I completely changed my diet last January. I ditched grains, vegetable oils, sugar, legumes, low fat anything and most processed foods in favor of animal fats, full fat dairy (yogurt and cheese), meats and non-starchy veggies. In the past year: I’ve lost 40 pounds. A small ganglion cyst that I’ve had on my wrist for at least 15 years just disappeared. My almost daily panic attacks (irregular heartbeats) are gone. I haven’t been sick. I have started to feel a little ill on two occasions, but it never settled in. This is huge!! I used to, I swear, you can ask Mayan, be almost constantly sick. I would go from illness to illness without having a well period in between.
One not so great thing that happened started about four months after changing my diet. My hair started falling out. By the handful! Now, I’ve always had a lot of hair, and long hair, when you lose it, you see it and you are losing it constantly, but this freaked me out! In fact, I was in a full on panic. It had to be my diet, but why?? Was I doing something wrong? How could eating real food be wrong? It only took a few minutes of Googling to find comfort in a blog post by Dr. Michael Eades. I have clipped the relevant bits, emphasis is mine:
Let me tell you what has happened.
You are experiencing a common problem called telogen effluvium, which is the medical term for acute hair loss due to a metabolic, hormonal or drug stress.
So you can better understand what has happened, let’s take a look at the normal hair growth cycle. Hair has a growth phase call anagen and a resting or dormant phase called telogen. Typically for hair on the head, anagen lasts around three years followed by telogen that lasts about three months.
During anagen, the growth phase, the hair follicle is active and the hair grows; during telogen the hair follicle becomes dormant and the hair quits growing. But the hair stays in the hair follicle, and since you can’t really measure the growth of a single hair, you don’t know that the hair is actually dead and the follicle dormant. When the follicle reactivates during anagen, the new hair growing in pushes the old, dead hair out, and the hair falls from the scalp. That’s why we all find hairs on our pillows, in the shower, and other places it’s noticeable. Those old are hairs pushed out by the new hair growing in.
This waxing and waning of anagen and telogen is why we continuously lose hair and yet our head of hair doesn’t continuously thin. And, I suppose, it goes without saying that not all of our hair is in lock step in this cycle otherwise we would have hair for 2-3 years, then it would all fall out at once. The estimate is that about 10% of hair on the head is in telogen at any given time, which means that the other 90% is growing normally. And even the 10% in telogen appears normal if you looked at an individual hair. It’s just not growing and will ultimately be pushed out when the follicle converts to anagen.
But sometimes this cycle can be disrupted.
A number of stresses can send hairs from anagen to telogen before their time. Pregnancy, a major illness, a high fever, an injury, surgery (usually from the anesthesia), some medications and a major change in diet, especially going on a starvation diet.
Whew! I had turned my diet upside down, that is a major change! After a few days, the dramatic losses stopped and I tried to believe that the new growth would come in soon. It wasn’t long before I forgot about it, thankfully the hair loss wasn’t very noticeable in the mirror. Finally, a month or so ago, I was getting frustrated with my hair, it wasn’t cooperating, I couldn’t figure it out. I made an appointment with my stylist for a trim and after a few minutes she said, “oh my gosh, you have a TON of new growth!” Once she said it I could see it and realized why my hair was bothering me. This new growth is lifting my hair around the roots and some of it is poking out, standing on end. The little new hairs are hard to catch when blowing out my hair, so they stay wavy when the longer hairs around them are playing nice.
I’m not complaining, the new growth is great. I am relieved to see it (I’m not going bald! *Does a happy dance*), and it will stop being uncooperative soon enough.
I am reminded of when I was a toddler, I had “baby” hair for a long time and then when my hair actually started growing, this is what happened: