Hair Health and The Plant-Based Lifestyle

Many people believe that vegetarians and vegans have weaker hair because their diets lack animal protein. An article written by Jessica Chia for Allure Magazine says that hair is made up of protein, and iron is important for hair’s growth cycle. Because meat is commonly regarded as a protein source, without it many people think they lack the proper nutrients that result in optimal hair growth.
However, after talking to dietitian Wendy Bazilian, Chia writes that a well planned and balanced vegetarian or vegan diet can provide all the proper nutrients needed for hair growth. Having weak hair is entirely avoidable. Bazillian says, “Nutrients that we need to pay particular attention to with a vegetarian or vegan diet include protein, vitamin B12, omega-3 fats, calcium, vitamin D, iron, and zinc, and sometimes iodine.” Almost all of these important nutrients, with the exception of B12, can be obtained from plant foods. Dark leafy green vegetables contain most of these key nutrients, in addition to protein. Making sure you get enough leafy green vegetables daily is very important for overall health and well being. Bazillian also encourages people to eat plant foods high in protein such as beans, lentils, and nuts.

Some women have reported hair loss when switching to a vegan diet. In Vegan Diet’s article about hair loss, Registered Dietitian, Jack Norris says that hair loss can be a result of a nutrient deficiency, or can occur with rapid weight loss. Weight loss can be common when switching from the Standard American Diet to a plant based diet. Additionally in the same article, according to the Mayo Clinic, Hair loss is also a symptom of either an overactive or underactive thyroid.

Norris states that, “Upon going vegetarian or vegan, people might increase their soy intake. Soy can affect the thyroid, especially when iodine levels are not adequate or someone is predisposed to thyroid problems. Making sure you get enough iodine, by taking 75 to 150 µg per day from a supplement, should prevent any hair loss problems that could be due to iodine or soy.”

Furthermore, Norris’s article separates hair loss into categories of hair loss with shedding and without shedding. Hair loss with shedding or scalp flaking is usually the result of a skin condition. Consuming plenty of omega 3’s can help with hair loss due to skin conditions.

Ultimately, getting the proper nutrients through diet is essential for healthy hair growth. According to Allure, “What really kills the hair’s cuticle and leaves it vulnerable to breakage is coloring, curling, relaxing, or perming your hair.”

New York dermatologist, Joshua Zeichner, says that if one’s diet is well balanced he/she should have nothing to worry about regarding hair strength and abnormal hair loss.

But what is a well balanced diet? In the raw plant world, that would be fruit, leafy greens, vegetables, nuts and seeds, sprouts, and sea vegetables.

In Raw Food World Matt Monarch’s video, “Hair Loss Remedy Hangout,” he talks about foods and superfoods that benefit hair growth. Monarch explains that Vitamin C is a critical component for making collagen for the skin and hair, and that it’s best for this nutrient to come from a food and not from a supplement such as Ascorbic Acid Vitamin C. He suggests Camu Camu Powder, from a cherry-like super berry, as an excellent source of full spectrum Vitamin C.

Monarch also recommends Silica supplementation to meet collagen needs. There are fruits and vegetables high in silica, but due to soil depletion it may be necessary to get it in supplement form. He recommends B vitamins such as unfortified Nutritional Yeast. Deficiency in B vitamins leads to hair loss. B12 supplementation may be needed. Pumpkin seeds and pumpkin seed butter for beauty and hair loss prevention are important for their high zinc content. They’re also loaded with quality plant protein.

High levels of testosterone lead to high levels of DHT (Dihydrotestosterone). High insulin levels can expedite conversion of testosterone to DHT. It is the formation of DHT we want to avoid. It’s key to stay away from refined sugars and processed foods, and alcohol such as beer, to avoid high insulin levels.

Medication has side effects often resulting in hair loss. And when someone switches from a poor diet to a healthy diet, this can also result in hair loss during the process of acclimating to the changes occurring in the body.

The hair needs minerals to thrive. Earlier in the article, the importance of leafy green vegetables was touched upon. Sea vegetables also provide a plethora of minerals that benefit the hair. They are also an excellent source of iodine.

Matt Monarch suggests stimulating the hair follicles by combing the scalp and brushing in different directions to stimulate hair growth. Inversion activities such as headstands increase blood flow to the scalp. At the annual Woodstock Fruit Festival, Dr. Robert Lockhart, in his mid 70’s, is frequently seen walking on his hands and teaches a class on the benefits of inversion activities.

Stress increases cortisol levels (the stress hormone) which increases insulin levels, which can also result in hair loss.

In his book Life-Changing Foods, Anthony William talks about Alopecia and hair loss and the foods to take out and add in for the hair. Some of the foods William recommends taking out are dairy, eggs, canola oil and natural flavors. Some of the wonderful foods for hair benefits that he recommends for your diet are avocado, cherries, grapes, papaya, pomegranate, sweet potatoes, raspberry leaf and nettle leaf, and Atlantic sea vegetables. William offers a toxin-removing elixir containing a handful of dulse seaweed, wild blueberries, cilantro, spirulina, and barley grass juice powder.

Sources:

Chia, Jessica. “What Your Vegetarian Diet Is Doing To Your Hair.” Allure, Allure Magazine, 25 May 2017, www.allure.com/story/vegetarian-diet-affecting-hair-health.

Monarch, Matthew. Video “Hair Loss Remedy Hangout.” Raw Food World, March 2017.

Norris, Jack. “Hair Loss 2.” Vegan Health | Evidence-Based Nutrient Recommendations, veganhealth.org/hair-loss/.

William, Anthony. Life-Changing Foods: Save Yourself and the Ones You Love with the Hidden Healing Powers of Fruits and Vegetables. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, Inc., 2016.

Co-Authored by Intern Madeleine Daley and Karen Ranzi, M.A.

2 Responses so far.

  1. David L Creager says:
    love the approach to the hair ‘problem’. as a hairdresser of 40 years experience, your data is important. Strong, shiny, healthy hair is all our goal. I will use this info to encourage my clients to reform diet and see improved hair and attitude. keep up the good work
    • karen says:
      Thank you, David. As a hairdresser I’m excited to see your interest in the topic of how healthy hair is created from the inside out. Wonderful to hear you’ll encourage your clients to reform their diets for improving their hair. You’re an exceptional hair stylist!

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