Can Dietary Changes Stop Hair and Eyelash Pulling?
Many people with trichotillomania tell us that lifestyle changes such as diet have helped to reduce their urges, and that eating certain foods can noticeably increase urges to pull hair; the most common culprits being stimulants such as sugar, alcohol and caffeine. Many state that reducing their intake of these can alleviate urges, making them more manageable.
Research has shown that changes in diet affect hair pulling and skin scratching in mice. Diet affects brain chemistry (particularly serotonin, which affects our mood), and dietary changes can also reduce abnormal behaviour in humans. The effects of diet on trichotillomania are not completely clear-cut and there is little research into the area; people experience different results after eating certain foods.
Trichotillomania Support's unpublished research of 27 people with trich showed over 70% of those who complete daily diet and urge record sheets reduced the physical urges of Trichotillomania.
We surveyed 68 people with Trichotillomania who had tried the John Kender diet to try and reduce their hair pulling. 78% of them found it helpful. See the full survey. John Kender is a university professor who pulled eyebrows for 30 years, but is currently enjoying a more than seven year remission which he attributes to dietary control. The JK diet is based on personal experience and is not scientifically researched but John Kender has received hundreds of emails from people who find his diet has helped them reduce their urges.
To test the effects of a food, such as sugar or glucose, on your urges, eliminate them from your diet for three months before introducing them back one day per week only, for a further four weeks. Keeping notes to observe patterns. In our experience the majority of tricsters do not recognize food-related urges to pull hair out, because they don't eliminate foods for long enough and/or keep adequate records. Eliminating certain foods from the diet could be harmful so it important to seek advice from a doctor before making changes.
Here at Trichotillomania Support we believe anyone can stop pulling and everyone's method will be different. For some it may be possible to stop pulling by changing your diet. From our online forum comments it seems that diet alone is most successful with children; adults can gain added benefit from combining dietary changes with other forms of behavioural therapy such as our own online coaching. Please also see our Treatment pages for info on other treatment options eg medication or therapy.
This page contains views, opinions and personal experience of people with trichotillomania as well as some evidence from scientific trials; as there has been very little research into trichotillomania and diet. We must remind you that eliminating certain foods could be harmful so it important to seek advice from a doctor or expert.
Head to our diet forum to read the views of people with trich about effects of Diet on their hair pulling urges
Other widely used treatment options include: behaviour therapy, hypnotherapy, medication (please also see our medication page for doctors), food supplements, application of ointments and creams or holistic treatments like homeopathy, acupuncture and aromatherapy. We also offer an online coaching service that has helped many people recover from trichotillomania.
Trichotillomania Support, Spada House, 20 Regent Close, London N12.