser.

Bottom line:

Everyone wants to look fit in this contemporary world, however, specific care should be taken with regard to body and hair health when on keto diet. Non-keto factors such as stress and insomnia can also cause hair loss. But don’t let such a thing discourage you to go on a satisfactory and more confident journey.



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