Are Food Allergies Causing Your Hair Loss?

Man having hair cut at barber
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If you're in the shower and you notice strands of your hair around the drain, you may be wondering: Is this normal? And if not, what is it that is causing your hair to fall out and what can be done about it? Is there, for instance, a connection between allergies and hair loss?

What's a Normal Amount of Hair Loss?

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

However, when hair loss becomes more noticeable, it can be frightening—especially if you're not sure what's causing it.

You might expect it if you're going through, say, chemotherapy or radiation as a cancer treatment, but otherwise, excessive hair loss may come as a surprise. It can be particularly devastating for women since it's less socially acceptable for women to be bald.

Before thinking that there is nothing that you can do about hair thinning or hair loss, 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. Share any concerns about hair loss with your doctor to be certain of its cause and the appropriate treatment.  

Common Reasons for Hair Loss or Thinning

  • Traumatic/Stressful Event: When you go through a serious, traumatic event, such as an accident or the sudden loss of a loved one, your body can experience 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 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. The hair loss will stop and new hair will grow back.

  • Itchy scalp rashes: If you have an itchy rash on your scalp, a scab can form if you scratch it. This scab will prevent a follicle from opening. The result is hair in that area 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: Some research indicates that food poisoning—specifically metals in water—may affect your blood circulation and cause your hair to prematurely shed. For instance, the metal thallium has been linked to alopecia, the loss of hair. It is important to note that this association is not scientifically conclusive. 
  • Food Allergies/Limited Diet: For some people with allergies to dairy, wheat, soy, or other foods, hair loss may be a complication, although this has not been 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 prevent further damage. Many people with celiac disease who are allergic to gluten report hair loss as a symptom. When a person has celiac disease, the immune system creates antibodies to ward off the foods that 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. Also, if your diet is limited and lacks certain vitamins and nutrients from certain foods, that can affect different processes of the body, including hair growth. In fact, some studies suggest that too much vitamin A or too little protein can affect hair loss. 
  • 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. 

What to Eat for Healthier Hair

There are many foods that might enhance hair growth, and they may be helpful in regenerating hair growth. More scientific evidence is needed to confirm these findings, but keep the following in mind. 

  • Salmon: This type of fish is loaded with vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote hair growth. 

  • Yellow peppers: These veggies contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that strengthens the hair shaft and hair follicles. A deficiency in vitamin C has been linked to dry and splitting hair, which can then lead to hair loss. 

  • Oysters: Oysters are rich in zinc and a zinc deficiency is often linked to hair loss. 

  • Eggs: Eggs are rich in biotin, which has been shown to enhance hair growth and the regeneration of new hairs.  

Sources:

Glynis, Ablon MD FAAD. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair.  J Clin Aesthete Dermatol. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 28-34

University of Maryland Medical Center. Hair Disorders. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-h-biotin 2016.

University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin H (Biotin). http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/hair-disorders. 2016. 

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