Approximately 5% of Israelis, 4% of Swedes, and 3% of Americans are vegans. Veganism, a severely restrictive eating plan that avoids beef, pork, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products, is increasing in popularity among millennials worldwide. Vegans only consume plant-based foods, such as grains, legumes, nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
Vegans adopt this prohibitive eating plan for health, ethical, and religious reasons. The vegan diet’s elimination of several food groups results in severe nutritional deficiencies. These nutritional deficiencies cause adverse health effects in people practicing this austere eating plan. Excessive hair loss is claimed to be an adverse health effect of the vegan diet. Does the vegan diet make you lose your hair?
Why People Become Vegan
Veganism is not a new diet fad or fringe movement. Veganism, or eating a plant-only diet, has been in existence for more than 5,000 years, with the dietary practice originating in the Indian subcontinent. For millennia, people practiced veganism for health, moral, and spiritual reasons.
Many people adopt veganism and avoid eating animal products and byproducts to minimize animal suffering and exploitation. Others avoid eating food derived from animals to promote bodily and spiritual purity. A well-balanced vegan diet that supplies your body with all the nutrients it needs can be a very healthy eating plan.
A well-balanced vegan diet can have many health benefits, such as a decreased risk for obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. While there are many advantages to eating a plant-only diet, an unbalanced vegan diet can cause severe nutritional deficiencies, resulting in a variety of health issues such as hair loss.
Why Does Veganism Cause Hair Loss?
A typical vegan diet is low caloric and deficient in vital nutrients. Veganism eliminates meat, chicken, seafood, eggs, and dairy from your diet, depriving your body of critical nutrients needed for healthy hair growth. A typical vegan diet is deficient in vital nutrients such as protein, iron, and iodine.
Further, as many food groups are eliminated from the vegan diet, your caloric intake is considerably reduced, leading to rapid and drastic weight loss. The combination of low caloric intake and insufficient nutrient consumption wreaks havoc on your body, triggering your body to alter its normal functioning to sustain your survival.
When your body encounters severe nutritional deficiency, it takes scarce nutrients away from non-essential bodily functions and allocates them to essential bodily functions to sustain your survival. Hair is not an essential bodily tissue, meaning your body can survive without it. Even if you’re only minimally deficient in a nutrient, your body withholds this nutrient from your hair first because hair renewal and growth are not essential bodily functions.
When deprived of crucial nutrients, your body withholds these critical nutrients from non-essential bodily functions such as hair renewal and growth. Instead, your body will allocate these scarce nutrients to vital organs to promote essential bodily functions. As a result, you experience excessive hair loss as your body deprives your hair follicles of the critical nutrients it needs for hair maintenance and growth.
In addition, the vegan diet’s inherent low caloric regimen exerts tremendous stress on your body, triggering excessive hair loss. This sudden and excessive hair loss resulting from physiological stress is known as Telogen Effluvium (TE) in the medical community. Telogen effluvium is a temporary and reversible hair loss resulting from severe physiological or emotional stress, shock, or a traumatic event.
Severe nutritional deficiency, drug use, serious illness, surgery, or childbirth are some of the causes of telogen effluvium. When your body is under severe stress, it forces hair follicles from the active growth phase to the resting phase. In the resting phase, your hair begins to shed rapidly, resulting in noticeable hair thinning from all over your scalp. An unbalanced vegan diet imposes considerable physiological stress on your body, triggering stress-related hair loss.
How to Prevent Hair Loss on a Vegan Diet?
Fortunately, hair loss caused by the vegan diet is reversible and preventable. A vegan diet is low in calories and deficient in crucial nutrients needed for healthy hair. A typical vegan diet lacks adequate protein, iron, and iodine.
A well-balanced vegan diet that supplies your body with all the energy and essential nutrients it needs is beneficial for your health and promotes healthy hair growth. The following approaches will help prevent hair loss on a vegan diet:
Maintain a Healthy Caloric Intake
When you go vegan, you cut out most food groups from your diet, resulting in very limited food options. With limited food options to eat, you lose weight suddenly and rapidly on a vegan diet. This sudden and rapid weight loss shocks your physiological system and imposes considerable stress on your body, triggering stress-related hair loss.
To prevent stress-related hair loss on a vegan diet, make sure you are consuming enough calories to avoid shocking and exerting stress on your body. The recommended caloric intake for adult women is 2,000 calories per day. The recommended caloric intake for adult men is 2,500 calories per day.
Nuts, nut butters, vegetable oils, and dried fruits are ultra-nutritious and high-calorie, vegan-friendly foods you can consume daily to increase your caloric intake.
- 1 cup (146 grams | 5.15 ounces) of raw peanuts = 828 calories
- 2 tablespoons of almond butter = 202 calories
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil = 238 calories
- (100 grams | 3.5 ounces) of dates = 277 calories
- 1 cup (250 grams | 8.8 ounces) of dried apricots = 213 calories
Consume Sufficient Protein
Protein is an essential macronutrient your body needs for cellular repair, growth, and maintenance. Proteins form the building blocks of your bodily tissues.
Proteins, themselves, are made up of smaller units called amino acids. Amino acids are divided into two categories: essential and non-essential amino acids. Your body produces all the non-essential amino acids it needs, but it can’t produce essential amino acids. Therefore, you must obtain essential amino acids from your diet. Foods that contain all the nine essential amino acids are called a complete protein.
A vegan diet is typically low in protein as it eliminates protein-rich foods such as meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, and dairy from your diet. Hair is made up of a fibrous structural protein called Keratin. When you don’t consume enough protein, your body stops hair growth, or produces very low-quality hair to conserve protein for more important bodily functions. As a result, a typical low protein vegan diet causes hair loss, or forces hair follicles to produce very low-quality hair, leading to dull, brittle hair that easily breaks off.
The average daily protein requirement is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. Vegans can consume many plant-derived, complete proteins to satisfy their daily protein requirements.
Vegans can consume plant-based complete proteins such as soybeans, quinoa, tofu, spirulina, tempeh, buckwheat, and edamame to meet their daily protein requirements. These plant-based complete proteins supply your body with all the nine essential amino acids it needs to perform its functions optimally.
- (85 grams | 3 ounces) of tempeh = 11 grams of protein
- One tablespoon of spirulina = 4 grams of protein
- One cup (172 grams | 6 ounces) of roasted soybeans = 68 grams of protein
- (85 grams | 3 ounces) of tofu = 8 grams of protein
While it’s always better to obtain nutrients from your diet, you can add more protein to your diet by taking a vegan-friendly protein supplement daily. A vegan-friendly protein supplement supplies your body with adequate protein and all the essential amino acids it needs to perform its essential functions.
Consume Adequate Iron
The medical community has known for decades that iron deficiency causes hair loss. Iron is one of the most vital nutrients required for your survival. Your body needs iron to make hemoglobin, a metalloprotein substance inside your red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body.
When you are iron deficient, you produce less hemoglobin, leading to reduced oxygen levels within your body. This life-threatening medical condition is known as iron-deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency triggers your body into survival mode.
In survival mode, your body allocates oxygen and other crucial nutrients to vital organs to enhance your chances of survival. To maximize your chances of survival, your body will deprive oxygen and other critical nutrients from non-essential bodily functions, such as hair renewal and growth. Consequently, your hair follicles will be deprived of oxygen and other critical nutrients. As a result, hair falls out in clumps due to insufficient nutrition.
To prevent hair loss on a vegan diet, make sure you consume adequate iron to supply your body with the optimal amounts of oxygen it needs. The recommended daily allowance for iron consumption is 8 mg for adult men, 18 mg for menstruating women, 27 mg for pregnant women, 10 mg for breastfeeding women, and 8 mg for menopausal women.
White beans, lentils, spinach, tofu, kidney beans, and chickpeas are rich sources of plant-derived iron. To further increase your iron intake, you can take an iron supplement with vitamin C to enhance iron absorption.
Increase Intake of L-Lysine
L-Lysine is an essential amino acid that plays a vital role in the health of your hair. L-Lysine promotes hair health by enhancing the absorption and retention of iron, increasing iron storage levels in your body.
Studies have shown that iron supplementation with inadequate L-Lysine consumption does not increase iron stores in your body. Insufficient consumption of L-Lysine leads to depleted iron stores in your body, resulting in hair loss due to iron deficiency. The daily requirement for L-Lysine consumption is 1,000 milligrams, or 1 gram per day.
Plant-derived sources of L-Lysine include soybeans, peas, lentils, kidney beans, and chickpeas.
Iodine is essential for optimal thyroid function and healthy hair as your thyroid hormones regulate the growth and repair of your hair follicles. Your thyroid glands use iodine to make thyroid hormones, which are responsible for cellular growth and repair, and metabolism regulation. Insufficient iodine intake can lead to thyroid function disorder, which can adversely affect the health of your hair follicles.
The adverse effects of thyroid function disorder on the growth and maintenance of hair follicles can result in hair loss over time. Iodine is typically found in seafood and dairy products. As a result, vegan diets, in general, are insufficient in iodine. To increase your iodine intake on a vegan diet, consume iodized salt, or eat plant-based sources of iodine, such as seaweed.
A vegan diet can be a very healthy eating plan if it supplies your body with all the energy and nutrients it needs to perform its essential functions. Plenty of studies corroborate the health benefits of a well-balanced vegan diet, such as a decreased risk for obesity, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
However, due to its severely restrictive regimen, the typical vegan diet can wreak havoc on your body and cause several adverse health effects, such as excessive hair loss. You can be vegan and still keep your hair if you eat a nutritious vegan diet to nourish your body and provide it with all the energy and nutrients it needs to perform its essential functions optimally.