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My Experiments With Diet, Hair Loss, And Veganism
When I was first diagnosed with pattern hair loss, I immediately bought some Rogaine and started low-level laser therapy. When those treatments failed to regrow any hair, I turned my attention to diet.
In no particular order, here’s a list of diets I’ve tried (and for how long):
- Standard American diet (20+ years)
- Vegetarianism (1+ years)
- Low carbohydrate paleo (4 months)
- Raw meat diet (3 months)
- Jack LaLanne diet (3+ months)
- Gerson Therapy (2 months)
- Low Nitrate (2 months)
- Low FODMAP (3 months)
- Low FODMAP paleo (3 months)
- Danny Roddy / Ray Peat (6 months)
- Moderate carbohydrate paleo (3+ years)
- Veganism (3 months)
- Gluten-free veganism (1 month)
This doesn’t include experimental supplements or eating habits – like calorie restriction (3 months) or intermittent fasting (1+ years). So after years of dieting, what’s my biggest takeaway?
Certain diets are no good for my hair. Of the worst offenders: a vegan diet (veganism).
Veganism might have its benefits for longevity and (some) cancer prevention. But when it comes to hair regrowth, my vegan experience was a disaster.
This article uncovers my pathway to veganism, my blood work, the diet’s impact on my hair, and new research unveiling the dangers of vegan diets for thyroid (and hair) health.
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The Road To Veganism Is Filled With Good Intentions
In college I took a few nutrition courses and realized what I’d been putting into my body for 20+ years (the Standard American diet) probably wasn’t helping my academics, athletics, or hair.
Then I read the book The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner. The book uncovers the world’s longest living populations – aptly labeling where each lives a “Blue Zone”. Then the author analyzes what each zone has in common. According to the book, the secret to a long life is…
- …having a strong sense of community
- …moving naturally (lots of walking and yard work)
- …resting and napping often
- …eating low levels of meat
That last bullet point concerned me. I was devouring meat daily. At this point, I’d also been losing my hair for years.
If longevity is associated with low meat consumption, was meat also associated with hair loss?
I decided to find out, so I became a vegetarian. I replaced my meat-heavy diet with more vegetables and pastas. I started eating only organic foods. I still ate eggs and cheese, so technically I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian. But I figured any decreased meat consumption might help my hair.
After a year, I hadn’t noticed any changes in my rate of hair loss. I was still thinning, and just as fast as before. I figured maybe I wasn’t being extreme enough. Maybe I needed to take vegetarianism one step further.
Things changed when I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives.
From Vegetarian To Vegan – All For Hair Health
Forks Over Knives is a documentary about “The China Study” – a collection of research showing an association between plant-based diets, decreased heart disease, and increased longevity. The gist of the film:
- “First world” diseases (diabetes, heart disease, autoimmunity) are almost nonexistent in places where animal protein is rarely consumed
- A plant-based diet devoid of animal protein might prevent and reverse these diseases. All you need to do: become a vegan
I didn’t yet care about longevity or heart health. I just wanted my hair back. And then the film’s narrators made a comment that really caught my attention:
Forks Over Knives also eluded to hair loss as a first world disease.
The argument: Americans eat a lot of meat. In fact, Americans eat more meat than almost all other countries.
The film states that increased meat consumption might be associated with hair loss. Their evidence:
- With the introduction of “Western” foods in China also came an increase in pattern hair loss in China.
- Current generations of Hawaiian men (allegedly) experience more hair loss now than before. This trend started around the time Hawaiians deviated from their native plant-based diets and toward a meat-heavy diet.
Obviously those observations are anecdotal (and yet to be proven). But they still terrified me. I’d been losing my hair for years. I’d been eating tons of animal protein my whole life. And I just finished watching a documentary suggesting that all this animal protein was the reason why I was losing my hair.
What did I do? I stopped being a vegetarian. I started being a vegan.
My Vegan Diet Protocol
I didn’t skimp out on veganism. If I was going to do it, I was going to do it right. I was already a vegetarian, so I immediately implemented the following changes:
- No more dairy, ever
- No more refined grains. Whole grains only
- No more conventionally grown foods. Organic foods only
- Tons of dark leafy greens. I even bought a Vitamix blender to make morning smoothies
- Regularly rotate grains (oatmeal, quinoa, brown white, whole grain pasta, etc.)
- Regularly rotate vegetables, roots, tubers, fruits, legumes, and seeds
I also kept my calorie count just as high – between 2,500-3,000 calories daily (I’m 6’4″ and 195 pounds).
The shift from vegetarian to vegan felt like a massive dietary overhaul. Moreover, high quality vegan food was much more expensive than my regular diet. But I didn’t care. I was willing to fork over the extra cash and forgo cheese, animal products, and other food cravings… Because this was the diet that would give me my hair back.
But did a vegan diet regrow my hair? Here’s a breakdown of my three-month vegan experience. After that, we’ll dive into my blood work.
My Experience On A Vegan Diet – Hormones, Health, And Hair
I felt incredible. I had high energy. I was waking up early. I was moving around a lot. I felt more alert. I felt better focused.
Things started going downhill. I started waking up feeling very cold. My hands and feet were perpetual icicles. I also noticed my hair was shedding more rapidly than before.
I started measuring my oral temperature. Most people’s temperatures rest at 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit around mid-day. My waking temperature was between 95.7 and 96.2 degrees.
At the two-month mark I noticed a shift in my energy. I felt as if my emotional range had become muted. I noticed I’d also become less interested in engaging with people. I felt even colder. My hair shedding was still accelerating.
Two-and-a-half months in, I experienced an abnormally bad acne flare-up. I’d had acne in the past. But this flare-up reminded me of my worst days in high school.
Then just before the three-month mark, I noticed something else… It was the peak of the summer, and contrary to previous years, I hadn’t gotten any tanner. In fact, I looked pasty white, as if I’d been bunkered inside all winter.
This was odd. I was a very active person. I spent a ton of time outdoors – especially during warm months – and I tan relatively easily. But here I was, in the middle of the summer, as pale as a ghost, feeling cold all the time, and with arguably less hair than three months prior.
I felt like I was falling apart.
According to everything I’d read, veganism was the diet the “longest living” people ate. Veganism was supposed to be the diet that (might) prevent more hair loss.
But three months into going vegan, I felt colder, looked paler, had more acne, and was shedding like crazy. Why?
Evaluating My Progress – Turning To Blood Work
At the advice of my doctor, I ordered the a complete blood count, thyroid panel, and tests for vitamin D and B-12.
I tested within normal ranges for almost everything… with a few exceptions.
Below are my notable results – where I missed the mark, and what I learned from each data point:
Thyroid Panel – Results
I’ve written about the importance of thyroid health here. The thyroid is our body’s center for hormone regulation. If our thyroid is consistently under- or over-active, this can result in prolonged hormonal imbalances that may eventually culminate into hair loss. Needless to say, a healthy thyroid is critical for healthy hair.
My thyroid panel tested my Free T3, Free T4, and TSH levels. Here are my results.
The first column is the test, the second column is my numbers, and the third column is the “normal” ranges.
Based on the established ranges, my Free T3, Free T4, and TSH are all normal. According to this data, 99% of doctors would probably say my thyroid is functioning just fine.
But does this panel alone tell the complete story of my thyroid health? No. In fact, when we consider other data points, just the opposite is true.
Beyond Thyroid Panels – Using Temperature, Pulse, And Blood Pressure To Gauge Thyroid Function
Before thyroid panels were widely adopted, doctors used body temperature, resting pulse rate, and even blood pressure to assess thyroid function. Some researchers still believe these measurements provide a better gauge of thyroid health. Why?
- Thyroid blood panels are highly variable. Results are influenced by your food intake hours prior and the time of day you get your blood drawn.
- Thyroid blood panels are just snapshots of thyroid function at one moment. They don’t show long-term trends.
- Oral temperature and pulse rate can be taken daily. It’s cheaper, easier, and allows you to track any trends.
So based on these secondary metrics, what qualifies someone as having “normal” thyroid function?
- Oral temperature – between 98.2 – 98.8 degrees Fahrenheit before lunch
- Resting pulse – between 65-85 beats per minute
- Blood pressure – the established normal ranges for your age, weight, and height
If your pulse and temperature are consistently lower, you might be hypothyroid (a low functioning thyroid). If they’re consistently higher, you might be hyperthyroid (an overactive thyroid). For blood pressure, both low and high readings have been reported in cases of hypothyroidism.
Remember – I’d been tracking my oral temperature daily for a few weeks by now. And I got my pulse and blood pressure checked at my doctor’s visit. So how did I stack up?
- My daily waking oral temperature was consistently between 95.7-96.2 degrees Fahrenheit
- My pulse rate was in the low 50’s bpm
- My blood pressure was 103/62 mm Hg
That’s not good. All three of these metrics suggest I might be hypothyroid.
Now let’s look at some of the symptoms associated with hypothyroidism:
- Poor circulation to the extremities (cold hands / feet)
- Brain fog
- Lack of energy
- Increased hair loss
- Unusually low blood pressure
Since going vegan, I’d developed all those symptoms. With the exception of my thyroid panel, all other signs indicate I’m hypothyroid…
But it’s not fair to draw any conclusions just yet, so let’s look at more data.
Complete Blood Count – Results
Two areas of concern showed up on my complete blood count.
The first column is the test. The second is my results. The third are the ranges.
Based on the normative data, I had…
- High monocytes
- Low lymphocytes
Why is this significant?
The Monocyte-Thyroid Connection
Well, monocytes are a type of white blood cell. They fight off invading microbes, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. If your complete blood count is relatively high in monocytes (like mine was), your body might be fighting…
But according to the research, what else is associated with a high monocyte percentage?
Again, that’s not good. My thyroid panel says my thyroid is fine, but four other data points suggest I’m hypothyroid (in addition to all my symptoms that mirror hypothyroidism).
Changing gears, what can I glean from my low lymphocyte count?
The Lymphocyte-Diet Connection
Lymphocytes are smaller white blood cells found throughout our lymphatic system. They’re critical to maintaining proper immune function.
According to the literature, what historically triggers low lymphocyte counts?
- Low-protein diets
Anything stand out here?
On a vegan diet, my protein intake significantly decreased.
If low-protein diets are associated with low lymphocyte counts, could my vegan diet explain why my lymphocytes are low?
In fairness, I didn’t get a complete blood count before going vegan. So I can’t say for sure. But based on my symptoms and the supporting data, my guess is the two are related.
Finally, there’s one last test where I tested borderline out-of-range: my vitamin D levels.
Vitamin D Levels – Results
My doctor decided to measure my vitamin D by testing my 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels. Now I know you might say there are limitations to using 25(OH)D as a measurement for vitamin D status. Those comments are warranted. But nowadays, 25(OH)D is the standard test (for better or worse) to determine someone’s vitamin D status.
So what were my 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels? According to my results, I was borderline deficient:
A vitamin D deficiency is often marked as anything lower than 30 ng/mL, with optimal ranges between 30-100 ng/mL. I was sitting at 30.6 ng/mL… Just barely inside the normal range.
Again, most doctors would read these results and say, “You’re fine.” And again, this isn’t necessarily true.
Research now suggests that optimum 25(OH)D levels might be much higher than 30 ng/mL. Some researchers even believe that a deficiency should be marked for anyone under 40 ng/mL.
Given the split of opinions among researchers, it’s safe to say that being on the low side of the most “forgiving” vitamin D scale is probably no good for health. And that’s exactly where I was sitting… In the middle of summer.
So is a vitamin D deficiency associated with veganism? And is a vitamin D deficiency associated with hair loss?
The Vegan-Vitamin D-Hair Loss Connection
Research shows that vitamin D levels are 74% lower in vegans than in omnivores. This is because…
- Fish and animal products contain the highest amounts of dietary vitamin D. Vegan diets are devoid of both.
- Vegan diets are predominantly high carbohydrate, low fat. Without enough fat or fat-soluble vitamins, your body doesn’t synthesize as much vitamin D from natural sun exposure. This can make you vitamin D deficient.
Let’s elaborate on that second point.
Our bodies can make vitamin D from sun exposure. But this only happens at a good efficiency when we also ingest vitamin D adjuncts and cofactors necessary for its metabolism and synthesis. These are minerals like magnesium and calcium, and fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, E, and K.
Most vegan diets are also low-fat. When we eat low fat diets, we not only ingest fewer fat-soluble vitamins, but we also have less fat to process any fat-soluble vitamins we’ve ingested.
The end-result: poorer vitamin D synthesis, paler-looking vegans, and vitamin D deficiency.
Now let’s put this into context:
During my summer of veganism, I remained pasty white (despite tanning well all previous summers). Research suggests that our bodies tan, in part, to protect against vitamin D toxicity.
Since I was pale as a ghost, this suggests my vitamin D levels might be lower than normal. And reading into my test results, it’s no wonder my symptoms match the research. Let’s summarize:
- As a vegan, I was eating low fat, low protein (fewer fat-soluble vitamins)
- Vitamin D levels are 74% lower in vegans than in meat eaters
- As a vegan, my blood tests suggested I was borderline deficient in vitamin D
So veganism can contribute to a vitamin D deficiency.
But does a vitamin D deficiency contribute to hair loss?
The answer: yes.
Low Vitamin D Is Associated With Hair Loss In Both Men And Women
Women 18-45 suffering from sudden onset hair loss tend to have low vitamin D2 levels. And in men and women, a vitamin D deficiency is closely associated with hypothyroidism – of which one of the symptoms is hair loss.
Moreover, some research suggests that vitamin D3 might be a necessary mediator for the generation of new hair follicles (read: hair regrowth). Without it, hair regrowth might be much harder (or impossible) to achieve.
So let’s review:
- Since going vegan, my hair loss increased
- Since going vegan, my vitamin D levels tested borderline deficient
- Vitamin D deficiency is associated with both hypothyroidism and hair loss.
No wonder why my shedding was getting out of control.
Summary: As A Vegan, I Went Hypothyroid And Lost More Hair
While on a vegan diet, I had…
- A low waking body temperature (suggests hypothyroidism)
- A low pulse rate (suggests hypothyroidism)
- High monocytes (suggests hypothyroidism)
- Low lymphocytes (symptom of a low-protein diet)
- Low vitamin D levels (connected to hypothyroidism)
Given the research, these findings seem to explain my symptoms of hypothyroidism and increased hair thinning.
It was clear: a vegan diet wasn’t going to regrow my hair, and a vegan diet definitely wasn’t working for me.
My Transition Away From Veganism
I eventually transitioned away from veganism, but I kept experimenting with new diets. I still am today.
For the past few years, I’ve had success with a modified moderate carbohydrate paleo-based diet. For me, that’s the diet that seems to minimize any systemic inflammation and keep my thyroid healthy.
Since my transition away from veganism…
- My monocytes and lymphocytes are back within normal ranges
- My temperature before lunch is now consistently 98.2+ degrees Fahrenheit
- My vitamin D levels (in the form of 25(OH)D) have doubled
Since I stopped being vegan, my symptoms of hypothyroidism have also vanished. No longer do I wake up cold, have chronically frigid hands and feet, or suffer from nagging brain fog and low energy. And I get tan in the summers.
So does a vegan diet reverse hair loss?
For me, veganism accelerated my hair loss. Based on my experience with the diet (and my experience with other readers), I’ve found veganism might help with longevity, but might be disastrous for our hair.
My Advice For Vegans Suffering From Hair Loss
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan and are losing your hair, your diet may not be helping. But there’s only one way to find out. You need to get some data.
- Start measuring your oral temperature and resting pulse rate
- Test your vitamin D levels
- Test your vitamin B-12 levels (not mentioned in this article, but still just as important)
- Track any symptoms of hypothyroidism
- Consider broader blood tests to gauge other vitamin, nutrient, or mineral deficiencies
If you’re consistently within range on oral temperature, resting pulse rate, vitamin D levels, vitamin B-12 levels, and all other vitamins, nutrients, and minerals… Then maybe your hair loss isn’t diet-related. Maybe a vegan diet is working for you.
But if you test out-of-range anywhere, be willing to experiment. Be willing to change your diet to obtain better nutrition. Be willing to explore diet as a tool to improve your hair health.
A Vegan Diet Accelerated My Hair Loss, But I Am Only One Person
There are people out there who thrive as vegans. I’m not one of them, but I’m just one person.
I don’t want to tell you how to eat or not eat. I’m here to tell you about my experiences fighting hair loss, so that you don’t make my same mistakes.
There are too many factors to prescribe one single diet to the entire world. Genes, gene expression, microbiota, environment, and lifestyle all determine how well we can handle any one diet.
But to find out which diet will make you thrive, you have to experiment. Otherwise, you’ll never know.
Final Thoughts On The Vegan-Hypothyroid-Hair Loss Connection
It’s important to never fall into the dogmatic thinking of, “My diet is the best and I’m not changing it.” Every month, new research emerges that both supports and condemns every single diet imaginable. Just look at all the diets I tried. And guess what? I’m still testing. The moment I stop testing is the moment I stop being objective.
With that said, I’ve worked with hundreds of hair loss sufferers. A small handful of them were vegans who were unwilling to experiment with other diets. None of these people regrew any hair. Not a single one. So does a vegan diet reverse hair loss? Based on my experience, not at all.
Rob English is a researcher, medical editor, and the founder of perfecthairhealth.com. He acts as a peer reviewer for scholarly journals and has published five peer-reviewed papers on androgenic alopecia. He writes regularly about the science behind hair loss (and hair growth). Feel free to browse his long-form articles and publications throughout this site.
90 thoughts on “Vegan Diet For Hair Loss? My Personal Experience”
Are you testing a moderate carbohydrate paleo now?
Yes – I’ve been experimenting with moderate carbohydrate paleo for the last few years (with some modifications). For a hair and hormonal perspective, I find it’s a way better diet for my system.
Do you have sex/release semen often?
I think your real question is, “Does masturbation cause hair loss?” I haven’t seen any evidence to suggest that, within normal ranges, masturbation or sex causes any problems with hair. For reference, there are some cultures where groups of people abstain from sex/masturbation for decades. And there’s evidence that those abstaining still go bald during that period of abstinence. So at least at the argument’s end points, there’s really no debating.
With that said, I’ve heard anecdotes of people improving their sense of well-being (and even seeing short but significant testosterone boosts) from abstinence. But these effects appear to be short-lived.
Do women need to supplement vitamin d2 or d3? My vitamin d is super low, it was at 3 last year. I have been taking 10,000 iu of d3 a day for a month or so and maybe two weeks in, the level increased to 14. But I have seen no change in my hair. I have lost 70% of my overall hair and the front and sides are the worst. The hair there simply stopped growing back. I have been using nizoral, just added a salicylic acid shampoo, taking grapeseed extract as well as the vitamin d and also a hair supplement that has saw palmetto and beta sitosterol. My hair looks thinner than ever. Can you please email me and tell me what to do? I am afraid your book will not work for me. I had thyroid tested, told it was normal. My doctor is not very helpful. I know I have elevated testosterone, I may have pcos. I was pre diabetic but the blood sugar numbers improved since taking the supplements. I have some mild hirsutism as well. I tried spearmint tea for a few weeks, no change.I want my hair back. I don’t want to take spiro bc I read that it can ruin your whole cycle and mine is normal so I don’t want to make anything worse. I was considering asking my dr for tagamet since it has been proven to be an anti androgen. I try to massage my scalp but it doesn’t make hair grow back. So I feel quite hopeless at this point. Also, grapeseed extract is anti inflammatory so it should be helping but its not. What should I do? Every day my hair looks thinner. I am not vegan. I have been eating terribly, tons of sugar and carbs so I am trying to quit this. But I am doubtful that avoiding those foods will regrow my hair. Please email me to tell me what to dO. I really can’t afford a naturopathic doctor.
Thanks for reaching out, and I’m sorry to hear about your situation.
RE: foods and hair regrowth–
I agree with you. I don’t think avoiding (or adding) certain foods will help regrow hair either – at least in most cases. Most research suggests that diet is limited to only slowing or arresting hair loss. It often takes measures beyond diet (like mechanical stimulation in the form of massaging or microneedling) to achieve actual regrowth. And even with those measures, they need to be implemented correctly.
RE: vitamin D–
I don’t advocate for a D2 or D3 supplement. Instead, I opt for natural sunlight. Beyond vitamin D synthesis, sunlight helps with immunity, hormonal balance through a variety of other mechanisms (for instance, the promotion of capillary nitric oxide). If you have access to it, try to get in the sun as often as possible. It’s also important that your exposure is in the absence of glass so that you receive the full UVA/UVB spectrum.
As far as your thyroid blood tests, those are rarely an accurate portrayal of real thyroid function. Please take my own case study above (the article) as an example.
Given the complexity of your remaining questions, I think the best option is to sign up for the email course I offer. It’s free, and it’s designed to familiarize you with my research and my feelings on what you’ve already mentioned (supplements, androgen blockers, DHT, shampoos, topicals, etc.). The course should answer your questions (and much more robustly than I can in this comments section). You can find sign-ups on this page or on the front page of the website.
All my best,
Would a low resting heart rate by itself be suspected in hypothyroidism? I am a lifelong runner and my resting heart rate is in the mid-50s (age too ;>) I also got a low Vitamin D Hydroxy despite getting out in the Sun between 10-2 running at least 6 days a week so my doctor suggested taking D3 2000 IUs for a few months. I have had hypothyroidism for some time but it’s in control through Synthroid.
Thanks for reaching out. If you only have a low resting heart rate but no other symptoms, I don’t think heart rate alone is enough to suggest hypothyroidism. But based on your other symptoms (low vitamin D and hypothyroidism diagnosis), it’s possible that your low heart rate is connected.
When I was doing endurance training, I remember it being a competition among teammates how low our heart rates could be. My lowest recorded resting heart rate was 43 bpm. I even had teammates that measuring in the high 30’s. I used to think that low heart rate was a measure of fitness, but after learning more, I now perceive low heart rate much differently.
In any case, it makes sense that you might have a low resting heart rate – especially since you’ve been a lifelong runner. As you point out, many trained athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates. It gets hard to differentiate whether this is a function of fitness or thyroid suppression – as over-training (in the form of chronic cardio) can often precipitate the same conditions.
I wrote an article series about exercise, thyroid, and hair health here:
you mention that prelunch time body temp should be around 98.2-98.8. What about the early morning one? I find that mine is around 97.2 now at around 7am, it actually has increased by .2-.4 degrees from about 96.8 starting a month ago when I cut out grains/gluten.
At which level should one expect the morning temp to stabilize and how long would it take to get there? From my research it appears that it may take up to half a year for the body to recalibrate once gluten is out of the system but it would be interesting to hear from a practical experience.
That’s great to hear about your temperature increase (and just from cutting out gluten). As far as early morning oral temperature – it’s harder to find data on this. Some doctors even say that the range I stated in the article (98.2 – 98.8) is where your waking oral temperature should be. However, I’ve found for me personally, hitting this temperature is highly dependent on:
1) How much sleep I got the night prior (the less sleep, the lower my waking oral temperature)
2) How many hours ago my last meal was (the later I eat at night, the higher my waking temperature)
3) Whether someone is a mouth breather (it sounds ridiculous, but mouth breathers’ oral temperatures tend to be lower in the morning since their mouths are wide open all night).
So for these reasons, it’s my opinion that measuring temperature before lunch is a better overall gauge. At least this seems to be the case for me.
Interesting that you mentioned mouth breathing, it is actually a big thing and it is something that I had to tackle a year ago. Apparently, mouth breathing leads to a huge imbalance of CO2/O2, meaning, the CO2 drops too low, and since body uses CO2 levels as a gauge of oxygen saturation, that can lead to a host of problems.
In other words, if your CO2 is low, the oxygen absorption also drops and mouth breathing leads to something called ‘hyperventilation’ where too much CO2 get expelled. Mouth breathers often explain their mouth breathing habit (or at least I did) by the fact that their noses are chronically congested but that is in fact the body’s deliberate reaction to prevent the CO2 loss. By blocking the nose the respiratory system is trying to get the CO2 levels back on track.
Training myself to breath nasally was easy enough during the day but in order not to slip back into mouth breathing at night I had to tape my mouth for about three months every night.
I am not too sure if that helped my hair loss but since then I started to sleep noticeably better without having to wake up to go to the toilet to take a slash several times a night. I do not get a blocked nose any more and did not get any colds worth talking about in a year and half.
That’s incredible! Thanks for sharing your experience. I also used to sleep at night with my mouth open, but never thought to actually tape it shut. And I can attest to your claims about the nasal passages – I had the same problem.
Wow, I could have written that paragraph myself. I had exactly the same problem with mouth breathing, vastly improved with taping my mouth shut. Sleep quality is significantly improved. (Read The Oxygen Advantage)
I am intrigued about how it may affect long-term O2/CO2 metabolism, and perhaps even hair health…
There are some (including Danny Roddy and Ray Peat) who would argue that hair loss is another end pathway for impaired oxygen metabolism at a cellular level.
You should check out the Frolov device, used extensively in Russia for improving CO2/O2 metabolism and allegedly improving a host of respiratory conditions.
What was your experience with the Danny Roddy protocol? Did it benefit you at all? I am really interested in reading your response and if you stopped following it what kind of diet are you on now ? Thanks! Really appreciate it
I’m currently settled on a moderate carbohydrate paleo diet (with modifications), but I experimented with a Danny Roddy-inspired diet for six months. I didn’t share the same success as others did, but I also didn’t give his recommendations a fair enough shot. I’ll explain:
1) I never got blood work while trying his diet
2) I never consulted Danny for coaching, so it’s unfair of me to criticize it. As far as I’m aware, Danny Roddy makes recommendations for each individual. He could’ve looked at my blood work and made food recommendations I wasn’t including, or told me to exclude certain staple foods of his that I decided to eat.
With that said, a few years back I did try the staple Danny Roddy / Ray Peat diet (milk, sugar, orange juice, coffee, gelatin, organ meats, ice cream, cottage cheese, eggshell calcium, etc.).
Over the course of six months, I saw a resurgence of acne and no reduction in the rate of my hair loss.
Aside from not consulting Danny, I attribute my lacking success to two hurdles – both stemming from the diet’s staple foods: orange juice, milk, cottage cheese, ice cream, and eggs.
Problem #1: Most Of The Diet Is Liquid Or Near-Liquid Calories.
Liquid food stays in your mouth for only a few seconds before being swallowed.
When you chew solid food, you release saliva, and inside your saliva are digestive enzymes that begin the process of digestion. Salivary amylase begins the breakdown of carbohydrates. Lingual lipase begins the breakdown of fats. There are also a few other salivary-based enzymes that help stave off bacteria and viruses, as well assist in vitamin B-12 absorption.
The more you chew, the more you salivate, the more enzymes you release. Chewing is the first step in the digestive process, and without chewing, you can’t fully breakdown (or in some cases metabolize) your food.
Now think of milk, orange juice, ice cream, cottage cheese, and even eggs. These are staples in a Ray Peat-inspired diet. These stay in your mouth for mere seconds before being swallowed. This means you’re probably not exposing these foods to a lot of saliva, which means you’re probably not fully digesting them or reaping the full benefits of their nutrients.
That’s not to say this is a problem for everyone. It might’ve just been a problem for me.
Problem #2: I’m Allergic To Many Of The Staple Foods.
I’m also allergic to dairy and eggs – the two main staples of the diet. But to be specific, I tend to only have issues with pasteurized dairy and chicken eggs. Raw dairy and duck eggs are less problematic for me. At the time I was trying the diet, I didn’t have consistent access to raw dairy or duck eggs. I often resorted to whatever was available in my grocery store, and that ended up causing me inflammation (indigestion, acne, etc.).
Again, I could’ve done a better job with the diet, but I was working with limited resources. In any case, my experience on the Danny Roddy diet is really only applicable to me. If you want to know for certain if it’s helpful, you’ll have to try it yourself!
For the most part, I agree with Danny Roddy’s diet (at least from what I’ve read), but I have different feelings about omega 6 and omega 3 minimization, certain vegetables, table sugar in excess, antibiotic use, aspirin / NSAID’s, and liberal ingestion of dairy (among others). I also make an argument for certain lifestyle changes that aren’t 100% aligned with Danny Roddy / Ray Peat’s recommendations (for example, cold showers and moderate exercise).
Thanks for the reply. What does that moderate carb paleo diet look like ?
Hey Michael – the diet is outlined (in detail) in the book. A takeaway I can share here is that I stay out of ketosis – meaning I consume 150+ grams of carbohydrates per day (depending on my activity level). That’s different from many paleo-based diets. There are also additional restrictions to certain food groups I’ve found problematic, or that research indicates could be problematic for those suffering from hair loss.
interesting take on your experience with veganism and its affect on your hair loss/growth journey.
I’ve been vegan for 16 years, and meat-free for 20 years (I’m 33). So I personally couldn’t imagine going back to being a meat-eater, or even just a vegetarian since I went vegetarian, and then vegan for only ethical reasons.
When I went vegan at 17, my skin cleared up, most likely due to cutting out dairy, and my increase in fruits and vegetables.
However, I started to notice hair in my bathroom sink when I washed my hair.
In the 16 years I’ve been vegan, I noticed many vegans, both men and women, have very bad hair (brittle, thin, lifeless), and many vegan men are bald or receding.
Prior to going vegan, I use to have very thick hair, so I suspect there is a vegan-hair loss connection.
Supplement-wise, I take 30,000 UI vitamin D3 everyday, along with 1gram of L-Carnosine, tumeric 500mg, ginkgo, zinc citrate, magnesium 600mg, vitamin A, vitamin K2 600mg, vegan omega 3 DHA 600mg & EPA 400mg, kelp which provides 660% RDA iodine, vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) 1gm, and resveratrol 500mg to 1gm.
I also take 6mg of Boron which increases T levels in men significantly.
Perhaps I missed it, but I didn’t see any mention of alkalinity in your e-book. If calcification is essentially trapping tissue-DHT in the scalp, then wouldn’t an acidic diet lead to hair loss?
The Western diet is very acidic, whether it be plant or meat-based, especially due to all the “synthetic” food which is typically acidic.
So the blood becomes acidic when consuming acidic food and drink, causing calcium to be leached from the bones. Leading to calcification, and thus hair loss.
So perhaps there is a connection between osteoporosis, kidney stones, and hair loss?
Also, this is just an observation, but in all my years going to various gyms, I’ve noticed men who body build are more likely to be bald than the more atheletic runner-type men.
On top of my supplements, I also have two smoothies per day, with at least 1 lemon, 1/4 cucumber, and a handfull of spinach to maintain alkaline blood levels. I also thrown in a hand full of pumpkin seeds and dark chia seeds, but it’s too early say if there are any benefits for my hair from the seeds. And I throw in 2 scoops of vegan pea protein powder (reflex).
I know that vegan, vegetarian and just the typical Western diet has far too much omega 6, causing increased inflammation, which can contribute to hair loss. So I am increasing my intake of DHA and EPA, especially when considering that our brains shrink every year by 1% after the age of 20. Plus tumeric which combats inflammation.
In addition, vegan diets have far too much high GI foods, which lead to higher rates of gylcation than meat-eaters or vegetarians. This something more often seen in diabetics due to their lack of insulin.
So I take 500mg to 1gm of carnosine per day, and am going to include chromium which is needed for glucose tolerance factor to help reduce blood sugar levels, along with vinegar and cinnamon.
I avoid pasta, bread and noodles, but still consume the odd vegan pastries, and still have tofu. Along with sweet potatoes and rice as my primary source of carbs which I have with vinegar as it inhibits the enzyme that breaks starchy food down into sugars (probably amylase).
I am noticing that with the daily 10-15 minute scalp massages, the supplement routine, and the smoothies all started just 1 month ago, there is hair growth, slow, but noticeable. That’s inspite of ceasing my daily minoxidil treatment a month ago. Though I have noticed shedding, possibly I’m being too aggressive in my scalp massage.
I never used propecia, but on a side note, I think all the DHT inhibitors are a waste of money, whether they be propecia, saw palmetto, or nettle. Topical application might help a bit though, like 1-5% at best.
So, I think a low-GI, high alkaline, low omega 6/high omega 3, diet combined with scalp massage, and the supplements mentioned are optimal for hair growth.
Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your regimen (and your story).
RE: acid/alkaline diets–
I’ve found there’s mixed evidence on the theories supporting (and the benefits of) an alkaline-based diet. In the future, I plan on writing an article about this – and I’ll be sure to notify you when it’s ready. I’ll be sure to address any kidney stone-osteoperosis-hair loss connection as well.
Congratulations on seeing early hair progress! I’m really looking forward to hearing / seeing your regrowth over the year. I think that part this might be a result of your supplement regimen. I’m sure any nutrient / vitamin deficiencies you could’ve developed as vegan are already heavily mitigated by your daily intake of vitamin D, iodine, B-12, magnesium, K2, etc. Supplementation is one thing I didn’t do while going vegan – and I’m open to believing it could’ve made all the difference for me.
Please keep and touch and continue sharing!
Thank you for your experience. From what little info that was included on your diet it sounds like you are still eating some inflammatory foods with the pastries. I am convinced that by removing all dairy, gluten, processed sugars and foods, caffeine, and perhaps soaked legumes are the answer but can’t figure out the meat part. I so want to believe in the raw vegan or even just vegan diet and it sounds like success is seen in a few but the regrowrh happens over a longer period of time as many of the people I follow are raw vegan so they are anti supplements. I don’t want to go paleo but don’t want to be 100% bald. 70% bald is more than enough to change my mind to go to meats.
I think I might try AIP Paleo and once my gut is healed then see if I can return to a whole foods based vegan diet. I think that vegan IS possible but much more time and work is needed to find balance. Fruits, veggies, and some fats. I am just not sure and want some success and guidance on that path.
Thank you for your reply. I have signed up for your email course and have received a few emails already. I am waiting to see what’s next to tell me what I should try next. One of the last emails I received was about using a derma roller as well as scalp massage. I understand that this works for some people but I have a lot of doubts that this will work for me. Do you use the derma roller over your entire head? I imagine that this will be difficult, as I do have pretty long hair. Do you pull the hair back and then roll, so that you don’t get tangled up? As I said, my hair is quite long and tangles very easily, and it has become stringier since I have lost so much, which means even more tangling. Since most men have shorter hair, its probably alot easier to use the derma roller. Do you have any videos that show exactly how to use the derma roller and how exactly to do the scalp massage?
Do you have any female hair regrowth success stories? How about any success stories for regrowing the front and sides/hairline and temples? A lot of the regrowth successes I have seen online seem to only be in regrowing the crown. In your photos, it looks as though you have a lot of hair and only had a relatively small patch that was thinning. I can’t understand why a guy would only have a small bald patch but a girl like me would be thinning so much at the front and sides. You have way more testosterone than I do. I believe that mine was actually within a normal range, just on the higher side of it.
Can you also please tell me what you think about Danny Roddy and Ray Peat’s recommendation to avoid all PUFA’s, while I have seen studies that say that fish oil, black currant seed oil, borage oil have been proven to regrow hair? I am scared to try any of these essential fatty acids bc of reading Ray Peat’s site. I am worried I will lose even more hair.
There are other microneedling options you can explore – like the dermapen or dermastamp. These are easier to use for people with long hair since these stamp rather than roll, meaning they snag less. The videos inside the book packages detail the exact massage techniques of myself and the first book’s best responders (it’s a 15-minute video). There are detailed explanations about dermarolling in the book as well (pressure, duration, what to look for to know you’re doing it right, etc.).
RE: women success stories–
I wish I had an opportunity to work with more women, as 99% of people who read the book are men. The methods outlined in the book (to reverse scalp calcification and fibrosis) should work for both men and women. There have been two women who’ve read the book and stayed in contact with me since their purchase. One reported an arrest in hair thinning by month four (and then thickening at the six-month mark). The other reported significant hair thickening starting around month eight.
RE: Danny Roddy recommendations to avoid all PUFA–
In general, I think it’s a great idea to minimize PUFA consumption. With that said, I still eat seafood and am an advocate for more of an omega 6:3 balance versus complete minimization. I’d be curious to see the studies you’re referencing, as I’ve only seen those studies done on mice. In my opinion, fats / oils that are solid at room temperature (lower PUFA count) have been shown to reap more thickening / regrowth. You’ll get an email in a few days that highlights one of these.
Its strange to think how a vegan diet can claim to be good for a healthy long life, if it causes hair loss.One of the first signs of the body not functioning efficiently is the condition of the hair and if its weak, brittle and falling out too much then somethings were doing something wrong.
By the way I know you like too try out different diets in order to see if it affects you in a positive way. Have you tried the rna diet by Benjamin Franks. Its worth checking out. Thanks for all the e-mails and research you have done
Hey Sofiya – thanks for the information. I haven’t tried the Benjamin Franks diet but have scheduled some time later today to read more about it. Thank you!
I respect the work you do and the amount of work you put in for all your research. But from how I understand human body doesnt work like a switch. In other words if you do something with your diet, it doesnt draw the results overnight. It takes months, sometimes years. The results you are drawing from a certain diet might as well be the consequences of certain diet you followed earlier or could be associated with some kind of other activity. Drawing to such extreme conclusions might be extreme in my opinion but wth I am not a scientist. So I would like you to consider all factors before you come up with conclusions. Again, thank you for all the work and effort you put in to change lives and I hope you continue doing the work you do.
Hey Ak – thanks for your comments and the kind words.
RE: the consequences of a previous diet–
It’s definitely possible! I was a vegetarian for a year before going vegan, and some of my problems could’ve manifested during that period. They also could’ve started while I was eating a Standard American Diet for 20+ years prior. There’s no way of knowing for sure.
RE: drawing extreme conclusions about veganism–
I don’t want to come across as generalizing or extreme. This article is more about my experience than anything. Some people thrive on a vegan diet (as mentioned in the article). I’m just not one of them.
With that said, I tend to standby my conclusions about veganism because of my blood markers and my sudden onset of symptoms that coincided with the dietary shift. What’s even more interesting is that my symptoms of hypothyroidism (and later, my blood markers) returned to normal and just within a few months of abandoning the diet. This is enough evidence for me to suggest veganism was a significant contributor to my hypothyroidism, increased shedding, low vitamin D, etc. Otherwise, I would’ve suspected these problems to persist after abandoning the diet.
Great article. I am vegetarian and have small amounts of tuna,halibut 6oz per week. First you need to.do IGG food sensitivity blood test to knkw what foods your immune system rejects..
If you go vegan, you must take 5-8,000 vitamin d….I use carlson drops for that. I take spiralina as the mult for b12 but add another suplemennt for added folic and b12i. I take 25grams of plant protein powder in am and perfect amino powder with 8 essential aminos at another time. I take crystal star ocean minerals for thyroid…I take vegetable and fruit compounding powders 2 x daily for dna protection and detox . Vegans need lots of good fat
Need beet root powder for iron.
Turmeric,hawthorn berry,coq10,mixed vitamin e complrx and grapeseed extract for circulation and inflammation
Quercitin and vitamin c for.skin collagen
Prostate formula and green tea to lower dht
All beans for protein,all omega 3 nuts.,limit grains…low glycemic fruits….lots of berries and leafy grains
Matt, you’re not a vegetarian if you’re eating fish.
Thanks for the interesting article.
One question – have you measured your DHEA? Hypothyroidism might have been the result of initial stage of the adrenal fatigue which in turn was due to your vegan diet.
Hey Yuri – I didn’t get my DHEA tested, but as I go in for continued blood work, I’ll be sure to test this!
Hi Rob just another quick note, of all the books I have read from authors and nutritionists they all recommend a few of the same foods;brewers yeast,
black strap molasses, wheat germ, yogurt,B complex supplement and iodine in either kelp or eating sea vegetables.All good for the hair and loaded with nutrients,also these foods are inexpensive to buy.
Also I have recently come across binaural beats and subliminal frequencies.
I use Sapien Medicine on youtube. Just type hair loss and sapien med and it will come up. You can listen to it while doing other stuff without head phones.
It really is interesting, there is loads of different things to check out not only on sapien but other similar sites. Highly recommended
I’d be interested in the connection between caffeine and hair loss. I’ve noticed when my caffeine consumption goes up, so does my shedding. I work at starbucks, **sigh** I wonder if it may be that caffeine may inhibit iron absorption, or may raise cortisol, or mess with me female hormones. Or maybe it’s all three.
I’d love to hear your take on it.
Thanks Sierra. I’ll put together an article on caffeine and hair loss in the next couple of weeks. There are definitely pros and cons to caffeine. I think if you’re going to incorporate caffeine or coffee, it needs to be done in a way that minimizes cortisol spikes (possibly by consuming it alongside sugar / fat). Caffeine probably isn’t the best for everyone (my 23andMe results suggest that I’m a slow caffeine metabolizer). For men, caffeine / calcium is good to consume while eating meats – especially if you’re at risk for iron overload (or hemochromatosis). For women who have lower iron stores, it’s possible the opposite is true. I’ll dig into the research and get back to you.
PS – I love your cold brew!
Nicew article dude I’ve bought your book just wanna ask something most people don’t it’s the difference between a mature hairline and a juvenille hairline, I have a mature hairline as in its still straight but temporals go back a tiny bit I know I’m not balding because my hair has stayed the same over 2 years but can I get back my juvenille hairline with detumescense.
It’s a tough question to answer, but in general, I think the shift from juvenile to a more mature hairline often represents the onset of pattern hair loss. For men, this shift happens shortly after puberty when androgens spike. In my experience, a recovery is possible but the degree of that recovery depends on each individual. The massages and other changes should help get you started toward progress, and in a few months if you’re not noticing any changes to scalp elasticity – email me! We’ll figure it out.
I have been following a Ray Peat protocol for months now with no success.
I am 23 years old. Started losing my hair 2 and a half years ago and i’m now a norwood 5.
I think my problems stem from attempting a second round of accutane. I developed eczema all over my body at the same time, as well as significantly drier skin.
This is extremely frustrating because I have not been able to find anything online regarding accutane’s mechanism of action, therefore I have no idea wHich steps to take at this point. Apparently the cessation of sebum production in the scalp is a big factor, but again, theres not even a hint of a solution online. I was convinced that the Peat protocol would be helpful, and maybe it has been, but I’m thinking that my sebaceous glands or whatever it may be are just damaged beyond repair at this point.
What is your experience with accutane and hair loss? Do you have any advice at all for me?
I don’t think I have much time left.
It’s possible that Accutane might’ve played a role, but it’s tough to say without more information. Accutane’s active ingredient is a retinoid derivative, and the drug is essentially like taking high dosages of a concentrated form of vitamin A. Vitamin A helps regulate sebum production and in high dosages may shrink the sebaceous glad – which is purported to be one of the mechanisms by which Accutane helps regulate acne. So with that being known, it’s possible your drier skin is directly related to Accutane use (as you mentioned).
With that being said, Accutane’s role in hair loss is less clear. It’s a reported side effect while taking the drug, but the mechanism isn’t yet known. It’s probably related to its effects on sebum production. Do you also use shampoo? Shampoo can strip the hair of sebum and exacerbate dry hair.
Since I’ve never taken Accutane, I’m not quite sure what a good approach is toward recovery. Application of fat-based topicals might aid in the lubrication of the hair shafts, act as a placeholder for the lack of sebum, and even help with some of the symptoms that precede pattern hair loss (and thereby encourage some hair regrowth). Check out this case study and consider following its protocols:
Hi Rob – We’ve exchanged e-mails in the past and I’m glad to see you’ve finally come out with your updated and enhanced program which I’ll be investing in.
My question relates to laser therapy – I’m a white male, 60 years old in good health overall and I’ve been using a Nutreve comb (you can check out the project specs at http://www.nutreve.com)for awhile now (just over a year) and earlier in my 20’s and 30’s used Propecia (which I stopped using in my 40’s due to the adverse side effects).
I have a fairly full head of hair but also appear to have some diffuse thinning where if the light is intense and I’m up close I can just about see through to my scalp – I also have some thinning around my temples. Long story short, my goal is to keep whatever hair I have AND grow back whatever hair I might have lost to the greatest extent possible (I’m also using a DHT suppressant from Evolution Hair Loss Institute).
My questions: I’ve been using the Nutreve comb twice a week for 45 minutes at a time as follows: 10 minutes held stationary over the left temple, 10 minutes held stationary over the mid-front, 10 minutes held stationary over the right temple and 15 minutes slowing moving the comb over my entire scalp back and forth.
1.) Is there any downside to holding the comb stationary or is continuous slow movement over the area back-and–forth better (i.e., could holding it stationary actually damage my follicles)?
2.) The manufacturer suggests skipping a day between treatments which I’ve been doing but I’m wondering if I should increase treatment frequency to 3 times a week?
Any advice would be appreciated – I’d also like to incorporate your techniques into my regimen since if I’ve learned anything, combating hair loss and generating regrowth needs to be a multifaceted process.
It’s good to hear from you again. And thanks for the background information.
1) Is your process based on the recommendations of the comb’s manufacturer? The reason I’m asking is because since most combs are comprised of many laser diodes, and since each diode connects with limited surface area of the scalp, then combing (or moving the comb) through the hair allows for these laser diodes to connect with more scalp skin. The best comb would have enough laser diodes to cover the entire surface area of the scalp, which you could hold in place (just as you do now). But unfortunately, I’ve not seen any combs like this on the market. In any case, I think your strategy is fine – though I’d suggest making micro-adjustments every minute or so, to connect with any scalp skin the diodes might not be reaching in their stationary positions.
2) I think spacing out your treatments once every other day is fine, and if that’s netting you at 3x per week, it sounds like you’re well within the recommendations of the manufacturer.
Many readers are currently combining LLLT with the massages, and I think this is a great strategy. I agree with your sentiments about a multifaceted approach – I didn’t see regrowth until dialing in the diet, massage, and lifestyle changes.
Rob – Thanks for the fast and detailed responses to my questions. It’s amazing how you keep up with all of the blog comments even with a full-time job. It really shows your commitment to helping people which I truly admire and am grateful for. On behalf of everyone who suffers with the anxiety and sometimes sheer terror of losing their hair and feeling out of control to do something about it, you are providing a real service to your fellow man (and women). Thank you!
Thank you Dave! I really appreciate it. Please let me know if anything else comes up – I’m happy to help and am looking forward to your progress.
I am a college student, I would like to ask a question about the diffuse pattern baldness.It seems that the DPA is hard to be cured. I wonder if your technology(saclp message) could help with the DPA. THANKS.
If you’ve signed up for the email course, there’s an entire email dedicated to answering that question. But to address it here, I think diffuse pattern hair loss can be treated. Here’s a case study of someone with diffuse thinning who saw significant thickening with just a pig lard topical:
Long story short – diffuse thinners typically have a decrease of subcutaneous fat above the galea, but less skull expansion than pattern hair loss sufferers. For this reason, fat-based topicals (like pig lard) that encourage the recovery of subcutaneous fat also tend to help diffuse thinners with hair recovery – much more so than those with typical MPB (at least from my experience). When combined with the scalp massages in the book, I’d expect even larger gains.
First off, thanks for telling JD Moyer about the scalp massage technique. I saw it on his blog.
As for veganism, my take on it is. I’ve vegetarian for 22 years and it really improved my life a lot. For the last 5 years or so, I’ve been pretty much vegan. In the last year or so, I’ve been as much raw vegan as possible and that’s when my hair began to improve noticeably.
I juice a fair amount but mostly I eat an awful of leafy greens, nuts, pulses and fruit. Occasionally I’ll eat something cooked like brown rice.
The BIG things to avoid even as vegan are:
I can’t emphasise enough what poisons these are. All of the above cause inflammation.
For me, these turn my hair thin and grey very quickly. If I stay on the raw vegan diet with lots of vegetables and some fruit, my hair recovers and looks thicker. So much so that people comment on it.
I’ve been doing the scalp massage as well.
Sorry veganism didn’t work for you. It certainly works for me.
I think intermittent fasting can help as well. Again, decreasing that inflammation. Cooked food apparently causes white blood cell production. Like it’s fending off something that’s not good for it.
Ed – thank you for taking the time to read and comment.
And thanks for sharing your experience with raw veganism. I agree with your takeaways about gluten, alcohol, sugar, and caffeine (for many people). I certainly did not go raw vegan, and given how much self-testing I do, it’s unfair of me to criticize raw veganism until I try it. It sounds like it’s working for you and it’s encouraging to hear that my experience isn’t echoed by everyone else.
I look forward to your progress with the massages!
Enjoying your articles; your stye of writing is digestible and informative without being overly complex.
Any thoughts though to creatine either from meat/supplements increasing DHT and thereby increasing hair loss?
Thanks Drew. I haven’t fully wrapped my head around the creatine-DHT connection. On the one hand, creatine supplementation has been shown to increase serum DHT by upwards of 40-60%:
On the other hand, serum DHT (the kind creatine increases) may be uncorrelated or even protective against pattern baldness:
Serum DHT and tissue DHT are two different things, and it’s really tissue DHT in the scalp that should make us concerned.
What’s challenging is that if we increase serum DHT, we don’t always increase tissue DHT. So we can’t draw any conclusions from the above study. If we want to know if creatine actually increases hair loss in men, researchers need to do a study to determine if creatine increases…
1) Type II 5-alpha reductase in scalp tissues (the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT)
2) Tissue DHT in the scalp
3) Measurable scalp hair loss
Then we’ll have a real answer. Right now, I don’t think there’s enough research to say one way or another if creatine has any impact.
Hi Rob / others
I’m about a month into the massages, I’m changing my diet, dropped ketoconazole & other shampoos etc, haven’t dropped minoxidil yet. Wondering when exactly it would be best to take each step… and amidst all this I’m getting confused about the anti-inflammatory thing again. OK, we’re against chronic inflammation but want to cause acute inflammation. So here I am, dropping some anti-inflammatories yet starting to use others. I think the diet is supposed to be anti-inflammatory. So, was I supposed to start the diet only after getting results from the massages?
Hey Pete – it might be best for you to keep ketoconazole in your regimen for now, at least until your scalp adjusts to the massages. When you stop using ketoconazole shampoos, you shed. When you start massaging, you (sometimes) shed. The compounded effect of both dropping keto shampoo + starting massages probably isn’t something you want to experience. So I’d stagger the effects and keep that shampoo, then slowly transition away from it six months from now after your scalp is well adjusted to the mechanical stimulation exercises.
The best responders all adhere to an anti-inflammatory diet + the mechanical stimulation exercises. There’s no need to stagger the diet first, then scalp exercises later. While it helps to have your diet dialed in before massaging – in my experience, it’s okay to start both at once.
Damn, I’ve already been a couple of weeks without ketoconazole… and it does seem I’m still losing hair. And just a couple of days ago I first read that the massages might also cause shedding. Well, I may get back on keto then, unless maybe it’s too late or if this on/off thing makes it worse or something… and then I still have the minoxidil. Ideally, I’d like to drop that too, although I’m using ascorbin & facial dermarolling to counter the sides (seems to help). Then again I also wonder if the minox is having any effect (but sides) anymore… but if it is, dropping it would also cause shedding I believe. So if I drop keto in six months, I wonder when I should drop minox if I want to minimize sheds..?
OK, good about the diet then, at least.
I suppose I should drop nuts and chocolate also..?
Hey Pete – everyone’s different, so I’d suggest you do food substitutions to test whether chocolate or nuts negatively impact you. Keep them in the diet and record skin health, hair health, quality of bowel movements, and energy levels on a daily basis and for a few weeks. Then take them out for a few weeks and continue tracking. If there’s benefit – then keep them out! If not, maybe they’re not a problematic food group for you.
Going back on ketoconazole shouldn’t be too much of an issue – especially if you’ve only been off a few weeks. I can’t comment on how to minimize shedding via dropping minoxidil. When I dropped minoxidil, I shed like crazy!
Hey again Rob
Boy, I did wonder how you could change your regimen/diet every few months and keep track of everything. But it seems you did and drew your conclusions. As for me, there are so many factors changing all the time I can’t imagine how I could deduct every one from the whole. The idea that everyone’s different makes sense but where does that lead..? Surely life’s not long enough for anybody to separate everything they eat, a few weeks at a time… So I don’t know where to start with that. I guess I’d have to focus on particular suspects. I just asked about nuts and choc because you hardly mentioned them in the book, but I do see they both contain phytates. Anyway it’s not as if I couldn’t live without them. With choc it could be hard though as I seem to be somewhat addicted…
As for ketoconazole there seems to be some mixed info. Is it an anti-inflammatory or not? You didn’t seem to consider it one whereas at a hair loss forum (Stopaga) it seemed to be thought of as one.
Now, if it’s an anti-inflammatory then am I not blocking the massages from working for as long as I’m using it?
Lastly, and to return to your blog subject, I’d like to get to some vegan-related things that have been on my mind.
Before starting on all this I was almost vegan. The idea of eating some animal products isn’t shocking to me – I was still taking fish oil supplements and eating some stuff that would have contained dairy or eggs etc.
I had been gradually going in a more vegan direction, but now I’ve already turned back.
However I don’t like to support the animal industry and personally I also dislike the idea of eating mammal or bird meat. So I hope to keep to seafood and free range eggs/dairy.
So far I’m not educated enough on all the nutrients and their sources and how to get enough without eating the foods you blacklisted.
So I still wonder if one couldn’t do it without animal products. Guess I’ll have to calculate stuff at some point…
Considering your “Don’t Skip The Liver, Shellﬁsh, Or Bone Broth” for instance.
Liver: I suppose I could use cod liver (I read it tastes much better than the oil made from it…).
Shellﬁsh: The idea of eating live oysters is beyond me… sorry. But for instance shrimps are also high in zinc I think, I could eat those. And there’s some zinc in many vegetable products so I do wonder if one couldn’t get enough zinc by planning the diet right. Or, beyond getting enough, are there reasons why animal zinc is better than vegetable zinc? I eat most of these: https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/zinc_fruits.php – I devoured the apricots all the time even before knowing they’re relatively high in zinc. (I did read peaches contain goitrogens so I hope apricots don’t…)
Bone Broth: I don’t plan to eat mammal meat. And, apparently eggs have a built-in methionine/glycine balance.
So, presently I’m eating lots of eggs and mackerel at least…
RE: ketoconazole shampoo–
It’s purported is anti-inflammatory. The mechanisms aren’t fully understood, but most people attribute the downregulation of inflammation to the die-off of fungal / bacterial colonies that, as a byproduct of colonization, increase signaling proteins that trigger inflammation in the scalp. In other words, ketoconazole kills off the colonies that cause inflammation, and thereby indirectly decreases inflammation (at least, that’s what research suggests).
For this reason, keto is probably complimentary to the mechanical stimulation exercises. Whereas we don’t want to impede our own wound-healing process, we DO want minimize the factors that create exogenously driven inflammation (like fungal infections). So ketoconazole is likely helpful in this case. You can certainly try adding in the shampoo — there are a few readers doing so who are reporting positive results.
I’m finishing up an article about zinc and will post it tomorrow. I’m not sure of the differences between animal-derived versus plant-derived zinc forms – which are more bioactive, etc. There are major differences with vitamin K2 — but that’s a vitamin with many different forms. Zinc is a metal, so I’d assume the only difference between animal- vs. plant-derived zinc is probably just how the zinc is chelated (whether it’s bound to sulfate, etc.). That does influence bioavailability, and I’m sure it’s on a food-by-food basis.
Thanks Rob. Some science but I’m figuring it out…
I’ll be interested to see the zinc article..!
Keep up the great work
Yep it’s me again… Any thoughts on natto? You mention it as a good source of K2 (I guess it’s the best vegan source). But at the same time it’s soy, which apparently contains lectins, goitrogens, etc… So, what gives..?
Hey Pete – when it comes to natto, the benefits of the K2 outweigh the concerns for lectins and goitrogens. I wouldn’t worry about it!
Thanks. Now I only worry about if I can acquire a taste for the stuff as it doesn’t seem very appetizing..! Will see.
Have you tried a non-hybridized vegan diet? I was ill for three years after I was hit by a car. It totally changed my life and I couldn’t find any help for my post concussion symptoms at the doctors office. I was loosing my hair and was extremely vitamin d deficient despite eating a lot of meat and fish. I started an “alkaline vegan” or non-hybridized vegan diet with a lot of herbal tea blends (I buy herbs with high mineral contents) instead of supplements, and my hair is stronger than ever and I have more energy and better skin than ever. The real kicker was, I no longer have GERD and that is something I’ve had since I was 14 and my father has it as well. My nerve damage from the accident is going away as well, and it has been 1 year since I started this diet but 5 years since the accident and I saw no change in the first 4 years after the accident before I started this diet.
The main difference from my diet and the vegan diet your were consuming from what I can tell is that I do not eat wheat, I use natural herb to supplement my diet with additional minerals, and I stay away from hybridized fruits, grains, and vegetables while only consuming naturally occurring foods, grown organically. This is just my experience, but I was interested to see your point on vitamin D, because I was eating a standard american diet with some more fish than usual and was extremely vitamin D deficient, and switched to a non-hybridized vegan diet and reached normal vitamin D levels by doing so. I will admit, my diet is very strict, and you can’t find many packaged foods or restaurants with options that are within this diet, but it has changed my life and restored my health when traditional medicine could not. I was in a pretty bad spot energy and health wise before I started this diet and herbal tea regimen through, so it is pretty easy for me to stick to.
Thanks for reaching out. I haven’t experimented with a non-hybridized vegan diet — at least not to the degree that would warrant a blog post about the experience.
Your story was inspiring. Thanks a ton for sharing it with everyone. It’s always great to read about someone who’s overcome a series of health challenges with dietary / lifestyle interventions. Did you experiment with any other diets before turning to a non-hybridized vegan diet?
Sorry, but your conclusions don’t exactly make sense. You know that a disease condition in a person usually just shows up at some point in their lives, right? So isn’t it possible that the thyroid problem you think you developed may have shown up at that point in your life, no matter what diet you were following? It also doesn’t help that you have no previous blood work to compare it to. You also apparently have an inherited hair loss condition, that predates all of your diet experiments. Have a dermatologist take a puncture out of your scalp and evaluate it for alopecia or other conditions. I only know from experience that I had blood work done in February, and then two weeks after starting what amounts to a vegan diet in July, and my nutrients all increased, my protein increased, and my cholesterol finally became normal after having bad cholesterol for at least 20 years. Diet, exercise, minoxidil and Nioxin have done nothing to change my hair. I even went on finasteride for a year with no results. Inherited hair loss doesn’t seem to care what you do.
It would’ve helped to have previous blood tests — I agree! But as far as diet, lifestyle, and environment having no impact on either 1) hypothyroidism, or 2) androgenic alopecia (genetically inherited hair loss), there’s a body of evidence that argues against that statement.
It’s certainly possible I was hypothyroid before trying veganism. However, if I were hypothyroid before veganism, then I exhibited none of the symptoms (cold hands/feet, fatigue, low body temperature, and low resting pulse rate) before attempting a vegan diet.
Given that my symptoms of hypothyroidism started after starting veganism, and that I tested as sub-clinically hypothyroid after going vegan, and that those same symptoms resolved within months after stopping veganism, it feels like a straw-man’s argument to suggest that because I don’t have blood work before my vegan experiment, that veganism had zero impact on my hypothyroid state.
I agree that it would’ve been nice to have blood work prior to my vegan experiment. I wish I did! And if I do another test like this, I’ll absolutely be sure to include “before” blood work. But even still, a lack of “before” blood work shouldn’t undermine the blood work I got during my experiment, the severity of my symptoms during the experiment, how quickly those symptoms resolved after transitioning away from veganism, or the body of evidence suggesting that certain forms of veganism — or even ketogenic dieting — can exacerbate hypothyroid conditions.
In terms of your statement of disease states showing up in someone’s life regardless of what diet they’re following — I also disagree. Yes, certain people have a predisposition to disease as a result of their genes. But the latest research shows that disease states are mostly environmentally-driven — diet and lifestyle included in the definition of environment. In fact, the newest estimates suggest that our environment (diet, lifestyle, stress levels, sleep quality, etc.) account for at least 70% of all disease states. This is in opposition of your suggestion — that disease states pop up regardless of whatever diet you follow. I wrote an article that explains this in greater detail here:
In terms of your success on a vegan diet so far, that’s great! You’re also early into following a vegan diet — from what it sounds like, less than a month. I think perspective matters here. I too felt great at the beginning. Things quickly went downhill from there.
To reiterate from the article — there are some people who thrive on vegan diets. I’m not one of them. And until you test a diet for multiple months, you may find out you’re not one of them either. My sister does pretty well on a vegan diet! But we’re two different people, with different metabolic needs.
In terms of there being no diet-hair loss condition for genetically predisposed hair loss — I also disagree. Genes do play a role, but research into mechanical stimulation, wound-healing, collagen remodeling, and the fibrotic state that precedes pattern hair thinning all suggests that pattern hair loss is reversible despite someone’s genetic tendency to develop it.
thanks for this! I was vegan for four years and started displaying all of these symptoms last year and have been trying to resolve the issue with no luck until I dropped the diet! I’m also paleo and seeing positive results. I had extremely cold hands and feet, low body temp, brain fog, etc. Veganism is NOT for everyone! Good riddance!
Only vegan for 3 months? Did you test your vitamin D levels right before you went vegan? Borderline low vitamin D levels and you jump right to “veganism causes hair loss”… ? It would be just as easy for me to write a mess like this and claim that eating a bowl of peanuts every day caused my hair loss. The sad thing is a vegan diet is healthy and compassionate and definitely doesn’t cause hair loss. So thanks for trying to sway people’s opinion of veganism for nothing. The animals really appreciate it.
Hey Chase — I’d encourage you to read the article analytically rather than emotionally. I’m not writing that a vegan diet doesn’t work for everyone, nor am I saying that veganism is a bad thing. In fact, I mention a few times that veganism works wonders for some people. I’m just not one of them.
Three months is a realistic timeframe for dietary testing — since this is enough time to measure changes related to 1) blood / serum biomarkers, 2) nutrient depletion / repletion, and 3) microflora colonization changes inside the gut.
It’s always possible to be more thorough with testing. But I feel your own conclusion of my writing — that “Borderline low vitamin D levels and you jump right to “veganism causes hair loss”” — mischaracterizes what I actually wrote, and undermines the evidence and statements outlined inside the article itself.
I’m happy to discuss more if you’d like.
Thanks for your informative post. It all sounds good and I believe we have evolved to be meat eaters some. Then I think of many people living in India who have never touched meat or dairy and live lengthy lives with beautifully dense heads of hair and say WTF lol.
I know! It’s fascinating how depending on your environment and epigenetics — different individuals thrive on different diets. Vegan diets can actually be incredibly nutritious and healthy if the diet exercises laxity for some animal products — like oysters — since the diet then becomes replete with nutrients normally devoid in long-term veganism.
Interestingly enough, an anecdote from a lot of females readers from India say that while their diet didn’t change after moving to the US, their hair got thinner. Whether this is a function of aging, food quality differences, or something else — we don’t yet know.
I’m wondering if your quick transition to a vegan diet was just a shock on your microbiota. Your body was just used to processing meat/dairy etc for energy your whole life, so the transition wrecked havoc on your system.
I’m not saying the vegan diet WOULD work, but just as an idea, maybe it would be better to transition to it more slowly.
Anyway, there seems to be more suggesting sugary foods are worse for your prostate and hair, and fattier/meaty foods (in the absence of carbs) are better for your hair health, just kind of where my research has brought me to this point.
It’s certainly possible! My gut flora could’ve been so adapted to eating meat at that point that it could’ve struggled during the transition — and have played a significant role in my negative experience.
Interestingly, I didn’t get the same severity of symptoms while doing vegetarianism — which I did for over a year before transitioning to veganism. So who knows!
Rob what about systemic proteolytic enzymes to reduce inflammation and to remove scalp fibrosis (scar tissue) and to remove arterial calcification from the scalp. For example the two main enzymes I’m consider are serrapeptase and nattokinase. What do you think of these?
Thanks for reaching out. I’ve looked into both of these. A few years back, I thought it would be a great idea to begin supplementing with both. I’ve recently revised my opinions for the case of pattern hair loss — since I believe the pathology of calcification is nuanced, and as a result, supplementation may be limited in effectiveness in this case.
Most evidence currently suggests that in AGA, calcification in the vessels leading to balding scalp regions is the result of chronic mechanical tension — most likely structurally-derived from either tension in the scalp skin, clamping of the vessels running through galea aponeurotica-connected muscles, or both. Without resolving this tension, any enzyme supplementation is just going to act like a bandaid to the underlying cause of the calcification. If this calcification were simply caused from poor dieting and lifestyle, then yes — those enzymes would absolutely help. But at least right now, the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.
With that said, I don’t think taking either of these enzymes will hurt. So if you try supplementing, please let me know how it goes.
Have you considered the fact that you are consistently trying new diets for short periods of time the reason why your inflammation has never really resolved? Starting and stopping new things (especially “diets”)creates stress. But I am certainly no expert!!!
I ESPECIALLY like this article! Very insightful and something that somewhat mirrors the journey I went on for the last 3 1/2 years. Doctors have NO IDEA. Really. I work in the medical field and have quite and extensive amount of knowledge, however could NOT understand where my hair loss was coming from . At 180 pounds and after quitting meat cold turkey in January of 2015 (except for fish occasionally), my hair thinning began (summer of 2015). I lost weight but not enough. At 165 pounds, I became pescatarian and grossly cut calories, incorporating weight loss pills and methods, and of course, this entire time worked the night shift. At this point the thinning became so bad, my hair would not grow past my shoulders, and you could see through it if light shown on it. I started wearing hair extensions. I thought it was the hair bleach to blame. Then I thought it was night shift. Then I moved to day shift, became vegan and swore off dairy. The thinning got worse. I began to see my scalp, and my hairline became much more receded. I couldn’t understand why! At this point I was 145 pounds, but had no muscle tone, was cold all the time, my derrier was flabby and cellulite graced it and my thighs. I was so embarrassed to wear shorts or skirts without pany hose. Anyway, I finally gave in and went to see a dermatologist about my hair. He told me that I was going through Telegen Effluvium because of my diet changes. No mention of protein intake. My labs (blood test results) were just like yours. Everything within normal range including B12 and ferritin. I had previously corrected the low Vitamin D levels to 60. I had developed a very low heart rate as well (unexplained, I hadn’t run regularly for at least 5 years) and low blood pressure. The only thing I could think of was my entirely irresponsible management of protein consumption. I was not getting nearly enough. I wasn’t even getting half the recommended daily amount. My hair was gorgeous and long and thick before this all started. I was heavy but had muscle tone. Everything felt like it was withering away. I had no energy anymore and was on antidepressants.
So here I am now. I started consuming meat 2 weeks ago. I bought minoxodil drops that I put on my scalp when I think of it. I still have my extensions clipped in, and hope and long for the day I won’t have to wear them anymore.
Today I feel heavy. I noticed that I have gained 10 pounds in less than one week (145 to 156 today). I increased my resistance training, upped my protein with shakes, red meat, nuts, cheese, soy and eggs. I’ve been intermittently fasting for 3 months now. Is this weight gain normal? I’ve been maintaining at least 12-1500 calories BEFORE I brought meat back into my diet and increased protein consumption.
Is there anything else I might be missing? Am I doing anything wrong? This journey has been exhausting and almost more than I can bare. I just want to be back to normal again. Any other insights or recommendations are most welcome. Thank you kindly!!!
Thanks for reaching out, and I’m sorry to hear about your frustrations and weight swings. It sounds like your hair loss is likely stress-related, and the result from a long-term calorie deficit that resulted in telogen effluvium, and most-likely coupled with hypothyroidism. But in addition to that, you might want to get tested for the following:
-Any other nutrient deficiencies you’ve yet to test for (like zinc and iron)
Calorie deficits in women can manifest secondary conditions that are a bit harder to treat (but not impossible). PCOS is one of them — and is essentially just a broad term for a female hormonal imbalance.
Let me know if you’ve tested for any of these. Typically, of the women with whom I work, treating these conditions first almost always improves hair loss outcomes.
All of yall, even rob, is stupid about hair loss and regrowth.
Its all because of y’all were on the American standard diet, ever since you were a kid, a baby!!!!
Y’all think just one month, or just two years of a diet will change anything?!!!!
Everybody’s body is different, that’s why can’t just span your knowledge to just a group of different people’s experiences and besides, once hair is “loss”, don’t think y’all cant regrow it back with one simple diet change.
You are what you eat. If you eat garbage most of your life, you will look like garbage most of your life.
I know you guys will try your best to reply to me all because i just pissed y’all off, but don’t think yall are even close to finding a way to “curing” baldness because y’all are just talking about this.
And here it is, I thought this article will have actual information thats acutal helpful. guess not.
Don’t worry, your comments and opinions aren’t going to upset anyone! If you want to be taken seriously here, I’d recommend providing evidence to help support your claims.
why do you recommend “raw cheese” for vitamin K2 and then again say to avoid dairy to stop PGD2 formation?
Some raw cheeses are good sources of vitamin K2. For the portion of the population who has no issues with dairy (no casein, lactose, or retinoic acid intolerances) — and with access to high-quality dairy — I recommend raw cheese as an option to get more K2 into the diet. But the reality is that someone can also get more K2 through natto — or a supplement — and that even without those sources, as much as the Weston Price Foundation might suggest, we’re likely not as deficient in K2 as the paleo-sphere often leads us to believe.
Dairy consumption is associated with increased inflammatory prostaglandin activity — particularly in lung tissues for asthmatics. If overall PGD2 activity is something you’d like to reduce, then minimizing dairy intake might help. It’s unclear just how much of an impact dietary restriction of PGD2-associated foods has on hair loss — but the evidence suggests the effect is marginal at best. So while you might alleviate some asthma-related symptoms by cutting out dairy, you’re probably less likely to see an improvement to hair health. I think the evidence suggests that PGD2 activity in balding scalp tissues is more closely linked to tension-mediated inflammation, which is structurally linked, rather than systemic.
i can 100% resonate with this
cant you just do a vegan keto diet and supplement with vit d3 and pea protein.
(ive been vegan for 3 years now and started shedding/losing hair 3 months into it, so i just recently started keto d3 supplemnt/k2)
how long did it take your hair to regrow after you stopped being vegan?
rob I am wondering why here in our country(Philippines) a lot of beggars have a thick hair. Despite of poor diet and bad hygiene they don’t experience balding at least I know I never see any beggar has bald head. It is really mysterious to me.
I’m not sure if you’re still answering comments/questions on this piece, but just in case: I appreciated reading this detailed write-up of your experience, and I was wondering if you’re aware of anyone who’s been able to halt hair loss while staying on a vegan diet. I started a vegan diet very reluctantly, for specific health reasons (as explained below) and feel that it’s affecting my hair.
A few years ago, I developed some kind of inflammatory/autoimmune arthritis (similar to psoriatic arthritis in terms of the type/pattern of joint issues, but without the psoriasis). About 5 months ago, in desperation, I started a strict “whole-foods plant-based” diet that is promoted as helping to manage or heal similar conditions. The diet is very strict (in addition to eliminating all animal products, it eliminates all added oils — with fats instead being provided by large amounts of flax, chia, avocado, etc.). Although I was very pessimistic, I was surprised to find that a 90% improvement in joint pain/tenderness and other symptoms. I felt almost normal for the first time in 3 years, and I thought that maybe this annoyingly strict diet was the answer.
Around the time I first noticed the autoimmune issues (about 3 years ago), my once thick and shiny hair (typical Asian hair) began shedding much more than usual, and about 6 months ago I noticed that my hair was half the volume it used to be. The shedding unfortunately seems to have gotten worse since I started the strict vegan diet (about 5 months ago). My ferritin and zinc levels have always been on the low side, so I recently started to take supplements for that. A few weeks ago, after freaking out slightly about how thin my hair has become, I started taking some grass-fed collagen, beef liver supplements, and Omega 3 supplements — on the assumption that (i) I needed more protein and fat and (ii) needed things like lysine to help me absorb iron. However, just those few weeks of ingesting animal proteins have caused the autoimmune arthritis to flare up dramatically.
I now find myself feeling like I have to choose between (i) being in pain (and suffering permanent joint damage), and (ii) continuing to lose hair, which is honestly (and pathetically) almost as devastating as the joint pain.
I know there are a lot of factors at play. I’m 47, so probably in peri-menopause, and fluctuating hormones are probably contributing both to the development of the autoimmune issues and to the hair loss. So maybe it’s not as simple as “eat animal products to get your hair back,” or “eliminate animal products to stop the joint pain.” But it would be so helpful to know if, in your experience with your many readers, people on strict vegetarian diets are ever able to arrest hair loss. Thank you so much — sorry to be so long-winded.
Thanks for sharing your story, and thank you for reaching out about this. As you mentioned, it sounds like there are a lot of factors going on that might be contributing to your hair shedding / hair thinning. It’s tough for me to provide directional insights here without knowing a bit more about you, so please feel free to give me a call (the number at the bottom of the site) so that we can connect, I can ask a few more questions, and hopefully you can formulate an action plan.
The quick answer: when there are multiple suspected causes involved, someone almost always needs to do a full health evaluation and receive a hair loss diagnosis by a qualified dermatologist. If the latter isn’t available, there are some resources you can access to do this yourself. As far as working with vegans as they pursue options outside of dietary changes to improve their hair – it’s entirely possible to do this; it just takes a lot of experimentation. But that experimentation can work both ways. For instance, some people will find that the autoimmune reactions you’ve described are evident with red meat, but not after eating chicken and/or seafood.
Vegan diet with soaked legumes daily and whole grains and veggies grew my hair back. You have to ommit bad oils. I guess you dont know how to eat a balanced vegan diet so maybe research that and try it.
I usually appreciate your evidence-based approach but this connection you made between hypothyroidism to going vegan for 3 months is seriously far-fetched. It is far more likely that there was a sharp change in your microbiome that contributed to these physical symptoms. And if you ate properly for your microbiome, you would have probably been just fine. The hypothyroidism claim was pretty shaky with the evidence you presented. You can eat plenty of fat on any diet. Vitamin d needs to be tested and supplemented regardless. We need to start thinking more critically about these issues because they matter. We don’t necessarily need to all go vegan, but we absolutely need to eat less meat.
I also think it’s interesting that you titled the article with a claim based on your anecdotal experience. Usually, you title your articles in a scientific way that creates an inquiry for potential readers. You don’t even need to read this article to know exactly what conclusions will be made. And you are making claims for others based on your experience alone. It is disappointing. I am not vegan, I just care about science and evidence.
Thanks for your comments. For what it’s worth, I agree with you that this article is in serious need of refinement. It was originally posted in 2016 and it hasn’t gone any major updates or scientific review since its original publication. Over the past six years, as I became more involved in research and medical editing, the quality of our articles improved greatly. Unfortunately, there are a few articles in our backlogs that don’t really reflect the level of discernment that we hold today for any interventions. This is one of them, and you’re right to criticize it.
I will say that I’ve tried several bouts of vegetarianism and veganism, and after so much personal experimentation, I’m fully convinced that it isn’t the right diet for me. Having said that, I also recognize that some people who are vegans are absolutely thriving. But without better data, it’s not right of me to project my anecdotal experience as a rationale for why vegan diets won’t regrow hair lost due to androgenic alopecia.
For what it’s worth, I still stand by the messaging within the article: that vegan diets can often push people toward hypothyroidism, and that in certain cases, vegan diets can exacerbate telogen effluvium-related sheds. But I also feel the same can occur with ketogenic diets, especially when weight loss is a primary goal.So, as you eluded to, there are a lot of ways to incorrectly do any diet – vegan or otherwise.
Perhaps you might enjoy this article, as it is a bit more updated and reflective of my current opinions: https://perfecthairhealth.com/best-diet-hair-loss/
Thanks again and feel free to comment any time. Your comments – moving forward – should be automatically approved.
What is your reasoning behind saying that a vegan diet can potentially cause hypothyroidism? What evidence can you cite? I am curious.
We know that multiple studies have confirmed that B12 deficiency can be caused by genetic factors, age, and intestinal malabsorption. Vegans and vegetarians know to supplement with B12, as most of us should because some meat eaters are at risk as well. Everyone should have their vitamin D levels checked regardless of what diet they eat. I don’t know of anyone that would recommend relying on animal protein to reach adequate levels of vitamin D. Risk factors for low vitamin D include having dark skin, being older or overweight, and having malabsorption issues to name a few.
Another important consideration is soy and cruciferous vegetables. All of the most recent research has concluded that, in regular amounts, soy and cruciferous veggies do not slow the thyroid. A group that ate the highest amount of soy products only had a small and insignificant reduction in thyroid hormone. There has only been one isolated case of an elderly woman juicing pounds of cabbage a day that can be attributed to cruciferous veggies causing hypothyroidism. Both whole, organic soy and cruciferous veggies are associated with lower rates of cancer and lower inflammation.
The last consideration is phytates, which work as an antioxidant in the colon and have been shown to be protective against colon cancer. There was an extensive meta-analysis on the Mediterranean diet, which is very high in phytates, that showed zero correlation between phytic acid and nutrient deficiency. And this has been shown again and again in populations that are not starving. Yet so-called nutrition ‘gurus’ continue to cite inconclusive studies that were done on impoverished and resource-poor demographics to make the claim that phytates should be avoided. It is honestly, in my opinion, irresponsible given the fact that colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the US.
Have you seen the recent studies by the Sonnenburg Lab at Stanford? They found that a high fiber diet resulted in 2 distinct reactions. One group increased microbiome diversity and had lowered inflammatory markers. The second group’s microbiome did not diversify and they had increased inflammatory markers. What they found in the second group is that their microbiome was depleted to begin with. Another study they did found that low fiber diets in mice resulted in depleted microbiomes. And over several generations, adding fiber back into the diet could not replenish the microbiome because the mice had lost the bacteria that break down fiber. When bacteria break down fiber, they make short-chain fatty acids, which are the marker of health in the human body.
The largest microbiome study by the American Gut Project found that Americans have some of the most depleted microbiomes in the world. Many Americans have lost the bacteria that break down fiber. They have also lost bacteria that protect against SIBO and other digestive issues. And like the results of the most recent Sonnenburg study, these people may experience increased inflammation and digestive distress when switching to a whole-food plant-based diet. I suspect that this is at the root of why vegan diets cause problems for some people and not for others.
There is also evidence to suggest that we can regrow the diversity in our microbiome. It involves introducing fiber-rich foods in small quantities that don’t cause problematic symptoms. For example, eating one tablespoon of black beans once a day can give beneficial bacteria a chance to regrow. When certain people who are sensitive eat too many black beans at once, the result can be an overgrowth of problematic bacteria – bacteria that would otherwise be kept in check by a diverse microbiome.
I am very curious to know your reasoning behind why a vegan diet could potentially cause hypothyroidism. Thank you for your response.
I have a few more questions about your article. Again, I appreciate your response.
You stated twice that “vitamin D levels are 74% lower in vegans than in meat eaters,” citing Winston John Craig’s 2010 article “Nutrition Concerns and Health Effects of Vegetarian Diets.” I am curious where you found those statistics in that article. I have the article in front of me and I cannot find it. I only see that it says that vitamin D status can be “compromised in some vegans” and that vitamin D deficiency was reported in vegan groups that did supplement or consume fortified foods.
Could you perhaps have been referring to the 2011 EPIC-Oxford Study? Here is a quote from the study. “Although the vegans had lower vitamin D levels than did meat-eaters, their vitamin D levels would be considered in the healthy range of 50 to 125 nmol/l according to the Institute of Medicine. The researchers noted that the average vitamin D levels in vegans were “comparable, if not slightly higher, than that reported in other studies among the general British population,” although this could be due to differences in the measurement method. The researchers surmised that the lower calcium intake in vegans may have lowered their vitamin D levels further because more 25(OH)D would be converted into the active vitamin D hormone to increase calcium absorption.”
You also claimed that a low-fat diet is associated with vitamin D deficiency. Aside from the fact that vegan and vegetarian diets are often high in fat and full of nut butter, coconut oil, and olive oil, I cannot find a credible connection between a low-fat diet and vitamin D deficiency. It is well known that oral vitamin D supplements are absorbed better when taken with a meal containing fat. However, vitamin D from sunlight is synthesized from natural oils in the skin and is not connected to dietary fat intake. In fact, a study from the Netherlands found that lower vitamin D levels in the general population are associated in women with abdominal fat and in men with fatty liver. Also, people who have issues absorbing fat will have issues absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. A 2009 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that skin pigmentation and sun exposure had more significant effects on vitamin D status than did a diet.
In a brand new study from UC San Diego, researchers found that gut bacteria may play a crucial role in converting vitamin D to its active form. They found that active vitamin D levels correlated with the diversity of the community of bacteria. And even though more research is needed, they think that the ability to metabolize vitamin D may be more important than how much vitamin D you get through supplements or the sun.
You also wrote that “research suggests that our bodies tan, in part, to protect against vitamin D toxicity.” As far as I understand, our bodies do not tan to protect against vitamin D toxicity, our bodies regulate vitamin D production through sun exposure. What research are you referring to? I am curious.
“Thyroid-Gut-Axis: How Does the Microbiota Influence Thyroid Function?” is an interesting article, published in Nutrients in 2020, that analyzes the relationship between thyroid function, intestinal health, and the gut microbiome. I would argue that the most recent research, including the Sonnenburg studies I mentioned in my last comment, suggests that the problematic symptoms people experience on vegan, vegetarian, and plant-based diets may be rooted in a perturbed and depleted microbiome that is dysfunctional and unable to process plant fibers. And this explains why so many people feel better on a keto or carnivore diet. As Justin Sonnenburg said, these diets can act like antibiotics in the gut because they limit the amount of fuel the bacteria can access. These diets can alleviate unwanted symptoms but they don’t fix the root of the problem which is a depleted microbiome.
FYI I am at home with Covid, not too sick but with enough time on my hands to really look into the details of your article. I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Thank you.