Hair loss for men is often an unfortunate effect of getting older. While we often just accept it as an inevitable part of our genetics, hair loss can be caused by several factors. While genes do play a role, aspects of our diet and lifestyle can tell our genes what to do. Additionally, hormone balance, inflammation, and stress can impact the health of hair follicles and the cycles of hair growth.
We’ll discuss what may cause hair loss, and how changes to diet and lifestyle, and in particular the health of the gut microbiome can improve it.
What causes male hair loss?
The most common form of hair loss, androgenic alopecia, also known as pattern baldness, tends to get blamed on genes. While this is partly the case, it doesn’t tell the full story. Imbalances in hormones, particularly testosterone, estrogen, and thyroid hormones can all contribute to hair loss. These hormonal imbalances can be caused by poor diet and sleep, as well as stress or lack of exercise.
Additionally diets insufficient in macronutrients like protein, and minerals like iron can play a role in developing hair loss. Micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and others are key in the normal hair follicle growth cycle. Hair is essentially made of protein (keratin), so a diet lacking in amino acids can have an effect on your body’s ability to grow hair normally.
Finally, as odd as it may sound, the health of your gut microbiome can have a lot to do with the health of your hair. When the gut is dysregulated, it is unable to perform the jobs necessary for supporting the hair growth cycle, such as delivering nutrients or creating vitamins.
Ultimately, all of our diet and lifestyle choices impact our body’s ability to function properly, which includes growing hair.
How is hair loss related to gut health?
As it is with so many things, your gut microbiome is a major player in your hair growth cycle. Like we mentioned above, the health of your gut can greatly influence the health of your hair follicles and how well your body grows hair. Certain gut bacteria synthesize biotin (vitamin B7), for example, which our body’s need for healthy skin, nails, and hair. When your body does not have the right bacteria to produce biotin in your gut, it can contribute to skin problems and hair loss. Research has shown that mice without gut bacteria who are not fed biotin in their diets develop hair loss.
An imbalance in gut bacteria can also lead to inflammation around the body, including in the hair follicles. This can contribute to a slowing or stopping of hair growth. There is some evidence to suggest that gut dysbiosis and bowel diseases like IBS have some connection with hair loss.
Most importantly, your gut both absorbs nutrients from food and uses bacteria to produce vitamins, minerals, and hormones. Gut dysbiosis can cause you to not absorb nutrients effectively and can even lead to undigested food particles leaking out into your bloodstream. Obviously, no one wants that! This can cause a whole cascade of inflammation, but also means that essential nutrients are not making it to where they need to go, like the cells that grow hair.
So, what influences the health of your gut? Like so many things with our bodies, quite a lot. It can begin at birth with not being exposed to our mother’s microbiome. This can start us off with a lack of microbial diversity, meaning we have fewer beneficial bacteria residing in our guts than we should. Antibiotics, while sometimes necessary and even lifesaving, can be catastrophic to a gut microbiome. Add to those poor diets as we age, stressful lives, lack of sleep and exercise, and you can imagine how out of whack our guts can get.
While our modern world has a lot of ways to throw our gut off track, leading to chronic inflammation, fatigue, and of course hair loss to name a few, there are some simple steps you can take every day to support your gut (and your hair!)
Can I help hair loss with diet and lifestyle?
As we mentioned above, pattern hair loss is most often blamed on genetics. While this is partly true, it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. Genetics is the light switch, your diet & lifestyle choices turn them on or off.
First and most importantly, eating a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet is key to making sure you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy hair growth cycle. But we have to make sure our bodies are actually absorbing all of those nutrients, so lowering inflammation and taking care of our gut health is key. Avoiding highly refined foods and excess sugar in our diets can help keep our guts functioning normally. Some people are sensitive to gluten or dairy, and these foods can cause major disruption in the gut for some.
Secondly, we want to feed our gut with both the things our bacteria like to eat, as well as occasionally sending in bacterial reinforcements. Many studies suggest that beneficial bacteria thrive on the insoluble fiber from the plants we eat. This allows those bacteria to thrive and out compete the potentially harmful bacteria trying to gain a foothold.
We also encourage everyone to enjoy fermented foods in their diet. Foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, and kombucha are all delicious and great for gut health. These products contain colonies of beneficial bacteria that help repopulate your gut. In fact, studies show that people who eat fermented foods show increased hair count and thickness after one month.
Stress plays an important role in hair loss, as well. Our gut health is tightly tied to our stress response, so being chronically stressed out can certainly throw things out of whack there. But being stressed all the time also makes your body divert resources to more pressing issues, like surviving whatever is causing the stress. So nutrients and minerals that would normally go to building strong hair and nails might end up as part of a stress response. Your body cannot repair and rebuild when it thinks you are being chased by a bear. We recommend taking steps each day to help reduce stress like taking a walk-in fresh air, sitting quietly and breathing, listening to music, or playing with your pet.
Lastly, liver function and detoxification can play a role in hair health. Your liver processes and detoxifies most waste products in your body, including old hormones, immune cells, and metabolic byproducts. When we don’t process these wastes efficiently, they can continue to circulate in our body. This in and of itself can lead to rampant inflammation. But poor detoxification keeps these toxins in our tissues and cells (including hair follicles), making it difficult for nutrients to get where they need to go. We suggest consuming detoxifying foods, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly to help your body detox.
Are there supplements that help?
There are certainly supplements that can help support a healthy hair growth cycle. We always suggest starting with dietary and lifestyle changes but know that everyone may need an extra boost to reach their goals.
For gut health, we recommend taking a probiotic to support the colonies of bacteria that help with inflammation as well as nutrient absorption. One of our favorites is Dr. Ohhira's Probiotics. It is a fermented product, meant to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut, along with enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to support digestive function.
It can be challenging to restart your body detoxifying properly. Even with diet and lifestyle changes some supplemental nutrients can help get things moving in the right direction. We recommend Pure Encapsulations Glycine for general detox and liver health. Glycine is shown to support healthy liver and kidney function, while supporting overall detoxification.
Some people may have a higher toxic load than others or just need a little extra help removing toxins from their body. If this sounds like you, Seeking Health's Calcium D-Glucarate can help support the normal detoxification process, including binding to and eliminating excess hormones.
In conclusion, hair loss can be a sensitive subject for any man. We hope that now you know you have some control over your hair growth without having to resort to expensive pharmaceuticals or unpleasant treatments. If you have more questions about supporting healthy hair growth, or just want to learn how to take better care of yourself, a Curated Wellness Practitioner is here to help. Schedule a session now!
About the author.
Joel is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who began his health journey when he decided to quit cigarettes for good. By finding the motivation to make lifestyle changes in diet, exercise, stress, and sleep, he feels healthier in his 40’s than in his 20’s and wants to make sure he will be around for a long time. Once he saw results in himself, Joel wanted to use his passion for wellness to help other people. Joel has a private practice in Northern California where he helps clients achieve better energy, focus, and connection to their bodies through bio-individual diet and lifestyle changes. Learn more about Joel.
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