Probiotics for Hair Health

There are dozens of hair loss treatments on the market, and even more “cure-alls” boasted by bloggers across the internet. One of those “cure-alls” is probiotics.

But are probiotics really all they’re cracked up to be? Can they stop hair loss, and even reverse it?

And what about their effect on the immune system and other systems within the body that contribute to healthy hair growth? In this post, we’ll answer all of these questions and more. So, read on!

What Are Probiotics?

Before we get started, it’s important to answer an important question: “what is bacteria?” Bacteria are single-celled organisms that live in a diverse range of environments. They’re found in soil, water, rocks, and snow, and even in the intestinal tract of humans and animals. A common misconception is that bacteria is bad for you.

The truth is, there are billions of bacteria within your body. There are those that are “good,” those that are “bad,” and still others that aren’t inherently helpful or harmful.

The good bacteria, often referred to as probiotics, are what we’ll be talking about today. So, what are probiotics? As their name suggests, probiotics are “for life.” In other words, they’re necessary to the healthy functioning of your body. These microbes are bacteria that live within the gut and elsewhere throughout the body. Their main job is to keep the “bad” bacteria in check. Probiotics also work with prebiotics, a fibrous organism that actually feed probiotics so as to provide them the energy they need to thrive.

The Benefits of Probiotics for Your Health

There is much debate as to whether probiotics actually offer health benefits to consumers. It’s true that many health bloggers hype the organism up to be a cure-all. And while that’s far from the truth, it doesn’t negate the benefits of probiotics entirely. In fact, probiotics have been proven beneficial in the treatment of many health conditions. For example, probiotics have been proven to effectively replenish the balance of gut bacteria after gastrointestinal upset. This may help to prevent reinfection in the case that the condition was microbial. And probiotics have even been shown to prevent diarrhea and other symptoms related to the use of antibiotics. Probiotic benefits extend beyond the gut, too.

Scientists and doctors have believed for many years that gut health contributes to overall health and well being. One example that proves their point? Allergies.

According to a study published by researchers from Karolinska Institutet, “differences in the composition of the gut flora between infants who will and infants who will not develop allergy are demonstrable before the development of any clinical manifestations of atopy.”

This suggests that gut health is much more deeply linked to immune system health, and possibly even beyond.

The Gut–Hair Loss Connection

Speaking of the far-reaching benefits of gut health, let’s take a look at the gut–hair loss connection. As mentioned above, science has proven a strong link between gut health and immune system functioning. A healthy gut – one with the proper balance of prebiotics and probiotics – is one that will often result in a healthy immune system. An unhealthy gut – one that is overwhelmed by the “bad” bacteria – is one that will often result in a poor immune system.

A poorly functioning immune system can have bodywide implications. For example, it may exacerbate dormant conditions (such as eczema), or it may even cause new conditions to develop (like reactive airway disease). But did you know that the hair follicle is also affected by the overall health of the immune system? The hair follicle is an organ within the skin. It’s connected to the circulatory system by blood vessels, and it needs the same thing as all other organs: oxygen and nutrients. And also just like other organs in the body, inflammation can lead to long-term damage and even death.

So, where does this inflammation come from? The androgen hormone DHT is believed to be the main cause of inflammation in people with genetic hair loss. But in the case of those with a weakened immune system, the inflammation may come from the immune system itself.

Let me explain.

When the immune system is healthy, it’s able to properly care out its duties (i.e. attack invaders and protect you from infection). An unhealthy immune system, though, may be overzealous in its attempts.

Alopecia Areata (AA), for example, is a hair loss condition in which the immune system perceives the hair follicles to be a threat. This leads to widespread inflammation of the follicles which causes patchy baldness. Other inflammatory conditions exist, too, including Cicatricial Alopecia (CA) and Folliculitis Decalvans. You can see, then, why it’s crucial that you maintain a healthy gut biome.

And the best way to do so? With probiotics.

Probiotics and Hair: The Scientific Research

There are a plethora of studies available on the benefits of probiotics in the treatment of many conditions. But what about hair loss?

While there aren’t many studies to choose from, there’s one from 2013 that sheds light on the possibilities. To determine the effect of dietary probiotics on hair, researchers from the United States and Greece split mice into two groups. To make matters even more interesting, the scientists utilized both male and female mice and then compared the results. The first group received probiotic yogurt for 20 to 24 weeks, while the second was given a diet of control chow. After just seven days, the mice in the probiotic group had an obvious shine to their fur.

As the researchers noted, “anagenic follicular shift arises after consumption of probiotic yogurt.” Put more simply, the mice who consumed probiotics saw an increase in hairs in anagen phase.
The difference that probiotics make in the hair growth cycles of mice. So, what do these results mean for humans?  While human studies on probiotics for hair growth would be helpful, the above studies do provide some hope. The hair cycles of mice and humans don’t differ too significantly. This means the results do offer insight into the possible benefits of probiotic consumption for men and women with hair loss.