“You are what you can digest”. Most of us have foods like chapati and bread on a daily basis that contain gluten which is not just difficult to digest but also harmful to hair and health. Recent studies show that gluten can also affect your neurological system and cause several brain disorders. Now-a-days, many opt for the latest food trends, the most recent one being a “Gluten-Free” Diet due to the various side effects that it has.
But before diving deep, let’s first understand what gluten is and how it particularly affects hair and health.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a natural protein found in some of the most common food grains like wheat, rye and barley. But just as the pronunciation goes, gluten is basically a “GLUE” that holds the entire food product together. It has this ‘stretchy’ quality which helps to roll out a pizza dough without which the dough would rip apart. The sad part about this GLUE is that it’s present in most of our day-to-day foods like roti, bread, pasta, cereals and so on.
So what exactly happens when you eat Gluten ?
Recent studies lay emphasis on gut health as the most important aspect that affects almost everything - from mental health to hair health. Gluten tends to damage the inner lining of the intestine thereby blocking the essential nutrient absorption. This reflects on hair making them weak and eventually causing them to fall-off. Various other side effects after consuming gluten include:
- Bloating of the abdomen – feeling of fullness, heaviness and lasting discomfort in the abdomen, unrelated to the quantity of food eaten. It is the gluten (even though in a small quantity) causing the stomach symptoms.
- Gas – bloating of the stomach and a buildup of gas starts to occur after a gluten-containing meal.
- Diarrhea and constipation – indigestion and irregular bowel movements are a common symptom after gluten is consumed.
- Abdominal pain – frequent instances of abdominal pain without any other cause is common after a heavy gluten meal.
- Fatigue – a persistent feeling of tiredness and lethargy can be mistakenly attributed to many other medical conditions, but is a very common symptom of the after effects of eating gluten.
- Nausea – Some people tend to nauseate after consuming gluten.
- Muscle and joint pain- Consuming gluten can also be inflammatory. Pain in the joints is another common and long term effect of consuming too much gluten in the diet.
Why Should One Go Gluten-Free?
The above listed side effects fall under an umbrella term known as “Gluten-Intolerance”. This is an auto-immune (self-damaging) response to the consumption of gluten. Over time, consuming gluten triggers widespread inflammation and damage to the lining of the small intestine, making it practically impossible to absorb nutrients, vitamins (like Vit. B complex, Vit. C, etc.) and minerals (like zinc, selenium, magnesium, and many more). Malabsorption or lack of all these nutrients can lead to medical complications and hair loss.
While the causes of hair loss are many such as age, genetics, hormonal problems, pollution, heat and chemical treatments; one of the most important causes of hair loss is poor gut health due to gluten intolerance and the nutrient deficiencies that follow. While gluten intolerance is seen in a number of people, it is left undiagnosed in most. This is because it can range from very mild to severe and therefore, becomes difficult to diagnose in very mild cases.
What’s the Link Between Gluten Intolerance & Hair loss?
Gluten intolerance leads to an auto-immune response by the body which is also associated with a number of auto-immune disorders that result in hair loss.
Celiac Disease: Most nutrients and vitamins are absorbed in the lining of the small intestine. Inflammation and damage to this lining by gluten results in Celiac disease. This causes overgrowth of harmful bacteria leading to deficiencies and in turn, hair loss and other medical problems.
Alopecia Areata: Studies have shown that a large number of patients having gluten intolerance also end up having a hair fall condition called Alopecia Areata. This disorder happens when your own body attacks your hair follicles leading to hair loss in patches.
When all remedies for hair loss fail, people tend to switch to a gluten free diet only to see magical results in their hair health as well as general wellbeing. This is the most common way people usually find out about gluten intolerance.
What is a “Gluten-Free” Diet?
After understanding all about gluten and the damage that it can cause, let’s try and figure out how we can incorporate a “gluten-free” diet . Gluten free diet means avoiding any foods that contain wheat, rye or barley. This means eliminating a number of daily food items as well as a lot of packaged and processed foods containing gluten, most of which you may be unaware of. Some of these food items are:
- Chapatis: Wheat rotis, chapatis, parathas and items made from them
- Bread: Whole wheat bread and white bread i.e. pizzas, burgers, pita breads, sourdough breads and tortillas
- Snacks: Biscuits, pastries, cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pancakes, crepes and other baked goods, crackers and instant noodles like Maggi
- Sauces: like soy and ketchup, condiments, salad dressings Beverages: like beer and ales, pre-made drink mixes
- Others: Granola, breakfast cereals, muesli and energy bars & Oats (unless gluten free oats)
Though a gluten free diet may put a stop to many of your favourite and easily available items, there is still a wide range of options available such as:
- Whole grains and their flours (quinoa, rice, jowar, bajra, nachni or ragi, samo atta, corn or makkai atta, amaranth, arrowroot, gluten free oats)
- All vegetables and fruits
- Nuts and seeds
How to Switch to a Gluten Free Diet?
Getting the hang of a gluten free diet isn’t as hard as it seems when you know the ground rules. Today, anyone can switch to a gluten free diet to help put a stop to hair loss. The trick here is to pay more attention to the kind of foods that you eat. For starters, when buying bread, pasta or cereal, be sure to go for those made with gluten-free flours like ragi, amaranth or nut flours. Here’s a few tips on how to go gluten free:
Benefits of Switching to a Gluten Free Diet:
- Reversal of hair loss occurring due to gluten
- Helps in weight loss
- Controls blood sugar levels
- Is good for the heart
- Battles cancer cells
- Improves digestion and makes you free from symptoms of gluten intolerance like bloating, flatulence, indigestion, constipation or diarrhea.
Hair loss can be a taxing situation, especially when the cause is beyond you. The good news is that one of the commonly ignored causes of hair loss i.e. gluten intolerance, can be easily rectified by making a dietary change.
At Traya, we offer hair solutions based on a three-fold approach – Dermatology, Ayurveda and Nutrition. After analyzing the root cause of your hair loss, a personalized medical and ayurvedic treatment is prescribed to you. A customized diet plan is given to you based on your lifestyle, culture, likes and dislikes which is not only easy and simple to follow, but also gives you a lot of options and variety and is made in a way to boost your hair growth. Now get in touch with us at Traya and we will help you overcome your struggle with a gluten free diet and above all, hair loss.
1)What are “cross contact ingredients”?
Sometimes, though the food packet says “gluten free” on the front, when you read the ingredients list carefully, you will see “Made in factories where gluten is handled. Cross contamination possible” written in fine print or as an allergy warning. In these cases there are chances of gluten being included in the food item.
2)Does gluten make hair fall out?
Yes, gluten causes hair loss. Gluten has the tendency to trigger an autoimmune response in the body which causes destruction of hair follicles and hence causes hair loss.
3)Does hair grow back after going gluten free?
If the cause of hair loss is not some major underlying pathology, and is only due to gluten intolerance and deficiencies caused by it, then over time hair does grow back after going gluten free.
4)How do I know if I have gluten intolerance?
Simply switching to a gluten free diet for a few weeks and seeing its benefits will tell you that you are better off without gluten. Another way to confirm the same is by doing specific blood tests as advised by the doctor.