It can be alarming to find more than a few hairs in your sink or hairbrush at the end of the day. For those with telogen effluvium, hair thinning can be noticeable, with 300 or more hairs falling out daily.
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Learn which telogen effluvium treatments and vitamins can help reverse the condition. Before taking supplements, talk to your health care provider about it.
Learn About Telogen Effluvium
It's normal to lose about 100 hairs per day, according to Harvard Health Publishing. While 85 to 90 percent of your hair is actively growing for two to four years, the remainder of your hair is in a resting phase that lasts two to four months. After its rest, it falls out to make way for new growth.
The rest phase is known scientifically as the "telogen phase." Telogen effluvium happens when an abnormal amount of hair gets pushed into the telogen phase, due to some shock or other body changes. Extreme weight loss or a radical change in diet are two common reasons you could find more hair than usual on your pillow in the morning. Other causes include surgery, severe illness, physical or mental stress, pregnancy or menopause, medication or nutritional deficiency.
Because the telogen phase lasts several months, the resulting hair loss could catch you off-guard. The stressful event or change will start the telogen phase for more hair, causing more of your hair to rest. It's only two to four months later — sometimes after the illness or significant change is in life's rear-view mirror — that you might notice hair falling out.
The good news is that the telogen process rarely lasts more than six to nine months, and your hair will grow in normally. Because of the slow hair growth process, your locks might look thinner during that time. Although there is nothing you can do to treat it, according to Harvard Health Publishing, if the condition is due to inadequate nutrition, paying attention to nutrition can help your body — and your hair — recover.
Read more: The 12 Best Foods for Healthy Hair
Eat a Telogen Effluvium Diet
Telogen effluvium from weight loss happens when you drastically reduce your nutritional intake. Vitamins aren't necessarily the only deficiency that can trigger TE, according to a review of hair loss studies published in Dermatology and Therapy in March 2019. A deficiency in caloric intake, essential fatty acids, minerals and proteins can contribute to conditions that can make hair lose its pigmentation, suffer structural changes and ultimately fall out.
According to the review, humans are naturally deficient in the enzyme l-gluconolactone oxidase that helps the body synthesize vitamin C, making it a must in the telogen effluvium diet. A deficiency interferes with collagen production and promotes free radical oxidization, leading to stress that can contribute to telogen effluvium.
Add foods high in vitamin C to your menu, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage and green peppers. Don't overdo, advises the Mayo Clinic — this water-soluble vitamin will pass excess out through your urine, but could also give you diarrhea, headache or other symptoms in the meantime.
Although study results on vitamin D and iron (ferritin) conflict, getting evaluated for deficiency is a good idea, as the review showed that people with abnormal hair loss are prone to low levels of both. Other supplements traditionally thought to help hair growth include vitamin B12, folic acid, riboflavin and zinc; however, there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness regarding a telogen effluvium diet, according to the publication.
It's always best to have a comprehensive evaluation by a doctor or nutritionist before taking supplements of any kind. Certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A and selenium, may worsen hair loss, according to the review.