Can Intermittent Fasting Cause Hair Loss?Can Intermittent Fasting Cause Hair Loss?

Can Intermittent Fasting Cause Hair Loss?

Intermittent fasting, or IF as it's often called, is a popular weight loss strategy used by people who don't want to or aren't ready to make significant changes to their diet. IF involves a shift in your typical eating schedule, making it more approachable for people trying to lose weight. IF is an extremely popular form of weight loss, but can this popular diet cause hair loss?

Read on to learn more about IF, how it might affect your hair growth cycle and the best products to combat thinning hair naturally.

Understanding Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is not so much a diet but an eating schedule. Those engaging in it choose a certain number of hours for an eating window and then a certain number of hours for a fasting window.

The three most common schedules are 18/6, (18-hour fasting window, 6-hour eating window) 16/8 (16-hour fasting window, 8-hour eating window) and 14/10 (14-hour fasting window, 10-hour eating window). Some people go as extreme as one day of restricted caloric intake and another day of normal caloric intake. It should be noted that fasting is something that really should be consulted with your doctor as extreme diets are not for everyone.

The science behind IF suggests that the hours of fasting allow the body to use up its sugar stores and start burning fat. It also allows the body's digestive system to relax in between processing food. There's some science to suggest that this is healthy for the gut.

There are some other health benefits including autophagy, where the cells of the body improve due to metabolic stress, hormone balance (although this should be closely monitored by a doctor) and weight loss. While many do experience benefits, intermittent fasting isn't for everyone and there can be some side effects if fasting isn't handled safely.

Read More: Can You Use Prenatal Vitamins for Hair Growth?

Side Effects of Intermittent Fasting

While many people extol the virtues of IF, the truth is that many people experience negative effects from the abrupt shift in diet.

There are a few alarming side effects that can be the result of fasting. Orthorexia is a disorder that involves an obsession with eating healthy. Signs that someone might be plagued with orthorexia are obsessively talking about or thinking about the next meal or shifting social plans that don't align with current eating habits.

Intermittent fasting might also be affecting your sleep patterns. One study points to fasting as a cause of restless sleep. Good sleep hygiene is essential not only for good overall health, but for hair health as well.

While some people have described increased alertness while fasting, some experts believe that this is simply the body going into starvation mode. When the body is in starvation mode, the mind is alert and focused, as it's wired to be looking for a meal when hungry. While an increase in alertness is possible, after a while a calorie deficit can lead to dizziness, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

How Intermittent Fasting Affects the Hair

While some people may be looking at intermittent fasting as a way to get healthy and regulate a hormonal imbalance, there is evidence to suggest that IF can lead to temporary hair loss.

"IF can affect hair growth, because the body is deprived of nutrients that are needed for hair growth," said nutritionist and coach Adylia-Rhenee Gutierrez. "IF is a shock to the body, and the real harm can be experienced in the long term with IF.  With IF, the body is deprived of glucose as well as less oxygen, which the body needs to nourish our cells, organs and tissues." Gutierrez explained that this shock can result in not having enough oxygen to nourish hair follicles.

Telogen effluvium, or TE, is a temporary type of hair fall where the hair follicles remain in their resting period for longer than they ordinarily would. The intermittent fasting diet can actually shock the body into developing TE, which is characterized by an increase in hair shedding, loss of hair volume and slow hair growth. TE is temporary, but if you experience hair loss for longer than eight weeks you should seek medical advice.

Read: The Best Foods To Eat for Healthy Hair

Stress and Hair Loss

Because intermittent fasting puts the body into a state of stress, it is thought that that can lead to some hair loss. There is an observed link between stress and hair loss, which can lead to three different kinds of hair loss:

  • Telogen effluvium: A type of hair loss characterized by a general thinning of the hair through a noticeable increase in shedding.
  • Alopecia areata: An autoimmune disorder where the body's immune system attacks the hair follicles
  • Trichotillomania: A type of impulse control disorder caused by anxiety or stress that leads to an uncontrollable urge to pull out hair.

Sudden hair loss can also be a sign of a serious medical condition, so if your stress levels are reduced and you don't see an improvement in eight weeks, check in with your doctor.

What You Can Do

If you're fasting and notice that it's affecting your hair, the first thing you should do is talk with your doctor. IF is not for everyone, and while evidence suggests that hair loss from IF is only temporary, the stress on the body can cause these other issues. Hair loss related to stress can be managed in a few different ways, so don't panic if you're noticing more of it on your brush than you're used to. Here are a few ways you can improve your overall health:

  • Make sure you're getting enough sleep. Sleep hygiene is so important for overall health but also for healthy hair and skin.
  • Try mindfulness practices. Meditation and yoga can help to manage overall stress or increased stress due to dieting.
  • Focus on nutrition and eating nutrient-dense foods. Quick-fix diets that restrict calorie intake drastically don't often stick and aren't healthy long term.

"There are better, gentler and more sustained ways to lose weight," Gutierrez said. "First, we must recognize that everyone and everybody is different. So what works for one body might not be the best for another. Listen and feel in your body what works best for your body."

Gutirrez suggested decreasing foods with high-fat content in your diet. That includes bacon, dairy, nut butters and unhealthy oils. She also suggested increasing your fiber intake, avoiding processed foods and moving your body every day. "These long-term effects are so much better for one's overall health — both mental and physical," she said.

If you feel that your hair growth cycle is being affected by stress or diet, there are natural products like VEGAMOUR's GRO Full Routine Kit that can help. These topical and nutritional supplement products contain sustainably harvested organic plant actives that have been clinically shown to improve hair density, reduce fallout and repair follicle damage while protecting the hair from external aggressors. VEGAMOUR formulas are designed to work in tandem to create the optimal ecosystem for healthy, abundant hair.

The Takeaway

If intermittent fasting is causing more harm than good, don't be afraid to chat with your doctor or change up your strategy, especially if it starts to affect your mental health. There are many ways to get healthy and improve the body's overall function that aren't as extreme as intermittent fasting. If the negative side effects outweigh the benefits, you might want to explore other options.


Photo credit: Timur Weber/Pexels

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.