Vegan diets seem to be the talk of the town these days
The quest for healthy living has ultimately caused some to live on nothing but greens. And if you’re looking to pursue that with the impression of fulfilling your health and other goals, here’s a reminder that a vegan diet isn’t necessarily the healthiest option unless you consciously ensure the plant diet gives you all the nutrients required by your body.
There could be some vital nutrients missing in your vegan diet that could cause hair loss. This is something the experts at Livestrong say. Hair needs proteins and so you need to have beans, soy, nuts and seeds to get your required dose of proteins.
Let me make something clear. I have nothing against vegans.
In a vegan diet, you leave out all animal products which are a vital source of proteins, vitamins, iron and other minerals without which you could lose anywhere up to 200 hairs each day. So you must make sure that you make up what you lose – by leaving out meat – with your vegan ingredients.
Proteins are needed not just for renewing hair cells but also for tissue growth for various vital organs including the heart, lungs and liver. A shortage of proteins will result in your body using up all that’s remaining for building the organ tissues, at the expense of your hair.
Proteins are essentially the building blocks of your hair. They contain essential amino acids that must be ingested for the body to synthesize and use them. Animal proteins are the most plentiful source of essential amino acids, and your body can easily absorb it.
So if you’re sticking to a vegan diet, consume seeds, nuts, beans, legumes and soy.
However, you cannot excessively rely on soy if you are predisposed to hypothyroidism since soy will aggravate the condition. And hair loss is one of the symptoms of hypothyroidism. You also need to ensure that you consume L-Lysine, which is an amino acid usually readily found in animal products.
With a vegan diet, you need legumes so that you don’t fall short of the plant-based amino acid source.
Hair also needs iron, and you may think that you get this from a vegan diet containing green vegetables, fortified foods, lentils, etc. But Livestrong says that the iron available in plant foods isn’t usable by the body as easily as the iron from animal sources.
Not much of iron from plant foods is available for your body to use, even if you consume a good quantity of vegan food containing iron. You can end up having iron deficiency which causes even more harm than losing hair – fatigue and overall weakness in your body.
According to the National Institutes of Health, though the recommended daily iron allowance for men is 8 mg and 18 mg for women you will need to consume 1.8 times this dosage of iron if you are strictly vegan. You also need to consume vitamin C along with your iron-rich vegan meals to help your body absorb the iron better.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause you to lose hair and bring about scaly scalp. And it’s really not easy to get this from a fully vegan diet. Fish, poultry, meats and other animal food products are the only sources of vitamin B12.
While fermented products such as nutritional yeast and tempeh can give you vitamin B-12, just eating them won’t give you enough of the B-12 your body needs. You’ll need a vitamin B12 supplement, but not before consulting with your doctor.
It has been found that Vitamin D deficiencies also contributes to hair loss. But make sure you don’t consume too much of Vitamin A since that can cause hair loss too.
Zinc is another important ingredient for your hair which is likely to be consumed less than required on a strictly vegan diet. Deficiency of zinc can not only cause hair loss, but make it dull and unruly. Men need 11 mg per day while women require 8 mg.
And again, meat is a rich source of zinc – beef, pork, chicken and oysters. With more beans, seeds, nuts, wheat bran, grains and fortified cereals you can increase your vegan intake, but you’d probably need a supplement for that which you must only take after consultation with a doctor.
It’s all about maintaining a balance with your vegan diet. The aforementioned nutrients are absolutely essential for healthy hair.
Lacto-ovo Vegetarianism Better than Veganism with Supplements
Switching to a vegetarian diet, primarily lacto-ovo vegetarianism, from a strictly vegan diet can solve some of the nutrient issues since you would then be consuming milk, eggs and dairy products that contain proteins, iron and many of the aforementioned nutrients.
Otherwise, you will end up having to consume more supplements which aren’t that natural anyway. You decided to become a vegan to consume only natural, plant-based food, and end up living on supplements.
Like I’ve said before, supplements aren’t always good for your body so it’s essential that you consult with your doctor before consuming them. You should be particularly careful if you have an underlying medical condition.
Your doctor will advise you to take blood tests to determine which minerals you lack and by how much. That will help you consume the right kind and amount of supplements.
How Far Can You Go with Veganism
As you’ve seen, a strict vegan diet poses risks in terms of denying your body the nourishment it needs. And when that happens, the hair is usually the first to suffer. You need to be methodical about your vegan intake, analyze it, study what’s lacking and make up for it through supplements.
But if you move towards lacto-ovo vegetarianism, you can give your body what’s missing from the vegan diet.
Diet isn’t always the cause of hair loss though. According to estimates, 50% of men will suffer kind some kind of hair loss by 50. But for men and women suffering from hair loss at a much younger age, a medical check up is needed to ascertain if there is any medical condition causing it.
Sometimes, hair loss can be temporary. In cases when the hair loss condition is advancing rapidly and is a permanent phenomenon, hair restoration treatment may be required. But if your hair loss is the result of the vegan diet you’re on, there may be some changes needed to be made.
Will Hartfield runs HairLossRevolution.com where he teaches how to use dietary and lifestyle changes to cause natural hair regrowth. When he’s not researching or writing about hair loss, you’ll find him playing tennis or walking his dogs.