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The Ketogenic Diet Your Thyroid and Hair Loss

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 04/12/2024

Since starting the keto diet, have you noticed more hair in your brush or shower drain? You're not alone. Many people report experiencing hair loss in the early stages of the diet. Why does everything seem to go sideways, and what moves should you make next?

Hair loss on keto is often due to the sudden shift in diet and calorie restriction. When you drastically cut carbs and calories, your body can go into a temporary state of shock, leading to telogen effluvium.

This causes hair follicles to enter a resting phase and fall out prematurely. The good news is that keto-related hair loss is usually temporary and can be prevented with the right strategies.

Losing strands on a low-carb diet? We’ll tackle why this happens on keto and hand over foolproof advice for keeping every follicle in place despite cutting back on those carbs.

The Connection Between Keto Diet, Thyroid Function, and Hair Loss

The ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting have gained popularity for their potential weight loss benefits. However, these dietary approaches may also impact thyroid function, which can lead to hair loss in some individuals.

The thyroid gland plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, and its proper functioning relies on adequate levels of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A and zinc. Let's explore how these factors are interconnected.

Understanding Thyroid Receptors and Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the activation of thyroid receptors, which are responsible for the uptake of thyroid hormones by cells throughout the body.

When vitamin A levels are low, thyroid receptor activation can be inhibited, leading to an increase in thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) production.

Elevated TSH levels can cause the thyroid gland to enlarge, a condition known as goiter. This can further disrupt thyroid function and contribute to hair loss.

Hashimoto's thyroiditis

The Role of Zinc in Thyroid Health

Zinc plays a critical role in transporting vitamin A into the thyroid gland, where it is needed for proper hormone production and conversion. Without adequate zinc, vitamin A may not be effectively utilized by the thyroid, leading to impaired function.

Moreover, zinc is involved in synthesizing thyroid hormones and converting the inactive form of thyroid hormone (T4) to its active form (T3).

A deficiency in zinc can hinder these processes, potentially contributing to hair loss and other thyroid-related symptoms.

Nutritional Sources and Absorption Challenges for Key Nutrients

To support healthy thyroid function and prevent hair loss, it's crucial to ensure an adequate intake of vitamin A and zinc. However, obtaining these nutrients from dietary sources and optimizing their absorption can be challenging for some individuals.

Dietary Sources of Vitamin A

Vitamin A can be obtained from various food sources, including:

  • Liver

  • Egg yolks

  • Butter

  • Fish oils

  • Certain leafy greens (such as spinach and kale)

It's important to note that the conversion rate of carotenoids, the precursors to vitamin A found in plant sources, to active vitamin A is limited. Research suggests that only around 10% of carotenoids are effectively converted to vitamin A in the body.

Factors Affecting Vitamin A Absorption

Several factors can impair the absorption of vitamin A, even when consuming adequate dietary sources. These include:

  • Liver conditions: The liver plays a crucial role in storing and metabolizing vitamin A. Liver disorders can hinder vitamin A absorption and utilization.

  • Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO): SIBO can interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including vitamin A, by disrupting the gut microbiome and causing inflammation.

Zinc-Rich Foods and Deficiency Concerns

Zinc can be found in various dietary sources, such as:

  • Shellfish (oysters, crab, lobster)

  • Fish (salmon, sardines, herring)

  • Red meat (beef, lamb)

Despite the availability of zinc-rich foods, zinc deficiency is more common than vitamin A deficiency.

This may be due to factors such as poor dietary intake, impaired absorption, or increased zinc requirements during certain life stages or health conditions.

Addressing Hair Loss Through Diet Adjustments

If you're experiencing hair loss while following a ketogenic diet or practicing intermittent fasting, it's essential to assess your nutrient intake and make necessary adjustments to support healthy thyroid function and hair growth.

Promoting Healthy Thyroid Function with Vitamin A

To ensure adequate vitamin A intake and support thyroid health, consider incorporating more vitamin A-rich foods into your diet, such as liver, egg yolks, and fatty fish.

If you're relying on plant sources, be mindful of the limited conversion rate of carotenoids to active vitamin A.

If you suspect a vitamin A deficiency or have underlying health conditions that may impair absorption, consult with a healthcare professional to determine if supplementation is necessary.

The Importance of Adequate Zinc Intake

To promote optimal thyroid function and hair growth, focus on including zinc-rich foods in your diet, such as shellfish, fish, and red meat.

If you follow a plant-based diet or have concerns about zinc absorption, consider discussing supplementation options with a qualified healthcare provider.

It's crucial to address any underlying health conditions, such as liver disorders or SIBO, that may interfere with zinc absorption. Working with a healthcare professional to manage these conditions can help improve nutrient absorption and support overall thyroid health.

By making targeted dietary adjustments and ensuring adequate intake of key nutrients like vitamin A and zinc, you can support healthy thyroid function and potentially mitigate hair loss associated with the ketogenic diet or intermittent fasting.

low-carb chocolate chip cookies

Tackling Keto Hair Loss with Coconut Chocolate Chip Delights

When experiencing keto hair loss, incorporating nutritious treats like coconut chocolate chip cookies into your diet can be a tasty strategy for combating this issue.

These delicious cookies not only satisfy your sweet cravings but also provide essential nutrients like healthy fats from coconut and antioxidant-rich dark chocolate. By indulging in these treats, you're nourishing your taste buds and supporting your hair health.

Conclusion

Hair loss on the keto diet can be concerning, but it doesn't have to be a permanent problem. By ensuring you're getting enough calories, protein, and essential nutrients, you can support healthy hair growth and prevent excessive shedding.

Hang in there as your eating habits evolve - adaptation doesn't happen overnight for our bodies! Hair loss is often temporary and will resolve itself once your body adjusts to the keto diet.

In the meantime, focus on nourishing your hair from the inside out with a balanced, nutrient-rich approach to keto.

With a little extra care and attention, you can maintain a full, healthy head of hair while reaping the many rewards of the ketogenic lifestyle. Don't let the fear of hair loss hold you back from experiencing the transformative power of keto!


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