Can Food Allergies Cause Your Hair Loss?

Young woman with hair loss.

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If you're in the shower and you notice strands of your hair around the drain, you may be wondering: Is this normal? And if not, what is it that is causing your hair to fall out and what can be done about it? Is there, for instance, a connection between allergies and hair loss?

What's a Normal Amount of Hair Loss?

It is normal for a person to lose 60 to 100 strands of hair a day, and most people may not even notice this amount of hair loss, especially if they have shorter hair. However, when hair loss becomes more noticeable, it can be frightening—especially if you're not sure what's causing it.

You might expect some degree of hair loss if you're going through, for example, chemotherapy or radiation as a cancer treatment, but otherwise, excessive hair loss often comes as a surprise. It can be particularly devastating for women since it's less socially acceptable for women to be bald or to have very little hair.

Before thinking that there is nothing that you can do about hair thinning or hair loss, it is important to consider some of the common causes. It is also important to understand that, in many cases, there are remedies and the hair loss may not be permanent.

Share any concerns about hair loss with your doctor to be certain of its cause and the appropriate treatment.

Common Reasons for Hair Loss or Thinning

  • Food allergies/limited diet: For some people with allergies to dairy, wheat, soy, or other foods, hair loss may be a complication, although this has not been scientifically confirmed. While some have alleged that food allergies may lead to hair loss, there is little scientific evidence to support that relationship.
  • Hormonal Imbalances: For some people, medical conditions that affect hormones can result in hair loss. Many people with food allergies also have related illnesses that can alter hormones, so this can further exacerbate hair loss.
  • Celiac disease: Although celiac disease often is thought of as a type of food allergy, it's actually an autoimmune condition, and can be linked to hair loss. In fact, many people with celiac disease report hair loss as a symptom. When a person has celiac disease, the immune system creates antibodies to ward off the foods that it can't break down. These antibodies proceed to attack the lining of the small intestine. Hair loss can result from malabsorption of nutrients. Also, if your diet is limited and lacks certain vitamins and nutrients from certain foods, that can affect different processes of the body, including hair growth. In fact, some studies suggest that too much vitamin A or too little protein can affect hair loss.
  • Traumatic and stressful event: When you go through a serious, traumatic event, such as an accident or the sudden loss of a loved one, your body can experience extreme shock. Trauma can trigger the body to have an autoimmune reaction in which your white blood cells mistakenly attack the bulb of your strands of hair. Then the hair goes into a resting state and falls out. This usually happens in particular spots, rather than all over your scalp. For most people, over time and often with medication, this situation can be resolved. The hair loss will stop and new hair will grow back.
  • Itchy scalp rashes: If you have an itchy rash on your scalp, a scab can form if you scratch it. This scab will prevent a follicle from opening. The result is hair in that area can not grow and the hair will fall off in that spot. It is important to talk to a doctor to get a prescription shampoo to help regenerate growth and stop the itching.
  • Food poisoning: Some research indicates that food poisoning—specifically metals in water—may affect your blood circulation and cause your hair to prematurely shed. For instance, the metal thallium has been linked to alopecia, the loss of hair. It is important to note that this association is not scientifically conclusive.
  • Alopecia areata: Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that results in hair loss. The hair loss can occur anywhere on the body but is most common on the scalp. It most often occurs in a round or oval patch. Treatment can include medications and a therapy utilizing ultraviolet light.

A Word From Verywell

There are many foods that might enhance hair growth, and they may be helpful in regenerating hair growth. More scientific evidence is needed to confirm these findings, but keep the following in mind.

  • Salmon: This type of fish is loaded with vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids to promote hair growth.
  • Yellow peppers: These veggies contain vitamin C, an antioxidant that strengthens the hair shaft and hair follicles. A deficiency in vitamin C has been linked to dry and splitting hair, which can then lead to hair loss.
  • Oysters: Oysters are rich in zinc and a zinc deficiency is often linked to hair loss.
  • Eggs: Eggs are rich in biotin, which has been shown to enhance hair growth and the regeneration of new hairs.

Obviously, those with food allergies to any of these foods should steer clear of them.

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Article Sources

  • Glynis, Ablon MD FAAD. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. J Clin Aesthete Dermatol. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 28-34.

  • University of Maryland Medical Center. Hair Disorders.

  • University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin H (Biotin).