Hair loss which are unexplained and excessive are often seen as a sign of worry. Many have experienced the horror when they see a bald patch at the back of their heads, or the strands of hair stuck in the comb. Hair loss problems are quite common especially when we grow older. There is nothing wrong in embracing baldness, many accept it and some have even made it a style statement. Females, however face challenges as baldness is less socially acceptable in many parts of the world.
Many hair problems are genetic and hormonal, and outside the reach of nutrition. Yet significant improvement in hair quality is often seen by improving the diet and lifestyle and optimizing intake of certain nutrients. In his book Nutrition for a Longer Life, nutritionist Robert Crayhon talks about various factors which can help to maintain good health of your hair.
One of the most important strategies for keeping the hair you have is to avoid sugar. If you cannot get rid of your sugar cravings, supplement with zinc and chromium and eat regular amounts of protein throughout the day.
Eat Enough Protein
Your hair is protein. If you do not eat enough, you may experience hair loss. Low protein diets are a common cause of hair loss, easily reversed by consuming normal amounts. Sulfur-rich foods such as eggs and other high-quality protein foods are very beneficial for the hair. Most people require at least two 4-ounce servings of protein per day. Supplements of predigested protein help many people with thinning hair. This suggests that poor digestion and inadequate protein intake are often present.
Good circulation is needed to feed the hair. All of the nutrients that build healthy red blood cells and keep arteries clear are necessary: antioxidants, essential fatty acids, vitamins B6, folic acid, B12, and adequate iron. Exercise is also important.
Avoid Caffeinated Beverages
The caffeine in coffee and tea depletes the body of minerals needed to grow healthy hair. It also causes the body to lose water that it needs to help feed the hair. Drink six to eight glasses of spring or distilled water per day. Natural herbal iced tea mixes available at health food stores can liven up the taste of water. These natural drinks also contain trace minerals valuable to hair.
If you are not digesting your food well, your body will not get the protein and minerals it needs to make healthy-looking hair. Many people have insufficient stomach acid, poor pancreatic function, and an overstressed GI tract from years of poor eating habits, antacid abuse, and overeating. For this reason it may be beneficial to use digestive supplements. Digestive enzymes should always be taken with meals. Those with digestive ailments such as ulcers should only take digestive aids under the supervision of a health professional.
Vitamin A is a very important nutrient for the hair. Hair cannot be shiny and healthy without it. Most of us derive vitamin A from beta-carotene in produce, which must in turn be converted by the body into vitamin A. Adequate thyroid function is necessary to convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. If your thyroid is not functioning adequately this conversion won’t happen efficiently. If you have low thyroid function and have poor quality hair, you may benefit from 10,000 to 25,000 IUs per day of vitamin A palmitate. Pregnant women should take no more than 8,000 IUs per day, and only under the guidance of a physician.
The B complex vitamins, particularly folic acid, B12, and pantothenic acid, are all needed for healthy hair. Inositol may also be helpful. Anecdotally, biotin at doses of 5 milligrams per day or more has also produced noticeable improvement in hair quality in some.
Minerals that are needed for healthy hair include copper, selenium, iron, and zinc. Body levels of these minerals should be balanced. Too much iron will destroy vitamin E. Excessive copper will make it difficult for hair to respond to a permanent. Hair analysis, while more indicative of body mineral levels than the specific health of the hair, is an excellent way to help determine which minerals may be present in excess. Testing is recommended so that individual needs can be met.
Silica is a trace mineral that many have found helpful in improving the health of their hair and nails. Extracts of spring horsetail may be the best way to add silica to the diet. Don’t confuse silica with silicone, which is used in breast implants.
N-Acetyl Cysteine is not only one of the most valuable antioxidant nutrients. It also supplies sulfur needed for hair health. Do not take hair formulas that contain L-Cysteine—it is too unstable and oxidizes readily. NAC offers much more benefit. It should be taken on an empty stomach for maximum absorption. Diabetics should avoid NAC. Cysteine in any form can block insulin receptors on cell membranes.
Cayenne (red pepper powder) and ginger are used by many in an effort to help stimulate circulation to the scalp. There are no studies to show whether this is effective, but adding small amounts of these spices to your shampoo is harmless. Keep this stinging mixture out of your eyes.
Thyroid insufficiency can often lead to the loss or thinning of hair. An imbalance in other hormones can also lead to facial hair in women. These issues are best discussed with your physician or endocrinologist.
Male Pattern Baldness
Male hormones are at the root of this problem. E cannot be reversed with nutrition. Hair loss may be slowed, however, through an optimal intake of nutrients, avoiding sugar, and ensuring good circulation and adequate protein digestion.
Can Saw Palmetto Help?
An excessive amount of a testosterone derivative known as dihydrotestosterone may be responsible for the hair loss of male pattern baldness. Topical treatments of testosterone have been shown to slow male pattern baldness by halting the formation of dihydrotestosterone. High-quality standardized extracts of the saw palmetto plant have also been found to inhibit the formation of dihydrotestosterone. Whether taking saw palmetto supplements will slow the progression of male pattern baldness remains to be seen.
Tridax procumbens is a plant that grows in India and is used in hair tonics in that country. Preliminary animal studies demonstrate that both topical treatment and oral use of this plant stimulate hair growth in albino rats. Indian Ayruvedic medicine has long used Tridax for hair problems. More studies are needed to see if it can promote human hair growth.
Chemotherapy and Hair Loss
Dr. Robert Cathcart is one of the country’s best-known physicians specializing in the use of high-dose vitamin C for a variety of conditions. He has found that if enough vitamin C is consumed orally by cancer patients, hair loss caused by chemotherapy can be eliminated. The dose for this effect is high—between 10 and 50 grams per day in divided doses, or until bowel tolerance is reached. It should be taken with the guidance of a nutritionally oriented physician. Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin C do not blunt the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy: They enhance its effectiveness.
- Consume adequate amounts of protein every day.
- Avoid all sugars. Even too much dried fruit or fruit juice adversely affects hair.
- Take supplemental vitamins and minerals.
- Avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Work with a health professional who can assess your hormonal balance, digestive function, and circulation.
- Exercise frequently.
- Incorporate stress management techniques into your life.
So if you are experiencing hair loss, try out few things, find out the cause and act upon it unless you look cooler when bald.