If you are new to intermittent fasting you are almost certain to get hair loss. This is unnerving and traumatising, specially for women. Many women come to start intermittent fasting as a last resort after everything else has failed. Then they having to deal with hair loss becomes the main reason for them to leave fasting altogether.
In an earlier article we had seen the “secret to thick and lustrous hair”. In that article we had briefly touched upon the issue of hair loss during keto and/or intermittent fasting. But this phenomenon deserves a deeper understanding and possible solutions.
What is hair
We are mostly familiar with the structure of a hair. The part which is inside the skin on the scalp is called the hair bulb. This is the place where there are all sorts of cells present to make the hair sprout, including stem cells. These stem cells create a protein called Keratin which makes the hair grow thicker.
Hair does not grow indefinitely but after a few months, the growth of the individual strand of hair stops and the hair falls off.
After the hair falls off, we still have a bulb and root remaining. If the stem cells are active, there will be a re-growth of the hair strand from the dying hair re-entering the bulb. The process is a bit different but I have tried to simply it for understanding purpose.
The key factors at play
So the first factor we seen is the involvement of stem cells. Also this hair bulb in the root of the hair is supplied oxygenated blood through individual capillaries. So the second next important factor which comes into play for hair is oxygen rich blood flowing through capillaries.
The next important factor for the growth of healthy hair is the supply of micronutrients and minerals to the root of the hair. Just like any other organ, the hair also needs nourishment. Diets like intermittent fasting and keto if not done correctly will deprive the body of essential nutrients. Since you are eating lesser number of meals and you have even reduced the types of carbs which you are consuming, you will face deficiency of key nutrients in the initial weeks.
Lastly the most important factor to grow anything in the body is the growth hormone. This hormone in particular is only secreted during the night as the body sleeps. Sufficient sleep and that too at the right time will help promote growth hormone.
To summarise, stem cells, oxygenated blood, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and sleep are the main factors we need to focus on. Let us understand them one by one.
Melatonin, insulin and growth hormone
Hormone are chemicals which are secreted in trace amounts to control or trigger certain actions in the body. As soon as the sun sets, the body turns down the production of insulin and increases the production of melatonin. It is the job of melatonin hormone to start putting various organs to sleep and one of the first one is the pancreas which secrete insulin.
Once melatonin has done its job, the growth hormone is secreted. This hormone starts with the repair system of the body including the hair bulbs. This is real bad news for those sleeping late due to any reason.
Body clock starts to sleep roughly four hours after sunset. But if by the time you are not sleeping then production of growth hormone is delayed. The shutting down of growth hormone however is done at sunrise. So basically the window of repair narrows down.
Also since the pancreas have shut down, insulin production is also down. So basically any carbs you eat at night will not enter into the cells to be used for energy. Instead they will be recalled by the liver to be stored as glycogen or liver fat. That is another reason not to have food after sunset.
Role of tryptophan
Tryptophan is one of essential amino acids which is required for protein synthesis. It also plays an important role in production of serotonin which is the mood hormone and melatonin which we can now call the sleep hormone. There are certain foods which are rich in tryptophan which aid sleeping like whole milk which is the largest source of tryptophan. It is good idea to have a glass of milk before sleeping but not if you are having problems digesting the milk due to lactose. Peanuts are a great source of this essential amino acids. Cheddar cheese, chocolates and certain type of fruits are also rich in tryptophan.
Problem of alcohol
Alcohol disturbs both the sleep cycle and production of hormones. It also interferes with protein synthesis in the body. All these three factors together affect hair growth tremendously.
Foods rich in iron
Iron helps stem cells to produce keratin. Beans, spinach, broccoli and legumes are ideal sources. Meat, fish, poultry and eggs are another rich source.