In the past few years, the Ketogenic, or Keto, diet has become a popular diet choice amongst fitness enthusiasts and diet conscious people. Some adopt this dietary regime for the purpose of losing weight, while others follow the Keto diet plan for athletic and fitness purposes.
While the Keto diet has been proven to be fairly effective in losing weight, there have been uncountable complaints of hair loss from amongst those who have followed this regime in recent times.
Generally, when you go on a low carb diet, it’s a common occurrence to notice strands of your hair falling off every time you brush, wash, or shampoo.
However, in the Keto diet, particularly, the increased stress on your body, which is a natural consequence of large dietary change, can greatly cause hair loss.
In this article, we’ll explore the background of Keto diet and hair loss, the connection between the two, and ways of overcoming the effects.
What is the Keto Diet?
Before we delve into the reasons behind hair loss in the Keto diet, it’s important for us to understand what the Keto diet is. The Ketogenic diet was discovered in 1921, by Dr. Ruseel Wilder, MD. This low-carb, adequate protein and high-fat diet, was first discovered when researching diet plans that could help assist patients that had underlying metabolic dysregulations; epilepsy, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.
Later research continued to show promising results with studies showing many contributing health benefits of following the diet plan, as well as an expedited weight loss journey. Similar to Atkins and other low-carb diets, the Keto diet involves a drastic reduction in carbohydrate intake and the replacement of carbs with fat.
The reason behind the reduction in weight is largely due to the fact that your body goes through a metabolic state called ketosis where instead of your body burning carbs it is forced to burn fat instead to produce energy. When the transition is complete, your body becomes extremely efficient at burning fat for energy resulting in significant weight loss.
Your body also turns fat into ketones in the liver, so your brain can continue to receive adequate energy supply. Many studies show that the Keto diet is far superior in weight loss regimen to the often recommended low-fat diet.
What is the Science Behind Hair Growth?
Now that we understand what a Keto diet is, let’s move on to the science behind hair growth to better under the reasons behind hair loss in the Keto diet.
Our hair is one of the most prized organs of our body and is more complicated than it seems. It has two separate structures: the follicle and the shaft.
The hair follicle is the part of your hair that lives in your skin while the shaft is the part of the hair that is visible. The inner and outer parts of the shaft are both responsible for your hair’s protection and growth.
Each hair strand goes through various growth phases, namely the Anagen phase, the Catagen phase, and the Telogen phase. The first phase of active hair growth lasts from 2 to 6 years. During this phase, the hair grows up to 1 cm every 28 days during this phase.
In the second phase, the hair growth stops for a while and this short phase lasts for 2 to 3 weeks. In the last phase, there is absolutely no growth and the stage is called the resting phase. This period lasts for up to 100 days.
Now when it comes to your hair, 20% of them remain in the telogen phase while the rest experience growth.
Keto Diet and Hair Loss – The Causes
Many types of research have been conducted on the reasons behind hair loss and it was found that a low carb diet can be one of the main reasons behind it.
One thing we need to understand is that the ketogenic diet itself is not the main reason behind your hair loss. It’s the initial phase of Keto that causes hair loss but the longer you stay with the diet the less it results in hair loss.
The following are the few main reasons why you are experiencing hair loss while following a Keto diet.
Drastic Calorie Deficit
When you start a strict diet regimen, you tend to consume lower calories to avoid gaining more weight and to lose the existing weight instead.
According to various studies, dietary changes taken to achieve major weight loss causes hair loss. It’s because when you consume low calories, your body spends less energy on non-vital systems such as the growth of your hair.
People who are new to the Ketogenic diet make the common mistake of not replacing the calories they usually consume from carbs with healthy fats and protein and start skipping carbs altogether. This creates a major calorie deficit in their body and as a result, their hair begins to thin and eventually fall out.
Fewer Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin deficiency is another cause of hair loss. According to some studies conducted on the same topic, a lack of amino acids and micronutrients such as zinc is responsible for hair loss in many people.
In the Keto diet, when going low carb, it is important to replace the necessary vitamins and minerals that get flushed out during the first phase of the Keto diet.
Your body typically stores glycogens and produces insulin for healthy functioning. As you eat fewer carbs, your body produces less insulin and the glycogen stores run out. Because of this, your kidneys start to excrete water and electrolytes like sodium, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and iodine in large quantities.
For healthy hair, you have to replenish these electrolytes to prevent your hair from falling out.
Stress Due to Dietary Transition
Another big culprit behind hair loss in a Keto diet is the sudden stress. When you go on the Keto diet, you cut down on carbs and proteins from your diet and increase the intake of fat. This dietary transition in your body puts it in all-time high stress.
Nutritional deficiencies, calorie deficit, psychological stress, and Keto flu are some of the major stressors on your body during the Keto diet. This stress can lead to the following conditions.
Large clumps of hair around the scalp begin to disappear.
Hair tends to fall off your head on a daily basis. But those few strands are considered normal. However, when more hair is ready to fall out than usual, you should consult a doctor.
Biotin is a vitamin that is associated with hair growth and is widely available in a large variety of foods. However, when you are on a low carbohydrate diet, legumes and fruits are usually avoided or consumed in fewer quantities on a Keto diet. Egg yolks, organ meats like liver and kidneys, dry fruits and nuts like walnuts, almonds, and peanuts, mushrooms, etc are biotin-rich food.
Too Little Protein
A standard ketogenic diet contains low carbs, very few protein, and high fat. Many people who begin their Ketogenic diet regimen think that if they consume too much protein, it might stop their ketosis due to gluconeogenesis.
Gluconeogenesis is the metabolic process by which glucose is generated from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates.
Unhealthy Gut Microbiome
The microbiome in your gut has a direct effect on every system in your body, primarily your hair, nails, and skin. If your gut microbiome is unhealthy due to the change in your diet, it can exert stress on your body and exacerbate hair loss symptoms in you.
Since all the body functions are interconnected, if one part is affected it inadvertently affects the other. Similarly, certain bad gut bacteria prevents biotin production that indirectly results in hair loss.
How to Prevent Hair Loss in the Keto Diet
Although hair loss on a Keto diet is not a permanent problem and only happens in the early days of the changed diet regime, there are some actions that you can take to prevent your hair from thinning even in the early stages of a Keto diet plan.
Don’t Compromise on the Nutrients
While it’s important to maintain the proper ration of fat, carbs, and protein in a Keto diet, make sure you don’t start starving yourself. In order to remain in the best of health, you should be taking enough macronutrients so your body can continue to receive the necessary nutrients it needs to keep all your vital body functions operating smoothly.
However, in the first phase of Keto, when you are transitioning from a high-carb diet to a high-fat, low-carb diet, you might still lose your hair for a bit. But keeping a healthy amount of macronutrient intake can ensure a faster adjustment to the changed diet.
The sooner your body adjusts to the change, the greater are the chances of your hair to go back to their normal growth cycle.
Keep Yourself Away From Stress
It’s true that hair loss can put you in a lot of mental stress. When your body goes into a stressful condition, cortisol levels become heightened. Cortisol or the stress hormone is another big culprit behind hair loss.
The good news is, you can actually control your stress level by meditating daily, doing yoga, taking walks, and practicing deep breathing.
Also, when you have too many big stress-causing events in your life, don’t pick such a time to start your Keto diet. Make sure you are relaxed when you begin this diet regimen.
Get Enough Sleep
Don’t compromise on a good night’s sleep. Prioritize your sleep as it’s the time when your body replenishes itself. Don’t succumb to today’s growing trend of staying up at night.
Nowadays, the least prioritized activity in a person’s daily life is their sleep. Remember that sleep is extremely important. Lack of sleep can adversely affect your major body functions, especially the function of your endocrine (hormonal) system.
When your endocrine system is affected, your stress hormones grow rapidly, causing hair loss as a result. If you want to avoid that, follow these simple tips to get a good night’s sleep.
- Before you go to bed, wrap up your day in the form of a relaxing bath, read a book, or listen to relaxing music.
- Do stretching or night time yoga to relax before sleep. This eases your body and puts your mind in a relaxed state that induces sleep.
- Get to bed earlier than your usual time.
- Follow the same bedtime every night to get into a rhythm.
- Make sure you get at least 8 hours of sleep every night.
Dietary Supplements and Other Food Intakes
While managing your sleep and stress levels can make a great difference, if you want to prevent hair loss as soon as possible, take MSM or methylsulfonylmethane. It’s a compound that can be found in animal products, algae, and vegetables.
MSM helps build up keratin in your body to strengthen your hair and nail health. This compound is also known for boosting hair health because it is rich in sulfur, a substance needed to make cystine that, a sulfur amino acid which is known to help produce keratin.
Take the “Liquid Gold”
People who go on the Keto diet are often found consuming bone broth as well. Also known as liquid gold, bone broth is quite popular for its profound health benefits.
This substance is known for enhancing hair health for being rich in collagen and its positive impact on the gut.
Collagen in hair is that part of your hair follicle that creates new hair. When your body is collagen-deficient, the deficiency can cause premature hair loss.
When you go on a keto diet, make sure you find collagen made to be taken in your keto diet.
Keep Your Hair Moisturized
Whether or not you are on a Keto diet, oiling your scalp and hair with coconut oil always helps soften your hair. If used regularly, coconut oil can make your hair softer, stronger, and moisturized. It’s loaded with essential nutrients like vitamin K, vitamin E, and iron that are required for healthy hair growth.
Whether you are facing hair loss right now or noticing slight thinning of your hair, it’s important for you to remember that this hair loss is a temporary setback only. Keto Diet and hair loss are not a permanent combination.
Hair loss is not a permanent consequence of the Ketogenic diet. It only happens because of reasons like drastic dietary transition, increased body stress, low proteins, and vitamin deficiencies.
Consult with a professional or do your own research and you can find out exactly what food you can consume during your Keto diet that can fulfill your nutrient deficiencies without adding to your weight.
In this way, you can continue to be on your Keto diet while also getting rid of the hair loss problem as quickly as possible. Consult a nutritionist for your most ideal Keto diet plan so you can maintain that gorgeous set of hair while looking and feeling fit.