How Food Affects Trichotillomania

This is a sponsored article written by Tasneem Abrahams. Tasneem is an occupational therapist, with a lot of experience treating BFRB disorders such as trichotillomania. She also frequently writes about BFRBs.

How Food Affects Trichotillomania

Hair pulling disorder or Trichotillomania is an obsessive compulsive disorder characterized by the compulsive urge to pull out one’s own hair. Food and emotions can be linked, for instance compulsive eaters associate food with comfort, some eat as a reward and others celebrate with food. If we consider the eating of food to be more than just nourishment or compulsion, then what you eat may influence your emotions and hair pulling.


What causes Trichotillomania?

Stress and your genes might play a part in your propensity towards compulsive behaviors. People who have other obsessive compulsive disorders may be more likely to develop a behavior like Trichotillomania. The experts think the urge to pull happens because the brain’s chemical signals (neurotransmitters) don’t function optimally. A more interesting find about the disorder is the link between diet and mental health. A change in diet could be a treatment option to help reduce hair pulling or stop it entirely. Increased hair pulling has been found to correlate with low mood. Therefore refined sugars that cause the body to “crash” soon after eating, resulting in a “slump” in the energy levels and mood, should be strictly avoided.


Create a balance

What you put into your body directly affects your brain function and mood. A direct link between hair pulling and any specific foods cannot be made. However, the correct amounts of nutrients can help the body and brain to function optimally. A balanced diet will, ideally, provide you with all your nutrients in the form of healthy carbohydrates, protein rich foods, plenty of fruit and vegetables, dairy and healthy fats, with minimal levels of sugar, salt or fats. Fruits and vegetables are our main natural source of vitamins and minerals and consuming the recommended daily amount of these feel good foods is closely linked to mental well being.


“But is it gluten-free?”

There is some truth in the gluten free fad. Glutamate is an amino acid which occurs naturally in many foods such as wheat and dairy. An excess of glutamate contributes to problems in mood and increased anxiety. The reason for going gluten-free is due to the overabundance of free glutamate in processed and pre-packaged foods. It is absorbed very quickly by the body. Slow-burning or low GI (glycemic index) healthy carbohydrates contain a complex carbohydrate called inositol, which is a natural mood enhancer. Decreasing consumption of processed foods may lower glutamate absorption which can decrease low mood or anxiety and therefore, the urge to pull.


Your hormones are out of whack

Hormones affect many important bodily functions such as mood, energy regulation and sleep patterns. A hormonal imbalance could be to blame for your hair pulling. The modern diet of high vegetable oils and processed food can be directly linked to depression and hormonal imbalances.  Yet the body needs those fats and cholesterol as the building blocks of hormones. You can naturally balance your hormones by eating foods high in Omega-3 fats such as fresh water fish and avocados.


One treatment does not fit all Trichotillomania sufferers. A change in diet as a treatment option or tool to help naturally alleviate stress of pulling triggers might be the answer for you. There are no miracle foods or need to eliminate entire food groups, the key is balance. In order for your body to function optimally, what you feed it should be fresh and preservative free.



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