Is your hair brittle, dry and maybe even falling out? The reason might be that you're not getting enough nutrients with your diet.
It’s not unusual that women who are physically active and eat a very “clean” diet, end up with brittle, breaking hair and even hair loss. Their hair can come out in clumps when they wash them and they may even find a bunch on their pillow when they wake up in the morning! Why is it so and what can you do about it?
When you're eating a very “clean” diet, you tend to also eat less than enough calories. That may happen accidentally, but more often, it's done on purpose, in order to lose weight or lower the fat percentage. Bikini competitors and bodybuilders experience this often, as their goal is to lean out as much as possible. Also runners and other athletes who may think that lighter weight helps them to perform better, may find this happening.
Usually, if you eat very low calories, you also get fewer important nutrients, both micro- and macronutrients, which really affects your hair health and growth. Losing hair is often the result of lack of nutrients in the body.
You may first look at your hair products and try to find shampoos and other products that promise to fix your hair health. Cutting back on curling or straightening your hair too often and using too many hair products will help too.
Our hair structure and its thickness and thinness are also largely genetic, so that’s the part you cannot affect.
But the big reason why you’re losing your hair may depend less on what you put on your hair, but more importantly, what’s going on inside of your body. Your hair health is affected by what and how much you eat, how stressed you are and how your digestion and metabolism are affected by these things.
To get your hair health back, you need to change your lifestyle by eating a really nutrient dense diet. Supplementing can help as well. And reduce your stress as much as you can — the usual life stress, but also the physical stress that is often caused by excessive exercise.
Here are some things you can do for better hair health:
#1: Eat More and Better
Eating too little is one of the biggest causes for your hair thinning and falling out. Yes, you may think that you’re eating enough and that your bodyweight isn't too low for you, but your hair falling out (and possibly other signs, like poor sleep, digestive issues, irritability etc) are clear signals from your body that this is not the case.
Under eating and over exercising usually go hand in hand, so if you also work out a lot while not eating enough, your net calorie intake (the amount that is left after burning your calories via movement) may get really low.
If you’ve been restricting your food intake, start eating MORE food and the best quality foods you can! I promise you that once you start eating more, your hair starts growing and thickening again. Yes, eating more can also cause weight gain, but this weight is probably very needed to restore your entire health, not only your hair.
#2: Eat All Three Macronutrients
If you want your hair to be healthy, you need to eat all three macronutrients: Protein, fat and carbohydrates.
Usually, eating protein doesn’t seem to be a big issue for most active people, because they know that protein is important for satiety and also for gaining lean muscle which is often the goal. Protein is also an important building material for strong, healthy hair. So don’t skip it.
Collagen is a protein that is extremely important for your hair health. If you’re a meat eater, you can get it from food because collagen is found in animals’ skin, bones and joints. You can make some mineral rich bone broth at home or simply buy some bone broth. Whichever you choose, make sure your broth is coming from grass-fed animals.
You can also supplement with collagen. I’ve used Vital Protein collagen peptides for years! This product has no taste or color and it mixes really well with hot and cold drinks. I’ve also put it in my yogurt and oatmeal. I also noticed that my digestion improved when I was taking it and my husbands knee joint pain also decreased significantly after he started supplementing with collagen.
Here’s also an article on my experience with collagen peptides I wrote a while ago.
One more thing: If you haven’t had a period for over a year, your bone density can be in danger. That can mean that you’re more likely to breaking bones easier as you age than those who have always had their period. You can check out more on that topic here. Collagen can be great for you and help to improve bone health.
Also fat, especially omega 3 fatty acids, are extremely important for your hair health. You can find omega 3-s in fatty fish, like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring.
Still not friends with sardines? Try this: Mash them with a fork, then mix them with mayo or some some ripe avocado and use to top your leafy greens or spread on toast. It makes a perfect lunch!
I’ve seen many women lose their hair when they’re on a low carb diet for an extended period of time. You need carbohydrates. Carbs send satiety signals to your brain and thyroid, so they know you’re fed and make normal hormonal production possible. For the same reason, you will also get your period back when you start eating carbs again!
#3: Micronutrients for Hair Loss
It's important to eat all three macronutrients, but it also matters what these macronutrients are made of. Eating crappy protein powders, meats from hormone-fed animals and having donuts or cookies as your carb source will give you plenty of calories but not those micronutrients you truly need to stop hair loss.
To get your hair health back, here are the minerals and micronutrients that you want to have in your diet, or that ou can supplement with:
Hair loss is often caused by lack of zinc in our diets. Make sure to get plenty with you food if your hair health is worrying you — again, sardines, salmon are great sources; also seafood, beef and lamb. Nuts and seeds, especially squash and pumpkin seeds, are good as well. You can also take a zinc supplement.
I’ve seen and heard of lot of cases where people's hair health and growth as significantly improved after getting off from a vegetarian or vegan diet and especially adding some red meat into rotation.
Meat and eggs are rich in B vitamins, which are really important for skin and hair health. When you buy meat and eggs, try to go organic… It IS pricier, but many times healthier. Seafood is good too.
You can also supplement with B complex.
#4: Reduce Stress
When stress levels are elevated, you body's demand for nutrients is also higher. Mental and/or emotional stress is one part of it, the other one is physical (see #5).
Know what your main stressors are and do your best to reduce them. Do you take on too many responsibilities, are always on the go, say “yes” to everything and everyone, pack every weekend with commitments, are surrounded by people who give out negative energy? If you do these things, you need to learn to say “no”, get out of these relationship that are hard for you, and reduce your stress. It’s all really taxing on your body.
#5: Consider Cutting Back on Exercise
If you are a physically active person who works out a ton (but not fueling enough), that can cause hair loss too. You may not even realize that the amount of physical activity you’re doing is too much, but your body may think differently.
By working out a lot, your body is constantly producing stress hormones, and you’re in the stress mode more than would be okay for your body. All that leads to more demand for good nutrients. You are asking a lot from your body by putting it through long cardio and strength workouts, trying to achieve the leanest look possible…
If you don’t eat accordingly, your body will let you know by turning off the functions that aren’t most important. Hair loss isn’t super important, you can actually survive without hair, right? They're not necessary, so they can go — that's the way your body sees it. Other things that aren't important for your survival are keeping your menstrual cycle healthy and regular or making sure you poop every day… these are all secondary things, your body's main priorities are elsewhere, like in pumping your blood around in your body and transporting oxygen to your cells and organs.
If you’re physically active and you’re super careful with your eating habits and tend to eat less than your body needs, that might be the reason why your hair is falling out. Also the constant elevated stress states is harmful for you and can contribute to hair loss.
But you can change it. Eat a micronutrient rich diet, make sure to hit all macros and slow down on your workout intensity and frequency. With time, patience and consistency, your hair health will definitely improve.