The Connection Between Celiac Disease and Hair Loss

Several conditions, as well as aging, can cause hair loss, but if you are losing your hair and it isn't related to normal aging, there's a chance your small intestine may be to blame. 

In some cases, celiac disease—a condition where gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye triggers intestinal damage—can cause hair loss. Fortunately, following a gluten-free diet can help restore any hair you may have lost while undiagnosed or still eating gluten.

Woman with hair loss in her hand
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How Celiac Disease Can Lead to Hair Loss

If your celiac disease has gone untreated for a long time, you may be malnourished. Malnutrition can cause hair loss, along with a host of other problems. Once you fix any vitamin deficiencies related to being malnourished, your hair should grow back.

Celiac disease is also related to other autoimmune diseases, conditions where your immune system attacks your body, known to cause hair loss. In general, having one autoimmune disease makes you more likely to develop a second autoimmune condition. If your hair loss is not associated with malnutrition or age, it may be related to two other autoimmune diseases associated with hair loss—alopecia areata and Hashimoto's thyroiditis.

Celiac Disease and Alopecia Areata

Alopecia areata occurs when your immune system attacks your hair follicles, causing varying degrees of hair loss. Alopecia areata usually starts with one or more small, round, smooth bald patches on your head, and can eventually cause complete hair loss on your scalp or even on your entire body. Full-body hair loss is known as alopecia universalis.

Alopecia usually begins in childhood and affects both genders equally. Approximately 2 percent of the population, including more than 5 million people in the United States, have alopecia areata. Like with celiac disease, there is no cure for alopecia.

A relatively high rate of celiac disease was found in patients with alopecia—much greater than could be expected by chance—leading doctors to recommended celiac disease blood tests for those with alopecia. Since then, other reports have linked celiac disease with alopecia areata.

Even in people without celiac disease, alopecia can be very unpredictable. Sometimes the hair simply grows back by itself.

Celiac Disease and Hashimoto's Thyroiditis 

Hashimoto's thyroiditis is a type of autoimmune-related hypothyroidism in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. If you have hypothyroidism, your thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone which can cause symptoms including:

  • Weight gain 
  • Hair loss 
  • Hoarse voice 
  • Fatigue 
  • Joint pain 
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation 
  • Puffy eyes

Typically, hair loss caused by hypothyroidism resolves once thyroid hormone replacement brings your thyroid hormones back into a normal range. If your hair loss isn't explained by malnutrition, age, or alopecia, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting your thyroid tested.

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  1. Pratt CH, King LE Jr, Messenger AG, Christiano AM, Sundberg JP. Alopecia areataNat Rev Dis Primers. 2017;3:17011. doi:10.1038/nrdp.2017.11

  2. Kassira S, Korta DZ, Chapman LW, Dann F. Review of treatment for alopecia totalis and alopecia universalis. Int J Dermatol. 2017;56(8):801-810. doi:10.1111/ijd.13612

  3. Zaletel K, Gaberšček S. Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: From Genes to the DiseaseCurr Genomics. 2011;12(8):576–588. doi:10.2174/138920211798120763

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