Researchers are currently exploring the link between the microbiome and just about everything else. The system, which scientists have only recently started to qualify, is an aggregate of all the microbiota, including all bacteria, viruses, fungi and protozoa that reside in the human body. Contrary to outdated beliefs, not all bacteria is bad, and some of it is actually really helpful. Because the findings around the microbiome have been so intriguing (it can help clear skin, aid digestive issues and may lead to better outcomes in chemotherapy) we wondered about the relationship, if any, between the microbiome and hair. When we came across a study linking gut bacteria and hair loss, we reached out to the experts.
Gut health and hair loss
In the study linking biotin, hair loss and gut bacteria, mice who had both gut bacteria and biotin totally depleted went bald. Scientists were able to stop hair loss in mice by giving them shots of biotin. While the study underscored the importance of biotin in hair growth, it also opens up questions about the impact of biotin-producing or biotin-eating bacteria.
“The gut is sometimes referred to as the second brain,” says Dr. Lamees Hamdan, Founder and CEO of DL.MD, emphasizing the importance of the gut microbiome. “The gut microbiome can, and does, influence the production of certain nutrients necessary for hair growth such as biotin and riboflavin, and also influences the regulation of certain hormones that have an effect on hair growth,” she explains
“The link between bacteria and hair growth is not directly known however there have been studies showing that bacteria-free mice who also received low-biotin diets had an increase in hair loss vs. mice that were only on low biotin diets. This highlights that bacteria can play a role in hair growth, the exact mechanisms are not known,” says Sarah Greenfield, RD and HUM Nutrition’s Education Director.
Biotin and bacteria
The importance of biotin in hair loss has basically been well-established, though the importance of biotin-producing and biotin-eating bacteria is still relatively unknown.
“There can be a few reasons your gut isn’t producing biotin – the “bad” bacteria might have overcrowded the “good” biotin producing bacteria,” says Dr. Hamdan. “Remember, the gut contains many many different types of bacteria, so it’s not all one type, it’s usually a mixture, but we need to make sure we have more of the ‘good,’” she says, noting that humans are a little different than mice.
Recover gut health through diet
However, if you find yourself in a position where you’ve been treated with antibiotics or have lost bacteria, you can recover your gut health.
“A healthy gut microbiome is one with many different types of bacteria and more of the “good” bacteria. So you want to start feeding your gut beneficial probiotics daily,” advises Dr. Hamdan. “Also, eating foods rich in pro (and prebiotics) is also beneficial, and examples include kefir, yogurt, miso, tempeh, fermented pickles. Just make sure that it has live cultures and hasn’t been pasteurized in any way. Also, try to eat as many vegetables and fruits and keep your diet diverse. While science is still inconclusive about how to EXACTLY increase your gut bacterial diversity, the above are good building blocks.”
Sarah suggests a diet rich in fermented foods such as “miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir, in addition to lots of variety of whole foods,” she says, noting a diverse diet is most beneficial. “The more diverse your diet, the more diverse your gut,” she says, stressing the importance of eating good sources of prebiotic-rich foods like leeks, garlic, onions, dandelion greens, chicory root, artichoke, asparagus, and bananas.”
Natural sources of biotin
For natural sources of biotin, Dr, Hamdan suggests upping your intake of eggs, almonds, and cauliflower. In addition to these biotin superfoods, Sarah advises adding blue cheese, camembert cheese, mushrooms, sweet potato and spinach.