Is Gluten Linked to Hair Loss (Alopecia)?
Gluten Found to be a Cause of Autoimmune Hair Loss
To date, there have been 100′s of symptoms, syndromes, and diseases linked to gluten exposure for those with gluten sensitivity. One of these little known diseases is alopecia areata (autoimmune hair loss). This condition can effect men and women and typically manifests as circular balding patches over the head. Other forms of autoimmune hair loss can cause total baldness and in even more severe cases, can lead to universal body hair loss. The study below illustrates the connection between celiac disease and autoimmune alopecia.
A patient with coeliac disease presenting alopecia areas as the only symptom is described. Alopecia disappeared completely after a few months of strict gluten free diet and reappeared after an unintentional prolonged introduction of gluten. After a severe gluten free diet, a new and persistent hair growth in the alopecia areas was observed. The possibility a direct relationship in some cases, between coeliac disease and alopecia areata is confirmed.
Source: Minerva Gastroenterol Dietol. 1999 Dec;45(4):283-5.
Gluten Can Cause Nutritional Hair Loss as Well…
Aside from causing autoimmune hair loss, gluten can cause malnutrition leading to nutritional forms of alopecia. One of the primary side effects of gluten is damage to the intestinal lining. This damage can lead to malabsorption of vitamins and minerals
The loss of nutrients long term can contribute to many problems, one of which is hair loss. For example, gluten intolerance and sensitivity can create nutritional deficiencies in protein, iron, vitamin C, calcium, selenium, B-vitamins, and many others necessary to maintain proper and healthy hair growth.
Watch the video for more on gluten and nutritional deficiencies…
5 Nutrients Critical for Healthy Hair
There are several vitamins and minerals that are vital to healthy hair, nail, and skin growth. Let’s start with some of the most important:
- Biotin – Also known as vitamin B-8, biotin is necessary by your body to be able to properly metabolize fats. It plays a major role in energy production by the body. Symptoms of biotin deficiency are hair loss, nail brittleness, dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), muscle pain, depression, and fatigue. 40-50% of your daily biotin is produced by healthy intestinal flora or bacteria. Those with long standing gluten sensitivity are more prone to biotin deficiency for this reason.
- Zinc – Zinc is an essential mineral. It plays a role in several hundred chemical reactions in the body. One of those roles is in the production of collagen protein. Collagen is the backbone molecule for hair. Zinc also helps regulate thyroid hormone production. Low levels of zinc are linked to low thyroid (hypothyroidism). This in turn can contribute to hair loss as well. Zinc is also necessary for digestive enzyme production. Lack of enzymes contributes to further nutritional deficiency and malabsorption. In my experience, zinc is the third most common deficiency in those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
- Vitamin C – This vitamin is an essential nutrient often times found low in patients with celiac or gluten sensitivity. It is crucial for the production of strong collagen fibers (again – collagen is necessary for hair growth). It also helps contribute to adequate blood circulation to the hair follicles. Low levels of vitamin C can cause hair loss, easy bruising, lowered antioxidant function, anemia, and increased risk for infections. Most forms of vitamin C produced in the U.S. are made from corn.
- Protein – Adequate protein is essential for the proper growth of hair. Because the standard dietary advice of most doctors is to avoid red meat and eat more whole grain, the average American gets too many carbs and no where near enough protein. Protein is found in animal meats and vegetables. Grain based proteins have poor nutritional value. Protein is essential for growth and repair of bodily tissues.
- Omega-3 Fats – These fats are essential nutrients that must come from the diet. They are important for keeping the hair and scalp hydrated. These fats help give hair it’s sheen. Omega -3 is also an important component of every cell membrane in your body. These fats also help to control and regulate inflammation. Dietary sources include cold water fish (farm raised fish not included) and walnuts. Contrary to popular belief, beef also contains omega 3 fats - provided it is grass fed.
Always looking out for you,
Dr. O – AKA the Gluten Free Warrior
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