What's the Link between Dairy and Hair Loss?
You may be wondering why at Traya we’re always telling you to cut down on milk and dairy even though you’ve been told right since childhood that it’s great for your bones. Well to be honest, dairy causes more harm than good. This is why we hear a lot about lactose intolerant, vegan and diary-free diet. But does having this really cause hair loss? Read on to find out the reason behind why dairy products cause hair loss.
What is Dairy?
Dairy refers to foods made from or containing the milk of mammals. These include cows, sheep, goats, camels or buffaloes. The foods includes milk, yogurt, cheese, and kefir, as well as milk-containing products, such as ice cream, butter, ghee, cream, sour cream, cream cheese, whey products, and casein.
How does Dairy Trigger Hair Loss?
While most argue that dairy is good for the healthy growth of hair, it is actually the opposite. Dairy items contain substantial levels of fat in it, which increases the testosterone levels in your body. This testosterone is then converted into a hormone called DHT which is one of the leading causes of hair loss. DHT in excess is known to decrease the diameter of the hair follicle, shrink the follicle and shorten the regular hair cycle eventually causing hair loss. Having dairy products also intensifies other hair related problems like dandruff and psoriasis because of it’s highly acidic nature and it’s ability to cause allergic reactions which further causes hair loss.
This allergic reaction is not immediate (like itching or swollen lips) but rather is a delayed one. The primary reason why delayed allergic response caused by dairy is responsible for hair loss is because it leads to a cascade of increased immune responses in our body. This auto-immune response causes one’s own body to attack and destroy the hair follicles and also cause inflammation of the scalp. These two factors combined, result in massive hair loss. This inflammation caused by dairy products also results in poor and constricted blood flow to the scalp which leads to hair loss and hair thinning. In addition, commercially available dairy products are almost always pastuerized (due to which it loses it's lactose enzymes and becomes difficult to digest) and contaminated with hormones and antibiotics. This is because these animals are injected with these hormones. These injected hormones and antibiotics cause adverse effects on hair and health. Lastly, dairy products also block the pores of the scalp, resulting in an oily scalp and also cause hair thinning.
How to go Dairy-Free?
Now that you know how dairy can cause hair loss and other hair related issues like dandruff, the question that would arise is “If not dairy, then what?”. The next thing would be to switch to a ‘dairy-free’ diet with great alternatives. Here are some tips to get you started on your dairy free diet regime.
- Switch to vegan/plant based calcium sources: You will be amazed to know that the alternatives for dairy are so many. And the cherry on top is that they are nutritionally much richer sources of calcium and protein than milk or milk products. Some great sources of calcium are Soy like soy milk and tofu (100gms = 280mg of calcium); a variety of seeds like chia, sesame and sunflower seeds (1-2 tbspn = 88mg of calcium); ragi and nachni (100gms = 344mg of calcium)
- Watch out for hidden dairy: It is important that if you are vegan or switching to a completely vegan-free diet, that you read the label at the back of the product and don’t be fooled by ‘dairy-free’ tag in bold print on the top of the packaging.
- Compensate for reduced protein intake: Get your protein from legumes, dairy-free yogurt, lean meats, nuts and whole grains.
- Go easy on processed dairy: Dairy free junk food like ice creams and cheese should be had in moderation. Dairy- free does not mean it is not processed or loaded with calories.
Here’s a list of Great Alternatives to Various Dairy Products
- Alternatives for Milk: A variety of plant based milks are available in the market and can also easily be made at home. These include soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, and cashew milk.
- Alternatives to Butter: Coconut oil, olive oil, sesame oil or any other plant based oil, and bananas
- Alternatives to Cheese: Dairy free cheese or vegan cheese ranges are available in the market. They are generally made using plant based milk. Nutritional yeast – is a good dairy free alternative to cheese. Nutritional yeast has a nutty, cheesy flavor and many manufacturers fortify it with essential vitamins.
Gone are the days when milk was the only valued source of calcium or protein. We are just not aware of the various dairy free alternatives that are much richer, not just in calcium and protein, but also in other vitamins and minerals. With the availability of almost everything in dairy free healthier versions, you will not have to worry about missing out on your favorite ice-creams or cheese. So, go on, make that switch to dairy free! If you have any trouble along the way, you can always get in touch with your hair coach at Traya and we’ll help you with a ‘dairy-free’ diet plan.
Dr. Moyna Vakil, B.H.M.S
Nutrionist & Dietetician
Translating her love for healthy and delicious food into a professional career. With a degree in Nutrition & Dietetics, Dr. Moyna truly believes that eating healthy is the perfect recipe for a lifetime of wellness.