Almost everyone faces one or other hair issues during their lifetime. Few common hair problems include premature greying of hair, hair fall, thinning of hair, dandruff or rough hair. Most of time hair problems have their root cause somewhere else especially GUT and treating the problem physically or topically do not help in long run. Healthy hair growth and texture is sign of optimal health. Poor hair health can be due to various reasons like genetics, stress, hormonal imbalances or poor nutrition. Here are the 5 strategies you can use to resolve any hair issues you have:
- Nutrition: The nutrition plays a major role in hair, skin and nail health. Eating highly processed foods, sugar and refined carbs increases free radical production and blood sugar levels thereby increasing inflammation. Higher than normal blood sugar levels increases the production of an enzyme called alpha reductase which converts the testosterone to DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) which has higher affinity towards testosterone receptors on cells related to hair. DHT blocks the receptors and prevent new hair growth at follicular level. DHT is the causative hormone for Alopecia. Limiting refined carb, sugar and processed food intake while at same time increasing more of natural antioxidant rich foods (vibrant colour foods) with low GI helps to lower down oxidative stress, optimise hormone levels and prevent excess DHT production.
- Deficiencies: Certain nutrients play role in optimal hair, nail and skin health such as Iron, Zinc, Biotin, Vit.A, Vit.C, adequate Protein and fatty acids. Any insufficiency or deficiencies of these lead to hair problems. Maintaining optimal values of the above keep your hair and skin healthy. You can either supplement for these nutrients or can add food rich in these nutrients on daily basis. Vegetarian diet is usually devoid of these nutrients if not properly planned. Food list for same is provided at the end.
- Digestion: I have observed many times that people having hair or skin issues have some connection to GUT ill health. Common cause of Hair and skin issues is bacterial or yeast overgrowth in digestive tract which interfere with proper digestion and assimilation of nutrients from the food. Chronic iron deficiency or anaemia is linked to gut inability to absorb iron from food. Vegetarian diet is low in Zinc which is essential for optimal production of HCL in stomach. HCL is required for breakdown of protein bonds for further digestion in small intestine and protein is essential component of our hair, skin and nail structure. Lack of acid in stomach, low pancreatic enzymes or presence of bacteria or yeast can interfere with protein digestion & nutrient absorption affecting hair health. Work with a Functional Medicine Practitioner to optimise your GUT health & you will be surprised how it can change your hair or skin looks.
- Hormonal Imbalances: Hormonal disorders such has Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism has connection to hair health. Thyroid hormones directly affect the hair follicle and hence hair growth. Lower activity of thyroid hormones causes hair loss and prevent new hair growth. The common symptoms of hair loss due to thyroid dysfunction is loss of hair in circular fashion at centre of scalp, loss of lateral eyebrows and loss of hair on legs. The condition can be reversed if normal thyroid functions are restored. Prolonged Stress releases more cortisol and thus affect thyroid functioning also. Best strategy is to restore normal thyroid hormone levels and lowering stress at same time.
- Others: Excessive heat by blow drying and hot water make hair more brittle and open its outer layer making it more prone to damage by external environment. Colouring, straightening, rebounding and extension make hair more brittle and dry. Certain medications such as hormone pills, statins and diabetic drugs have been linked to premature greying and hair loss. Heavy metal toxicity like mercury, lead and aluminium can cause premature greying and hair loss. Harsh chemical containing shampoos and conditioner are also detrimental to hair health.
Foods that Support Hair Health
- Iron sources: Lentils, kale, spinach, mustard greens, liver
- Vitamin A sources: Carrots, liver, sweet potato, spinach, mustard greens, red peppers
- Zinc sources: Lamb, oysters, split peas, brazil nuts, egg yolks, ginger
- Vitamin C spruces: Kiwi, oranges, peppers, lemon, brocoli, papaya
- Protein sources: Eggs, bone broth, collagen protein, fish, chicken
Supplements for Hair health
Green tea extract, Pantethine (B5), Biotin, Zinc, fish oil, collagen protein and Vitamin C are my preferred choice of supplements to maintain health hair. Try different combination which works for you. Green tea extract is good for hair loss and zinc prevent premature greying of hair. Fish oil supports protection from external damage and reduce oxidative stress along with high doses of Vitamin C (1000-2000mg daily). Aloe vera thickens hair and provide lustre and shine. You can consume upto half cups twice daily for 8-10 days to see the effect.