Does an Unhealthy Gut Make Us More Sensitive to Hair Loss?

Poor digestion, upset stomach, and other digestive maladies are tell-tale signs of a poorly functioning gut. But have you ever stopped to consider that your gut’s health is impacting more than just your digestion?

Your gut can tell you a lot about your health in general, and it can even lend insight into your hair loss woes.

This is why I strongly advocate for a healthy, varied diet in my own hair loss treatment program and to the followers of my Facebook group.

In this article, I’m going to introduce you to the proven link between gut health and hair loss. This will include a look at the scientific studies.

Even more importantly, I’m going to show you how to improve the balance within your gut’s microbiota so you can experience better health and perhaps even increased hair growth.

How Can Gut Health Help with Hair Growth?

While it may seem far fetched that changes within the gut can impact your hair, there’s proof to show this to be true. Let’s take a closer look.

1. It Reduces Inflammation

Inflammation is a natural process which occurs either in the short term (acute) or long term (chronic). Acute cases of inflammation are generally beneficial, as they help to protect injured bones and muscles and can attack foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria.

But when inflammation becomes chronic – whether due to an allergy or overactive immune response – is when it can cause trouble for the hair.

The hair follicles are affected by inflammation just as any other organ in the body. This means that long-term inflammation of the scalp – which may be caused by sensitivity to DHT, bacteria or fungi, or injury – can slow the hair growth process and even lead to hair fall.

Fortunately, there are various steps you can take to correct this problem. You’ll first need to identify the cause of inflammation and treat it directly. You can also improve the environment with the help of probiotics which play a major role in gut health.

For example, one study found that supplementation with probiotics (Lactobacillus reuteri, specifically) upregulates levels of the cytokine interleukin-10 (IL-10). This cytokine is an anti-inflammatory, so higher levels throughout the body will reduce inflammation. It has even been shown to suppress proinflammatory cytokines.

Cytokines aren’t the only factor that control inflammation, though. A group of specialized cells known as T cells also play a role. And probiotics have been shown to play a role in anti-inflammatory t cell regulation.

2. It Strengthens the Immune System

Speaking of t-cells, let’s look more closely at the impact that probiotics have on the immune system.

The immune system is the body’s defense mechanism against viruses, ‘bad’ bacteria, and other invaders. As proven in various studies, the immune system and gut microbiota are inextricably linked.

One way the immune system works is by producing a variety of cell types with different functions. T cells are just one cell type and their function is to target damaged (i.e. virus-infected) cells before they have a chance to replicate.

According to new research, the gut’s microbiota actually help to influence the subsets of T cells found in the body. And on subset – Treg cells – play a critical role in hair growth. They work by maintaining tolerance to self-antigens which means the immune system will not be prone to attacking your body. This can prevent autoimmune forms of hair loss such as Alopecia Areata (AA).

The 5 Best Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet

While a probiotic supplement can be taken to boost your intake of ‘good’ bacteria, it’s also important to incorporate probiotic foods into your diet. Fortunately, this is much easier than you’d think as there is a wide variety of such foods to choose from. Let’s take a look at the top five.

1. Yogurt

Perhaps the most well-known option on this list, yogurt is a food that’s commonly eaten, albeit in different ways, throughout the world. It can be added to smoothies, soups, and dips, or enjoyed on its own with a variety of toppings.

And while the versatility of yogurt has made it so popular, its probiotic content has made it a favorite in the health community .

Yogurt contains ‘good’ bacteria, such as Lactobacillus and Streptococcus just to name the two most common. These bacteria produce lactic acid, which is then able to regulate metabolism and promote digestion.

2. Kefir

Kefir is a fermented milk drink with a thinner consistency and tarter taste than yogurt. It’s also one of the foods with the highest levels of probiotics and the greatest variety of bacteria types. This makes it ‘better’ than yogurt in terms of promoting gut health.

Aside from its probiotic content, kefir has also been shown to reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system.

3. Tempeh

Dairy products such as yogurt and kefir aren’t the only foods to contain high probiotic content. Take tempeh, for example.

Tempeh is a soy product which has been cultured and fermented until the soybeans are naturally bound into a cake. It can then be cut into pieces and fried, baked, or sauteed to your liking.

Soybean tempeh has been shown to induce the growth of both Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. One study, performed on rats in 2015, even showed it to increase IgA protein secretion which is an antibody that plays a critical role in immune function.

4. Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented black or green tea drink which has gained popularity in recent years. And while it may not be the miracle cure as many people claim, it does contain some beneficial components that contribute to gut health.

As with the other foods on this list, kombucha contains ‘good’ bacteria including Acetobacter and Gluconobacter. Aside from bacteria, it also contains components such as polyphenols and acetic acid. These contribute to detoxification, pH control, and ‘bad’ microbial growth control.

5. Cultured Vegetables

Kimchi and sauerkraut are ethnic foods that are loved (or hated) due to their strong flavors and somewhat sour taste. But they’re both more than just cuisine.

While not necessarily high in probiotics themselves, these two foods contain high levels of organic acids. This means they contribute to the growth of good bacteria within the gut.

The fact is that even if you eat some of the foods mentioned above, your gut may still struggle to retain the ‘good’ bacteria. With foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut, you can promote probiotic retention and even stimulate the production of more probiotics throughout the GI tract.