Trichotillomania and Diet

Does changing diet stop skin picking, hair or eyelash pulling?

Food is fundamental, central to all areas of health and hair pulling is no exception. What we eat, sends messages to our DNA to alter gene expression. 

Diet is a much-debated part of the BFRB conundrum. We can track the diet-hair-pulling conversation only as far as the late 90s, when John Kender eliminated certain foods from his hair pulling daughter’s diet, to see which foods increased her urges to pull her hair. Since then many others have kept detailed food diaries, testing certain foods against their urges, with varying results. More about the John Kender Diet

It may be possible to stop pulling just by changing your diet. Taking the time to read through our diet section will certainly help. Diet alone is most successful with children. Adults tend to benefit from other forms of behavioural therapy, such as video chat or coaching (which can be done by email alone, if you can not be pinned down to appointments or have social anxiety). Do contact us for more information on this.

Hair roots consist of proteins, so for those who eat roots or hairs, extra protein in the diet is often a good place to start.

Here at Trichotillomania Support we nourish the individual, not the disorder. We believe anyone can stop pulling and everyone’s method will be different. 

Lifestyle changes such as diet have helped many reduce their urges. Eating certain foods can noticeably increase urges to pull hair; the most common culprits being stimulants such as sugar, glucose syrup, alcohol and caffeine. Many state that reducing their intake of these can alleviate urges, making them more manageable. 

A diet heavy in carbohydrates, slows the activity of the gene source of protective protein Brain-Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF). BDNF improves and supports brain health. 

Should I cut out carbohydrates if I have trichotillomania?

No, it is not recommended to cut OUT carbohydrates, but cutting them down and not overloading on sugars is often helpful.

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 clear-cut and there is little research into this. It is hard to research people’s diet in general and people experience different hair-pulling results after eating certain foods. 

diet and trichotillomania

Lifestyle changes such as diet are viable treatment for Trichotillomania, but the effects of diet on trichotillomania are not fully understood; everybody experiences different results after eating certain foods. Scientific research by Trichotillomania Support reveals that over 70% of those who complete daily diet and urge record sheets, can reduce the physical urges of trichotillomania.

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 on 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.

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 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.

So does diet affect eyelash pulling?

Foods such as sugar, alcohol and caffeine have a known effect on the human brain, although every person is different and will notice different patterns. We recommend paying close attention to diet, even if you consider Trichotillomania to be a mental health concern, or a natural trauma response, because mental health matters are influenced by food and nutrition.

Lifestyle changes for improvement of hair pulling or eyelash pulling should be across the board: including exercise and self-talk, but diet is a viable treatment for Trichotillomania. While the effects of foods vary from person to person, our research reveals that over 70% of those who complete daily diet and urge record sheets, can reduce the physical urges of trichotillomania with diet changes. Don’t expect immediate results, though.

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.

Other widely used treatment options include: behaviour therapyhypnotherapy, 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.