Hair - although the cosmetic industry makes a fortune selling shampoos,
conditioners and artificial colourings, thick, shiny hair
is based on sound nutrition. At the bottom of each follicle, cells keep dividing
to add new ones to the base of the hair, making it grow. A whole-food diet that
incorporates sufficient protein is indispensable for healthy hair, providing the
nutrients needed by the newly forming cells. Around 12 per cent of the hair
consists of the amino acid cystine, available, besides animal sources, in seeds,
nuts and whole grains, so eat plenty of these with added wheatgerm.
Hair Loss - the Facts
Hair loss comes from the mother's side
False. While baldness is genetic, it is not limited to the maternal side of the family. The hair-loss gene can come from either side. If your uncle on your father's side has a receding hairline, then chances are you might not be in the clear.
Brushing the hair 100 times a day will stimulate the circulation
and prevent hair loss
False. Vigorous brushing is more likely to injure the hairs and make the problem worse
Hair needs to breathe, so wigs and toupees worsen loss of hair
False. Hair does not need to breathe. Only the root of the hair is alive and this gets its oxygen from the blood in the scalp. Wigs and hairpieces will damage hair only if they are too tight.
Blow-drying and heated brushes can
worsen hair loss
True. The reason is that extreme heat damages the proteins in the hairs, making them fragile and liable to break off. Brushing the hair during blow-drying causes more damage. Careless use of heated brushes can even burn the scalp, so that the hair follicles are permanently damaged in that area.
If your father
has a full head of hair, you will not go bald
False. A tendency to baldness is inherited and involves a combination of genes from your fathers side and your mothers side, BUT, you are not automatically in the clear even if your father has a full head of hair. It is also not true, as sometimes claimed, that only genes from the mother's side are involved.
It is normal to lose hair from our early 30's
True. A person aged 20-30 years typically has 615 hair follicles per square centimetre. The number falls to 485 by 50 years of age and to 435 at 80-90 years of age. Also each hair is thinner. So, with ageing, hair becomes both finer and sparser.
Cutting your hair will make it grow back thicker
False. This common misconception comes from the fact that hair is thicker at the base than it is at the tip, so it appears thicker at first. Cutting your hair does not affect hair growth at all; it will grow about half an inch each month no matter what.
Hair loss - hair loss, also known as alopecia, baldness and balding, can sometimes be connected with stress. The stress may have been caused by family troubles, such as worry over teenage children, career concerns, etc, etc. Whatever the emotional problem, it makes sense to return to the body those nutrients that the stress has been soaking up, in particular B complex and C. Wheatgerm and yeast extract need to be in generous supply, and organic liver if you eat meat; alternatively take brewer's yeast tablets or a B complex that includes inositol, folic acid and biotin.
PABA, which occurs naturally in these foods as well as in whole grains and black molasses, can prevent balding. If you are able to buy it, take a supplement of around 300mg daily; you may need to ask for a prescription. Eat good portions of fresh fruit, salad and vegetables for the ascorbic acid and add a supplement of at least 500mg daily. Zinc has significantly helped alopecia patients: take 30mg every day for four weeks, then reduce the amount by half. Hair loss may also indicate a lack of iron, so increase your consumption of pulses and have black molasses regularly. Make sure, too, that your diet is adequate in vegetable oils.
Certain drugs including the contraceptive pill can affect the growth and thickness of hair; vitamin B6 with magnesium will assist in counteracting the negative effects of the Pill. Do, however, check with your doctor if you suddenly lose hair, as an underactive thyroid could be the cause.
Greying of hair - Here again, if your hair is going grey, there could be some
vitamin B deficiencies, particularly of B5, B12 and biotin, all of which could
bring about early greying of hair, although predisposing factors may simply be
hereditary. Brewer's yeast tablets will restore the balance and supply PABA,
which is excellent for the hair. Check also that your consumption of copper is
at RDA levels, because this mineral is involved in hair pigmentation. For hair
going grey, a wholefood diet that includes lentils, nuts and fish should meet your
requirements, but remember that zinc supplements will reduce your uptake of
If you have to resort to dyes, choose henna or those extracted from vegetables. Chemical dyes have been linked to cancer and could do you serious harm.
Dandruff - The latest research implies that a fungus may be at the
root of this common problem. Selenium, when included in shampoo, has anti-fungal
properties, so seek this out from your health-food store. Also take low-fat live
yoghurt daily and follow the suggestions made on the page Looking Your Best - Skin
or from one of the links below on skin and look for 'Dry skin', putting
emphasis on cold-pressed sunflower and linseed oils.
If you can cope with the mess, rub linseed oil into the scalp and leave on as long as possible before washing out.
Lather, rinse, repeat may be standard advice, but shampoo and conditioner alone won't give you the healthy hair you crave. For the most luxurious locks possible, you'll need to step out of the shower, and into the kitchen.
Your hair grows about 1/4 to 1/2 inch every month, and the foundation of all of our new hair, skin, and nail growth is the nutrients we eat. If you eat a healthy diet, you will grow stronger and healthier cells throughout your entire body - inside and out.
If you were born with fine, thin hair, you'll never have rope-thick tresses - no matter what you eat - but a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of growth-promoting protein and iron can make a difference, say nutrition and hair experts.
And beware of dietary supplements often marketed to thicken hair or make it grow faster. They may backfire.
Even though you can find beauty supplements on the shelves of most stores, try to get the nutrients you need from foods whenever possible. In rare instances, excess supplementation of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, has been linked to hair loss.
Read on for the 10 top foods that should be the foundation of your healthy hair diet.
Healthy Hair Food No. 1: Salmon
When it comes to foods that pack a beauty punch, it's hard to beat salmon. Loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, this high-quality protein source is also filled with vitamin B-12 and iron. Essential omega-3 fatty acids are needed to support scalp health. A deficiency can result in a dry scalp and thus hair, giving it a dull look. Vegetarian? Include one or two tablespoons of ground flaxseed in your daily diet for some plant-based omega-3 fats.
Healthy Hair Food No. 2: Dark Green Vegetables
Popeye the Sailor Man didn't eat all that spinach for healthy hair, but he could have. Spinach, like broccoli and Swiss chard, is an excellent source of vitamins A and C, which your body needs to produce sebum. The oily substance, secreted by your hair follicles, is the body's natural hair conditioner. Dark green vegetables also provide iron and calcium.
Healthy Hair Food No. 3: Beans
Beans, beans, they're good for your ... hair? Yes, it's true. Legumes like kidney beans and lentils should be an important part of your hair-care diet. Not only do they provide plentiful protein to promote hair growth, but ample iron, zinc, and biotin. While rare, biotin deficiencies can result in brittle hair. Blatner, who is also a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, recommends three or more cups of lentils or beans each week.
Healthy Hair Food No. 4: Nuts
Do you go nuts for thick, shiny hair? You should. Brazil nuts are one of nature's best sources of selenium, an important mineral for the health of your scalp. Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid that may help condition your hair. They are also a terrific source of zinc, as are cashews, pecans, and almonds. A zinc deficiency can lead to hair shedding, so make sure nuts are a regular on your healthy hair menu.
Healthy Hair Food No. 5: Poultry
Chickens and turkeys may have feathers, but the high-quality protein they provide will help give you the healthy hair you crave. Without adequate protein or with low-quality protein, one can experience weak brittle hair, while a profound protein deficiency can result in loss of hair colour. Poultry also provides iron with a high degree of bioavailability, meaning your body can easily reap its benefits.
Healthy Hair Food No. 6: Eggs
When it comes to healthy hair, it doesn't matter whether you like your eggs scrambled, fried, or over easy. However they're served up, eggs are one of the best protein sources you can find. They also contain biotin and vitamin B-12, which are important beauty nutrients.
Healthy Hair Food No. 7: Whole Grains
Sink your teeth into hearty whole grains, including whole-wheat bread and fortified whole-grain breakfast cereals, for a hair-healthy dose of zinc, iron, and B vitamins. A whole-grain snack can also be a great go-to food when your energy is zapped halfway through the afternoon, and you've still got hours to go before dinner.
Healthy Hair Food No. 8: Oysters
Oysters may be better known for their reputation as an aphrodisiac, but they can also lead to healthy hair - and who doesn't love that? The key to their love and hair-boosting abilities is zinc - a powerful antioxidant. If oysters don't make a regular appearance on your dinner plate, don't despair. In addition to getting it from whole grains and nuts, you can also get zinc from beef and lamb.
Healthy Hair Food No. 9: Low-Fat Dairy Products
Low-fat dairy products like skim milk and yogurt are great sources of calcium, an important mineral for hair growth. They also contain whey and casein, two high-quality protein sources. For some healthy hair foods "to-go," try throwing a yogurt or cottage cheese cup in your bag when you head out in the morning to snack on later in the day. You can even boost their hair benefits by stirring in a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseeds or walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.
Healthy Hair Food No. 10: Carrots
Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which promotes a healthy scalp along with good vision. Since a healthy scalp is essential for a shiny, well-conditioned head of hair, you'd be wise to include carrots in your diet as snacks or toppings on your salad.
Vitamins and hair loss - vitamins and minerals play a vital role in the function of the body, the use of certain vitamins can most certainly play a major part in helping to maintain a healthy head of hair.
The human body is an amazingly complex and wonderful machine, but it cannot function without a supply of food. The nutrients in food are needed for energy, movement, heat, growth, repair, hair growth and sometimes reproduction.
The body needs to be able to digest the foods it takes in so that it can be used in various ways.
There are six basic types of nutrients and two basic non-nutrients found in food. The six nutrients are carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamins, minerals, trace elements; the two non-nutrients are fibre and water.
Generally speaking most foods contain several nutrients, in varying amounts. Carrots, for instance, contain a little protein, a trace of fat, some carbohydrate, a good deal of water, a little sugar, fibre, and a selection of vitamins and minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins B6, C and E, folic acid, biotin and pantothenic acid, etc.
We need a combination of all the above nutrients to maintain a normal and healthy body.
Para-Aminobenzoic Acid - (PABA) as this vitamin is commonly known is one of the lesser known members of the B complex family, has been shown to be an anti-grey hair vitamin.
In tests in black animals that were feed with a diet deficient of PABA, they developed grey hair, when the animals were reintroduced to the vitamin, normal hair colour was restored.
Research on humans with grey hair being given 200mg of PABA after each meal produced results that showed that a study of the hair afterwards resulted in a seventy per cent result of the hair returning to its original colour.
Other research claims that PABA combined with folic acid also helps restore hair to its original colour.
Deficiency of PABA, Biotin, Folic Acid and Pantothenic Acid appears to affect hair colour.
Hair colour can normally be restored with a diet rich in the B vitamins and in the few cases where colour is not restored the hair will improve in quality and strength of growth.
PABA and the B vitamins are found in foods such as liver, kidney, whole grain and yeast. The richest source being liver.
Inositol - Inositol is also a member of the B vitamin group. It is a compound occurring in the brain, muscles, liver, kidney and eyes.
In laboratory animals, a diet lacking Inositol produced baldness, but when the vitamin was added to the food of these animals, the hair grew back again.
It was also observed that male animals lost hair twice as fast as female animals.
The result of this experiment would suggest that males require a higher Inositol intake than females. An Inositol deficient diet can also cause eczema, a form of skin irritation.
One doctor in a series of experiments prescribed Inositol together with other sources of B vitamins to all his balding patients. In almost all case's hair loss was arrested, in some case's hair growth was noticeable in as little as one month.
In one case hair recovery was total and not one bald spot remained.
Inositol, also appears to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
Biotin - Biotin often called vitamin H, is yet another B complex component. Biotin is a proven hair growth vitamin and a preventative to excessive hair loss.
It appears to metabolise fatty acids. Fatty acids are a valuable growth factor in numerous processes in the body including the hair. Biotin is also seen as an aid in preventing hair turning grey.
Biotin is found in egg yolks. Raw egg whites actually hinder effectiveness, but when the albumen (egg white) is cooked, the culprit - a substance called avidin is destroyed by heat. Biotin is also present in liver, milk, yeast and kidney.
Balding men might find that a Biotin supplement may keep their hair longer.
Zinc - in laboratory tests animals fed with a zinc supplement showed signs of more hair growth, as opposed to loss of hair in animals that were deprived of zinc in their feed.
It was discovered that there was a change in the hair protein structure when zinc was deficient in the diet.
Severe zinc deficiency in humans has been shown to produce baldness and scalp problems that were reversed when zinc was returned to the diet.
Zinc has also been shown to stop hair turning grey. One doctor taking zinc for a year reversed the grey hairs which returned to their original colour.
Zinc can be depleted by high stress levels. For a good source of zinc, wheat germ is the best, other sources are brewer's yeast, pumpkin seeds, oysters and mussels, shrimps and egg yolks.
One delightful effect of zinc is that it has long been regarded as an aphrodisiac, and as such it can be very beneficial for your sex life, which is not a bad side effect to have.
Protein - Protein is a basic ingredient in many hair shampoos and conditioners and is also the major ingredient of hair itself, which is at least ninety per cent protein.
Whilst this should not necessarily be the main ingredient in your diet, its importance should not be ignored.
In controlled tests volunteers, supplementing their diets with protein in the form of 14g of gelatine daily, found it increased the thickness of individual hair strands by as much as 45 per cent in only two months.
Diet can influence both hair growth and quality and gelatine has exhibited one of the highest specific dynamic effects of any food or supplement.
Given that a strong hair is a healthy hair, the study noted that the gelatine induced increases in the diet constituted an improvement in the mechanical properties of the hair, including strength.
When the volunteers stopped eating the gelatine, their hair returned to its original diameter within six months.
Vitamin E - a Canadian physician who started going grey was able to reverse the process by taking 800iu of Vitamin E in capsule form daily.
At the age of 68 after some 15 years of taking vitamin E he still has a healthy head of thick black hair, and is the envy of men half his age.
Vitamin E has also been shown to retard the ageing process. It has been suggested that grey hair is a symptom of body degeneration so a supplement of vitamin E can only be beneficial whether you have grey hair or not.
The best natural sources of Vitamin E are wheat germ, Soya beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach and eggs.
Choline - Choline is a B vitamin like nutrient that's useful in counter acting the effects of stress. Recently scientists in America were able to induce toxic levels of stress in baby animals by limiting the amount of choline in their diets.
Choline supplements prescribed to balding patients produced significant results to prove choline's worth in hair loss.
Lecithin is a very good source of choline, at it also supplies inositol, a B complex vitamin with a particular affinity with choline, these two vitamins work together well.
Foods rich in choline are egg yolks, yeast, liver and wheat germ.
Vitamin A - a deficiency of Vitamin A will cause dry hair and rough skin. Vitamin A is stored in the liver and if large doses (50,000 - 100,000 iu daily) are taken for a prolonged period the liver cannot store the A vitamin, and it can build up in the body to give unpleasant side effects which include nausea, headaches, hair loss, drowsiness and weight loss.
The R.D.A. for vitamin A is 2,500 iu.
Pantothenic Acid - Pantothenic Acid also known as Calcium Pantothenate is considered to be important to the health of the skin and scalp.
Pantothenic acid is necessary for the well being of every body cell and neither carbohydrate nor fat can be changed into energy without it.
This nutrient is also important for the functioning of the adrenal glands that produce much of the male sex hormones.
Volunteers who were feed on a diet deficient of pantothenic acid showed increased vulnerability to infection and adrenal levels dropped, blood pressure also dropped and constipation developed.
Animals lacking this nutrient in their diet became grey haired and the follicles started to waste away.
This supplement is most often found in B complex formulas.
This nutrient is obtained from liver, kidney, egg yolks, whole grains, milk and potatoes.
Cider Vinegar - hair loss can sometimes be a result of poor metabolism. Many case histories show that as a result of a few teaspoonfuls of cider vinegar each day for several months, hair loss has stopped and the remaining hair has grown healthier and thicker.
One reason for thinning hair is a deficiency of minerals salts, so it is easy to understand why mineral-rich cider vinegar can help.
Cider vinegar will not work the same way for everyone. A few people may be allergic to it and others may not be affected at all. But for many people, cider vinegar opens up a wonderful new chapter in life.
Cider vinegar may be taken in a glass of water first thing in the morning or just before meals. One of the side effects can be weight loss which is an added bonus.
If you feel like your hair is changing quickly and you're concerned, here are five common hair issues, what might be causing them and how to reverse them:
1. Thinning hair - if your thyroid, autoimmune and hormonal testing comes back normal, thinning hair might be a sign of protein, zinc or selenium deficiency. Since zinc promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair, not having enough in your system can definitely damage your strands' ability to grow. Similarly, selenium functions as antioxidant, enhancing your immune system and supporting the body's ability to continue functioning properly, including hair growth.
What to eat: Foods high in zinc include anything of animal origin, like seafood, poultry, red meat and shellfish. Eggs and milk contain zinc, but in smaller amounts, and nuts, seeds and legumes are good sources for vegetarians. Brazil nuts, organ meats and tuna are high in selenium, and of course all are high in protein.
While you can take supplements, I always caution against them since high levels of zinc have been linked to prostate cancer in men.
2. Prematurely grey hair - hair that's going grey prematurely is probably attached to a body that's deficient in vitamin B12. Since healthy, strong hair relies on a constant supply of blood and oxygen, it's crucial to maintain optimal levels of B vitamins since they're essential to the formation of haemoglobin, which brings around the body. If your B vitamins are low, it's likely that the blood and oxygen supply to your hair is suffering.
Luckily, prematurely grey hair can be reversed if you get those B12 levels up.
What to eat: Foods rich in B12 include shellfish and crustaceans, liver, meat like beef and lamb, fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna, and dairy like yogurt and milk. Vegetarians are extra susceptible since the most common sources of the vitamin are in animal products, so they may want to take a daily supplement to make sure their levels are healthy.
3. Dull hair - it doesn't take a glossy magazine ad to let us know that shiny hair is a sign of health and vitality. But you don't need to spend money on hair dye or special products for shinier hair — just load up on protein- and iron-rich foods.
Since hair is made primarily of protein, it makes sense that including it in your diet will help maintain healthy growth and shine. Without enough protein and iron coming into your body, it's hard to replace hair that falls out naturally. Just make sure the protein you're eating isn't high in fat: high-fat diets can result in increased testosterone, which has been linked to hair loss.
What to eat: Iron-rich foods include beef liver, spinach, oyster and bison. Stick to lean proteins like fish, chicken, soy, low-fat daiys, eggs and almonds. (You can take an iron supplement but I don’t recommend it unless your doctor has checked your ferritin levels. Iron is a Goldilocks-level delicate mineral: a little too high or a little too low can cause serious issues.)
4. Dry hair - the most common causes of dry, brittle hair are external: heat styling, chemical dyes, chlorine. But if you're not guilty of any of these and your doctor has cleared you of medical reasons, you might want to incorporate more fatty foods into your diet.
If your hair is dry and brittle to the touch, it may because your scalp isn't getting or producing enough natural oils to moisturize your locks as they grow out. Load up on essential fatty acids, something the body needs but can't produce on its own. Focus on Omega-3s, which help blood circulation and cell growth, and help hair follicles absorb nutrients better so they're moisturized and strong as the strands grow.
What to eat: Try incorporating foods like salmon, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed into your diet. Another trick I like is to use coconut, almond or olive oil as hair masks. Massage the oil into your hair overnight and wake up with smoother, softer locks! You'll notice your dry hair get softer when the appropriate essential fatty acids are included in your diet.
5. Dandruff - also known as seborrheic dermatitis - is a condition that causes a scaly, dry, itchy, flaky scalp, and it's most common in people who are low in zinc and essential fatty acids. Remember: zinc promotes cell reproduction, tissue growth and repair, so having enough will guarantee the skin on your scalp is in good shape.
What to eat: Quinoa, beans, nuts, lentils and oranges are high in zinc, while flax, almonds, leafy greens, whole grains and eggs are great sources or essential fatty acids.
Seven Wonders "Hair Food" Cocktail - The following drink contains Protein, Choline, Inositol, Pantothenic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin E and Zinc: The seven ingredients' nutritionists most often recommend for growing healthy hair.
8 Fl oz Plain Yoghurt
8 Fl oz Orange Juice
3 Tablespoons Wheat Germ
3 Tablespoons Brewers Yeast
1 Tablespoon Lecithin Crystals
1 Teaspoon Vitamin C Crystals
1 Raw Egg Yolk
1 Tablespoon Unflavored Gelatine Powder
Honey to Taste (optional)
Combine all the ingredients and blend until smooth. If a blender is not available put all the ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake vigorously.
This tonic makes a quick and nutritious breakfast and will work wonders for your hair.
This cocktail should help just about everyone, and you should certainly notice a difference to your hair once you try it.
Another recommended regime for hair loss which has proved to be very effective is a supplement of the Amino Acids, Zinc and Vitamin C.
This supplement is particularly good for people who go on crash diets and find a problem with hair loss, or problems which are less obvious such as women who are losing hair as a result of birth control pills and subsequent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Hair loss supplement - a daily vitamin and mineral supplement
A daily supplement of the above will help produce healthy hair and helps restore grey hair to its original colour.
0ne multi-vitamin formula 1000mg and 500mg magnesium taken daily can have a great effect on hair growth - There is no guarantee but many people have reported a definite reduction of hair loss with this regime.
Another combination that has produced excellent results with some people is a daily supplement of choline and inositol, 1000mg of each daily.
The Amino Acid L Tyrosine is also recommended for helping hair regain its natural colour.
While there are a number of supplements which can be beneficial, it is important for the diet to improve and take precedence over supplements alone.
That said there are enormous benefits to be derived from using vitamins, many food products today have been treated with chemicals during the growing process.
When anyone is embarking on a course of vitamins or minerals they should be aware that results will not happen overnight.
Vitamins are not some magic potion that is suddenly going to cure hair loss overnight.
They may not do anything for some people but for others they will achieve excellent results with noticeable differences in hair growth and in the slowing down of hair loss.
Results will usually take from about three to four months before the body actually reacts to the effects brought about by the vitamins.
Vitamins should always be taken as directed on the bottle and not more than the stated dosage.
An extra helping of a vitamin does not make it work twice as much, besides which it can be dangerous overdosing on certain vitamins.
When taking vitamins you may find that you have to take them after a meal otherwise
they may cause a stomach upset.
The Big Picture: A Balanced Diet for Healthy Hair
When it comes to foods for healthy hair and beauty, variety is the best way to go.
An overall balanced diet of lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fatty fish like salmon and low-fat dairy will help keep hair healthy.
If you're tempted to drop pounds fast with the latest fad diet, it could leave you with less-than-healthy hair - along with a growling stomach. Low-calorie diets are often low in some of the most important nutrients for healthy hair, including omega-3 fatty acids, zinc, and vitamin A. In addition to stunting hair growth and leading to dullness, super-low calorie plans may even cause hair loss.
Crash diets can affect the hair cycle, losing a significant amount of weight in a short amount of time can affect the normal hair rhythm. Two to three months later, you might notice a significant increase in shedding. This is a temporary problem that you recover from with a well-rounded diet.
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