So, you signed up for a ketogenic diet challenge not too long ago for the sole purpose of losing some weight and getting your health back on track.
Fast forward to the current situation, you notice that your hair quality is deteriorating. Most of your once healthy hair strands are thinning and you are collecting a lot of shed hair in your sink drain when you shower.
What could be happening to your hair? Could keto diet be the reason for your hair loss?
Anecdotal evidence and online forum discussions reveal several horror stories from keto enthusiasts who are lamenting about their reduced quality of hair since they started keto.
But why does this occur? What is the science behind it? Read on and find out what experts have to say about hair loss after starting keto.
Why a keto diet may cause hair loss
There is a possibility that the keto diet is the reason for your hair loss. The whole idea behind a ketogenic diet is that you cut down massively on carbs while maximizing on high-fat consumption. This may lead to a situation where a significant number of essential nutrients are not adequate in your diet despite being necessary for cellular functions in the body.
Insufficient amount of proteins
When you consume an adequate amount of proteins, cellular activities such as the growth of skin appendages, which include hair, is enhanced.
But if your keto diet is vegan-based, it may be associated with the consumption of a relatively low amount of proteins – lower than what you’d expect in a normal every-day diet – which sometimes is an underlying cause for weakened hair follicles.
However, protein insufficiency doesn’t fully explain the hair loss in keto because it is quite rare to be deficient in protein unless you are not eating at all.
Severely decreased number of calories
Hair loss that is not explained by inadequate proteins is largely contributed to by severely restricting yourself on calories. Caloric restriction is one of the main things behind the keto diet.
But when you force your body to conserve energy, the available energy is shunted to vital organs in the body – the hair follicle which is not quite vital for the body ends up not growing as expected.
Ketosis can also be another reason for hair loss. In the ketogenic diet where the body breaks down fat instead of carbs, a lot of ketones are produced as alternative sources of energy. This puts the body into ketosis.
Ketosis puts the body into some biological stress which can slow cellular activities in certain areas such as in the hair follicles. This explains why hair loss in the ketogenic diet starts from having reduced hair quality to thinning of hair.
How long does keto hair loss last?
Ketogenic hair loss is temporary and reversible because it is an acquired cause of hair loss. Usually, hair quality normalizes shortly after you stop taking the keto diet. This phenomenon is common in all circumstances involving major shifts in diets and not just keto.
Besides, hair loss due to keto does not occur instantly. You will notice significant changes in your hair quality about three to six months since the first day you started keto. Similarly, it takes a considerable amount of time for your hair to normalize when you stop keto. You may have to wait for a few weeks to a few months.
How to stop hair loss while on a keto diet
The easiest way to stop keto hair loss is to stop the keto diet completely and resume a normal diet. But this may not be as easy as it seems. Can you forgo the health benefits of keto diet when your hair is at stake? I bet most keto enthusiasts would sacrifice their hair quality and focus on weight loss.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent or stop your hair loss even when you are continuing the ketogenic diet.
1. Supplement biotin
Nowadays, most people in the hair loss treatment niche swear by biotin yet biotin is one of those nutrients that are conspicuously deficient in the keto diet. Case in point, one study evaluated the exaggerated biotin deficiency that often accompanies low-carb high-fat diets.
The study concluded that a keto diet increased the bioavailability and consumption of biotin leading to the deficiency of this nutrient, essentially known as Vitamin B7.
Biotin has been associated with the growth of healthier, fuller, and thicker hair. However, the natural sources of biotin such as legumes and fruits are mostly avoided in the keto diet. When they are included in the diet, it is usually in small amounts.
As a first step towards preventing hair loss due to biotin deficiency when you are on keto, add some of the following foods that fit well with the requirements of keto.
2. Consume a lot of vitamin C
Vitamin C is not as popular in hair treatment as it is in the detox niche. It is one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. As an antioxidant, it boosts the immune system and optimizes cellular functions – which is what you need for perfect hair health.
However, there is another significant role of vitamin C that is not well-known by the general population. Studies have shown that this vitamin is one of the primary ingredients in the synthesis of collagen. Collagen is the building block for most skin appendages including hair.
Vitamin C can be bought as a supplement or a multivitamin. However, you shouldn’t consume a lot of supplemental Some of the keto-friendly sources of vitamin C include:
3. Supplement vitamin D
Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to hair loss. Ideally, it has been found to increase the incidence of androgenic alopecia (pattern baldness) in individuals who are genetically predisposed to this type of hair loss.
The mechanism of hair loss in vitamin D deficiency is quite inconclusive. However, there is significant evidence linking the deficiency of this vitamin to poor quality of hair or hair loss.
Conveniently, our bodies can synthesize vitamin D in a cascade of processes that start from sun exposure. However, this luxury is not enjoyed by people who aren’t exposed to the sun such as in countries where the sun appears only a few seasons in a year.
It is not uncommon to have vitamin deficiency when you get into a keto diet. To prevent hair loss due to such a deficiency, you can add the following foods to your keto diet.
4. Add vitamin E to your diet
Just like vitamin C, Vitamin E is also an antioxidant, though it is not as powerful as vitamin C. When the ketogenic diet drives your body into ketosis, the stress that ensues increases the generation of free radicals and reactive molecules that can potentially destroy tissues and impair hair growth.
Antioxidants such as vitamin E clear these free radicals and reactive molecules and boost the overall functioning of the body at the cellular level. Since this is one of the vitamins that you are likely to overlook when you are on keto, it is important to add the following vitamin E-rich foods to your diet.
5. Include plenty of proteins in your diet
Protein deficiency is not a problem for an average keto diet enthusiast because protein sources such as poultry, red meat and fish are essential components of the keto diet. The problem arises when you are a strict vegan or a vegetarian and you indulge in the keto diet because you may not supply your body with the required amounts of proteins.
Inadequate proteins lead to serious health complications such as impaired healing process, reduced immunity, loss of muscle mass, and hair loss. There are plant-based protein sources that are keto-friendly. They include:
Get a better evaluation of your symptoms
Hair loss is quite a sensitive issue and should not be trivialized. Before you assume that your hair loss is due to the keto diet, you should go to a doctor and obtain an accurate diagnosis. After some tests, your doctor will confirm if your hair loss is due to nutrient deficiency.
Quite often, you may find out that your hair loss is caused by other factors such as stress, androgenetic alopecia, or other medical conditions such as thyroid disorders. Ideally, you should not treat your hair loss if you don’t know what’s causing it. And you will only know the cause of your hair loss following an accurate diagnosis by a certified doctor or dermatologist.
Keto diet is a known cause of hair loss and is predominant among strict vegans or vegetarians. However, you should be accurately diagnosed before you make big changes in your diet. Hair loss induced by the ketogenic diet can be reversed and/or prevented. You just have to select your supplements appropriately.