Hair loss can cause concern or even severe distress for some women. Daily hair shedding is normal, but you may notice increased hair loss when beginning intermittent fasting. This is temporary and is the body’s reaction to the changes you are making.
Preventing hair loss when fasting is dependent on eating enough nutritious foods, getting the right amount of vitamins and minerals, and eating enough calories every day. Long-term intermittent fasting may have hair-growth benefits.
You are all excited with your new intermittent fasting routine until one day, getting out of the shower, you notice a clump of hair sitting on the drain. You start to wonder if fasting is good for you.
Some amount of daily hair shedding is normal, especially for women. When you begin intermittent fasting, you may notice changes in your hair, possibly even increased hair loss. Understanding what causes hair loss in women can help you take measures when fasting to prevent hair loss from worsening and even give the hair a boost of extra strength and shine.
Thankfully, hair doesn’t grow or fall out all at once; it happens in stages up to a 6-year timespan (1). Diet, hormones, stress, and how often hair is washed and styled all impact the strength and quality of the hair and affect the rate at which hair is grown and lost.
Hair goes through 4 phases over the years (active growth, transition, resting, and shedding), and the hundreds of thousands of individual strands are all in different phases at any given time (2). The cycle repeats itself throughout your life.
Hair shedding is normal, and on average, a woman will shed 50 -100 hairs daily depending on length and fullness. There are stressors (birth, significant weight loss, illness) that can increase hair shedding. This typically will resolve itself within 6-9 months (3).
Estrogen supports healthy hair. Menopause is a natural process that results in a decrease in estrogen levels. Over two-thirds of post-menopausal women will experience noticeable hair thinning due to this hormonal change (4).
Hair loss (alopecia) is the prevention of hair growth. It occurs in 1 in 3 women and can cause significant distress (4). Genetics, tightly pulled back hair, and harsh hair products can be reasons why hair won’t grow, and until those factors change, the hair loss will continue.
· Hormonal imbalance
· Extreme calorie deficit
· Excessive weight loss
· Poor dietary choices
· Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
· Low iron
· Harsh chemical hair products
· Extreme styling (brushing, heat, pulling)
Intermittent fasting is about the timing of meals. It stretches the period one doesn’t eat and permits any food choices during the eating window.
Any time you put the body under stress, it reacts. Intermittent fasting taxes the body. If your body isn’t used to the decrease in calories that occurs because you are fasting and eating less, it will feel stressed out until it adjusts, and hair loss may occur.
Also, some people experience a decreased appetite when fasting. If you are not eating enough and not choosing nutrient-dense calories in your eating window, hair loss may occur.
Any new foods you adopt when beginning intermittent fasting may also put the body under temporary duress.
As a result of the caloric and dietary changes, intermittent fasting may cause temporary hair loss.
It is vital to eat a well-balanced diet when fasting, mainly because you will be eating less food. Getting the proper amount of vitamins and minerals will ensure healthy hair.
Although more research in this area is needed, the most common types of hair loss can be helped by supplementing with Vitamin D.
Also, increasing Vitamin C is vital for those with low iron levels (common in women) for hair growth.
Too much Vitamin A can contribute to hair loss (5).
While there is no research showing that intermittent fasting cures hair loss, increasing your overall diet and health may support a healthy scalp and hair.
One of the health benefits of intermittent fasting is that it triggers autophagy, during which the body recycles, repairs, and restores its cells. One study found that inducing autophagy started new hair growth (6).
Intermittent fasting also triggers the production of the “anti-aging” human growth hormone (HgH), which naturally depletes over time. One of the many benefits of increased HgH is that it promotes hair growth and prevents hair loss (7).
1. Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as lean meats, whole grains, leafy greens, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
2. Get more protein. Hair is made of protein, and therefore it’s essential for healthy hair.
3. Complex carbs are essential for providing the energy hair needs to grow.
4. Take vitamin and mineral supplements.
5. Avoid hair products and colors with harsh chemicals.
6. No restrictive hairstyles. No more ponytails, braids, dreadlocks, or tight buns. Let the hair flow freely.
7. Scalp massage can not only feel good; it can stimulate blood flow to the area.
Intermittent fasting may cause temporary hair loss due to stress on the body, decreased caloric intake, and not eating enough nutrient-dense foods in your eating window. This will usually resolve itself within months unless you are dealing with other underlying factors that cause hair loss for women.
Intermittent fasting may result in healthier hair when done consistently over time because it triggers both autophagy and the human growth hormone, both shown to trigger new hair growth.
Take steps to prevent excess hair loss and do things that promote hair growth.
1. Burg D, Yamamoto M, Namekata M, Haklani J, Koike K, Halasz M. Promotion of anagen, increased hair density and reduction of hair fall in a clinical setting following identification of FGF5-inhibiting compounds via a novel 2-stage process. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:71-85. doi:10.2147/CCID.S123401
2. Grymowicz M, Rudnicka E, Podfigurna A, et al. Hormonal Effects on Hair Follicles. Int J Mol Sci. 2020;21(15):5342. doi:10.3390/ijms21155342
3. Do you have hair loss or hair shedding? American Academy of Dermatology Association. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/hair-loss/insider/shedding
4. Treating female-pattern hair loss. Harvard Health Publishing. 2020 August 31. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/treating-female-pattern-hair-loss
5. Almohanna HM, Ahmed AA, Tsatalis JP, Tosti A. The Role of Vitamins and Minerals in Hair Loss: A Review. Dermatol Ther (Heidelb). 2019;9(1):51-70. doi:10.1007/s13555-018-0278-6
6. Chai et al., 2019, Stimulation of hair growth by small molecules that activate autophagy. Cell Reports 2019; 27:3413–3421. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2019.05.070
7. Trüeb RM. Further Clinical Evidence for the Effect of IGF-1 on Hair Growth and Alopecia. Skin Appendage Disord. 2018;4(2):90-95. doi:10.1159/000479333
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