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When we think of stress, it’s easy to think of it as purely emotional. But physical stress does occur, and it can have dramatic effects on your hair. 

Can physical stress trigger hereditary hair loss?

Physical stress is extremely unlikely to trigger hereditary hair loss. Hereditary hair loss is dictated by age, hormones and genetics, and is also slightly affected by factors like diet and lifestyle. 

When discussing stress, it’s important to make the distinction between physical and emotional stress. Both can cause hair loss, but hair loss related to physical stress can be easier to fix, as the physical stress quite often subsides, where emotional stress may require more work to remedy. This can lead to the prolonging of stress, which can exacerbate hereditary hair loss. Examples of emotional stress include the death of a loved one, workplace-related stress or financial troubles. 

Read more about the effects of emotional stress →

Examples of physical stress on the body that can cause hair loss are 

  1. Childbirth

Childbirth is one of the most physically and emotionally stressful events someone can go through in their life. Hormonal levels increase extremely dramatically and then drop off even more dramatically once the baby has been delivered. 

Childbirth also puts a lot of physical stress on the pregnant person. Many report dramatic and severe shedding of the hair after having delivered, but this will not be permanent. 

Read more about about the effects childbirth has on hair →

  1. Extreme dieting 

Extreme dieting can often cause hair loss. These diets can include anything that includes meal-replacement drinks of any kind, as well as any diets that are overly restrictive on the types of food that are and are not allowed to be consumed. 

If you are already susceptible to genetic pattern hair loss (either male or female pattern), you should avoid extreme dieting as these can increase the speed at which the pattern hair loss appears and develops. 

Can a low carb diet cause hair loss?

Low-carb or no-carb diets can cause hair loss. 10% of those who are on no-carb diets experience some form of hair loss. Some believe that the ‘stress’ of ketosis, the mechanism by which fat is burned, also causes hair loss.

Carbohydrates are one of the major food groups, so removing them entirely from your diet can have drastic effects. It is essential to make sure that you’re replacing the nutrients found easily in grains and fruit and not simply eating proteins all the time. 

If you suspect that you are experiencing hair loss as a result of a reduced-carb or no-carb diet, know that the hair loss is reversible. You simply need to revert back to a balanced and healthy diet for hair to regrow. This should take place in over a period of 3 months. 

How can I stop hair loss while dieting?

There are plenty of ways to prevent hair loss while dieting:

  1. Avoid diets that reduce your calorie intake too drastically
  2. Ensure you get the right balance of vitamins and minerals in your diet
  3. Avoid anything that could be emotionally stressful
  4. Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables 
  5. Get a full night’s sleep every night, at least seven to eight hours a night

The quickest way to stop hair loss while dieting is to ensure that you are still getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals in your diet, and do not cut your diet down too drastically. 

Why does my hair fall out on a keto diet?

Although the keto diet is extremely high in protein, many forget that they still require other nutrients and vitamins to create hair follicles. The keto diet is extremely restrictive, so if you are following this particular diet, it’s important to ensure that you’re getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals within the allowed food substances. 

What foods stimulate hair growth?

There are plenty of natural foods that you should eat to prevent or slow hair loss. These include spinach, salmon, eggs, carrots and mixed nuts.

Read more about what foods can help or prevent hair loss →

  1. Extreme weight loss

Extreme weight loss, usually through meal-replacement or extreme dieting, can be a factor contributing to the physical stress of the body and therefore hair loss. 

In addition to the lack of vitamins and minerals usually associated with extreme dieting (see above), extreme weight loss can also put the body into fight-or-flight mode. This means the body will start to conserve energy for what it considers to be vital functions. Unfortunately, this does not include the growth of hair, meaning that hairs that are shed are not replaced. This results in net hair loss.  

What causes hair loss during weight loss?

Sudden and extreme weight loss causes physical stress on the body, which signals the hair follicles to move into an inactive stage. 

Because a large number of hair follicles move into the inactive stage, or resting stage, at once, they are then all shed at once. This gives the appearance of a huge amount of hair being lost, but it is not the case. 

Will hair grow back after weight loss?

Yes, hair usually grows back within 3 to 4 months after weight loss. 

  1. Severe illness

Severe illnesses can often cause extreme physical stress on the body and, as a by-product, induce hair loss. 

During periods of severe illness, the body will limit the energy to only be spent on core and essential functions, for example, the liver, lungs and heart. If this occurs, vitamins and minerals will not be sent to the hair follicles and therefore hair follicles will be unable to be produced. 

Full baldness is unlikely to occur, as most hair will fall out via telogen effluvium. If the hair starts to fall out in large patches, alopecia areata may be occurring. Both are nothing to worry about, and the hair should start to grow back once the underlying cause of stress has subsided. 

  1. Shock 

Lastly, shock is another physically stressful event that can cause the hair to fall out. This can be as a by-product of another form of emotional or physical stress, for example, a loved one dying very suddenly, or a car crash. 

In cases like this, hair usually starts to fall out roughly three months after the event, via telogen effluvium. The shedding can be quite dramatic, and often will come out in large clumps. But this is to be expected.

The reason that there is such a long delay is that 3 months is roughly how long the hair stays in the resting phase for, before shedding. Any sudden events that induce physical stress, such as shock, instantly triggers all the hair follicles to enter the resting phase all at once. After about 3 months, the hair will shed, and start to regrow at a normal rate. 

It’s extremely unlikely that there will be total baldness in this event unless there is another underlying condition. Instead, the hair will just have an overall thinning across the scalp. 

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