With any new diet there comes a shock to the body that can result in unwanted side effects. Normally the symptoms are temporary and can be easily managed when fully understood.
For those who have started a new keto diet, or for those who are interested in learning more about it, here we go over the unwanted side effect of hair loss while on the keto diet.
Going keto is fast becoming a household phrase in the diet and wellness community, with good reason.
A keto diet brings with it a long list of benefits, weight loss right at the top. As well as a healthy loss of extra fat, those who embark on a keto lifestyle report long term feelings of mental clarity, physical strength, increased energy and focus, and many other day to day improvements.
The keto diet is named after the amino acids “ketones”.
In a “normal” modern-day metabolic process, the body converts glucose (carbohydrates) into energy to be used by the body. When carbohydrates run low, the body has less energy. With the keto diet, the body adapts to convert fat instead of carbohydrates into energy, producing ketones as a by-product. For a more detailed explanation of ketosis and its effects on the body, be sure to check out our detailed article all about ketosis .
While the keto diet has proven highly effective for many, it is not devoid of side effects. Some of the common side effects of the diet include nausea, digestive issues, and less commonly, hair loss. If you’re experiencing hair loss on the keto diet or are concerned about how to mitigate it, read on for some helpful information on why it happens and how to prevent it.
Reasons for Hair Loss
Many nutritionists will be the first to admit that it is difficult to link the keto diet directly to hair loss, as there are many variables that could play a part. When the keto journey is first started, the body is quickly devoid of the routine it once had and can react negatively. The good news is that most keto side effects go away as the body becomes adapted to the new diet.
Here are a few of the reasons the keto diet may contribute to hair loss:
Fewer Vitamins and Nutrients
During the transition phase when the body is becoming “fat-adapted”, it is common for many of us to forget the need to replenish the body of nutrients and vitamins it may no longer be getting. For example, keto dieters cut down dramatically on the number of carbohydrates they take through food and vegetables. The fruits and vegetables our body normally consume provide it with essential minerals, and without them, it’s necessary to make sure we are supplementing those nutrients. Some of the most important nutrients for the health and growth of hair are:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
Research has shown that in many cases, a severe deficiency of any of these essential nutrients can result in unhealthy hair or hair loss. Biotin, in particular, has been linked to hair loss in mice on a ketogenic diet, and as such has been deemed an essential supplement for those going keto.
Starting a new diet can bring a significant amount of physical and mental stress, especially when expectations are set and results are desired quickly. When we try to do too much, too quickly, our body can react in worrying ways, which causes compounded anxiety and stress.
For those who experience side effects such as the “keto flu”, a keto rash or even unwanted body odor , there can be a loss of self-confidence and a strong desire to give up on the diet. While this stress-induced hair loss is not directly caused by the keto diet itself, it can be hard to tease all the contributing factors apart.
By progressing through the diet slowly and comfortably, we can avoid the unwanted stalls and obstacles caused by uncomfortable side effects.
Studies have linked extreme caloric deficiency with hair loss, and there is a common misunderstanding that the keto diet, like other diets, focuses on calorie cutting. The keto diet aims to re-distribute caloric intake rather than cut calories altogether.
When your body is starved of calories, it will devote the available energy to important functions such as maintaining the heart, the liver, and other internal organs. It will devote less energy to non-vital processes such as hair growth.
Combatting Hair Loss with the Keto Diet
So now that we know what could be some contributing factors to hair loss on the keto diet, let’s look at how to prevent them.
Stock up on Nutrients and Calories
Remember, as we change our diet we need to be sure to give our body all the minerals, vitamins, and calories it needs. Consider some important supplements you might need to diet safely and ensure you have access to them.
Remember, we don’t cut calories in the keto diet, we reallocate where we get them from. When we cut down carbs, we must increase our uptake in protein and fats. Learn how to track your calories to ensure you aren’t becoming deficient.
Get More Sleep
Your body (and mind) does much of its recovery during the night, and many underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. It’s common to go through physical and mental stress when starting up the keto diet, so make sure to give the body time to recover.
More importantly, melatonin, the hormone that helps regulate your sleep patterns, has been shown to contribute to healthy hair growth.
A healthy sleep routine is important at all times, much less when we are trying to adapt our body to a new metabolic process. Lack of sleep has been linked to increased levels of stress, decreased mental health, and physical side effects.
If you’re experiencing hair loss after starting a new keto diet, look at some other aspects of your routine that may be contributing to it. Take solace in the fact that it is a temporary side effect, and once you give your body time to adjust, it will go back to normal.
In the meantime, be sure to take the steps to prevent any further side effects by monitoring your nutrient and caloric intake, and getting lots of sleep to promote physical and mental recovery.