A possible side effect people experience when losing weight is hair loss. What causes this, can you prevent your hair from thinning, and can you reverse this hair loss?
Some people turn to unhealthy methods and diets when trying to lose weight. This can lead to unwanted side effects like losing hair.
Weight loss in itself does not lead to hair loss but it is a common side effect. One of the main reasons so many people lose hair when losing weight is that they use unhealthy strategies to reach their goals.
Luckily it is relatively easy to implement habits that can stop, prevent, and reverse this. After implementing these possible solutions many people start growing back hair in the months that follow.
5 reasons you may lose hair while losing weight
Like with many areas of health there are a few different possible causes for hair loss when losing weight or dieting. Often hair loss is the result of a few of these reasons combining.
Lack of nutrients
Your body is not able to make things out of thin air. It needs nutrients from food as building blocks and aid in the building processes.
Sometimes people take dieting a bit too far by reducing their food intake too much. This is usually with the goal of reducing calorie intake but a side effect is that they also drastically reduce their nutrient intake. This can lead to hair loss when losing weight.
Some examples of nutrients that your body needs to grow and keep hair are vitamin A, vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, B vitamins like biotin, iron, zinc, and protein (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16) Later in this article you can find some food examples for each nutrient.
The thing with these nutrients is that more is not always better. For example if you already consume the right amount of vitamin A, consuming more will likely not prevent hair loss.
Sometimes too much of these nutrients can cause negative side effects, like hair loss, too. You want to be especially careful with supplements since these often contain high dosages.
Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and parathyroid disorders can cause hair loss (17).
How to make your thyroid healthy again depends on what is causing the issue. Sometimes resolving some of the above vitamin and mineral inadequacies can help a lot already.
If you think your thyroid functioning may be the reason for your hair loss during weight loss it may be smart to talk to your doctor about it.
Hormonal changes may be part of or the whole cause of hair loss. For example during menopauze many women experience hair loss (18).
Weight gain, and dieting in reaction, is also common for women during menopauze. Trying to lose weight might feel like the reason for the hair loss while the hormonal changes are actually the main reason.
Stress, whether weight loss related or not, can be another reason for hair loss (19, 20).
For some people losing weight is a stressful undertaking with habits like obsessive weight measurement.
Let’s say none of the above reasons apply to you and you’re still losing hair. In that case it may be smart to talk to your doctor to exclude any other conditions that may require more attention.
How to stop and prevent hair loss when losing weight
Luckily it’s possible to resolve or at least reduce the impact of some of these reasons you may lose hair while dieting. Some of these solutions to stop and prevent hair loss may sound too simple but they can be very powerful when implemented right.
Eat more nutritious foods
Many of the nutrient insufficiencies that can cause hair loss are relatively easy to resolve with nutrient dense foods. Which ones have priority depends on the nutrients you currently lack.
These foods also often help with thyroid function and hormonal changes. Another bonus is that most of these foods are weight loss friendly as well.
Here some examples of nutritious foods you can eat for the nutrients that may play a role in hair loss:
- Vitamin A: beef liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, eggs, ricotta cheese
- Vitamin C: guava, bell pepper, black currants, kale, kiwi, broccoli
- Vitamin D: mainly from sunlight, in small amounts in fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms
- Vitamin E: sunflower seeds, nuts, avocado, spinach
- B vitamins like biotin: fish, animal meat, almonds, leafy greens, whole grains
- Iron: dark chocolate, oyster, beef liver, lentils, sardines, chickpeas
- Zinc: oyster, pumpkin seeds, ground beef, cashews, Swiss cheese, chickpeas
- Protein: Fish, animal meat, cheese, eggs, nuts
Keep in mind that you can also get too much of some of these nutrients. This is often a bit harder to do with whole foods but still something to keep in mind.
There is also a wide variety of supplements you can take to resolve some of the nutrient insufficiencies.
The thing with supplements is that it is easy to overdo it with some of them, for example iron. This can cause serious negative side effects. On the other hand it can be a challenge to consume enough of certain nutrients with whole foods alone.
If you are interested in supplementing it may be smart to talk to your doctor before doing so. This way you can find out if it’s actually necessary and what dose and supplement is right for you individually.
Lastly you can work on controlling stress to prevent and stop hair loss when losing weight.
Some ways you can relieve stress include:
- Breathing exercises
- Taking a break
- Doing a hobby you love
- Reduce caffeine intake
- Spend time with friends and family
Besides helping with hair loss these habits will likely improve other areas of your life too.
Will hair loss from weight loss grow back?
Depending on what the root cause is for your hair loss when losing weight, implementing the above things can make it so your hair grows back in the following months.
It is also possible your hair doesn’t grow back after making the changes previously mentioned. In that case you may want to talk to your doctor to find what’s causing it and what you can do to reverse it.