Does Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?
The average person will lose between 50 and 100 hairs a day; while this may sound like a lot, normal hair growth is constant and these lost hairs are typically replaced quickly enough to prevent noticeable loss.
However, some individuals may be more prone to hair shedding, depending on factors such as genetics, stress levels, age, and biological sex. However, while there’s no direct link between alcohol and hair loss, excessive alcohol consumption can cause other health issues that do lead to hair loss.
How Common is Alcohol Related Hair Loss?
Although hair loss is not a very common side effect of alcohol consumption, for those who struggle with an alcohol addiction, this can certainly become an issue.
Furthermore, those struggling with an alcohol addiction may also be dependent on other substances associated with hair loss, such as nicotine, marijuana, meth, etc., which can further increase their risk of premature and/or excessive hair thinning, damage, and shedding.
Smoking and Alcohol Consumption
Nicotine use has been linked to several health issues, including those that have to do with the skin and hair.
In addition to the numerous other chemicals found within cigarettes’, Nicotine has been found to narrow blood vessels, slowing blood circulation and impairing oxygen and nutrients from properly moving through the body. This can cause:
- Slowed and improper healing of wounds
- Increased risk of cancer
- Damaged hair follicles and greater risk of baldness
Furthermore, the chemicals inside of cigarettes’ can damage collagen and elastin, which could lead to dry skin, including that on the scalp.
How Does Alcohol Cause Hair Loss?
Heavy drinking can lead to nutritional deficiencies and poor absorption, which can impair healthy hair growth.
Chronic drinking can also lead to developing a poor diet, which disrupts the body’s ability to absorb nutrients properly, which can further lead to negative health effects.
Furthermore, alcohol abuse can damage the lining of the stomach and intestines, which can further prevent key nutrients from being absorbed.
Even when these nutrients are properly ingested, alcohol can prevent them from operating normally. Drinking alcohol is also known to disrupt protein absorption. Protein deficiency can result in a number of skin and hair conditions.
These are just some of the lost nutrients associated with drinking.
The Dangers of Empty Calories
Excessive drinking leads to the absorption of what are known as empty calories. These are calories that have no nutritional benefit. Certain forms of alcohol, predominantly beer, can give you the feeling of being full.
If you fill up on beer, you are less likely to consume food. This can lead to malnutrition, which can lead to lower potassium and magnesium levels. This can alter our bodies normal functions, particularly that of our normal hair growth cycle.
Loss of Nutrients and Hair Loss
Consistently high levels of alcohol consumption can lead to nutritional deficiencies, including a lack of zinc, iron, copper, and protein; all of which are essential for healthy hair growth. Poor nutrition has been directly linked to hair loss and, unfortunately, heavy use of alcohol leads to poor nutrition very often.
This could stem from the individual relying solely on alcoholic beverages as their main form of dietary intake. However, there are some cases in which a person’s alcohol intake actually causes interference with their body’s ability to process and use food.
Iron and Hair Loss
Drinking too much alcohol can cause an individual to develop a diet lacking adequate levels of iron.
While there is still a lack of research directly linking low iron levels to hair loss, there is some evidence suggesting that a lack of this mineral can lead to hair loss in women. This is likely due to iron’s key role in maintaining metabolic functions within the body.
Zinc and Hair Loss
Four different kinds of hair loss have been linked to a zinc deficiency: alopecia areata, telogen effluvium, female pattern hair loss, and male pattern hair loss.
Zinc is a key player when it comes to hair tissue growth and repair. It helps keep the oil glands around hair follicles working properly, which can prevent hair breakage.
Copper and Hair Loss
Copper itself has been found to help to maintain the tissues found in blood vessels. Thus, increased copper levels may help stimulate hair follicles so that they receive adequate oxygen and nutrients, which can lead to increased hair production.
Of course, this also suggests that decreased copper levels can slow this growth. In some cases, copper deficiencies have also been found to possibly cause early graying in the hair.
Protein and Hair Loss
Severe protein deficiencies have been linked to health issues, including those that affect the hair, skin and nails. Primarily, inadequate protein intake can prematurely shift the hair cycle into its resting phase, leading to premature shedding and loss.
What is the Natural Hair Growth Cycle?
Human hair growth occurs in a cycle that includes the active growth of new hair within the hair follicle to the shedding of hair, and is made up of three phases: The anagen phase, the catagen phase, and the telogen phase.
When hair loss occurs due to excessive shedding caused by the early transition to the telogen phase (usually after some shock occurs to an individual’s system), this is characteristic of a condition called Telogen effluvium.
Stages of Hair Growth Cycle
- Anagen Phase. Hair growth occurs during this cycle, with a new hair shaft forming from the follicle.
- Catagen Phase. During this phase, the hair follicle shrinks and growth slows; eventually the hair will separate from the follicle, but continue growing.
- Telogen Phase. This is considered the ‘resting phase’ of the hair growth cycle, in which hair follicles are at rest and the hair itself is completely formed.
Hair shedding takes place during the telogen phase of the hair growth cycle. Telogen effluvium occurs when the hair growth cycle is prematurely shifted into its resting phase.
If an individual loses more than the average 50-100 hairs, this indicates excessive hair loss and it may be advisable for the individual to seek medical help in discovering the cause.
Health Issues Associated With Drinking
Alcohol and Hypothyroidism
Alcoholics typically have multiple thyroid issues at some point in their addiction. The thyroid gland produces hormones that help keep our organs operating at normal function.
Alcohol is known to destroy thyroid cells, interrupting these functions. These hormones regulate how we burn calories and are responsible for how we gain or lose weight, and also how fast or slow our heart rate is.
Heavy alcohol abuse can result in what is known as hypothyroidism. This is a condition where the thyroid cannot produce enough hormones to regulate normal bodily functions.
Other than thinning hair, the common symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Mood swings
- Joint and muscle stiffness
- Impaired memory
- Slowed heart rate
Effects of Alcohol on the Immune System
Beyond the thyroid, alcohol does a number on the immune system as well. This can result in chronic inflammation and liver damage. Liver damage is one of the many symptoms of chronic alcoholism and is one of the main causes for the high mortality rate in chronic alcoholics.
Everything we put in our bodies is filtered through the liver. If your liver stops working, your body shuts down. Excessive alcohol abuse can, in some cases, cause irreversible damage to your liver.
Additional Health Issues Related to Alcoholism
Drinking excessively is also known to disrupt how the body processes estrogen. When you can’t correctly process estrogen, it builds up in the tissue and results in estrogen dominance (or excessive estrogen levels).
This can also lead directly to hypothyroidism and increased stress levels. Alcohol abuse can also be responsible for causing leaky gut syndrome. This is when bacteria literally leak out of the intestinal walls, allowing toxins to enter the bloodstream.
Is Alcohol-related Hair Loss Reversible?
So how do you avoid hair loss from alcohol? The simple answer is to drink in moderation. But for individuals struggling with an alcohol addiction, this is easier said than done.
While decreasing alcohol intake can help prevent this issue from occurring, the only way to reverse the process is to stop drinking altogether.
Recovering From Alcohol-Induced Hair Loss
There are several important steps that an individual recovering from alcohol-induced hair loss should take in their journey to renewed hair health. Some of these include:
- Maintaining proper hydration.
- Maintaining a balanced diet.
- Reducing stress levels.
- Seeking out medical advice.
Maintaining Proper Hydration
Cutting out alcoholic beverages and drinking plenty of water can do wonders for anyone’s health, but even more so for individuals struggling with an alcohol addiction.
Of course, quitting drinking altogether can be dangerous for someone who has been dependent on this substance for a long period of time. It is strongly encouraged that for those trying to get sober, they do so gradually and under medical supervision.
Maintaining a Balanced Diet
For individuals attempting to recover their hair health after alcohol dependence, ensuring their body receives vital nutrients through developing better dietary patterns is an essential step in this process.
It is important for recovering alcoholics to ensure their diets provide them with the nutrients they need, such as zinc, copper, iron, and protein; vitamin d and biotin are also important in healthy bodily functions, as well as hair production. Some foods that can help promote healthy hair growth include:
- Chicken and eggs (good sources of protein and biotin)
- Avocados and salmon (good sources of omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins)
- Pumpkin seeds (good source of zinc and omega-3 fatty acids)
- Greek Yogurt (good source of zinc)
Dietary supplements can also help your body’s digestive system (and other bodily systems) recover from the damage done by excessive drinking.
Of course, your body is not going to heal itself overnight. However, these supplements can help speed up the process of getting your body back to functioning regularly and restoring a healthy head of hair.
The Discovery House Alcohol Rehabilitation Diet
Here at The Discovery House, our team of health professionals are dedicated to providing individuals recovering an alcohol addiction with individualized diets designed to help any nutritional deficiencies they may have developed due to heavy drinking.
We have a chef on premises for all meals, with careful consideration given to providing the optimal diet for recovering from chronic drinking.
With proper nutrient absorption taking place within the body, it is very likely that hair loss will be reduced, especially if combined with other lifestyle factors and skills, such as those we teach all of our patients during their recovery from heavy alcohol use.
Reducing Stress Levels
Stress induced hair loss is more common than most people may think, and excessive alcohol consumption can cause drastically increased stress levels for many individuals.
High levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, has been linked to damaging stem cells that help boost hair production.
Luckily, along with stopping alcohol usage, there are several simple ways a person can lower their stress, including:
- Getting more sleep
- Improving dietary patterns
Seeking Out Medical Advice
Naturally, there are a lot of issues going on that need to be addressed beyond your physical appearance. There are a number of reasons people become addicted to alcohol.
Family history of alcoholism, past trauma, stress and anxiety are just a few of the reasons that lead people to drink. Treatment for alcoholism should focus on addressing the root cause of your drinking. Some alcohol rehab programs may offer therapeutic services and counseling as a part of the recovery process.
Furthermore, achieving sobriety after a substance abuse disorder can be a difficult and dangerous process when done alone. Thus, it is highly recommended that, when in pursuit of a sober life, individuals seek out professional medical advice and treatment.
Finding the Right Treatment for You
There is a lot of work to be done in order to achieve sobriety. The benefits can be very rewarding, but whatever led you to drink is something that you are still going to have to work on every day.
It sounds cliche, but it really is a one day at a time process. If you do a little bit of work on yourself each day, and try not to focus too much on the weeks and months ahead, you are setting yourself up for success.
Reach out today, and let our team here at The Discovery House help you on a path to healthier hair and a healthier you!