Associated Conditions, Hair Care, Symptoms

Gluten Can Cause Hair Loss

35 Comments 13 January 2009

Gluten Can Cause Hair Loss

As someone who has personally suffered from unexplained temporary hair loss in the past, I was not at all surprised to learn of the many correlations between gluten sensitivity and hair loss. Personally speaking, I know that when I maintain a strict gluten-free diet, my hair is thick and lovely, and when hidden gluten sneaks consistently into my diet, the thinning begins again.

The more research I have done on this subject, the more common it seems that people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease have to deal with unfortunate, correlating hair loss.

I contacted three experts on the subject of hair loss correlated to gluten sensitivity: a registered dietician, a naturopathic doctor, and a mother. Here is what they had to say:

  • The Registered Dietician: Shelley Case, RD is the author of the book Gluten-Free Diet and is one of the foremost international nutrition experts on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. When I contacted Shelley to ask about a possible correlation between hair loss and gluten sensitivity and whether she has seen this condition in any of her patients, she had this to say: “I personally have not seen any clients with this problem. However, there is an autoimmune condition called alopecia areata that has been reported to be linked with celiac disease.” Shelley also provided an extensive list of resources to support this correlation. Though she did also warn, “however, some reports do not show this association.”
  • The Naturopathic Doctor: Christine Doherty, ND discovered the cause of her plaguing symptoms in her practice as a naturopathic doctor when she discovered that she had celiac disease. Dr. Doherty mentioned several correlating causes of hair loss in gluten sensitive individuals including autoimmune conditions like alopecia areata, which “if the immune system is going crazy will cause patch hair loss.” She also mentioned hypothyroidism or low thyroid function, of which “one of the most common symptoms is diffuse hair loss.” Other potentially related causes include “hormonal changes” like menopause and pregnancy, and as stated by Dr. Doherty, “there is an association with celiacs going through early menopause.” The final possible cause that she suggested is “of course nutritional. Biotin, a B vitamin, is needed for normal hair and nail growth and generalized mineral deficiency is also a common problem leading to hair loss.” Dr. Christine has even developed her own line of gluten-free vitamins specifically targeted to address the health needs of those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
  • The Mother: When Eileen Simpson, mother and author of the blog EileenSimpson.com, was diagnosed with celiac disease three years ago, she also had her son tested. His tests came back a weak negative, and Eileen says that even though her “instincts were my son was a celiac, I was so happy that he might not be, that I went along with the doctor,” — doctor who firmly believed that the best choice was to “wait and see.” A couple of months later, a patch of her son’s hair fell out and the doctor diagnosed him with “unrelated alopecia areata.” Soon after that his moods changed and he was diagnosed with ADD. “Then the BIG day happened! In 24 hours he lost all of his body hair. Every bit of it including his eyebrows and eyelashes.” At this point Eileen said that she “felt very guilty since I knew it was gluten.” She found a local dermatologist who diagnosed her son with dermatitis hepertiformis, which “proved beyond a doubt that he had celiac.” Eileen immediately put him on a gluten-free diet and his hair started growing back. Today, over a year later, his hair is 95% back, the ADD is gone and he is doing very well. Eileen says that they just “feel lucky that we found his celiac condition early in his life.” And as for the possibility of hair loss correlating with your gluten sensitivity, Eileen wisely says, “what harm would there be in trying a gluten-free diet if you have alopecia?”

If you are gluten sensitive and plagued by hair loss, we at Gluten Free Fox recommend consulting your doctor. Before changing your diet or trying out new supplements, ask you doctor if these might work for you.

- who has written 101 posts on Gluten Free Fox.

When Kristen and Taylor created The Gluten-Free Search Engine years ago, they never dreamed that just a few years later they would be sharing their lives with a beautiful, gluten-allergic dog named Waylon. Not too long after adopting their new "dog child," they headed closer to home and found themselves in the mountains of North Carolina. It was here that Kristen realized her lifelong dream of creating healthier, gluten-free beauty products and launched Gluten Free Beauty. Having shared her finds for the safest and best natural, g/f beauty products via her first-ever website, NaturallyDahling.com, she is thrilled now to be putting out products that she can enjoy and that she knows are safer than alternatives!

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Your Comments

35 Comments so far

  1. Judi says:

    You know I remember when I went to the hairdressers years before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and she refused to give me a perm saying that she was afraid as to what might happen. She then asked if I had been through chemotherapy or something that would make my hair so unhealthy and thin. Little did I know at the time that gluten was the culprit!

  2. amanda says:

    I feel like pulling my hair out, and I am not the one with the symptoms!!
    My 8 yr old daughter has sypmtoms of gluten sensitivity and now has a patch of bald spot (about nickel size). The problem is her pediatrician does not think she has any food related intolerance. Her ttg was normal so he ruled celiac out and so now says she must be pulling her hair out! I know this is not the case, but without a diagnosis of a cause for her stomach symptoms and alopecia, I feel at a loss and frustrated as to what to do next.

    • Kay says:

      I’m so sick of people that blindly listed to their doctor. If you are a mom, then think for yourself, do you have to have the doctors permission to try a gluten free diet??? wow, come on now.

    • Diane says:

      Use your motherly instincts. Stop the gluten and see what happens.

    • spirited says:

      It’s my understanding that the tests for gluten intolerance are not always accurate….Have you tried putting her on a gluten free diet? Additionally, I have personally had a scalp infection that was very stubborn and recurring. A good course of probiotics, which I received from a Naturopath along with removing gluten…has made all the symptoms vanish. As well as the gastro irritation I was experiencing…I hope you find or have found answers…

    • Tarah says:

      Dang everyone,
      Harsh comments for Amanda. People think that just because you are on the internet, you can be rude. Ultimately, i do agree with maybe just try her on a gluten free diet and see if it works. I am experiencing similar symptoms and will be beginning my gluten free diet soon. Doctors are there for a reason, and that is why most ppl take what they have to say to heart. I am typically one of them. My girlfriend was experiencing similar symptoms and was tested for a gluten intolerance and it was negative. It took about 5 weeks, but all of a sudden her hair grew back at the same time. She jokingly said it reminded her of bean sprouts! Everyone be nice and Amanda, i know it has been a long while, but i am curious as to what the results were to trying a gluten free diet, if you did. :)

  3. peggy says:

    I am perimenopausal at this time. My scalp is thinning and extremely itchy in the areas where the thinning occurs. I notice when I eat a gluten free diet, the itching is completely gone. I wonder if gluten plays a part in the inflammation that sometimes occurs with hairloss. And I have read that gluten can cause patchy hairloss as well as alopecia universalis in some people. I’ve also read that it can be the cause of diffuse alopecia. Gluten intolerance can certainly give way to hormone imbalance – so I’m sure it can play a role in hairloss. And to Amanda above – give the diet a try and see if it stops the hairloss in your daughter. But her diet must be 100% clean of gluten – even check all medicaitons and vitamins for gluten.

  4. Shannon says:

    Amanda,
    My daughter was recently diagnosed with a sensitivity (food allergy) to dairy, gluten, wheat and almonds. She has had very slow/no hair growth as a symptom which led us to see a naturopathic doctor. She doesn’t have celiac disease but she has a moderate sensitivity to wheat and gluten and a strong sensitivity/allergy to dairy. Try seeing a naturopathic doctor to help you … highly recommend it!

  5. Susan ONeal says:

    My daughter started having colic when she was a baby but she tested negative for celiac. I put her on a gluten free diet anyway and now that she is 3 years she is experiencing hair loss even though we are totally gluten free. Is there something I am missing? We are gluten free with Burt’s Bees soap and shampoo. I can’t figure out why her hair is thinning. Help!

    • Stacy says:

      You should have your daughter genetically tested. It will show you 100% proof positive all the things she is allergic to. Just make sure you get all the necessary panels. My son is being tested for over 300 food & chemical allergens. His blood test came back positive for wheat, dairy, eggs & peanuts, but I’ve read that blood tests can produce false negatives -especially since they can be effected by what you are eating at the time. There have been people who are known celiacs test negative on a blood test for wheat allergy!

  6. diane says:

    Dear Susan,

    Has allergy to dairy and soy been ruled out? good luck.

  7. Colleen says:

    I am trying to find out if Meaningful Beauty Products are gluten ree? Please help

  8. Angela says:

    I have tested negative for celiac but have yet to see a dermatologist about what is probably dermatitis hepertiformis. I’ve been gluten free for nearly a year and was shocked by how much and how quickly I grew new hair. Just recently I ate something that I believe had a few breadcrumbs on it. The next day I lost hair by the handful (along with all the other gluten related complaints). I think doctors are still in the early stages of learning about celiac and gluten sensitivity. You should do what your body tells you is right.

    • Stacy says:

      Get genetically tested -it is the only 100% positive proof of celiac and/or allergies. There have been cases of people who are celiac testing negative on blood tests and on intestinal biopsies. There was one woman I read about that tested negative on 9 out of 10 biopsies. The tenth one tested positive, but her genetic test showed she had the genes for celiac disease. This womean suffered needlessly for 20 years & by the time her 10th biopsy tested positive, she had done 20 years of damage to her body. Biospies only test a small sample of tissue -sometimes damage is not widespread until years of damage has been done. The longer the damage goes on, the higher the chance of positive biopsy.

  9. amy says:

    Whenever I was really sick I let tons of my hair. My Dr said I had crohns disease and this was just what I had to live with. Turns out I was misdiagnosed and do have a gluten allergy. I hope so much that my hair will be think again one day. So nice to know I’m not the only one.

  10. Judy says:

    Diagnosed with celiac sprue disease- can I have my hair permed????????

  11. Allison says:

    I am a young teenager and I have Alopecia. It really stinks because the kids at school do not understand what I am going through and middle/high school is already hard enough.Luckily I have some wonderful friends! I started losing my hair in coin sized patches at the end of third grade. By the time school started up again the next year I was completely bald. I have been to so many doctors and never really got enough information. I am going into 9th grade now and have been without my hair for all these years. I am going to try a gluten free diet. I really hope it works!

    • Good luck Allison, I hope that it helps!! And either way, you are beautiful!! Oh, and don’t forget to be cautious of what is in your soaps and lotions and such. Those of us who are topically sensitive gluten are also often sensitive to things like lauryl sulfates, phthalates, etc. I’d recommend brands like California Baby, Desert Essence Organics and Jason Kid’s Only (in the purple cap).

  12. debbie says:

    my salon just swithced to the scruples line & I am wondering if it is gluten free

    • I just looked up that line, which I’ve never tried, but according to the ingredient lists I found their shampoo, conditioner and serum all contain “hydrolyzed wheat protein.” So no, I would not consider the line gluten-free, and I would also stay away from several of the other ingredients such as parabens, Triethanolamine, fragrance that is not stated as natural (can contain phthalates), etc. Hope this helps!

  13. Pamela Bonham says:

    I have type 2 diabetes and thought that my hair loss was due to that. But since a coworker recently mentioned a bald friend who discovered he had celiac disease and then went on a gluten free diet and now his hair is growing back, I’ve decided to try going gluten free! Maybe this will be the answer to my prayers.

    • I hope it helps, good luck to you! And don’t forget to use natural, gluten-free topical products as well. Look for natural fragrance-free soaps. And for shampoos and conditioners I like Desert Essence Organics, some of the Giovanni products (but not all are gluten-free, or as natural as I would like, ones I prefer are their 50:50 Balanced Shampoo and their Root 66 Conditioner) and the Hamadi leave in and styling products (not the shampoo).

  14. Linda says:

    Hello! I have many food allergies, but have not been tested for gluten. I have alopecia universalis – no body hair at all for over fifteen years. Is testing a must, or should I just get going on the gluten free diet?

    • That is 100% up to you. Most doctors would say to absolutely get tested, especially since for many testing methods you have be currently on a gluten-containing diet in order to get an accurate reading. Though there are alternative methods like genetic testing and stool testing which even if you are off gluten for months can still be accurate.
      Personally, I did an elimination diet and learned A LOT from that. Then I turned to EnteroLab for confirmation. I also even got to have a few appointments at the renowned HealthNOW Medical Center just before moving from California. The doctors behind HealthNOW, Drs. Viki and Rick Petersen have an amazing book, The Gluten Effect, which goes into detail about the different testing methods available.
      Some people do an elimination diet and see that gluten is a problem and simply stay off gluten after that. Others prefer to get an endoscopy to have hard evidence as to whether or not they have celiac. But celiac is a a form of gluten intolerance, and an endoscopy won’t necessarily confirm intolerance, especially since the symptoms can vary widely. Hope this helps!!

  15. Allison Love says:

    Hi, I read your article after a friend at work told me that she had read that gluten intolerance could lead to hair loss. I started losing my hair about two and a half yeas ago and was advised by a consultant that this was due to stress. I have been been reducing my gluten intake for approximatly a year and half, although, more recently I have been very relaxed about what I eat and have included products with gluten in back into my diet… And tonight, I have discovered that I am once again losing hair. I was lucky, all my hair grew back in before… But I guess from here on in i will be gluten free!

  16. Sharon says:

    Hello, my daughter was diagonosed with Alopecia Universalis when she was 4 years old. She is now 10 and is experiencing bad stomach pains, unexplained nausea & vomiting within the last few months. She is very small for her age, she is just now in a size 7 and will be 11 in December. She has had problems with her teeth since she was 4-5 yeras old. She doesn’t eat very much because he stomach hurts. We took her to her pediatrician and they ran blood work on kidneys, liver & bowels and all came back normal. He is now referring us to a gastroenterologist and we are waiting on our appt. I am jsut wondering if she could have celiac disease? I don’t want to to start limiting things as we are due to go see the specialit soon and I dont want to mess up any tests they may run.

    • Hi Sharon! I am so sorry to hear that your daughter is having these problems. It sounds like you are on the track to figuring things out though, especially with the gastro. appt. coming up. Just do keep in mind that she could be gluten intolerant without having traditional celiac, and getting a proper diagnosis for intolerance can be tricky. I understand that you don’t want to limit what your daughter eats without the proof, and I’m no doctor, so please take my opinion for what it’s worth, but if you can’t get a firm diagnosis, a food allergy elimination diet might do some good. That just means eliminating the top eight food allergens for a week or so, then reintroducing them one by one, one week at a time to watch for reactions in energy levels, bowels, headaches, stomach pains, etc. Or if you feel that gluten is to blame, you could just put her on a gluten-free diet and see if things start sorting out. It is a tricky thing in the gluten-free community, the topic if “diagnosis.” Many believe that an endoscopy is necessary to diagnose celiac, but gluten intolerance can be just as severe, and the symptoms may manifest in a multitude of other ways (neurological, hormonal, skin, hair, etc.), and there aren’t very many widely accepted ways to test for intolerance. EntroLab.com was recommended to me, and it gave me the diagnosis or “proof” to back up what I was already seeing by being off gluten, so that is one route. But finding a healthcare practitioner who you trust will also be important. Dr. Vikki Petersen and her husband in California are great, and you may even be able to consult with them over the phone, they are with Health Now Medical. Good luck to you, and to your daughter. And please know that she is a very lucky little girl to have a mom who loves her so much and wants to get to the bottom of this.

  17. Kim says:

    My daughter has been gf for only 6 weeks, she came to me to tell me the hair on her legs is growing thicker and quicker and that her eyebrow are thicker. She tested neg to blood test twice. We decided to try gf because of all her symptoms, fatigue, migraines, stomach aches, back pain, ov cysts, reflux, depression. Seems like she is getting better by the day!!!

  18. Cammille Graff says:

    I was having severe medical problems with reduced thyroid production and, among other icky side-effects (like gaining weight) *my hair was falling out.* In the shower, when i combed it–constantly falling out. My pony-tail was dying slowly and my self-esteem was also going down the drain.

    I needed big-time help, and I had heard the name “Shielo” but that’s all I knew. So I scheduled a consultation at a high end salon, showed them what was going on, and they sent me straight to the beauty supply shop for Shielo’s Volume Shampoo and Volume Conditioner. They explained that Shielo exfoliates your scalp and allows new hair to grow in, and they said I should definitely try it. I was still a little nervous, but the people at the supply shop were SO SURE that this could help me–from their own personal experience to what they had learned at workshops, etc.

    All true. They said to give it up to 7-8 weeks and not give up.
    Six months later I went back to the salon and the people who had seen my “before” hair said, quote, “Whatever you’ve been doing to your hair, DON’T STOP.” They showed me all the new growth I had all over my head, and places where my hair had been flat and now was filling in. My hair is soft, healthy, and i feel proud of it again. Try Shielo. It will help you. Once you understand how it works, it just makes sense. And I’ve never written one of these review-type-things in my life–so you know I’m serious!

    • Jessica says:

      According to the ingredients on Shielo’s website, the volume shampoo has wheat amino acids. That may play a big part in wanting to try it if you are in need of a strict gluten free diet

  19. Carey Greene says:

    I experienced this too, and so have my too daughters (all Celiacs.) Anemia, common in those with Celiacs disease, also can cause hair loss- so it’s hard to really say what the true cause is, but there is definately a correlation!

  20. Caitlin says:

    I have never had any hair loss issues until recently. During my last pregnancy I lost all of my hair in about 6 weeks, including eyelashes and eyebrows. I was diagnosed with alopecia universalis after my thyroid levels and other hormones came back in the normal range. The consensus seems to be that the stress of being pregnant an nursing for that last three years had triggered this.
    Is it possible that it could have triggered a gluten intolerance and I’ve been misdiagnosed? I’m 29 years old. Can you develop gluten problems later in life?

  21. Caitlin says:

    I have never had any hair loss issues until recently. During my last pregnancy I lost all of my hair in about 6 weeks, including eyelashes and eyebrows. I was diagnosed with alopecia universalis after my thyroid levels and other hormones came back in the normal range. The consensus seems to be that the stress of being pregnant and nursing for the last three years had triggered this.
    Is it possible that it could have triggered a gluten intolerance and I’ve been misdiagnosed? I’m 29 years old. Can you develop gluten problems later in life?

  22. Kim Panella says:

    This is very very interesting. My husband was just diagnosed with Celiac Disease yesterday and has been losing hair and has been told it’s hereditary. hmmmm He is now going gluten free and I can not wait to see how his health improves over all. He would be so happy if his hair came back as a result of this. Thanks for the great article. ;)


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