Scientists and medical professionals have known for a while that the state of our gut is important to our overall health. The different species of bacteria living in our intestines play a key role in processing food, fighting toxins and preventing disease. It’s even the case that our gut health determines our mood by regulating certain hormones. Not for nothing, then, is the gut known as the body’s ‘second brain’.
More recently, there has been growing interest in the connection between gut health and hair loss. Could it be the case that the bacteria living inside us influence whether or not we keep our hair? Recent studies suggest that this may be the case. Keep scrolling to find out more!
It is safe to say, without exaggeration, that there are thousands of different species of bacteria living in our gut. Many of these are good for us and perform vital functions within the body. They help us process food into the micronutrients that feed our body. This includes the vitamins, folic acid and biotin upon which our hair follicles depend. Other species of bacteria are harmful and can cause disease, but so long as our gut microbiota is in balance, these are kept in check.
Another important function of the gut microbiota is to control hormone production in the glands, including hormones like melatonin and oestrogen. Melatonin helps regulate our sleep cycle while oestrogen is one of the major female sex hormones. Oestrogen also has a role in the hair growth cycle, lengthening the time hair spends in the anagen or growth stage of the cycle. If there is a change in how it is produced, hair growth can be affected; a decline in the level of this hormone has been linked to hair loss in women going through menopause, for example.
Problems arise when the microbiota is thrown off balance. When this happens, the ‘bad’ bacteria can crowd out the good stuff and cause disruption. Our food doesn’t get broken down properly into micronutrients, and those micronutrients that are produced may not get properly absorbed.
This pattern was confirmed by researchers from Soonchunhyang University in Korea in work published in 2019. This study demonstrated a link between a change in diet and a change in gut bacteria. The researchers concluded that an imbalance in the gut microbiota due to diet or external factors can cause significant disruptions to the intestinal barrier and immune system leading to intestinal inflammation.
Inflammation in the intestine is no trifling matter. It can alter the permeability of the intestinal barrier thus interfering with the digestive process and making it more difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. As we know, our hair follicles depend upon a steady flow of nutrients to grow strong, healthy hair. If the flow dries up, hair growth is likely to be affected.
The Korean study built upon work done earlier in Japan. Researchers from Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo devised a study to determine a link between alopecia and certain bacteria in our gut. They were able to show that what happens with gut microbiota has major effects beyond the gut. They found that skin physiology could be compromised by changes in the gut brought on by dietary changes. The hair follicles on the scalp are part of that skin physiology, so this has implications for the treatment of hair loss.
How, then, can we maintain a healthy microbiome? We don’t need a team of researchers to answer that question. The simple answer is to eat well. As a rule, bad bacteria thrive on a diet of highly-processed foods, excessive amounts of red meat, alcohol and refined sugars. It is important, therefore, to limit your intake of these food groups. You should be aiming to consume foods rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins. That includes nuts, fish, vegetables, fruit, lean meat and eggs which are all good for beneficial bacteria and therefore our hair. Food or drinks with lots of probiotics are also excellent for filling the gut with healthy bacteria.
The balance in our gut microbiota is vital for keeping us healthy. If the balance is disturbed, the impact is felt all over our body. That includes our hair which can be seriously affected by a change in nutrients or hormones. To maintain the balance, we need to eat a healthy diet and avoid too much processed food or food high in sugars.
If you’re concerned about hair loss, you should get it checked out as soon as possible. It may be that you’re worrying needlessly; some daily shedding is a normal part of the hair growth cycle. If there is an issue, however, then the sooner you deal with it the better. Vinci Hair Clinic offers a free, no-obligation consultation to all our new clients. Contact us today and make an appointment. We look forward to welcoming you!