Woman reverses ‘continuous’ hair loss after doctors identify problem foods in her diet
A balanced diet is critical for healthy hair, but overloading certain nutrients has been shown to have undesirable effects. For example, excess intake of selenium can be toxic to the blood under certain conditions. Some reports suggest that the nutrient’s toxic effects may manifest as hair loss and nail discoloration.
Selenosis poisoning is rare, but the vast majority of cases are due to the ingestion of excessive amounts of selenium.
In some cases, snacking on Brazil nuts, which contain up to 90 micrograms of selenium per nut, has been cited as the cause.
News Medical explains: “There are also many other plants that can concentrate selenium from the soil, called selenium accumulators.”
According to the T. H. Chan School of Public Health, seafood, organic meat, and Brazil nuts are the foods highest in selenium.
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Most of the population gets selenium from everyday foods such as bread, cereals, poultry, red meat and eggs.
In 2020, a report by the International Joint Commission’s (IJC’s) Medical Professionals’ Advisory Board stated that frequent consumption of fish with high levels of selenium could pose a risk to human health.
In fact, earlier reports in China suggest that reports of selenosis were common between 1923 and 1988.
“In one small village, the population was evacuated after 19 out of 23 people suffered from hair and nail loss, and all livestock died from selenium poisoning,” explains Science Direct.
Hair loss and nail damage are the two main symptoms of selenosis, with some reports describing “massive alopecia”.
One such case was described in the International Journal of Trichology, which reported on a 55-year-old woman who presented to the emergency room with symptoms within five days.
The main complaints of the patient were headaches, dizziness, vomiting and abdominal pain, but a couple of days after admission, significant hair loss was also noted.
“It was noted that a significant amount of hair on her head fell out on her pillow,” the authors of the report said.
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They continued, “The process started suddenly but didn’t stop, and she didn’t fall out in clumps of hair when brushing or even gently pulling her hair out.
“Even slight hair pulling caused painless removal of a tuft of hair, usually consisting of more than 50 hairs.”
According to the report, other body hair was preserved and of normal thickness.
The patient eventually admitted that he bought large quantities of paradise nuts, a relative of the Brazil nut, after discovering that they could help prevent cancer.
“She […] bought two kilograms of nuts online and consumed 10 to 15 nuts a day for 20 days to prevent cancer,” the authors explained.
Since paradise nuts are rich in selenium, a causal relationship between the patient’s recent intake of a nutritional supplement and its clinical manifestations was considered.
Later in 2018, the International Journal of Trichology warned that the risk of hair loss should be considered when taking selenium supplements at high doses.
Fortunately, the patient was treated for her symptoms and within two months her hair began to grow back.
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