Can Intermittent Fasting Help Hair Growth?
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Can Intermittent Fasting Help Hair Growth?

If your hair isn’t as shiny or full as you’d like, you may find yourself turning to diet changes or other lifestyle changes to help stimulate hair growth. Intermittent fasting has been touted as a way to stimulate hair growth — but this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, one study into intermittent fasting found that 4.2% of participants actually lost hair while on an intermittent fasting diet [1].

So is there really a link between intermittent fasting and hair growth? Take a look at what intermittent fasting does and how it can impact your hair health.

What is intermittent fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a relatively new trend that involves restricting your diet for certain periods of time. Some of the most popular intermittent fasting plans are:

  • 5:2 diet — where you eat normally for 5 days of the week, then restrict your calorie intake for 2 days
  • 16:8 diet — where you eat normally for 8 hours of the day and restrict your calorie intake for the remaining 16 hours
  • Eat-stop-eat — where you fast for a full 24 hour period once or twice a week, then eat normally for the rest of the week

Calorie restricted days normally involve eating no more than around 500-600 calories per day.

Intermittent fasting is said to aid sustainable weight loss, retain muscle mass while losing weight, and even prevent conditions like type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

But while there are potentially positive effects for your general health, intermittent fasting has been linked with hair loss [2].

The link between intermittent fasting and hair growth

It’s a well-known fact that a good diet is important for healthy hair. So it makes sense that fasting could affect your hair, too.

Like the rest of your body, your hair follicles need nutrients and energy to produce strong, healthy hair. They rely on you to eat a nutritious, balanced diet so they can fulfil the hair growth cycle of anagen (growth), catagen (transition from growth to resting), telogen (resting) and exogen (shedding).

Major dietary changes can disrupt the hair growth cycle. Sudden changes in calorie intake and nutrition can cause telogen effluvium — a kind of shock that causes temporary hair loss.

As a result, intermittent fasting is actually more likely to cause hair loss than hair growth. Fortunately, this is usually temporary. If you’re concerned about your hair loss, you should speak to a trichologist who can help you find the right diet and lifestyle to regrow your hair.

Can intermittent fasting stimulate hair growth?

There is some evidence to suggest that intermittent fasting can induce autophagy in the body, which sometimes helps to stimulate hair growth.

Autophagy is your body’s way of using damaged proteins to provide energy to the rest of the body. Your cells take proteins that have become otherwise useless and use them as fuel for certain functions — including hair growth.

Intermittent fasting can induce autophagy. However, following periods of fasting, you need to eat plenty of protein to replace the protein that’s being used up in order to promote healthy hair growth. It’s worth noting that stress can also induce autophagy, but this is unlikely to result in hair growth. Stress is also a big trigger for temporary hair loss, so you should do what you can to take care of your mental health as well as your diet.

How to do intermittent fasting without causing hair loss

When it comes to hair growth, what you eat is more important than when you eat it. That means as long as you’re fasting safely and still getting all the nutrients your hair needs, you shouldn’t experience dramatic hair loss. (Remember, it’s normal to lose around 50-100 hairs per day regardless of your diet or lifestyle).

If you’re experimenting with dietary changes to lose weight or improve your health, make sure you’re still getting the healthy hair nutrients you need. Protein, biotin, vitamin D and many other nutrients are vital to maintaining your hair. See what the recommended daily allowance for each nutrient is according to the NHS. Make sure you’re getting enough of each even on your restricted diet days.

You can also try taking a supplement or multivitamin tablet. However, you should take care with supplements such as vitamin A, as these can actually cause hair loss if taken in excess.

What to do if you’re worried about hair loss

If you’re trying to lead a healthier lifestyle through intermittent fasting, don’t let the risk of hair loss stop you. Speak to a hair loss specialist to find out the best way to maintain the strength of your hair while you diet.

Sources:

  1. The Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Weight Loss for Overweight and Obese Men and Woman in Saudi Arabia
  2. Alternate‐day versus daily energy restriction diets: which is more effective for weight loss? A systematic review and meta‐analysis
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