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Food and Dandruff: What's the Link?

From the WebMD Archives


Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet is another good move. They're loaded with nutrition and fiber.

"The standard American diet is low in fiber and high in foods with a lot of sugar, salt, and fat," says Jill Nussinow, RD, author of The Veggie Queen. "That promotes poor digestion, which can lead to many problems, including skin issues like dandruff. [To help,] eat lots of vegetables and some fruit, raw and cooked."

Some people tout a raw-food diet, but it's not a sure fix.

"In fact, cooking vegetables can help release some of the essential and non-essential nutrients so that your body can better absorb them," says Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Yeast Connection?

One theory links yeast in your diet to dandruff.

Is it true? "Yeast overgrowth is a topic of hot debate and has been implicated in many conditions, including dandruff," says Alan J. Bauman, MD, a hair-restoration doctor in Boca Raton, Fla. "Sweets and yeast-containing foods like beer, bread, and wine encourage fungal growth."

Some experts recommend cutting back on (but not eliminating) bread and alcohol.

Include Healthy Fats

Essential fatty acids, including foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, have not been studied for dandruff, but they help support healthy hair and skin in general.

"They play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance [and] have anti-inflammatory properties," says nutrition counselor Rebecca Bitzer, RD. "Salmon, tuna fish, peanut butter, flaxseeds, extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, avocado, walnuts, and fortified eggs are great options."

Some people think adding coconut oil to your diet can improve dandruff, since it's often applied to the scalp as a dandruff home remedy. But check with your doctor before taking coconut oil regularly, since it's rich in saturated fat.

Choose Biotin and Zinc

Zinc, an essential mineral, and biotin, a B vitamin, may also improve dandruff.

"Soaps and shampoos made for dandruff contain zinc pyrithione, and there have been reports of oral zinc supplementation helping to decrease flares," Krant says. "One thing that has been shown in research is that babies low in biotin tend to have more baby seborrheic dermatitis [dandruff or cradle cap]."

Food sources of biotin include eggs, yogurt, tomatoes, and carrots. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, crab, and pumpkin seeds. Peanuts and dark chocolate are high in both nutrients.

WebMD Feature Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on February 14, 2013



Alan J. Bauman, MD, Boca Raton, Fla.

Rebecca Bitzer, MS, RD, nutrition counselor.

Joy Dubost, PhD, RD, spokeswoman, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; owner, Dubost Food and Nutrition Solutions.

Jessica Krant, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, New York; founder, Art of Dermatology.

Jill Nussinow, MS, RD, author, The Veggie Queen, Vegetarian Connection Press, 2005; founder, the Veggie Queen web site.

Alicia Zalka, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.; founder, Surface Deep web site.

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