We all know the risks associated with crash diets, but did you know that shedding a few pounds using extreme methods could also cost you your hair?
In order to understand why this happens, it is important to first understand the hair growth cycle. A simplified explanation is as follows:
Hair has two major components - the root below the skin, and the strand which is the visible part of the hair. The root is the living part of the hair and rests in a pocket called a follicle. The follicle has a rich blood supply, which provides nutrients to the root, and an oil gland, which keeps the scalp and hair strand moist. The strand is non-living, much like the ends of the fingernails.
Hair grows steadily for approximately three years before entering a three-month resting phase. At the end of the resting phase, the old hair falls out and a new hair grows in its place. Roughly 10% of all hairs go into resting phase at any given time.
How do crash diets influence this cycle?
Dietary factors affect all phases of hair growth, and a lack of nutrients can cause your hair to grow at a slower pace.
During the resting phase, deficiencies in certain nutrients can actually stop new hairs from forming. This means that when the rested hair falls out, there is no new hair to replace it.
In addition, the physical stress exerted on your body as a result of crash dieting can cause a condition called Telogen Effluvium. This forces your hair follicles into a resting phase too early in the cycle, meaning that when they fall out, the replacement hair has not had chance to develop.
Finally, bear in mind that the body needs a combination of fat and water to make the oil that lubricates and protects the scalp and hair strand. Without this protective oil, known as sebum, the skin and hair become dry and prone to damage.
Scalp damage not only hinders hair growth, but can also cause hair loss. Dryness and damage to the hair strand can also cause the hair to break off. If the follicle is compromised by poor nutrition, the broken hairs may not grow back.
Which diets can cause hair loss?
Hair loss is not caused by any specific diet, but by a shortage of nutrients. This is an obvious by-product of certain diets that demand a huge reduction in the intake of certain food groups.
Most obviously you could include ultra-low calorie diets such as the Master Cleanse, the cabbage soup diet and the 500 calorie per day plan, however other diets such as Atkins could also cause a problem.
So how do I avoid this problem?
If you are overweight, the benefits of losing a few pounds has numerous positive effects on your overall health, so we would certainly never recommend ditching the diet under normal circumstances.
There are many diets around that mean you'll achieve a healthy nutritional intake, whilst still enabling you to lose weight at a safe and acceptable pace.
If you must crash diet, the best way to avoid hair loss is to take a quality vitamin supplement to replace any nutrients that your body may be lacking.
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