Before you started the ketogenic diet, you probably already knew about some of the side effects, such as fatigue, constipation and nausea. Others – like potential keto hair loss – may come as more of a surprise.
Does the Keto Diet Cause Hair Loss?
Along with other side effects – such as headaches, nausea, fatigue, etc. – often described as the keto flu, the keto diet may cause some people to experience hair loss because it alters the body’s metabolism.
Typically, your cells use glucose from carbohydrates, as well as protein, for energy. If you go on a keto diet, this means that you restrict carbohydrates and limit protein so that your body has to burn ketone bodies (chemicals produced by fat in the liver) for energy, a state called ketosis.
To get into ketosis, many people calculate their “macro” or macro-nutrients – carbohydrates, protein and fat – to make sure they eat a certain percentage of fat each day. The standard keto diet typically contains 70% fat, 20% protein, and only 10% carbohydrates. Some people increase the protein to 35% while keeping the carbohydrate percentage the same. For a 2,000 calorie per day keto diet, carbohydrates would account for about 20 to 50 grams per day.
This restrictive diet can trigger hair loss.
How can Ketosis Affect Your Hair?
Normally, your body uses the carbohydrates in the foods you eat for energy. But if you follow a low-carb, high-fat keto diet, you can enter a state of ketosis. When this happens, your body starts using fat, rather than carbohydrates, as fuel.
Several aspects of ketosis can trigger hair loss and changes in hair health. Two of the most common causes include:
- Fewer nutrients. By limiting your intake of carbohydrates, including some high-carb fruits and vegetables, you may be reducing the variety of nutrients your body normally needs for healthy hair. This may cause you to lose more hair than normal or have slower hair growth.
- Your body’s response to cutting calories. When you reduce your calorie intake, your body responds by ensuring that the available energy is used first for the most important functions. This includes things like cell growth and the function of your heart, lungs and other organs. This means that less energy may be used for hair growth.
Is Keto Hair Loss Permanent?
Keto hair loss is usually temporary.
For example, after TE hair loss, new hair usually begins to grow back in about two to three months. However, each case can be different, depending on the exact cause.
If you notice hair loss, be sure to contact your healthcare provider so they can rule out any medical conditions that may be separate from the side effects of the keto diet or may put you at a higher risk for dietary hair loss.
They can test you for thyroid disease or anemia. It’s also a good opportunity to keep track of exactly what you’re eating, how often you’re eating it, and whether the diet is affecting exercise or how you feel overall.
Those placed on a keto diet for medical reasons (such as epilepsy or weight loss) are closely monitored because keto diets can negatively affect kidney and heart function, as well as cholesterol, electrolytes, thyroid, and glucose levels.
How to Stop Keto Hair Loss?
While hair loss on keto does not affect everyone, there are actions you can take to help support your hair health while on keto.
Get enough nutrients
Keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet, so the key is definitely not starvation; caloric intake is important, even if you’re fasting intermittently. But not just any calories. You want to make sure you’re consuming enough keto-friendly macronutrients (low-carb, moderate protein and high fat) to avoid nutritional deficiencies. Protein intake plays a key factor here. You want to consume enough protein, not too much or too little. Micronutrients are also important; the B vitamin biotin is responsible for the shiny and lush appearance of healthy hair and deficiencies in biotin can affect hair growth. Iron deficiency can also lead to hair loss.
You can make sure your macronutrients are up to snuff by tracking your macronutrients (especially important when first starting keto medications). You may also want to take a multivitamin.
While following a macronutrient diet may not stop you from losing hair during the transition from a high-carb diet to a high-fat, low-carb diet, it will help your body adapt more quickly so you can get through the transition and return to your normal hair growth cycle.
Reduce your stress level
Elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can cause temporary hair loss, whether you are on a keto diet or not. To ensure that stress does not adversely affect your hair health or cause you to lose hair, do the following:
- Minimize your stress levels in any way you can, including meditation, yoga, walking, getting enough sleep, and avoiding stressful situations whenever possible.
- Pick a time to start keto when you know you don’t have too many big stressors on your plate.
Get enough sleep
Prioritize your sleep; it is the time for your body to repair itself. Today’s culture tends to lower the priority of rest, but it is extremely important. Lack of sleep affects the function of your endocrine (hormonal) system, which, among other things, means it raises stress hormones, which can lead to hair loss. To help ensure you get enough sleep, do the following:
- Wind down before bed with a hot bath, book, or even relaxing music.
- Take time to stretch and relax before bed so you can ease into sleep.
- Get to bed earlier (something we can all work toward).
- Go to bed at the same time each night so you can get into a rhythm.
- Give yourself eight hours per night to rest.
Explore underlying causes with your doctor
There may be other causes for your hair loss, including rapid weight loss. If you have just started keto therapy (in the first week or so) or have been in ketosis for a while and are still experiencing hair loss, consult your doctor to see if there are other causes, such as nutritional deficiencies, thyroid conditions, autoimmune disorders, or an adverse reaction to medications.
When to See Your Doctor
If you are on a keto diet and are still experiencing hair loss after making dietary adjustments and taking other hair loss prevention measures, be sure to follow up with your doctor.
It’s also important to discuss this with your doctor before starting a keto diet to make sure it’s safe for you. This is especially important if you have:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- any other chronic health condition
If you’re worried about experiencing hair loss when you first start the keto diet, don’t stress. Don’t let this possibility stop you from trying the keto diet. This is a temporary symptom of the keto diet and can be prevented if you are mindful of the nutrients you are consuming. As long as you track your calorie intake, pay attention to your nutritional deficiencies, and manage your stress levels, you’ll be all right. Otherwise, you can still consult your healthcare provider to find what’s going on and fix it.