Most of us really feel that hair loss or what is commonly known as thinning of hair is due to factors like aging, medication, stress, hormonal imbalances, and disorders like Alopecia Areata. What many of us fail to understand is that there is an underlying link between your digestive health and the overall health of your hair molecules. In other words, your poor gut health can lead to hair loss too. We are going to have a detailed analysis on how there is a link between hair loss and your gut health by using case studies, evaluative factors, medical reasons and a lot many.
Section- A- Overview of Hair loss, Its Causes And A Thesis Study Accompanying The Same
In this section, we are going to have a brief overview on what causes hair loss issues on a broader note. Medical reasons will be discussed for you in a nutshell. Then, we would be doing a thesis study on how there is enough evidence to prove that there is a link between gut health and hair loss
Brief Overview of Hair Loss and Its Causes
The most common cause for hair loss among men and women can be genetic factors indeed. If one of your uncles or aunts in the family have experienced premature baldness, then you may experience receding hair across similar patterns.1
Women experience hormonal imbalances on a more severe note as compared to men. When you attain puberty, the body goes through a whole lot of hormonal changes. Then, women experience adulthood, bear children, endure complicated pregnancies, experience postpartum health issues and then their bodies go through what is known as menopause. Here, multitude factors lead to hormonal imbalances leading to hair fall or thinning of hair near the crown of the hair.2
An unhealthy diet can lead to poor hair health too. Like if you do not add Omega 3s, Vitamin E, Vitamin B12, and other essential minerals your hair follicles need, then the hair membranes cannot produce thick or luscious hair.3 When you eat pizza or fast food diets or drink sodas and alcohol then hair loss accelerates too.
Lack of Exercise
Poor metabolic activity or lack of a strict exercise regimen denotes that the toxins stay in your body and would not get released in the form of sweat or urine. This way, your hair health gets impacted too.
Too Much of Stress
When you always stress yourself and do not sleep for 8-10 hours in a day, the body gets itself stressed or freaked out. This way, hair molecules get weaker and this way your body sheds more hair leading to intense hair loss or balding issues.
Thesis Study and its Implications
Although not directly, digestive problems or poor gut health does contribute to brittling or thinning of hair.4 Several studies, in fact, have proved growing evidence of link between hair loss and gut health. A certain study has specifically stated that Irritable Bowel Syndrome more commonly known as IBS, is responsible for brittling or thinning of hair. The study has further revealed that hair loss is attributed to accompanying symptoms of the non-digestive syndrome your body faces.
Section B- The Actual Role Of The Gut In Hair Loss
In this segment, we are particularly going to look at three main things:
Overview of the Gut-Skin Axis
- The influence of gut bacteria on hair growth and hair loss
- Explanation on how gut health affects hair loss
Helping you get an overall understanding on each of the above:
Overview of the Gut-Skin Axis
What is your understanding of the gut-skin axis? Well, it is simple. The microorganisms comprising bacteria and microbes that stay inside your body is what constitutes your gut on the whole. These microorganisms thrive on the food, nutrients, minerals and vitamins you eat. The microorganisms treat the body as its host. These organisms aid a varied stream of digestive processes the body requires. The microbiota communicates with your skin and hair molecules too. We call this phenomenon the gut-skin axis.5
The Influence Of Gut Bacteria On Hair Growth And Hair Loss
If you have a look at it, your hair is composed of follicles. These follicles are spun by hair growth membranes. The hair-follicles comprise of proteins, lipids, water and some trace elements. Where does your hair get all of this from? These essential minerals or proteins the hair growing membranes require are supplied to your hair via the food you eat. The bacteria synthesizes the food you eat into vitamins, minerals, protein, carbs, etc. This is how it supplies these nutrients to each and every part of your body, including that of your hair. Henceforth, the gut bacteria provides your hair with certain specialized fibers like Omega-3 fatty acids or Vitamin E which are derived from the body when you eat foods that are rich in Omega-3 or Vitamin E. Hence, when you add walnut ,onions, figs, almonds, broccoli and leafy veggies, then your body is supplied with an adequate dose of lipids that are supplied by the body to hair growing membranes or follicles. This elaborates the influence the gut bacteria has on your hair growth. Now, let us move on to understand how poor gut health flora leads to hair loss.
Understand The Link Between Gut Permeability and Hair Loss
Your gut flora represents an entire ecosystem of microorganisms, as a matter of fact. Again, if you have a look at it, most of the bacteria live inside the large intestine of the human body. They facilitate digestion and also protect the body against harmful microbes, as a matter of fact. The bacteria camouflaged with microbes are instrumental in the production of certain vital elements the body requires for its healthy functioning. These include amino acids, triglycerides, B Complex (B1, B2, B5, B7 and B9) along with Vitamin K. There needs to be a subtle balance in bacteria levels for the digestion or excretion processes of the body to be carried out in a smooth manner. When there is an imbalance in the presence of healthy gut bacteria, you can get a whole host of digestive disorders. IBS or Inflammatory Bowel Disorder is the commonest of all.6 You experience constant bouts of ingestion coupled with nausea and bloating. Eventually, a continual spread of digestive diseases can lead your body into formation of certain cancers like the Colon Cancer, liver cancer and fibrosis too.
Again, an unhealthy gut flora does not supply the hair membranes or molecules with adequate elements to produce hair strands. Therefore the body’s hair growth stops. Or, the existing hair follicles get weaker. And, weaker hair strands cause them to fall leading to thinning of hair. Again, your hair falls out leading to adequate hair loss issues too. Therefore, the gut bacteria and hair loss are factors that are interconnected with each other.
How Can Gut Health Lead To Hair Loss?
As you may have already seen, you have a fair idea on how gut bacteria facilitate digestive processes. You have also seen what kind of minerals and Vitamins these bacteria synthesize for the healthy functioning of your body. Hence, as you have a look at it, for hair growth to happen, the body requires a lot of energy, while it also uses some important elements to create hair strands or hair follicles. These include hormones, minerals, and vitamins. When the body does not receive quantities of these elements from the foods you eat, then hair growth becomes a problem. You may experience the actual threat of hair loss.
As such, your body receives all of its nutrients by digesting the food you eat. Therefore, everything you consume ends up in your digestive tract. It is the enzymes and the gut bacteria put together that aid the digestion process in its entirety and convert complex materials into easy to absorb particles or materials for the body to take in. These minerals, vitamins and hormones are transported to each and every part of your body including that of your hair. Therefore, any imbalances in gut bacteria impacts your gut health leading to hair loss problems as the consequential effect.
Section C- The Common Causes for Gut Imbalances Leading To Hair Loss
You may be wondering what are the main reasons for gut imbalances leading to overall digestive problems of your body. Well, the causes for hair loss invariably are the same set of reasons for gut imbalance issues too. Having them reiterated for you in this segment:
The excessive uses of antibiotics lead to certain hormonal imbalances of your body. This can tamper the overall gut health of your body too. You also have Over-the-Counter drugs that cause irreversible side effects to the body leading to liver or kidney damage. Apparently, usage of antibiotics can also lead to excessive loss of hair.
Consuming unhealthy diets can also contribute to poor gut health, as a matter of fact. For instance, consuming too much of sodas can leach out Calcium or Phosphorus present in the body. Likewise, when you resort to unhealthy social habits like smoking, drinking or even consuming drugs, the body loses nutrients and this can invariably harm your liver, kidneys, lungs and intestines. You get Intestinal cancers like Colon Cancer, Lung Cancer, Liver Cirrhosis, etc. Eventually, you lose a substantial amount of hair too in the process.
Undue stress increases your body’s cortisol levels leading to thinning or loss of your valuable hair. Increased stress levels also allows the body to produce some harmful hormones like Telogen Effluvium and Trichotillomania. These deadly hormones prevent the hair follicles from growing and invariably stop their growth. Also, chronic stress levels lead to a major hair loss disorder namely Alopecia Areata. Via the disorder, you lose a significant amount of hair just when you wash your hair or comb it.
Poor gut health, as previously discussed, can lead to digestive issues in the long term. Inflammatory Bowel Disorder (IBS) is a group of conditions that includes Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and other bowel infections. It affects the gut flora and causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. Additionally, inadequate gut bacteria can lead to poor nutrient absorption and eventually cause hair loss. Certain medications can also cause hair loss or thinning.7
Section D- The Connection Between Gut Health and Hormonal Imbalances
Here, in this segment, we are particularly going to deep dwell into how hormonal imbalances can lead to adverse effects on the overall health of the gut. The segmentation will be discussed in three parts as under:
- Overview of hormonal imbalances and hair loss
- Explanation on how gut imbalances lead to hormonal imbalances
- Further discussion on how each of these factors lead to intermittent hair loss8
Helping you get started with each of the above:
Overview of Hormonal Imbalances and Hair Loss
What can cause a hormonal imbalance? Malabsorption of vital nutrients like Zinc or Iron by the body causes certain hormones to be secreted in excess or in absolute shortfall. While hormones are secreted in an erratic manner than what is required by your body’s immune system, we call it hormonal imbalances.
Again, what can cause this type of malabsorption? Nutritional deficiencies on account of poor dietary choices leads to malabsorption of essential nutrients by the body’s immune mechanism. Sometimes, the body also experiences food intolerance issues. In other words, your body cannot tolerate certain food substances that you intake. Say for example, almost 60% of Americans suffer from what is known as ‘lactose intolerance’.9 Thereby, they shun consuming milk or dairy based products. Instead they switch over to consuming herbal teas, black coffees or even resort to plant-based milks, like say oat milk or soy milk. Again dietary intolerance can also lead to gastric or intestinal inflammation, bacterial overgrowth and outbreak of bacterial infections, these parasites can cause damage to the body. During this phase of nutritional deficiencies or malabsorption, your hair grows at a much longer pace or begins to thin out.
Explanation on How Gut Imbalances Can Lead To Hormonal Imbalances
There is definitely an underlying link between your gut microbiome and hormonal imbalances. In fact, medical and scientific research states that, when the body experiences poor gut health, there is an increased production of a hormone namely estrogen. Estrogen related imbalances cause breast cancer, PCOS and endometriosis amongst women. If you look at it again, there is one more hormone named Serotonin. In fact, 95% of Serotonin is stored inside your body’s gut.10 Poor gut health therefore increases chances of people getting impacted with depression or anxiety. Unhealthy microbiome can also lead to thyroid issues. In fact, poor gut health is one of the leading factors for men and women experiencing hypothyroidism (Excessive or stagnant production of thyroid gland). Some of the noticeable factors with respect to hypothyroidism include weight gain, hair loss and chronic fatigue. Therefore, gut imbalances lead to a series of hormonal imbalances inside the human body.
Discussion On How This Connection Leads To Hair Loss
Hypothyroidism or malfunctioning of the thyroid gland definitely leads to considerable hair loss. Hormonal imbalances camouflaged with poor gut health can also lead to other severe disorders like Type 2 Diabetes, Fatty Liver Disease and other auto-immune disorders. While the body experiences each one of these, you take drugs or medication. The direct consequence of the same is you losing out a significant proportion of your hair volume. Eventually, chronic forms of hair loss lands you into thinning of hair. This way, men and women witness receding patches of hair, otherwise known as premature balding.
Section E- Strategies For Improving Gut Health And Preventing Hair Loss
Having seen the varied factors and symptoms pertaining to your gut health and hair fall issues, we now arrive at the final portion of this particular segment. We are going to have a look at what remedial measures you can take to eventually improve your gut health by a considerable extent indeed. While doing so, you can also prevent hair loss and accelerate the growth of your lost hair. This segment is again divided into three parts:
- Adopting a healthy diet
- Intake of probiotics and prebiotics
- Managing your stress levels and
- Avoidance of antibiotics as and when possible
Adopting a Healthy Diet
The importance of consuming a healthy and a balanced diet cannot be stressed enough. To improve your gut health, you must consume plenty of plant-based foods to your everyday diet. You can consume whole grains, nuts, fruits, green leafy veggies, lactose free drinks and so on. This way, your body’s daily requirements for Vitamins, Minerals, antioxidants and hormone secreting enzymes are met. Your body receives it all through the food you consume. We will break it down into individual components here:
- Proteins- You can have legumes, beans, pre-cooked lentils, soy beans, peas, peanuts, roasted nuts, etc. Non-vegetarians derive their proteins from meat, dairy, eggs, fish, etc. Plant-based diets are better in nutritive value as compared to animal products.
- Omega-3- Omega 3 is the number 1 resource for you to promote your gut health. Soybean oil, canola oil and flaxseed oil are richest sources for Omega 3. You can also include chia seeds or flax seeds on your smoothies. This way, your body receives ample quantities of Omega 3.
- Vitamin B12- Vegans or vegetarians can have Vitamin B12 pills so that the body absorbs it into the body. Else, you can consume B12 fortified corn flakes, millets, biscuits and plant-based milks. Vegetarians consume milk or dairy products from where the animal casein gets converted into Vitamin B12 post the digestive process.
- Iron- When the body has a lower proportion of iron, then it is not able to produce enough RBCs inside blood cells. This way, your body experiences blood loss and eventually you can become anemic. Hence, you must consume foods that are rich in iron. You can get iron from dry nuts, fortified cereals, dried fruits like apricots or figs, pomegranates and beans. In fact, if you drink freshly brewed pomegranate juice every day, your blood count can improve considerably.
- Zinc- Zinc is an essential mineral your body typically needs. It facilitates quite a lot of chemical reactions that happen inside your body. This way, your body immune mechanism can function better and you experience hair growth to its fuller volume or density. Foods that are rich in iron include peas, beans, pumpkin seeds, melon seeds, whole grain cereals, nuts, oatmeal, etc.
Taking Probiotics and Prebiotics
Vegetarians can eat curd rice to accentuate their intake of probiotics. Probiotic foods enhance growth of healthy bacteria. In fact, it is the good bacteria that converts milk into curds through a process known as fermentation. As vegans, you can consume peanut curd. You can also consume fermented foods like idli or dosas. Your gut health eventually improves this way leading to better health of your hair too. Malted drinks also contain raw bacteria and you can consume malt drinks like barley.
You can perform an hour of Yoga or meditation. This way, your concentration levels improve. You are able to align your body into the present rather than allowing your brain to think about the past or worry over the future. This is how you manage stress. A brisk hour of jogging can also help you manage stress or anxiety. A jog across pleasant breeze can invoke formation of happy and feel-good hormones like Serotonin, dopamine and endorphins leading you into a better degree of gut health. You can also perform an hour of gym, cardio, swimming or dancing to manage your body’s stress levels and to get rid of unwanted toxins your body produces.
Avoidance of Antibiotics As and When Possible
Some people take Aspirin or Saridon even at the mildest incidence of a headache. Several studies have proved that these OTC drugs can suppress the momentary pain but eventually lead to severe kidney or liver damage. There are also people who consume a whole lot of antibiotics to get rid of fever, cold or cough. Again, these antibiotics can tamper with the overall functioning of your body’s immune system. Taking to natural remedies like steaming, having a syrup made from ginger or honey, or consuming immune booster energy drinks from home-based products can help you recover faster. You can also resort to Ayurvedic medication instead of taking allopathic medicines. Avoiding OTC drugs can restore your gut health and eventually help you lose less of your precious hair.
Avoidance of Fashion or Hair Styling Products
You can avoid hair treatment products like hair gels, or limit the use of blow dryers, curling cum ironing machines, etc. These products can eventually thin out your hair. This is because external equipment like hot rollers, curling irons, hair straighteners or irons can damage your hair follicles in an adverse manner. You can avoid styling your hair tightly like having tight buns, braids, fish pleats, etc. You can use a gentle comb to straighten out knots. Above all, oil your hair with coconut oil and wash your hair using a herbal shampoo to avoid further hair damage.11
We have seen varied factors that can impact your gut health. We have also seen the link between your gut health and hair loss issues. We have also had a look at certain remedial measures to restore both your gut health as well as restore the quality of your hair.
Other Referred Sources
- Excessive Weight Loss & Hair Loss: Is There a Link?
- Rubbing Nails Is An Effective Treatment For Hair Loss
- Causes of Hair Loss in Males, Females, Children
- Scalp Conditions that Cause Hair Loss & its Treatment
- What Can Cause Sudden Hair Loss?
- Hair Loss on One Side of the Head: Causes, Treatment, Diagnosis
- Link between Testosterone and Hair Loss