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IBS and Hair Loss: What You Need to Know

Listen to your gut. It's more than likely trying to tell you something. And, if you’re experiencing stomach pains, along with thinning hair or hair health issues, there may be a link between these symptoms.  

Irritable bowel syndrome, also known as IBS, is a fairly common — and often uncomfortable — medical condition that can wreak havoc on the digestive tract. Read on to learn whether inflammatory bowel disease can impact hair loss andwhat you can do right now to combat thinning hair.

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Check Your Gut

Life can be stressful. Sudden shifts in external circumstances or events such as the end of a relationship can manifest in physical symptoms, including issues that can throw your digestive system, as well as your health, including your hair, for a loop. Think: An upset stomach and abdominal aches and pains, along with increased hair shedding or skin and scalp problems.

And while the occasional overindulgent meal or other excess consumption can cause an upset stomach, if you're experiencing tummy troubles on the regular, it could be a sign of other underlying health conditions. Ulcerative colitis, irregular bowel movements, low stomach acid, imbalanced gut flora, Crohn's disease, poor gut health and IBS can all lead to stomach issues like distention, bloating, gas and other discomforts.

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What Causes IBS?

The exact cause of IBS is not known; however, IBS symptoms can be a result of a disturbance in the way the brain, nervous system and gut interact. The gut is sometimes referred to as the "second brain" for a good reason: A healthy gut that is rife with beneficial gut bacteria is essential in maintaining the balance required for optimum health. It's believed that as much as 57% of all human cells are made up of microbial organisms, and up to 5 pounds of these are gut bacteria located in the gut microbiome.

IBS is experienced by between 25 and 45 million people in the United States, and its symptoms can be unpredictable. In some cases, symptoms can be more severe and disruptive to daily lifestyle activities, while in others, they can be milder and easier to manage. If you frequently experience excess gas, bloating, an imbalance in gut bacteria and/or abdominal pain and cramping, those are the symptoms that many experience with IBS.

Related: Here’s How Gut Health and Hair Loss are Related

IBS and Hair Loss

So, is there an IBS hair loss connection? It seems so. Gut health is closely linked with overall health, including that of the immune system and the balance of hormones. It's also key in supporting and regulating healthy hair growth. So paying attention to the state of your organs of elimination can help promote healthier hair, skin and scalp.

If your hair is feeling and looking lackluster, your belly may be to blame. Because poor gut flora and/or nutritional deficiencies may be linked to hormonal balances, this can also potentially connect with hair loss. Different hormones play key roles in regulating functions within the body, including how hair grows (or doesn't).

Hormonal hair loss, aka androgenetic alopecia, is actually one of the most common types of hair loss. According to the National Library of Medicine, 50 million men and 30 million women experience it.

Additionally, some studies have suggested that alopecia areata, one of the most common causes of non-scarring hair loss, is linked with certain medical disorders, including irritable bowel syndrome.

Read: 10 Mistakes Hindering Your Hair Growth

IBS and Poor Nutrient Absorption

Irritable bowel syndrome can also hinder nutrient absorption. If your body is having trouble absorbing nutrients properly, this can cause distress for the entire body as a whole, including inflammation in the hair follicles. In turn, this inflammation can cause scalp and skin issues that may conflict with healthy hair growth.

Plus, digestive duress can also lead to problems such as heartburn and acid reflux. It can also interfere with properly digesting protein, potentially leading to a protein deficiency, which can, in turn, lead to deficiencies in Vitamin B-12, magnesium and iron.

According to The Mayo Clinic, gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD is likely connected to symptoms within the GI tract caused by low stomach acid. Without enough of this helpful stomach acid to break down food within the small intestine, then poorly digested food can get into the GI tract and cause an overgrowth in GI pathogens. Vitamin B-12, for example, needs help from stomach acid to detach from the protein that carries it. If it doesn’t detach, it cannot bind with other substances that carry it through the intestinal wall or into the bloodstream. The body requires both B vitamins and iron for healthy red blood cells, and people lacking these nutrients may develop anemia or other issues, including skin and scalp irritation that can hinder hair growth.

Read: 3 Ways Nutrition Impacts Your Hair

The Pros of Probiotics

Integrating good bacteria — aka probiotics — such as L. acidophilus. These good bacteria can help balance the digestive tract, promoting healthier digestion to better absorb nutrients and encourage the detoxification process. Recalibrating and promoting healthy microflora within the gut using pre- and probiotic supplements may also help build skin immunity and reduce irritation in the scalp to build up the foundation for healthy hair. Probiotics can be found in various fermented foods, such as sauerkraut or tempeh.

Related: 10 Vitamin Deficiencies That Cause Hair Loss

Skip Stress for Better Digestion and Healthier Hair

Stress in life is unavoidable. And chronic stress can ultimately lead to continuously interrupted digestion and irritation of the bowel. But its effects on the hair and belly don't have to be debilitating!

If you suspect that irritable bowel syndrome could be factoring into your health, consult with your doctor. A doctor can provide medical advice on what you can do to alleviate the issues.

Other helpful ideas for making lifestyle changes that focus on your overall wellness include:

  • Add stress-busting techniques such as regular exercise, yoga, meditation or breathwork into your daily routine. 
  • Treat yourself with TLC by pairing a scalp detox treatment and scalp massage. GRO Scalp Detoxifying Serum includes Zinc PCA to absorb excess oils, reduce irritation and utilizes Omega 6 & 9 fatty acids to moisturize and protect from damage. The serum removes stubborn scalp buildup, soothes skin damage and protects the scalp from harmful environmental pollutants. Follow with a soothing scalp massage as part of your self-care routine.
  • Make your self-care a main priority — daily habits have powerful influences on how we feel physically and mentally each day. Integrate mindful habits to ease digestive distress and improve health and wellness, including that of the hair, skin, scalp and stomach.

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Photo credit: Philipp Cordts/Unsplash

Disclaimer: Information in this article is intended for general informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to constitute medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician.