Many vegans experience hair loss either during the initial transition period, or after following the diet for some time. The good news is that hair loss is often preventable and some simple dietary changes can make a big difference in the health of your hair!
Eat Zinc Rich Foods
Zinc tends to be underconsumed on a vegan diet, and deficiency can cause hair loss, as well as a dull and dry appearance. Daily needs for zinc are 11 milligrams per day for men, and 8 milligrams per day for women. Rich sources of zinc include oysters, beef, pork and chicken -- foods not included on a vegan diet. But luckily beans, wheat bran, seeds, nuts, fortified cereals are reliable plant based sources.
Get Enough Protein, Especially Lysine
Low-protein consumption on a vegan diet could lead to hair loss. Nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, soy products and plant based protein powders can help you get enough essential amino acids. A deficiency in the amino acid L-lysine in particular can mean trouble for hair health. L-lysine is readily available in animal products, but the primary plant-based source is legumes. If your vegan diet doesn't include a lot of legumes, you may find yourself deficient.
Correct Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency can result in hair loss as well as fatigue and weakness. It’s important to understand that the iron in plant foods is less available for use by your body than iron derived from animal sources. The recommended daily allowance for iron is 8 milligrams for adult men and 18 milligrams for adult women. If you're vegan, you need 1.8 times this amount, explains the National Institutes of Health, because of the lower bioavailability. Consume plenty of green vegetables, lentils, chia seeds, whole grains, and fortified foods.
Take A B12 Supplement
Vitamin B-12 is only available in meats, fish, poultry and other foods that come from animals, as well as in fortified nutritional yeast, plant milks, cereals and grains. Inadequate amounts can lead to a scaly scalp and hair loss. It can be hard to get enough of this essential vitamin through food sources alone and a supplement should be taken to ensure you’re getting enough. Check out my article “Best Vegan Approved B12 Supplements” for recommendations.
Take A Biotin Supplement
Biotin is necessary for cell growth, the production of fatty acids, and the metabolism of fats and amino acids. When biotin intake is deficient, symptoms can include dry scalp, thinning hair and the loss of hair color. 30 micrograms per day is needed by both adult men and women. Food sources include peanuts, tomatoes, almonds, onions, carrots, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, oats, and walnuts. A supplement can also be added if desired.
Consider Not Taking a Multivitamin
While specific nutrient supplements like B12 and biotin can be helpful in preventing hair loss, you may want to consider avoiding multivitamins with high amounts of numerous nutrients. In a multivitamin, if the level of zinc is equal to the level of iron, then iron uptake is significantly decreased because these nutrients compete for absorption. Since both iron and zinc are vital for healthy hair, you may want to consider not taking a multivitamin and instead prioritizing good nutrition and a few select supplements. Other nutrients such as excessive vitamin E or folate supplementation can also adversely affect hair growth.
Support Thyroid Health
Outside of nutritional reasons for hair loss, an overactive or underactive thyroid gland can cause hair thinning. Soy can affect the thyroid, especially when iodine levels are not adequate or someone is predisposed to thyroid problems. Limiting soy foods and making sure you get enough iodine, by taking 75 to 150 µg per day from a supplement or seaweed, should prevent any hair loss problems that could be due to iodine or soy.
Hair loss is a common but often avoidable health issue if proper nutritional measures are taken. If you would like help eating a well-planned and nutritious vegan diet, I encourage you to look into my meal plan, The MicroVore Diet.
It spotlights the most nutrient-rich foods in the “plant food kingdom” to prevent and correct nutrient deficiencies that sadly cause many people to abandon a vegan diet. These guidelines and delicious recipes can be a major help in nourishing your body to ensure long-term success on a plant-based lifestyle.
For more information and a 10% discount on any of my vegan meals, you can sign up for the Free Starter Guide at the top of this article.
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Thanks for living vegan and have a healthy day!