General, Women's Health, Minerals, Vitamins | January 23, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Eating the correct balance of nutrients is important for strong, shiny and lustrous hair. The health of your hair is also a reflection of what’s happening inside the body, so if you’re eating the wrong foods and not looking after yourself this could lead to brittle, dry hair and even hair loss.
Did you know that hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in the human body – the average growth rate is 1cm per month.
The growth of hair can vary due to genetics, hormones, age and gender. It can be reduced due to nutrient deficiencies, hormonal fluctuations and crash dieting.
Eating protein in the diet is essential for strong healthy hair.
Our hair is made up primarily of a tough protein called keratin. Protein deficiency has been linked to hair loss and poor hair quality.
It is recommended to eat a variety of good quality protein in the diet by consuming fish, chicken, turkey, eggs and natural yoghurt as well as vegetarian sources such as nuts, seeds and legumes.
The amino acid L-lysine has also been proven to prevent hair loss.
A deficiency in iron (anaemia) significantly affects hair growth and can lead to hair loss. Hair growth requires nutrients and blood supply to the hair root and follicle. This can be reduced with low levels of iron in the blood.
Sources of iron in the diet include red meat, fish and poultry. For vegetarians iron can be boosted in the diet by eating green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli and parsley as well as spirulina, fresh dates, dried apricots, nuts and seeds. If you suspect you are low in iron speak to your GP, naturopath or pharmacist before supplementing.
To avoid dry, frizzy, brittle hair the diet needs sufficient amounts of essential fatty acids (EFA’s). Our body cannot make its own EFA’s so it is vital that the body receives dietary sources of Omega 3 and 6.
EFA’s can be found in avocado, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and linseeds. Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, mackerel and trout are very rich sources.
Consider supplementing with Flaxseed, Evening Primrose Oil or Fish Oil.
These important antioxidants are necessary for capillary health and healthy circulation to supply the root of the hair with the nutrients it needs. Vitamin C is also needed for the absorption of iron and is found in high amounts in kiwi fruit, citrus, berries, broccoli and sweet potato. Zinc stimulates hair growth by enhancing immune function and if deficient in the body this may affect hair growth.
Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, meats, nuts and seeds ensures enough of these nutrients are being consumed.
It is easy to become deficient in B vitamins, particularly if you lead a fast paced life and eat too many refined carbohydrates. B vitamins are important for the health and growth of hair. Although best taken as a complex, specific B vitamins vital for hair growth include biotin and inositol.
A deficiency of biotin has been linked to hair loss and it is recommended to supplement with at least 300mcg per day. Yeast spreads, nuts, soybeans, mushrooms and rice bran are all rich sources of this B group vitamin.
If you’re not eating seafood your diet could be lacking in the mineral iodine. Iodine is crucial for healthy thyroid function and deficiencies can lead to underactivity in this organ.
Hair loss is a common side effect of hypothyroidism and if you feel that this is the case for you a visit to your GP is a must.
To obtain optimal amounts of iodine in the diet aim for good quality fresh seafood in the diet 3-4 times a week. Iodine can also be found in anything derived from the ocean – this includes spirulina, seaweeds such as kelp, chlorella and fish paste. Iodine can also be obtained from cocoa powder, milk, egg yolk and iodized table salt.
Vitamin A is needed for the production of sebum which helps to condition our hair and scalp. Beta carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and is found in brightly coloured yellow/orange fruits and vegetables. Rich sources include capsicum, sweet potato, pumpkin and carrots. Vitamin A is found in animal products such as liver, meat, butter and egg yolk.
Silica is a lesser known mineral which aids in hair growth and makes the hair stronger. Silica is typically low in Australian soils so even if your eating healthy you still could be deficient in this vital mineral. Deficiency signs of silica include hair that is thin and breaks easily.
Be aware of products that are full of chemicals and foaming agents which can strip the hair of natural oils. Instead opt for natural shampoos and conditioners which are fortified with vitamins and minerals and natural plant oils. Herbal ingredients such as chamomile, calendula, ginseng and rosemary can help stimulate hair growth and protect hair from damage.
Add a few drops of Essential Oil of Rosmary to a carrier oil such as Almond or Olive and massage into the head and hair before going to bed. Wash out in the morning during your usual routine. Try this weekly to help stimulate hair growth and shine.
Nutrients from our foods are vital for shiny, healthy hair and to prevent hair loss. Eating a wide variety of foods should help to prevent nutrient deficiencies but sometimes supplementation is necessary for some individuals.
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Chiu CH, et al. A review: hair health, concerns on shampoo ingredients and scalp nourishing treatments. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2015;16(12):1045-52