Are Your Food Allergies Causing Your Hair Loss?

Man having hair cut at barber

As you look into the shower you notice strands of your hair around the drain and wonder if this is normal. Or maybe your mother mentions that your hair looks thinner than normal, and while it makes you feel bad you noticed it yourself days earlier. So, what is it that is causing your hair to fall out and what can be done about it?

It is normal for a person to lose between 60 to 100 strands of hair a day and most people may not even notice.

However, when hair loss becomes more noticeable or excessive it can be frightening. This is true especially when you are not sure what might be causing the problem.

Before thinking that there is nothing you can do about the loss or thinning of your hair, it is important to consider some of the common causes. It is also important to understand that, in many cases, there are remedies and the hair loss may not be permanent. It is important to share any changes in your hair loss with your doctor to be certain of its cause and treatment.  

Common Reasons for Hair Loss or Thinning

Traumatic/Stressful Event
When people go through a serious traumatic event, such as an accident or sudden loss of a loved one, their body can go through extreme shock. Trauma can trigger the body to have an autoimmune reaction, where white blood cells attack the bulb of the hair. Then the hair goes into a resting state of sorts and falls out.

This usually happens in particular spots rather than all over. For most people, over time and often with medication, this situation can be resolved and the hair loss will come to a stop, as new hair grows in.

Similar to scabs on your skin that result from a scratch or rash, scabs can form on your scalp.

When a scab forms after you have been scratching the area, the scab will prevent a follicle from opening. The result is that area hair can not grow and the hair will fall off in that spot. It is important to talk to a doctor to get a prescription shampoo to help regenerate growth and stop the itching.

Food Poisoning
There are some studies that indicate that food poisoning, not in the typical sense but from metals in the waters, may affect your blood circulation and cause your hair to prematurely shed. This situation can last as long as three months when the current follicles are replaced by the new ones, making this is a temporary situation.  Studies supported through the Collaborative on Health and the Environment ( indicate that chemicals when ingested, through the environment or food chain, are related to disease processes.  For example there is "strong" evidence that ingesting thallium can be linked to alopecia, which is the loss of hair.  The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry also has similar findings.

 Again this is not typical food poisoning but can occur as a result of the bacteria or toxins.  It is important to note that this association is not scientifically conclusive. 

Food Allergies
For some people with allergies to dairy, wheat, soy or other foods, hair loss can be a complication, although this has not been 100% scientifically confirmed. When your body has an allergic reaction, your immune system can send signals throughout the body to ward off attacks. This can result in hair loss and should be addressed by avoiding those foods to avoid further damage. Also, having a food allergy may affect your diet. A diet that lacks certain vitamins and nutrients can affect different processes of the body, including hair growth.  In fact studies, such as those from the American Academy of Dermatology, suggest that too much vitamin A or too little protein can affect hair loss.  For those with allergies, there is sometimes an imbalance in their diet, which may be the real cause of the hair loss.  Keep in mind that the food allergy or poor diet may be occurring at the same time as the hair loss, but may not have a causal effect.  More studies are needed to prove this relationship. 

Hormonal Imbalances
For some people, medical conditions that affect hormones can result in hair loss. Many people with food allergies also have related illnesses that can alter hormones, so this can further exacerbate the hair loss.  It is important to address this with the doctor, in terms of options to help maintain healthy hair. 

Gluten Allergies
For some people with a gluten allergy, there is a connection between the autoimmune disease and hair loss. According to the American Autoimmune Related Disease Association there is a link between hair loss and an autoimmune disease and many with celiac report this as a symptom of their disease. In celiac,  the body reacts when certain grains are eaten and the immune system creates antibodies to ward of the foods it can’t break down. This reaction affects the bowels and destroys the walls of protection, allowing more pathogens into the gut. Hair loss often is a result of malabsorption of nutrients and inflammation in the intestines and bowels. Some people’s bodies not only attack gluten but their hair follicles and other parts of the body as well.  

Poor Diet
While hair loss can be genetic, there are others whose hair loss is a result of a poor diet. For some it can be lack of proper nutrients, while for others it can be a result of excessive weight loss or minimal caloric intake. It is important that one looks at their overall diet and weight history to determine what might be causing them to experience hair loss. 

Once the reason for your hair loss is better understood, treatment options can be explored. It is important to consider that there are many foods that have been found to actually enhance hair growth, and they may be helpful in regenerating hair growth. 

A balanced diet is critical to help your body processes, including hair growth, to be at its optimal health.   While we wait for conclusive scientific studies to report on the best options for the prevention of hair loss, these foods have been touted to play a role.  Keep in mind that this is a recommendation but more evidence is needed to support these theories: 

  • Salmon loaded with vitamin D, protein, and omega-3s to promote hair growth.  Note: While a study in the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology found that supplementation of omega-3 fatty acids was beneficial to stimulating hair growth in its participants, more research is still needed in this area)

  • Yellow peppers contain vitamin C which is an antioxidant that strengthens the hair shaft and hair follicles.  Additionally, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center,  a deficiency in vitamin c has been linked to dry and splitting hair, which can then lead to hair loss.   Thus choosing to have a diet rich in vitamin C can be helpful for healthy hair. 

  • Oysters are rich in zinc and it is a zinc deficiency that is often linked to hair loss.  The Mayo Clinic reports there is strong evidence that a zinc deficiency results in hair loss among other side effects, such as skin conditions, diarrhea and skin issues.

  • Eggs are rich in biotin which has been shown to enhance hair growth and regeneration of new hairs.  The University of Maryland Medical Center supports that fact that biotin deficiency, although rare, can result in hair loss. 

So the next time you pull out some extra strands of hair, take a deep breath and don’t assume the worst.  Take the time to rule out the common causes, seek professional opinions and even consider changing your diet. Perhaps there are things you can do after all to help control the loss and help your hair to replenish healthfully.

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