Is Your Hair Loss from Dieting?

Is Your Diet Causing Your Hair Loss?

A lot of you have asked me about hair loss or hair thinning and what could be causing it. First, I think you should always talk to a dermatologist to see if there’s a medical reason for your hair loss. However, if you’ve noted hair loss within 1-2 years of trying to lose weight or changing your diet, it could be related.

Some Weight Loss Diets Can Lead to Hair Loss

Hair loss can occur when you don’t get enough proteins, minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids.  So if you’re on a weight loss diet where you’re restricting healthy foods, it could lead you to have hair loss. This could include a lot of different diets such as ketogenic, no or low carb diets, calorie restriction diets, and intermittent fasting diets among many others. Basically, any diet that has you cutting back on fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins or healthy grains.

Is This Really True?

The studies I could find about this are limited, but if you haven’t been able to find any other cause for your hair loss, it’s worth considering.

According to the studies I could find for healthy hair your diet should contain protein, healthy low glycemic index carbohydrates, vitamins (including vitamin C, B group, and A), and minerals (including zinc, iron, copper, selenium, silicate, magnesium and calcium). Before you run to GNC or Amazon and buy all these supplements, consider that the supplements may not work. As they note in this dermatology journal article trying supplements for vitamin, mineral, or protein deficiencies doesn’t seem to be effective for hair loss reversal. In some people it even made their hair loss worse.

What Can You Do About It?

If your hair loss is concerning to you it may be worth trying to change your diet. Obviously, the most effective thing to do would be to add back in whatever food you took out of your diet. This doesn’t mean add back cupcakes and cookies. It means add back the healthy food you took out. However, it’s possible this could cause you to gain the weight you lost. You have to decide if the hair loss is concerning enough for you to take this risk.

This is how you could try to add back in some of the healthy food you took out while trying to minimize the related weight gain:

  1. Try adding back the food you took out slowly, for example, one serving per day.
  2. If you’re on a diet that restricts the amount of food you’re eating (fasting or calorie restriction) try adding back one serving of low saturated fat protein first, for example, almonds, walnuts, and soy nuts. If you think protein is not the problem, then add back one serving of raw vegetables.
  3. If you’re on a ketogenic or low/no carb diet, then try adding back one serving of carbs that are lower in glycemic index.
  4. Don’t forget about cheat meals as I mentioned in the guide you got when you signed up for the If We Were Family email list. This will help you stay in a cycle of losing weight and keep your weight loss from plateauing.
How Long Does It Take For Your Hair to Grow Back?

Let’s say you start eating the healthy foods you took out of your diet; you might be wondering how soon your hair will start growing back. This depends on your hair and your hair follicle cycles. It could be anywhere from a few months to a few years. It’s very person to person dependent so try to be patient if your hair is important to you.

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Do Supplements Really Help?

But My Doctor Recommended I Take Supplements

I recently discussed taking probiotics with my primary care doctor (I have IBS). Because we’re both doctors we discussed the data on probiotics and the fact that she recommends the brand of probiotics her patients with IBS recommend to her. There’s nothing wrong with this, but it’s important to understand why your doctor is recommending supplements to you and based on what data. In case you were wondering so far, there’s no clear, reliable medical data that shows whether or not probiotics work for IBS.

Why I Want To Talk About Supplements

As a cardiologist many of my patients take supplements for various reasons: they want to live longer, lose weight, prevent heart disease, etc. There’s a lot of information out there about the benefits of supplements. But it’s not all good. I’ve even had the rare patient have a heart attack from supplements. In my experience “extra energy” supplements are sometimes too much energy for your heart. I want you to know the information that I know and I use when I recommend supplements to my patients or take them myself.

Who Should Try Supplements?

In my opinion, there are a few reasons you should consider taking supplements.

The first reason is that you have a medical condition, like celiac disease, which may not let you absorb nutrients properly.

The second reason is that you’re not getting enough vitamins and minerals from the food you eat. I was vegetarian in my 20s because I thought I would eat more fruits and vegetables. In reality, I ended up eating a lot of pizza, pasta, and bread. So I started taking a multivitamin because most days I was only eating one serving of fruits and/or vegetables.

Since then I’ve learned a lot about eating healthy. If you’re eating a balanced diet, it’s unlikely you’re going to have a shortage of minerals or vitamins. If you’re concerned, you can check with your medical provider. Most nutritional deficiencies will show up on blood tests.

The third reason you should consider supplements is if you have a medical condition like anxiety and you’ve already tried everything else, medications, therapy, meditation, and yoga, and nothing has worked out for you. Then you should consider trying supplements.

Supplements Are Natural So What’s Wrong with Taking Them?

The most important thing you should know about supplements is that the FDA doesn’t regulate them. This means there could be anything in the pills you get, from the ginseng root it claims to have in it to plain sugar or even caffeine, or both because sugar and caffeine make you feel good. Like “Wow! That ginseng root really does make me feel better!”

The best case scenario is it does have ginseng root in it. The worst case scenario is that it has something in it that you didn’t want to have in your body or that it interacts with something else you’re taking. The worst worst case scenario is it kills you.

The odds of supplements killing you are low, but you might think that if one person dies from a supplement, it gets pulled from the market. My best guestimate would be closer to 20 people need to die before something gets pulled from the market. Why? Because when you think about it, most people taking supplements are usually taking more than one. So when something goes wrong, it’s hard to pinpoint which supplement caused the problem, until many people taking the same supplement die.

The Best Way To Try Supplements

The best reliable source of information on supplement verification that I’m aware of is the United States of Pharmacopeia Convention (USP). Supplement products the USP have verified are marked with a USP stamp. I have no affiliation with them, but this is what I recommend to my own family.

Also, I recommend you stick with the same manufacturer once you start a supplement as there can be substantial variation from one manufacturer to another. You should only try one new supplement at a time so you can tell if it’s helping and/or causing side effects. Prescription medications can take anywhere from one day to three months for you to get the full effect. I recommend you try one supplement for up to three months to get an idea of if it’s working for you and if there are any side effects.

Again I think you should try supplements as a last resort because eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to keep your body healthy and there are many things like yoga and meditation that can help you feel better without putting anything extra in your body.

Originally published on Medium September 22, 2017.

Do Natural Herbs Work For Anxiety?


If you’re someone who struggles with anxiety, it’s likely you’ve experimented with a few different treatments. You may have tried therapy but found that it’s too expensive to go every week. You might have tried anti-anxiety medications but suffered too many side effects to make it worth it. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone; anxiety affects 40 million adults in the United States.

You may have also considered trying herbal supplements, but it can be hard to find reliable information about how they’re regulated and whether or not they’ll work. After all, herbs can cause both positive and negative symptoms — many of which haven’t been studied very well. But despite the limited data on herbal supplements, there are a few reliable studies out there that tested different herbs for anxiety relief. Here’s an overview of the medical data available from the last few years. Please consult your doctor or medical provider before trying any of these options:

1. Chamomile

Chamomile is one option that has been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms. In one study, a pharmaceutical-grade chamomile extract of 1,500 milligrams (a 500-milligram capsule three times a day) was shown to help reduce moderate to severe anxiety symptoms. Of note: Chamomile has been shown to interact with blood-thinning medications, so discuss this with your doctor if you’re on this type of medication.

2. Saffron

Although it’s mostly known as a culinary herb, saffron is another good option for taming anxiety and promoting mental and emotional balance. One study showed that 50-milligram saffron capsules twice a day helped significantly reduce anxiety.

3. Kava kava

Kava kava has been shown to reduce anxiety significantly in several studies but has also been linked to kidney and liver damage. The FDA recommends caution if you have existing liver or kidney disease, and never take kava kava with alcohol or other medications.

4. Oil Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is another alternative to consider. And while data is limited, there is one study showing lavender oil aromatherapy helped patients with anxiety.

Also, some older trials have suggested that passionflower, St. John’s wort, and valerian have some efficacy, making them other options to consider if you’re going to try herbs.

If my patients want to try herbal supplements, I advise them to start with only one at a time and to stick with the same manufacturer, as there can be substantial variation. I also recommend keeping a journal to track of how you feel. Consider writing down a daily anxiety score from 1 to 10 when trying a new supplement and record any side effects you notice–positive or negative. Many prescription medications for anxiety take two to three months to get the full effect, so I would recommend you try supplements for the same length of time. If any unexpected symptoms occur, stop the supplement immediately and contact your medical provider.

Originally published on mindbodygreen July 18, 2017.

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Will Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

Why does it seem like everyone and their cat is doing yoga?

Can Yoga Help You Lose Weight?

Not surprisingly yoga can help you improve your flexibility and balance. Why is this important? Because improving your flexibility and balance can help you improve your other workouts too. Yoga can also help you improve your strength. One study even showed it can help you increase your deadlift strength.

Yoga usually involves some type of meditation. So it can help you better deal with stress and anxiety. Also, people doing yoga feel like they have a better quality of life versus people who don’t.  This potentially can help you feel better all day. Personally, I had never had much luck with learning how to meditate until I started doing vinyasa yoga. My yoga teacher at the time always spent the last 5 minutes in class on meditation. And that’s how I started getting into meditation too. If you’ve been trying to figure out meditation too, yoga could be your back way into it.

What Can’t Yoga Help You With?

Yoga won’t help you improve your cardiovascular fitness, i.e it won’t help you get heart healthy or lose weight. Sad, I know, I’m a cardiologist. It also won’t help you live longer.

My opinion on why yoga doesn’t help you get heart healthy or lose weight is that most forms of yoga don’t increase your heart rate. However, I think that if your yoga is more rigorous and increases your heart rate it might help you get more heart healthy and help you lose weight. Unfortunately, there’s no great medical data for or against this idea right now.

Ask Again Later

The jury is still out on whether yoga improves your cognitive function, i.e. whether or not it helps improve your memory and focus. Some studies show it does, some studies show it doesn’t.

Part of the problem with knowing the benefits of yoga is that there are a limited number of studies on it. Many aspects of yoga haven’t been studied enough to really know whether or not it helps. Unlike medications which have big pharmaceutical companies funding all of their research, yoga studies don’t seem to have the same level of funding from the yoga industry. Maybe they’re all too busy doing downward dog.

New or New-ish to Yoga?

If you’re new to yoga and afraid of looking stupid in a class, you can try it out at home first. There are a lot of videos on YouTube. I like Tara Stiles’ videos (I have no affiliation with her) because she has a lot of short (15 minutes or less), beginner ones.

If you’re trying a class for the first time, start out with room temperature yoga. Usually, this will be a yoga class that doesn’t have Bikram in the title. The first time I tried Bikram yoga I had muscle spasms for the next few days, despite drinking lots of electrolytes and water. In my experience, the least crowded classes are usually mid-morning on weekdays. If you can, try to make it to one of those classes so you can get more one on one help from the teacher.

Although yoga probably won’t help you get your revenge body, it’s worth checking out because the balance, flexibility, and strength benefits should help you with your other workouts. The mental benefits can help you with your head game at work and in your personal life.

Originally published on Thrive Global June 23, 2017.